A convicted felon is free to pursue any degree she or he wished; however they may be limited in finding work in some particular fields more than others. For example, handling large sums of money for a financial institution such as a bank may not be an option for someone with a prior conviction on their federal record.
It really depends on what exactly your charge is. A sexual offender or a violent crime offender can forget about working in education, especially with minors. period. You would likely be wasting your time as schools and even some colleges have strict hiring processes. A post-secondary college or university may give you consideration if it has been over 10 years since incident (and perhaps if it was a minor conviction) and you have all other qualifications (such as Ph.D. or prior teaching experience)
Even a DUI or DWI (driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated), which is a much lesser offense than a felony, can stay with the offender for up to 10 years depending on the state you live in. A job that entails any kind of driving will then not be an option.
Do not despair, you DO have some options:
- Computer technology
- Graphic Design
- Vocational fields (contracting, construction, mechanic, plumbing)
- Landscape Architecture
- Language Translator
- Law/Legal Studies
- Drug Counselor
- Entrepreneurship or Business (self-employment is a fantastic option)
- Food Industry
(some of these can be done, but not without a lot of administrative help)
- medical (hospitals have strict guidelines; licensing for most positions will be limited) social work
- pharmacy (specifically if you have drug charges)
- education at the primary and secondary level (any violent charges and misdemeanors depending on state)
- Financial fields, such as CPA, realtor, broker, bookkeeping (specifically if you committed a white collar crime- i.e. embezzlement, lending fraud)
Resources for ex-cons
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a good place to start for inquiring about financial aid to help fund your college degree program. They are a government program responsible for managing the student assistance program under the Higher Education Act of 1965. This program offers grants, work-study options and loans for those attending a college or technical career school in the U.S.
The National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) is a national coalition dedicated to serving ex-cons by helping them face barriers to employment success. They offer skill-training and education supportive services. They also work with city, state and federal policy makers trying to further anti-poverty and advocacy efforts.
The National HIRE (Helping Individuals with Criminal Records) Network is a national clearing house to help people with criminal records by finding them job opportunities. They will also counsel ex-convicts with increasing their employable skills.
The United States Department of Labor sponsors the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), this is definitely something you would want to check in about. It currently is expired at this writing, but congress may re-institute in future years. It is an incentive program that targets gouts that face loss of opportunity due to circumstances like prison time.