A Guide to 20 Successful Degrees for Felons With Records (2023)

There are paths forward to a successful life as an ex-offender. The past doesn’t have to impact your future. If you’ve righted your wrongs, one of the best ways to re-enter the community is through higher education. But where do you start? Are there schools for felons, or can you attend an online college?

This guide shows you which degrees for ex felons you can get with a criminal record. It also discusses different careers for felons with college degrees.

If you’re ready to get your life back on track, take a look at the following 20 successful degrees for felons.

Getting Started – A Guide on the Best Degrees for Felons

Ex felons share a common experience, but their future educational needs vary. Some have dropped out of college and want to finish a degree. Others want to go to college without a high school diploma. This list will help you make the most of your past and your unique educational background. Below you will find answers to the question: What can a felon go to school for?

You will also get guidance on colleges that accept felons and the top degrees for felons to pursue. This list will help you make informed educational choices about your future.

1. Business Administration

One of the best online degrees for felons is business administration. Best degrees for felons in business, such as the online BBA, are versatile. They help you understand the ins and outs of running your own business. They also help you pursue entrepreneurship ventures, should you have them.

Maybe it’s been years since you pursued your passion of owning your own business. This degree can help spark creativity if you’re unsure what path in business you want to take.

Entry-level business degree courses cover topics such as:

  • Accounting and financial management
  • Business administration
  • Business law
  • Business management
  • Marketing
  • Professional communications

They lay a good foundation for any business or industry. If you’re uncertain about working for someone else, this degree can help you go into business for yourself. It also shows a bank that you’re a serious candidate for startup funds.

And if you don’t want to commit to a degree yet, try taking an entry-level business course at a community college. You can also take a free online class, as many exist. You can also earn a cheap degree, thanks to federal financial aid.

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 you gain in a computer science program work for all types of companies. As an ex-offender, you earn a versatile degree that leads to many career options. You increase your chances of finding an employer willing to look beyond your past.

To succeed in a CS program, you need strong technical skills. Your classes cover topics like:

  • Computer programming
  • Database design
  • Introduction to computer science
  • Software development

Like business programs, there are plenty of online degree programs in computer science. You can work a part-time job while attending a trade school and build a new kind of history to your resumé.

Top programs:

University of Florida
Western Governors University

3. Construction Management

A construction management program leads to two types of degree levels. You can either earn a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. These programs teach you to oversee a commercial or residential construction site. They also teach you how to plan the moving parts within the site. It’s a fast-paced job. But if you make quick decisions and enjoy working outdoors, you might find this job rewarding.

On the job, you also lead teams of construction professionals. You manage subcontractors and employees. The job demands organization skills to ensure projects meet deadlines and budget constraints.

To learn how to do these tasks, you take undergraduate degree courses that cover topics like:

  • Construction material and methods
  • Construction plan reading
  • Construction scheduling and control
  • Mechanical and electrical principles
  • Structural principles

But once you graduate, you’re ready to go to work. Over the next ten years, ex felons see an 11% job growth for construction managers. This means now is a great time to go after your dream of leading a residential construction job.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Everglades University
Louisiana State University

4. Counseling

To work as a counselor, you’ll need to meet at least a bachelor’s degree level in counseling or a related subject. It’s one of the top degrees for felons who want to give back to a community that has helped them through tough times.

Most counselors major in psychology, though some earn counseling degrees. There are plenty of online options for these programs. You receive flexible classes and a comfortable classroom environment. You can also pick up a specialization or concentration in a niche area of counseling.

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Specializations allow you to explore your interests. They also help you meet career goals by choosing a topic you want to study in depth. Popular specializations earned alongside a counseling degree include:

  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Mental health counseling
  • Substance abuse counseling or addiction

Online bachelor’s in counseling programs build a strong foundation. You enter the workforce prepared. You take classes that explore key topics in the field. These classes include abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. You also learn how to conduct research and design your own research project.

Top programs:

Drexel University
Grand Canyon University

5. Criminal Justice

The pathway to a criminal justice career may not be easy for an ex-offender. But there are a few successful degrees for felons that might land you a job. With a criminal record, you can work as the following:

  • Bond enforcement agents
  • Bounty hunters
  • Computer experts
  • Private detectives

The first step for ex felons with a heart set on working in this field is to earn a degree. Online bachelor’s in CJ degree programs offer courses in:

  • Correctional case management
  • Criminal history
  • Criminal law
  • Criminology

You can pursue an area of interest by picking up a concentration. With a concentration, you learn more about the topic of interest. Popular concentrations include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Forensic science
  • Homeland security

Top programs:

North Carolina Central University
Southern New Hampshire University

6. Culinary Arts

A degree in culinary arts gives you a road to redemption through schooling. These are some of the best degrees for felons. Culinary arts programs offer degrees at all levels. Culinary schools provide you with a path to entry-level jobs. And if you work hard, you can advance based on your merit.

