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 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 many fields open to you. Online degrees for felons are out there and designed to improve your likelihood of finding employment.
To assist with choosing the right major for a convicted felon, we’ve compiled a list of the ten best online college degrees for felons. These are programs could open doors to promising employment and help provide a starting place for your research. Our list is designed to assist students with a criminal background to make wise educational choices. Below are the 10 best online degrees for felons.
Psychology is one of the most popular college degrees due to its interesting content and occupational applicability. While there are some industries and degrees that 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 time. Psychology degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels teach students to understand what drives human behavior and thinking as well as psychological theories and individuals that have made contributions to the discipline. Courses may include general psychology, abnormal psychology, social psychology, and more. Career paths may include private industry, social services, government, entrepreneurship, and graduate school.
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 the knowledge and skills it takes 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, and small business accounting, and small business management and marketing.
3. Substance Abuse Counseling
While not all criminal offenses are drug-related, many ex-felons 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 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 see if they meet admission standards and will not be barred from applying due to a past criminal conviction. Courses may include abnormal psychology, counseling theory and practice, foundations of addiction, and introduction to human services.
4. Culinary Arts
A degree in culinary arts has given many ex-felons a road to redemption through education and gainful employment. Culinary arts offers degrees at all levels and provides people with 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 very 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.
Johnson & Wales University
New England Culinary Institute
5. Computer Science
Computer science has always been a very popular major due to its ever-changing coursework and demand among employers. The skills and knowledge one learns in a computer science program can be applied to virtually any organization, which gives ex-felons the opportunity to apply to jobs both far and wide. This increases the likelihood of finding an employer willing to look past previous transgressions and give someone with a felony a chance. Potential computer science majors should possess technical acumen as well as the ability to think critically and logically. Courses include computer programming, database design, introduction to computer science, and software development.
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 with a legal career as a paralegal. The job of a paralegal is to conduct legal research and support the efforts of the 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 level with some available at the bachelor’s degree level. Courses may include introduction to paralegal, introduction to legal research, legal analysis, and tort law.
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 the individual with a felony who is 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 students can choose courses from a variety of disciplines such as anthropology, economics, gender studies, and sociology.
8. Graphic Design
Graphic design careers continue to be in high demand by a number of different organizations, making it an excellent choice for ex-felons seeking a degree that provides job training, livable wages, and strong demand. In addition to the technical training, students have the ability to 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 and bachelor degree levels and can be completed online in as short as 18 months. Coursework includes graphic design basics, computer design, and typography. Graphic designers work in a wide variety of organizations or may pursue self-employment.
9. 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 pays well. Typically, these trade professionals do not have as many roadblocks and barriers to entry as other fields, the same can be said for the institutions that offer these degrees, which are largely two-year community colleges. As with other degree programs, it is important the individual check with the institution about admission standards as they relate to felony convictions.
10. Construction Management
Similar to vocational degrees, a construction management program prepares graduates for a specific job in a trade setting. Offered mainly at the bachelor and master 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 is very fast-paced 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 have high demand through 2028. Courses include construction material and methods, construction plan reading, construction scheduling and control, mechanical and electrical principles, and structural principles.