20 Best Degrees for Felons Online

An image of online learning for our ranking of the 20 Best Online Degrees for Felons

The past doesn’t have to impact your future, especially if you’ve righted your wrongs and wish to move forward in life. A convicted felon is able to pursue many degree programs; however, finding work in specific fields may be more challenging than in others. For example, you may not be able to work in a bank if you’ve been convicted of tax evasion or another white-collar crime. But, there are still many fields open to you. Online degrees for felons are available. They are designed to improve your likelihood of finding employment after your debt to society has been paid.

To assist with choosing the right major for a convicted felon, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 best online college degrees for felons. These programs may open up gainful employment opportunities and help provide a starting place for your research. Our list is designed to help students with a criminal background to make wise educational choices. Below are the 20 best online degrees for felons.

1. Business Administration

One of the best online degrees for felons is one in business. Business degrees, such as the online BBA, are extremely flexible. They can be used to pursue entrepreneurship ventures, help you understand the ins and outs of running your own business, and spark creativity if you’re unsure what path in business you want to take. For those unsure about getting back into the classroom, an entry-level business course helps you dip your toe into academic waters. Entry-level business courses cover topics like accounting and financial management, business administration, business law, business management, marketing, and professional communications. A degree in business is especially important if you see yourself owning your own business in the future.

Top programs:

Campbellsville University
University of Georgia

2. Computer Science

Computer science is a popular major due to the high demand for tech jobs. The skills and knowledge one gains in a computer science program can be applied to virtually any organization, which gives ex-felons the opportunity to apply to jobs in a wide range of settings. This increases the likelihood of finding an employer that is willing to look past previous transgressions and give a felon a chance. Potential computer science majors should possess technical acumen, as well as the ability to think critically and logically. In computer science bachelor’s programs, courses may cover topics like computer programming, database design, introduction to computer science, and software development. Online degree programs provide flexibility, convenience, and the opportunity to work while earning a degree.

Top programs:

University of Florida
Western Governors University

3. Construction Management

Like most vocational degrees, a construction management program prepares graduates for a specific job in a trade setting. Offered mainly at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, a construction management program teaches students how to plan, oversee, and maintain all of the moving parts of a commercial or residential construction job. The occupation moves at a fast pace and requires high levels of organization and leadership to make sure the job is done on time and on budget. The occupation is expected to be in high demand over the next decade. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports an 11% growth in employment through 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Undergraduate courses typically cover topics like construction material and methods, construction plan reading, construction scheduling and control, mechanical and electrical principles, and structural principles.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Everglades University
Louisiana State University

An image of a counselor for our ranking of the 20 Best Online Degrees for Felons

4. Counseling

Counselors typically hold bachelor’s degree in counseling or a closely related discipline. While most counselors major in psychology, some receive counseling degrees. Some students pursue their degrees online and earn specializations or concentrations in niche areas of study. Specializations allow students to explore areas of interest or meet career goals. Popular specializations that can be earned alongside a counseling degree include marriage and family counseling, mental health counseling, and substance abuse counseling or addictions. In online bachelor’s in counseling programs, courses explore topics like abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology, introduction to case management, social psychology, and statistics and research methods. Counseling is an ideal degree for ex-felons wanting to give back to a community that has helped them.

Top programs:

Drexel University
Grand Canyon University

5. Criminal Justice

While the pathway to a criminal justice career may not be easy for an ex-felon, there are a few jobs that might be of interest. Positions as bond enforcement agents, computer experts in criminal justice, and private detectives are just some of the available careers for those with tarnished records. Earning a degree in criminal justice is the first step in correcting your wrongs. Online bachelor’s in criminal justice degree programs offer courses that explore topics like correctional case management, criminal law, criminology, and introduction to criminal justice. Some programs also offer concentrations that allow criminal justice students to hone their knowledge and skills in a particular area of interest. Popular criminal justice concentrations include cybersecurity, forensic science, and homeland security.

Top programs:

North Carolina Central University
Southern New Hampshire University

6. Culinary Arts

A degree in culinary arts has given many ex-felons a road to redemption through education and gainful employment. Culinary arts programs offer degrees at all levels and provide people with a path to entry-level jobs that have advancement opportunities based on hard work and merit. Students can specialize in specific types of food and food preparation, according to their interests. Culinary programs may be housed within community colleges, which are often open to allowing those with criminal backgrounds. Additionally, many culinary schools will allow those with criminal records to pursue an education, depending on the type of felony committed and how long ago the offense occurred.

Top programs:

Johnson & Wales University

7. Entrepreneurship

For many individuals who have been convicted of a felony, entrepreneurship offers occupational choice and financial freedom. Many ex-felons find it difficult to navigate traditional educational and occupational paths due to restrictions and bias, so a degree in entrepreneurship can offer them the knowledge and skills they need to be self-employed. Entrepreneurship degrees are generally housed within an institution’s business school or department, so students gain a comprehensive business education through taking basic courses in accounting, economics, finance, and marketing. In addition, students take specific coursework related to being a business owner, such as business plan preparation, entrepreneurship, small business accounting, and small business management and marketing. If you’ve dreamed of launching your own business, being your own boss, and using your creativity to prove yourself, an entrepreneurial career might be a great fit for you.