You find culinary programs at two year community colleges or technical schools. These schools open their doors to ex-offenders and give them a path forward to earn a degree. Certain offenses may limit your schooling. But community colleges offer helpful rehabilitation programs with equally helpful financial aid packages.

And if you’re interested in working in culinary arts, this program helps you find a job after school. Depending on your interests, you can specialize in specific types of food. You can specialize in pastries or desserts. You can also specialize in food preparation or catering.

Top programs:

Johnson & Wales University

7. Entrepreneurship

If you have a prior conviction, entrepreneurship degrees offer a path forward. With this degree, you create more choices on your road to financial freedom. Potential employers have restrictions and biases that prevent you from landing a job. But this degree can help.

It prepares you with knowledge and skills needed for self-employment. It also covers the basics of business. You get a broad business education that covers topics in areas, such as:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Marketing

Also, you take specific coursework related to being a business owner. Classes cover topics like:

  • Business plan preparation
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Small business accounting
  • Small business management

Do you want to launch your own business? Be your own boss? An entrepreneurial career might be a great fit for you as you move to the next page of your life.

Top programs:

Franklin University
University of North Carolina Greensboro

8. Foreign Language

If you want to travel to another country, knowing a foreign language helps. It can also help you connect with a new culture. Foreign language programs are available online. The most popular foreign language at a college is Spanish, but you can learn any language you want.

As a felon, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to your foreign language degree. It’s important to pay attention to what interests you, as you reinvent yourself. Foreign language programs consist of:

  • Online classes
  • Two-year degrees
  • Bachelor’s degrees

In an online Spanish degree program, you take courses such as:

  • Advanced grammar and composition
  • Children’s literature in Spanish
  • Translation and interpretation

You also find these classes in other languages, such as:

  • Arabic
  • German
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Mandarin
  • Portuguese
  • Russian

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Oregon State University

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9. Game Design

Game design and development is a lucrative field of technology. With a degree in game design, you get job security and strong earnings potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports game designers earn about $77,000/year, on average. They also experience good job growth. It’s projected that the industry will see 16% growth over the next nine years.

In a game design program, you learn the skills needed to compete in the video game industry. Four-year degrees focus on:

  • Effective interactive design
  • Game and graphic arts
  • Programming and coding fundamentals

Courses cover topics like:

  • Digital communication
  • Programming principles
  • Web design and development fundamentals

Are you interested in computers, programming, and interactive design? Want to put your passions to work? A degree in game design might suit you and your interests. It might also take you places you never thought possible.

Top programs:

Academy of Art University

10. Graphic Design

Another career for ex-offenders is in graphic design. This field offers online college degrees for convicted felons. It also provides:

  • Job training
  • Livable wages
  • Strong job growth and a good career outlook

You not only use your technical training, but also use your creative skills. If you’re an artist by nature, you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds. And if you don’t want to spend years in school, you can earn an associate’s from a community college. These schools offer helpful financial aid to offset tuition costs.

Most programs take less than two years if completed online unless you want a bachelor’s degree. Online programs take as little as 18 months. You take classes that cover topics like:

  • Computer design
  • Graphic design basics
  • Typography

When you graduate with graphic design degrees, you’re ready to go to work. You can open your own business and launch a freelance career. Most graphic designers work for themselves. So if you’re worried about how an employer might view your past record, consider a freelance job and become self employed.

Top programs:

Bellevue University
Midway University
University of Maryland Global Campus

11. History

If you enjoy studying about the past, a history degree might suit your interests. But if you don’t plan to teach, how will this degree help you?

History is a liberal arts degree. A history program teaches you to think critically and conduct research. You spend a lot of time reading and writing in a history program. You learn to organize your thoughts and write an effective paper. A bachelor’s in history degree will also prepare you for graduate school.

You can use the skills you develop in a history program in any job. As such, the degree is helpful for those with a past that might limit their job options. Because the more options you have now, the better your chance of finding a job.

