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Life after a felony conviction is rough. You may be prevented from voting (depending on your state) or purchasing a firearm with a felony on your record. However they’re not necessarily aware that jobs for individuals with felonies can be hard to come by. What’s more, you don’t just want a job, you want a career and long-term stability.
The Bureau of Justice reports a high recidivism rate for state prisoners: 83 percent of prisoners released in 2005 were arrested again within nine years. You don’t want to get arrested again, and that’s partly why you’re looking for a steady job.
The situation is frustrating. You need a career to achieve the type of stability that will keep you from getting arrested again, but your original felony offense can be a red flag for employers. If they won’t hire you, how can you embark on a career path towards stability?
A stable life, with a decent career, steady income, good credit, housing, and a support network will help keep you on the right track. The good news is there are jobs for people with felonies, and there are careers for convicted felons; you can pull yourself out of the cycle of recidivism and earn good money. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look.
Since you’re reading this, you’re already one step ahead. Through this guide, you’ll cut down on your job hunt time and hone in the industries and big employers that hire convicted felons. Even more, you’ll learn valuable skills for a landing a job, advancing your career, and managing your personal finances like a boss.
Even if you don’t have a felony on your record yet but are expecting a conviction, start here as a reference point for the types of jobs you can look for if you are convicted.
The foodservice industry has long been a welcome go-to for people with a criminal record. Entry-level positions in the foodservice industry include dishwashers, busboys, hosts, cooks, and servers. Search for these jobs on local online job-boards, such as Craigslist.
Pay Range: $7.25-$21.25/hr; however, servers can make up to $26.20 per hour or more, based on the quality of the restaurant and how well patrons tip.
Skills Required: People skills, manual dexterity, resilience under pressure, time management skills
Environment/Responsibilities: Back of the house or front of the house, you’ll be working with people to ensure optimum food preparation and service, which is why people skills are the number one requirement. Back of the house jobs, including dishwashing and cooking, are generally more casual when it comes to social interaction, and have fewer requirements in terms of appearance. All restaurant work is fast-paced, and you must be able to follow specific protocols to ensure optimum service.
High Paying Career for Felons: Executive Chef; on average, Executive Chefs earn $62,039 per year, with an estimated maximum salary of $134,000. A culinary degree is not necessarily required — many establishments will hire someone with at least five years experience as a chef. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) designation, which is not required by restaurants but can create opportunities; to obtain the CEC, you need three years of chef experience and a high school diploma or equivalent.
The hospitality industry includes hotels, lodges, resorts, banquet centers, golf clubs and country clubs, wineries, and a host of other employers. Search for these jobs on local job-boards, such as Craigslist, and platforms like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor.
Pay Range: $7.25-$23.30/hr.
Skills Required: Communication skills, and for jobs in which you converse with customers, customer service skills; manual dexterity, time management and efficient operation skills
Environment/Responsibilities: In hotels, you could end up at the front desk, in housekeeping, or working in the banquet facility; at banquet centers, you could work operations, which involves setting up and tearing down the banquets — you could also work on the banquet wait staff, or in the kitchen. You’ll be in a clean, structured environment where time-management is at a premium. Since there are a variety of hospitality jobs, responsibilities vary; in general, you’ll be facilitating a positive experience for customers and attendees.
High Paying Career for Felons: Food and Beverage Director; the median salary for this position is $79,527 with an estimated maximum salary of $127,000. Like the Executive Chef position, the Food and Beverage Director position doesn’t necessarily require a college degree, but it helps to have one. To qualify, you’ll need experience as an assistant director, director, or manager.
The renewable energy industry, which includes solar and wind, is growing fast, and there are technician jobs for felons; there are oil industry jobs available to felons as well. Search for these jobs on platforms like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor.
Pay Range: $7.25-$37.60/hr.
Skills Required: Manual dexterity, physical resilience, attention to detail, technical expertise
Environment/Responsibilities: Oilfield and drilling operations are mostly in remote areas, and the jobs require high levels of physical resilience/toughness; wind turbine tech jobs and solar panel installation require you to work at high elevations — fear of heights need not apply. Technical expertise requirements vary; oilfield jobs and wind turbine jobs will require some mechanical know-how, while solar jobs will require a minimal level of construction and/or electrician experience.
High Paying Career for Felons: Derrickman; average salary is $64,011, but you could earn up to $78,816. You’ll work on oil and gas wells, including rigging, tubing, and other operations. Experience and a high school diploma are not necessarily required, but you’re more likely to get the job if you have either.