Top programs:

Franklin University
University of North Carolina Greensboro

8. Foreign Language

Whether you want to travel to another country or connect with a new culture, earning an online foreign language degree will help. Foreign language programs are available online in a variety of disciplines. The most popular foreign language in any college or university is Spanish. As an ex-felon, you have a lot of flexibility in terms of your foreign language degree. Foreign language programs consist of online classes, two-year degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. In an online Spanish degree program, students may take courses like advanced grammar and composition, children’s literature in Spanish, and translation and interpretation. Foreign language degrees are also available in other languages, including Arabic, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Russian.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Oregon State University

An image of game developers for our ranking of 20 Best Online Degrees for Felons

9. Game Design

Game design and development is a lucrative field of technology. Earning a degree in game design offers job security and a favorable earnings potential. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that game designers and developers earn a median wage of $77,700 per year. It is also projected that this industry will see a 16% employment growth over the next nine years. If you’re interested in computers, programming, and interactive design, a degree in game design might suit you and your interests. One of the main goals of online bachelor’s in game design programs is to prepare students with skills needed to successfully compete in the video game industry. Four-year degrees in game design typically focus on elements of effective interactive design, game and graphic arts, and programming and coding fundamentals. Courses cover topics like digital communication, programming principles, and web design and development fundamentals.

Top programs:

Academy of Art University
Southern New Hampshire University

10. Graphic Design

Graphic design careers continue to be in high demand, making this field an excellent choice for ex-felons seeking a degree that provides job training, livable wages, and a favorable career outlook. In addition to technical training, students can use their creative skills, which is appealing to those interested in art and the artistic process. Graphic design degrees are readily available at the associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels and can be completed online in as short as 18 months. Coursework includes graphic design basics, computer design, and typography. Graphic designers may work in a wide variety of organizations or pursue self-employment. In fact, most graphic designers work for themselves.

Top programs:

Bellevue University
Midway University
University of Maryland Global Campus

11. History

History degrees are a popular choice for those interested in historical information and analysis of the past. In addition, a bachelor’s degree in history has served as a pathway to graduate school in several fields. As a liberal arts degree, history teaches people to critically think, organize information, analyze writing, and perform research – all transferable skills that are highly sought after by employers. As such, the degree may be useful to individuals with a felony conviction who are seeking an undergraduate degree as a means to a successful and meaningful career. Courses include British history, Latin American history, U.S. history, and much more. The major is typically cross-disciplinary, which means that students can choose courses from a variety of disciplines such as anthropology, economics, gender studies, and sociology.

Top programs:

Oregon State University
University of Maryland Global Campus

12. Marketing

While the marketing industry has changed over the last few decades, now has never been a more exciting time to pursue a career as a marketer. Digital technology has changed the landscape of marketing entirely. Today’s marketers are brilliant branders, innovative creators, and engaging social media experts. That’s why marketing programs offer a strong business skillset that is transferable into any organization. Marketing programs can be completed online and often yield a bachelor’s degree. While the traditional bachelor’s in marketing takes four years to complete, some online programs allow students to earn their degree in less time. Accelerated online marketing programs take 18-36 months to complete. Sample marketing courses for online bachelor’s in marketing programs include business law, business statistics, consumer behavior, marketing analytics, marketing and digital media, and professional selling.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Maryville University

13. Music

If you’re passionate about music, enjoy singing, or play an instrument, you might want to explore your options by earning an online music degree. Online undergraduate and graduate music programs prepare students for careers in the music industry. Courses help hone talents, refine musical skills and abilities, and enrich your musical life. Admission to a music program takes into consideration more than just academics. Admission boards take into account aptitude, talent, and other requirements. Most music programs don’t have specific GPA or test score requirements, which is beneficial for someone who has been away from the classroom. Because of the diverse nature of music programs, some online bachelor’s degrees offer concentrations to allow students to hone their interests and pursue specific career goals. Popular music concentrations include music business, music composition for film and TV, music production, and songwriting.

Top programs:

Berklee Online

14. Nutrition

As a combination of food science, medicine, social and life sciences, and psychology, the study of nutrition is more than learning how to eat better and cleaner. Online bachelor’s in nutrition programs graduate skilled professionals who are ready to embark on careers as agricultural and food scientists, fitness trainers and instructors, health educators, and nutritionists. Programs examine the nutrition processes and chemical compounds of foods while addressing how energy, protein, fats, and vitamins impact human health and disease. Online programs provide flexibility for students wanting to work while earning their degree. Common courses found in an undergraduate nutrition program include food safety, nutritional analysis and assessment, nutritional counseling, and nutrition planning and management.