In a history program, you take courses such as:

  • British history
  • Latin American history
  • U.S. history

You also take classes in other disciplines because the major is cross-disciplinary. This means that courses from other disciplines meet requirements for your major. If you’re interested in other subjects, you can take classes. Other areas you might study include:

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Gender studies
  • Sociology

Top programs:

Oregon State University
University of Maryland Global Campus

12. Marketing

The marketing industry has evolved over the last few decades. Digital technology has changed the landscape of marketing. Because of this, now is an exciting time to pursue a career as a marketer.

Today’s marketers are:

  • Brilliant branders
  • Engaging social media experts
  • Innovative creators

Marketing programs prepare you for careers in business and marketing. They give you a strong business skillset that’s transferable to many different jobs. You find marketing programs online, but these are mostly bachelor’s degrees. A traditional bachelor’s in marketing degree takes four years. But some programs take 18-36 months.

In an online bachelor’s in marketing degree program, you take classes in:

  • Business law
  • Business statistics
  • Consumer behavior
  • Marketing analytics
  • Marketing and digital media
  • Professional selling

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Maryville University

13. Music

Are you passionate about music? Do you enjoy singing, or playing an instrument? You might want to turn your passion into a career by earning an online music degree. In school, you learn how the music industry works while improving your skills as a musician.

Your courses help you develop your talents. They also refine your musical skills and abilities. In classes, you enrich your musical life through study, practice, and exercises.

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Admission to a music program takes into consideration more than academics. Admission boards look at the whole person and your musical abilities. They consider your:

  • Aptitude
  • Experience
  • Talent

Most music programs don’t have specific GPA or test score requirements. This is beneficial for someone who has been away from the classroom.

Once you’re admitted to a program, you take a diverse selection of classes. You can also earn a concentration, which allows you to focus on a specific musical area. Concentrations also help you explore your interests and find a specific career goal. Popular music concentrations include:

  • Music business
  • Music composition for film and TV scores
  • Music production
  • Songwriting

Top programs:

Berklee Online

14. Nutrition and Food Preparation

If you’re interested in how the body uses food for nutrition, an online degree might land you a career in this field. The study of nutrition is more than learning how to eat better and cleaner. It’s a combination of:

  • Food science
  • Health sciences
  • Medicine
  • Psychology
  • Social and life sciences

With an online bachelor’s in nutrition degree, you have skills that are attractive to an employer. Nutritionists work as:

  • Agricultural and food scientists
  • Fitness trainers and instructors
  • Health educators

You can even find self employment as a personal nutritionist. Programs examine the nutrition processes and chemical compounds of foods. In class, you learn how energy, protein, fats, and vitamins impact human health and disease. You can earn your degree online, which is an attractive choice for someone who has been out of school for some time.

In an undergraduate program, you take classes such as:

  • Food safety
  • Nutritional analysis and assessment
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Nutrition planning and management

Top programs:

Purdue Global
The University of Arizona

15. Paralegal

Many people with a felony history develop an interest in the legal process. Some choose to turn this interest into a legal career. Paralegal programs allow you to do this.

A paralegal’s job is to conduct legal research. You also support the efforts of attorneys or the legal organizations you work for. Paralegals work with:

  • Private attorneys
  • Public defenders
  • Organizations that conduct business in the legal system

Most paralegal degrees are two-year, associate programs. But you can earn a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. This type of paralegal degree takes between three and four years, even if you earn it online. You take courses like:

  • Introduction to legal research
  • Introduction to paralegal studies
  • Legal analysis
  • Tort law

If you have a particular interest area, you can specialize in this type of law. Specializations include:

  • Criminal
  • Family
  • Personal injury law
  • Real estate

Top programs:

Liberty University
Regent University

16. Psychology

Psychology is one of the most popular college degrees for felons. It offers interesting content and occupational applicability. With a criminal background, you might not find work in education. But there are other areas with job opportunities.

Psychology degrees are available at both undergraduate and graduate levels. In these programs, you learn what drives human behavior. You also learn about psychological theories. Your courses cover topics like:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • General psychology
  • Social psychology

When you graduate, different jobs await. You can work in:

  • Private industry
  • Social services

You can also work for yourself. Some graduates enter grad school to earn an advanced degree. This makes you more marketable to a potential employer for a particular position in the field.

To get started, you can earn an associate’s degree at a community college or at trade schools. You can find some of these programs online. From there, you can apply to a college or university and pursue your bachelor’s degree. It’s important to only look at accredited programs if you want to earn an advanced degree. Also, employers prefer accredited degrees.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Southern New Hampshire University

17. Robotics

The best degrees for robotics are offered at all degree levels. From associate’s to master’s degree levels in robotics. The program you choose depends on how much time you want to spend in school.

