Best Degrees for Felons

best degrees for felons

Earning a degree can be the best way to improve your career options and work in a field you enjoy. Earning a degree is also a great way for ex-offenders to find their way back to their communities, where they can live productive and happy lives. Many ex-cons or felons feel that their lives are ruined and that they’ll never find a good job again.

Nothing can be further from the truth. There are many degrees open to ex-offenders, and all of these can lead to good jobs and satisfying careers. Continue reading and learn about the options available to felons, the best degrees for felons, and what you can expect in terms of wages and training.

Getting Started & Choosing the Right Degree

Choosing the right college and the right degree can be challenging for any student, but it can be even more challenging for felons and ex-offenders. The first thing you’ll want to do is determine what you know and what interests you. Some prisoners take online courses while incarcerated, while others prefer to wait until they’re no longer incarcerated. Once you’ve decided on a degree, you can start researching colleges that offer the degree program that interests you.

Many felons wonder if they should disclose the information about being incarcerated. While some colleges may reject an application from a felon, other colleges do not discriminate. It’s best to disclose the information. Honesty is always the best policy. Below is a list of some of the best degrees for felons as well as some information on the degree.

Most, if not all, of these degrees can be earned online. We’ve also listed the average annual wages graduates can earn once they earn the degree. All wage information comes from a 2022 wage report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For each degree below, you’ll find the jobs a felon may be able to do with this degree, why it’s good for felons, and a short description of the degree.

Best Degrees for Felons

1. Computer Science

With computers everywhere in our personal and professional lives, computer science continues to be a growing field that offers many career opportunities.

Jobs a felon can do with this degree:

Felons are often shy about returning to their former lives, especially in their own communities. Computer science offers many jobs that can be done remotely from their homes. It’s also a good degree because of the many job opportunities it offers. Graduates with a computer science degree are qualified to work in many industries.

Computer science degrees can be earned at the associate, bachelor, and master’s degree levels, which means students can plan on being in college from 18 months to six years. In addition to completing general education courses, students typically take computer-related courses depending on their area of specialty.

2. Mechanic

Do you enjoy working with your hands? Do you consider yourself mechanically inclined? If so, a mechanics degree may be a great choice for a degree and career. Good service technicians are always in demand.

Working as a mechanic can be a good career choice for felons because they have the option of working for a business or starting their own business. They can also name their own hours if they’re the business owner. It’s a degree that offers jobs in any city or state.

Earning an education in mechanics can be obtained through a short certificate program or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Many aspiring mechanics choose a two-year associate degree program. To become a certified mechanic, you’ll be required to become certified in various areas of mechanics. Most of this can be done online, but the student will have to work X number of hours in order to be eligible to take the certification exams.

3. Machinist

A machinist degree is another option available to felons who enjoy fixing things and making them perform correctly. Highly trained machinists may also find jobs in various industries and locations.

Earning a machinist degree or certificate is a great choice for a felon because you won’t have to spend many years in college. Machinists are very much in demand, and machinist programs are open to students with just a high school diploma. The programs can often be completed in less than a year.

A machinist degree program includes courses in blueprint reading, math, CAD/CAM, and metalworking. They also learn about working with CNC machines. Depending on the program, students may complete training in a short time. In addition to completing courses, students may also be required to complete an apprenticeship to obtain certification. The apprenticeship requires the student to work in an actual setting as a machinist for a specified number of hours.

4. Vocational Studies

Vocational studies is an ideal degree for felons because it offers a multitude of areas of specialization and potential job opportunities.

Students can earn a degree in vocational studies with a concentration in a specific area. This degree is good for felons because many of the classes can be taken online, and the degree doesn’t require a lot of years in college. Vocational schools are quite affordable, which works out ideal for ex-offenders starting out. These schools also have working relationships with hiring organizations, which can help the felon find work quickly.

Many technical colleges offer vocational degree programs that may be certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degrees. An individual can become a certified specialist in as little as a year or even less. The training is a lot of hands-on training but still can be taken online. Vocational studies offer ex-offenders the chance to re-enter the workforce quickly. Despite having a record, graduates may qualify for many jobs.

5. Substance Abuse Counseling

Many individuals in prisons got there through drug-related crimes and want nothing more than to help others. A degree in substance abuse not only allows felons to be in a position to help others but also be part of a career with many job potentials.

A degree in substance abuse counseling can be good for felons because it can give them the opportunity to give back to others. It’s also a field that allows students to choose how little or how much college they want to attend and for how long. While some colleges may reject an application from a felon arrested on a drug charge, other colleges are more lenient.

A substance abuse degree program consists of a lot of courses involving behavior modification, drug abuse, counseling, and psychology. Students are typically required to complete an internship at the end of the program. Students interested in a clinical aspect must have a master’s degree. With so many career options available to graduates, this is a great choice for ex-offenders. It’s important that felons check the school requirements prior to enrollment.

6. Phlebotomy

If you’re looking for a rewarding career that doesn’t take a lot of training, you might want to consider phlebotomy. Phlebotomists are trained professionals who draw blood from patients to determine illnesses. Working as a phlebotomist can lead to other positions in the healthcare industry.

Phlebotomy is a good career choice for a felon because you may not necessarily have to go to college at all. Some phlogomists only have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training. A large part of the training that is required can be taken online. The students will have to complete an internship in a healthcare setting.

Students in a phlebotomy program take courses like medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, and blood samples. Upon completion of the program, students can obtain certification.

7. Engineering

Engineering is a field that offers many different options for felons. They can choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering but aren’t limited to just those options. If attending college for four years isn’t what you want, you can also choose a two-year engineering technology program.

Engineering programs can be taken online at many colleges and universities. If you like the idea of building something and have a solid background in math, engineering could be the ideal choice. The BLS reports that engineering jobs are expected to grow at a higher pace than other occupations. Engineering programs include courses in design, mathematics, engineering, and sciences.

Engineering is a great option for felons for a few different reasons. Engineering offers many areas of specialization so the student can choose the one that best meets their career goals. It’s also a field that continues to be in demand because something always needs to be built, and that’s what engineers do.


HVAC technicians are always in demand because every business and every home has some sort of heating or AC system that needs to be installed or maintained. This training prepares students for various just beyond just being an HVAC technician.

Many ex-offenders choose an HVAC program because it’s a program that doesn’t have a lot of admission requirements, and the graduate can be ready to join the workforce in as little as a year. Much of the coursework can be completed online, but the student may have to complete a fellowship or apprenticeship to become certified or licensed.

HVAC programs can last from six months to a year or more. In addition to completing coursework, the HVAC student will also have to complete some on-the-job training working alongside a licensed HVAC professional.

9. Radiology Technician

Healthcare is a great industry in which to work. Felons who want a job where they can help patients in a behind-the-scenes environment often find radiology technology a good choice. Radiology technicians assist radiologists in taking and reading images like X-rays and ultrasounds.

This is a very good career choice for felons because it’s a career that doesn’t need many years of college. Most radiology technicians only have to earn an associate degree, which can be completed in two years.

Students in a radiological technology program will complete courses in biology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, and math. They also learn about patient care and image evaluation. After a few years on the job, the technologists can advance their education and become a radiologist.

Next Steps

Starting a new life post-conviction or incarceration has many challenges. With an education, you can circumvent a lot of the problems many felons face, such as not being able to rent an apartment or get a job. Completing a college education will show employers and landlords that you are dedicated to a new future. As a felon, you are still eligible for federal financial aid, and drug convictions no longer impact eligibility.