Entry-level construction jobs are plentiful, and many don’t require experience. Residential or commercial, there’s going to be a construction job for you out there. Search for these jobs on local job-boards, such as Craigslist, and platforms like Indeed.
Pay Range: $7.25-$32.45/hr.
Skills Required: Manual dexterity, physical resilience
Environment/Responsibilities: You’ll be working both outdoors and indoors, and if you can work hard and have a good attitude, you’re a step ahead. Responsibilities can include hanging drywall, carpentry, roofing, laying concrete, working with hand tools and power tools, electrical work, and a variety of other manual labor tasks necessary to construct buildings and infrastructure. Must be punctual, safe, and willing to take orders.
High Paying Career for Felons: Construction Manager; average salary is $87,400, with an estimated maximum of $184,000; save up some money for college from your entry-level earnings, because the majority of construction management jobs require a degree (see the Education section under Career Advancement and Increasing Earning Potential, below). With experience in construction and project management, a degree, and OSHA certification (voluntary, but a bonus), you could land the most lucrative and valued job in the industry.
The manufacturing industry includes factory and warehouse jobs — basically, any sort of labor necessary to put a product together and get it out the door. Search for these jobs on local job-boards, such as Craigslist, and platforms like Indeed.
Pay Range: $7.25-$23.30/hr.
Skills Required: Manual dexterity, physical resilience
Environment/Responsibilities: This is indoor work that primarily requires you to be on your feet all day, unless you’re driving a forklift, in which case you’ll need forklift operator’s license. Must be able to lift at least 50 pounds and fulfill your role to a T.
High Paying Career for Felons: Operations Manager; average salary is $70,056, with an estimated maximum of $146,000; you’ll be overseeing staff operations and operations on the floor. A bachelor’s degree in a manufacturing discipline, such as Mechanical Engineering will help you land this position, but is not necessarily required for all jobs — what’s more important is management experience and technical expertise when it comes to the company’s equipment and logistics; some technical certifications may also be required.
Skilled tradesmen and maintenance individuals are highly sought-after, particularly plumbers, electricians, welders, and carpenters. Search for these jobs on local job-boards, such as Craigslist, and platforms like Indeed.
Pay Range: $7.25-$35.75
Skills Required: Manual dexterity, attention to detail, deductive reasoning, job-specific expertise
Environment/Responsibilities: Tradesmen work in all sorts of residential, commercial, and public environments — wherever new construction, a repair, or an overhaul is needed. You’ll start as an apprentice, which can pay more than you might think — a Plumbing Apprentice for Ron Stanley and Sons Plumbing in Dallas, TX can make $15-$20 an hour. Your responsibilities will be to build, maintain, and repair the various components that structures rely on, you’ll work for a contractor, and you’ll rarely be out of work.
High Paying Career for Felons: Elevator Mechanic; median pay is $79,480 per year; you’ll be installing and repairing elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. There’s no college degree required, you do on-the job training with a four year apprenticeship, and it’s tough to beat the pay.
The most attractive (high-paying) transport industry job for felons is driving freight truck, and America is experiencing a trucker shortage, so there are ample positions available. You’ll need your commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive the big trucks over 26,000 pounds. Search for these jobs on local job-boards, such as Craigslist, and platforms like Indeed.
Pay Range: $7.25-$32.70/hr. (According to the American Trucking Association, truckers earn a median $59,000 per year)
Skills Required: Ability to drive safely and efficiently, alertness and attention to detail, time management skills
Environment/Responsibilities: There are many types of driving jobs, but the big money ones will see you driving freight all over the country. The amount of time you can drive each day is well-regulated by the company you drive for. The more dependable you are and the more you drive, the more money you make. You’ll need to be able to stay in decent shape — certain conditions, such as hypertension, will disqualify you from the job because of liability to your employer. You’ll need to be able to stay sane on the road by yourself for extended periods of time.
High Paying Career for Felons: Trucker; you could earn up to $86,000 annually with experience. To earn great money as a trucker, you’ll need to earn your CDL through a state-licensed school. To ensure the reputability, you could also go a step further and choose a school that is certified and accredited (see Cdl.com’s “Choosing the Right CDL Training” article). Once you obtain your CDL, you’ll be in high demand because of the trucker shortage.
People who can install, maintain, and repair heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units are in very high demand because of the steady increase of extreme weather, and a criminal record won’t bar you from most positions. Due to the amount of specialization involved, HVAC is its own industry. Search for these jobs on Craigslist, Indeed, and SimplyHired.