A bachelor’s degree in robotics is more rigorous than a two-year degree program. You take courses in both electrical and mechanical engineering. You also explore topics such as:


  • Feedback control systems
  • Kinematics
  • Industrial robotics
  • Robotic manipulation models and automation
  • Sensor technology

If you’re interested in learning more about a topic, field, or niche of robotics, you can earn a concentration. Your choices might include:

  • Digital manufacturing
  • Electronics and embedded systems
  • Modern robotics mechanics
  • Programming the Internet of Things

When you graduate with a four-year degree, you’re ready for employment. Since robotics is a growing field with a strong job market, graduates find work in many different fields. You can find jobs in areas like:

  • Defense
  • Food processing
  • Warehousing

In these fields, you might land a job as an automation engineer or robotics engineer. And with a little experience, you might work as a robotic process manager. Whatever job you choose, expect to earn a stable income of $80,000/year, on average.

Top programs:

Grand Canyon University

18. Sociology

One of the most popular degrees for felons is sociology. This discipline deals with individual and group interactions across society. A degree in sociology can help prepare graduates for career pathways in many areas, such as:

  • Human resources
  • Law
  • Sociology or social sciences

In a bachelor’s in sociology online program, you gain a strong foundation learning theories and practice. You also take advanced study classes that prepare you for work in:

  • Counseling
  • Law
  • Research

If you aren’t planning to go to grad school, you can still find work with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. For example, over 700,000 social workers currently practice across the United States.

To prepare for work, you take courses like:

  • Health disparities
  • Introduction to sociology
  • Sociological research methods
  • Sociology of work

Once you graduate, you’ll find a projected job growth of 13% over the next decade. This means that majoring in sociology could lead to stable jobs and income.

Top programs:

University of Florida
University of Massachusetts Global

19. Substance Abuse Counseling

After leaving the penal system, you might want to help others affected by drug and alcohol abuse. If you were an addict, you might want to give back to a community that helped you overcome your addiction.

A degree in substance abuse counseling offers a way for you to follow your dreams of helping others. Depending on how much time you want to devote to school, you can earn a substance abuse counseling degree at any level. From associate to PhD programs, you can get the schooling you want to start a rewarding career.

But to meet school admission standards, you should check program requirements. Some schools will take candidates with a prior conviction, while others won’t. But once admitted, you can start working toward your degree and career. Courses in these counseling programs cover topics such as:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Counseling theory and practice
  • Foundations of addiction
  • Introduction to human services

You can find many accredited programs online. Online programs work well for those working a job while going to school. They also let you balance other outside obligations, such as family and childcare.

Top programs:

Grand Canyon University
University of Cincinnati

20. Vocational Studies

Vocational pathways serve as excellent career paths for those with prior criminal records. With a felony charge, you can still qualify for many different jobs. Career choices might include:

  • Automotive
  • Carpentry
  • Electrician
  • HVAC
  • Welding

Vocational degrees offer many benefits. Not only do you prepare for a specific job, but you can also earn steady pay after college. You also don’t face as many roadblocks as you might finding work in other fields. You can say the same for the schools that offer these degrees.

Community colleges offer the best degrees in vocational studies. They offer programs for those with a past. But as with many degree programs, you should check with the school about their admission standards. If you have a felony conviction, you will want to confirm that you’re allowed to apply. It will all depend on your prior conviction.

But if you qualify, plan on getting the most out of your college education. Benefits of attending vocational schools include:

  • Affordability (financial aid awards)
  • Good relations with hiring organizations
  • The flexibility of earning an online degree

Since most vocational schools uphold high standards for instruction and curriculum by the Association of Career and Technical Education, you can earn a degree with a solid stamp of approval. Potential employers favor candidates with this ACTE stamp of approval. With a past you want to improve, studying vocational studies from an accredited school for felons helps.

Top programs:

Wake Technical Community College
West Kentucky Community College

BDP Staff
May 2022

Related to degrees for felons:

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  • 30 Great Small Colleges for STEM Degrees
  • Top 30 Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Psychology
  • Ultimate Guide to Criminal Justice Degrees and Careers
  • Ultimate Guide to Liberal Arts Degrees and Careers
  • Ultimate Guide to Psychology and Counseling Degrees and Careers

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


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