Top programs:

Purdue Global
The University of Arizona

An image of a paralegal for our ranking of 20 Best Online Degrees for Felons

15. Paralegal

Many individuals with a felony develop an interest in the legal process. As such, some choose to earn a paralegal degree that allows them to become involved in this process with a legal career as a paralegal. The job of a paralegal is to conduct legal research and support the efforts of attorneys or legal organizations they work for. Paralegals can work for private attorneys, public attorneys, and organizations that conduct business within the legal system. Paralegals may specialize in a certain type of law, such as family, criminal, personal injury, and more. Most paralegal programs are at the associate’s level with some degrees available at the bachelor’s degree level. Courses may include introduction to paralegal, introduction to legal research, legal analysis, and tort law.

Top programs:

Liberty University
Regent University

16. Psychology

Psychology is one of the most popular college degrees, due to its interesting content and occupational applicability. While some industries and degrees are difficult for ex-felons to access, such as health sciences and education, a psychology degree can offer several career pathways to those who have served their time. Psychology degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels teach students to understand what drives human behavior, as well as educating them on psychological theories and individuals that have made contributions to the discipline. Courses may include general psychology, abnormal psychology, social psychology, and more. Graduates may go on to private industry, social services, government, entrepreneurship, or graduate school. Psychology is available at all degree levels, including associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Flexible online options are also offered from accredited institutions.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Southern New Hampshire University

17. Robotics

Robotics degrees are available at all levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. A bachelor’s degree program in robotics is more rigorous than a two-year degree program and incorporates coursework in computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Courses may explore topics in feedback control systems, kinematics, industrial robotics, robotic manipulation models and automation, and sensor technology. Some programs offer concentrations or specializations that allow students to focus on a particular area of robotics. These specializations may include digital manufacturing, electronics and embedded systems, programming the Internet of Things, or modern robotics mechanics, to name a few. Graduates of online bachelor’s in robotics programs may find employment in any industrial field that utilizes robotics systems. These fields may include defense, food processing, or warehousing. Job titles for robotics majors include automation engineers, robotics engineers, and robotic process managers. The typical starting salary for a robotics engineer is above $80,000 per year.

Top programs:

Grand Canyon University

18. Sociology

One of the most popular online degrees for felons is sociology. This discipline deals with individual and group interactions across society. A degree in sociology can help prepare graduates for careers in a number of areas, such as criminal justice, human resources, and, of course, sociology. Bachelor’s in sociology online programs are designed to provide a strong foundation for advanced study in counseling, law, and research. However, if you aren’t planning to continue your education in grad school, plenty of career options are available for students with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. For example, over 700,000 social workers currently practice across the United States. As a sociology major, you should plan on taking courses that explore topics like group processes, health disparities, introduction to sociology, sociological research methods, and sociology of work. Upon graduating, you can be assured that a strong and favorable job outlook awaits you. In fact, BLS reports an anticipated 13% employment growth over the next nine years for those working in sociology.

Top programs:

University of Florida
University of Massachusetts Global

19. Substance Abuse Counseling

While not all criminal offenses are drug-related, many ex-felons may leave the penal system with the desire to help individuals impacted by drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. A degree in substance abuse counseling offers a way for these individuals to follow their passion to help others while making a living. Substance abuse counseling degrees are offered at all levels, from associate to Ph.D. It is critical for potential applicants to be sure that they meet admission standards and will not be barred from the application process due to a past criminal conviction. Courses in substance abuse counseling programs cover topics like abnormal psychology, counseling theory and practice, foundations of addiction, and introduction to human services. Many accredited programs may be completed entirely online, offering a flexible learning environment for working students and those balancing other outside obligations.

Top programs:

Grand Canyon University
University of Cincinnati

20. Vocational Studies

Vocational pathways such as automotive, carpentry, electrician, HVAC, and welding have always served as excellent career paths for individuals who have been incarcerated for committing a felony. Vocational programs have many benefits, including preparing the graduate for a specific job that offers steady pay. Typically, these trade professionals do not have as many roadblocks and barriers to entry as they may in other fields, and the same can be said for the institutions that offer these degrees. In fact, two-year community colleges extend degree offerings in vocational studies to those who are overcoming significant barriers. As with other degree programs, it is important to check with the institution about admission standards as they relate to felony convictions, as certain requirements may exist. Other benefits of attending vocational schools include affordability, good relations with hiring organizations, and the flexibility of earning an online degree. Also, most vocational schools are held to high standards for instruction and curriculum by the Association of Career and Technical Education. Therefore, you can rest assured that, from those programs with the ACTE stamp of approval, you are earning a quality degree.

Top programs:

Wake Technical Community College
West Kentucky Community College

BDP Staff
November 2021

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This concludes our list of the 20 best online degrees for felons.

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