Pay Range: $14.00-$30.00/hr.
Skills Required: Manual dexterity, communication, ability to learn fast and remain motivated
Environment/Responsibilities: You’ll be working in homes and commercial buildings to install and repair ductwork, furnaces, and air conditioning units.
High Paying Career for Felons: HVACR (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, refrigeration) technician; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median pay is $47,080 annually. Find an apprenticeship or go to trade school and get a two-year degree, then get some on the job training.
Because IT jobs require a lot of technical expertise and specialization, they’re high-paying, and there are a lot of them out there. Search for these jobs on Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
Pay Range: $42,000-$158,000/yr.
Skills Required: Computer skills, analytical skills, communication skills
Environment/Responsibilities: You’ll help businesses install and troubleshoot computer networks. Your primary responsibility is to be a jack-of-all trades when it comes to computers.
High Paying Career for Felons: Computer Network Support Specialist; average pay is $67,510, but you could make up to $133,000; you’ll work on computer networks of all sorts, from local area networks to internet systems. Experience is the primary ticket, but a two-year degree and certifications will help you land the good jobs.
For those with a criminal record, mechanic is the primary position available in the automotive world. Search for these jobs on Craigslist, Indeed, and Monster.
Pay Range: $8.85-$47.80/hr.
Skills Required: Manual dexterity, communication skills, diagnostic/problem-solving skills, working knowledge of automobiles
Environment/Responsibilities: Mechanics don’t just work in shops, they work for any company where automobiles are essential, including oil companies, trucking companies, and rental car companies. These days it helps to know about computer science because all newer vehicles have an on-board computer.
High Paying Career for Felons: Automotive Technician; median pay is $39,550 per year, but you can make upwards of $100,000 with a two-year degree, experience, and certifications such as the ASE certifications.
There are so many freelance opportunities, so where to start? Whatever skill you have, you can turn it into a freelance job. Good at writing? Freelance writer. Graphic design? Graphic designer. Driving? Lyft or Uber driver. Handywork? Handyman. Website design? Web developer.
Pay Range: Depends on how much you want to make.
Skills Required: Self-motivation, people skills, internet skills (there are tons of freelancer platforms online)
Environment/Responsibilities: Start with platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, or any of the other top freelance sites. Or, get a LinkedIn account and search for opportunities. Be prepared to meet deadlines and fulfill basic contractual obligations in whatever field you choose.
High Paying Career for Felons: iOS Developer; on average, you can make $107,829 per year; just learn the Swift programming language, and put yourself out there on freelance platforms as an iOS Developer.
In 2016, President Barack Obama launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge, which has since been signed by 417 companies, including major ones like Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Facebook, and American Airlines. These companies promise to give individuals with criminal records a fair shake. Glassdoor has a list of all 417 Fair Chance companies, but for your purposes, here’s a curated list of the big ones that are your best bet.
This coffee chain is well-known for its great benefits, which can include college tuition for Arizona State University’s online program. Starbucks is also a well-known Fair Chance company. You’ll need to apply at your local store of choice, but first take a look at the retail careers page.
If you’re self-motivated you can earn a lot of money through N2 by creating a publication based on your local community. The company’s website claims that people in the top half who ran a single publication made over $90,000 in 2017. You work from home — or wherever — as an Area Director. N2 has fantastic Glassdoor reviews and is waiving the franchise fee in 2018. Take a look at the N2 Publishing Opportunities page.
One of the initial signers if Fair Chance, this soft drink giant is almost certain to have a position you qualify for no matter where you live. They’re big on equal opportunity employment, and the website has a simple online application process.
Dave’s is all about giving felons a second chance, which is no coincidence because Dave himself was once a convict. Located in Milwaukie, OR, employment with Dave’s is a chance for competitive pay and benefits, advancement, mentoring, free lunch, and of course, free bread. Must be willing to relocate.
For a company with so many locations and brands worldwide, Mariott has maintained a great employer review record (3.8 out of 5 stars on Glassdoor). Opportunities for advancement and benefits abound. See the Mariott careers page.
Let’s face it, every felon can use a little side-cash. With insurance at no cost and the ability to keep tips, Lyft is doing a great job at making its drivers feel valued, and you can even use a rental car to get the job done. All you need is a driver’s license, a smartphone, and a decent driving record. See Drive for Lyft for more information.
Another one of the first Fair Chance companies, American Airlines has a wide variety of jobs for which you may qualify. If you’re qualified, they’ll consider you, regardless of criminal background. See the American Airlines jobs page.
The most valuable company in the world will hire applicants with a criminal background. But you’ve got to be good with tech, and you’ve got to be a fan of the Apple universe. If you’d like to work from home, check out the “At Home Advisor” position. Apple US jobs has more information
The biggest search engine has locations all over America and has pledged to consider applicants with a criminal background. You might have to relocate, but Google is the number 5 best place to work, and it’s a career opportunity.
Another Fair Chance company, Delta is also the 17th best place to work. With a wide variety of careers, including the opportunity to “Strengthen your outlook by doing something uplifting” as a baggage handler/ramp operator, there’s sure to be something for you.
The above lists are good starting points for the job search; match your skills and interests to them and then search locally for available opportunities.
The following tips can help you land the job at any stage, from entry level/transitional jobs to career advancement opportunities.
The main dilemma for felons who have spent time is how to account for the blank spot of prison on a resume. To craft a resume that gets past the prison conundrum and stands out, consider the following tips.
In all cases and throughout your resume, consider the job posting carefully and highlight your most applicable strengths. For further reading, see resume writing tips for ex-offenders, What It Really Means to “Tailor Your Resume”, and a sample resume.
Your first impression is your appearance. Potential employers will eventually see your criminal record, but by the time they do, you’ll have broken the stereotype of the disheveled felon. You’ll impress them with your ability to look professional and polished.
Now that you’ve impressed the employer with your resume, and your appearance is appropriate, it’s time to sit down for a great interview.
If and when it comes up, use your criminal record as a strength. The fact that you are proactively looking for a job and are sitting in front of an interviewer means you are confident you can become a contributing member of society. People love the narrative of the underdog who defies the odds and succeeds.
Now that you’ve interviewed successfully, got the job, and are working hard in your current occupation, it’s time to think about advancing your career and increasing your earning potential.
More education is the first step to advancing your career — but on-the-job training can be just as — if not more — valuable.
Maximizing your earning potential may require you to make an upfront investment. But paradoxically, those who need further education and skills development the most are oftentimes those who can least afford it. As a former felon, you’re probably experiencing this paradox firsthand. The following resources can help.
The hungrier you are for more education and funding, and the more resources you tap, the more likely you are to get ahead.
Once you get a job and open a bank account, credit card account, and/or retirement account (e.g. 401K, IRA, or Roth IRA), personal finance is your method of managing your money and making financial decisions. Personal finance know-how is the key to staying out of prison and, eventually, retiring comfortably.
Many former offenders find personal finance difficult for the same reason other people do: they don’t have a strategy, and building good credit as you stick to a budget requires a ton of self-control. What’s more, many ex-offenders face debt after their release, to the extent that 75 percent of those who owe child support have trouble making the payments. Legal liabilities and personal debts, such as credit card debt, create an avalanche that can cause former offenders to give up and go back to prison.
Don’t let that happen. To begin, learn what it takes to establish good credit so that you can buy a house, a car, and the essentials you need to live a life beyond bars.
Your credit score is a number that the credit bureaus assign to you based on your financial trustworthiness. Here are the main determinants for your score:
If you don’t have enough money saved up to buy what you need — which very few do — you need a decent credit score to qualify for a home loan, a car loan, a credit card, and any other substantial loan. You may also need a decent score to get certain jobs and rent from certain property managers and homeowners. With good credit, you can borrow what you need to buy almost anything.
Your budget is how much money you can afford to spend. As such, it’s based on how much money you make. Most budgets operate on a monthly basis because you make house payments (whether rent or mortgage), credit card payments, utilities payments, and pretty much every type of payment monthly.
A good budget also includes how much money you can set aside after all necessary expenditures.
Begin by assessing the following:
For your short-term budget, add numbers 2 and 3 together, then subtract them from number 1. If you have any leftover, begin putting money in your emergency fund. Your emergency fund is a short-term savings account with at least $2,000 in it. In other words, if you can afford to save $166 per month, you’re in good shape.
Next, if there’s any money leftover, split it between long-term savings and things you want.
Reaching long-term financial goals is about delaying buying little things you want now in favor of big things you want in the future.
Delay instant gratification and set aside what you can each day, week, and month. Use an app like Acorns to make instant investments from your checking account when you make purchases with your debit card.
Save up enough to be comfortable with taking out loans and paying the maximum balance each month. For those of us who aren’t millionaires, loans are the ticket to big purchases. However, follow the career advice at the beginning of this guide, and you may well become a millionaire just yet.
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