Do Trade Schools Accept Felons?

An ex-felon may face many challenges when re-entering into society. Statistics show that up to 75% of ex-felons remain jobless in the first year after re-entry. Employers may be hesitant to hire someone with a felony on their record. Nonetheless, employment is an important part of returning to society. Employment helps an ex-felon find housing and afford healthcare. It helps them to start off on a productive life path. Employment gives ex-felons resources to stay away from crime and increases public safety.

There are many actions that an ex-felon can take to increase the chances of finding a job. One of the best ways an ex-felon can prepare for re-entry into the workforce is to pursue an education. An education equips ex-felons with job skills that employers are seeking. It also shows an employer that they are working to make a positive change.

Certain types of jobs are more likely to hire ex-felons than others. Trade jobs are a popular choice for felons. The good news is that trade schools usually do accept ex-felons. There may be some restrictions on who can attend depending on the type of felony. Not all trade schools accept felons if they have a history of violent or drug-related crimes. In this case, online training programs may be an option. Online programs may have the added benefits of flexible scheduling and lower cost.

Trade Careers

Before applying to a trade school, make time to explore what career options are available. There are many fields that may be open to hiring ex-felons.

Back-end employment – Felons tend to have the best luck finding jobs in back-end employee positions. Back-end employees do not work directly with customers or handle sensitive company information.

Temp agency – Ex-felons might consider applying for a job at a temp agency. Temp agencies are always looking for new applicants. They often have positions available that don’t involve a background check.

Freelance work – One option for ex-felons who are struggling to find work is to consider going into freelance work. Working for small businesses or individuals is less likely to involve a strict background check.

Online employment – Work-from-home jobs are another option for ex-felons to consider. Many online jobs do not involve background checks at all. Online job boards offer opportunities to get started in both freelance and online work. Examples of online job boards include Upwork, Freelancer, and Craigslist.

There are some conditions for ex-felons applying for a job. Depending on the specific felony, an ex-felon may have better luck in one field over another. For example, an ex-felon who has a felony DUI is unlikely to get hired as a truck driver. Some states have laws against licensing ex-felons in certain trades. It’s also possible that employers will not hire ex-felons, even if they have a license. Research the local laws before choosing a trade school program and career path.

What Is A Trade School?

A trade school is a school that teaches students career skills. Students don’t spend much time in the classroom. This is because trade schools involve a lot of hands-on learning. Students usually don’t have to take classes outside of their job focus.

Trade School Programs

There are many trade school programs that are likely to accept ex-felons. Some popular programs are listed below. Associated skills and job pay upon graduation are included (as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Automotive mechanic – Skills learned include the inspection and repair of automobile systems. Average hourly pay for graduates: $21.02

Carpenter / woodworker– Skills learned include the building and repair of buildings and other structures. Average hourly pay for graduates: $24.58

Construction laborer – Skills learned include the use of power tools, physical labor, preparation of sites, and assemble structures. Average hourly pay for graduates: $18.70

Electrician – Skills learned include the installation and repair of electrical wiring and equipment. Average hourly pay for graduates: $28.46

Graphic designer – Skills learned include the creation of graphics used in packaging, logos, or other commercial images. Average hourly pay for graduates: $26.29

HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) technician – Skills learned include the installation and repair of heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Average hourly pay for graduates: $24.12

Mechanical engineer – Skills learned include the designing of mechanical sensors, tools, machines, and devices. Average hourly pay for graduates: $44.62

Plumber – Skills learned include the assembly, installation, and repairing of plumbing pipes and equipment. Average hourly pay for graduates: $27.96

Truck driver – Skills learned include the operation and loading/unloading of tractor-trailers or trucks. Average hourly pay for graduates: $21.91

Welder – Skills learned include the operation of welding and soldering equipment to join and fill holes in metal products. Average hourly pay for graduates: $21.33

It’s important to remember that receiving training does not mean companies will hire. Some states allow ex-felons to become certified, but don’t permit them to get a job in that field. Look into the state laws where you intend to work before choosing a trade school program.

Application Process

There are a few key points to consider when applying for a trade school as an ex-felon. Your goal here is to seek out programs that are open to hiring ex-felons. Keep in mind that some schools may not accept ex-felons who have a history of violent or drug-related crimes.

Another option is to seek out a trade school that does not require a background check. In this case, anyone is free to apply regardless of their history. Remember that you may still be required to go through a background check before being hired. This is why it is important to explore job opportunities and employment laws in your area before you apply for trade school.

Financial Aid Options

Paying for school out-of-pocket can be expensive and may not be an option. In this case, an ex-felon can explore financial aid options to help fund their education. It is generally possible for an ex-felon to receive financial aid. That said, there are some limitations.

Financial Aid for Incarcerated Felons

Felons in a state or federal facility are not eligible for federal student loans or a Pell Grant. Incarcerated felons are eligible for a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. Yet, it’s unlikely, as students awarded a Pell Grant have priority. An incarcerated felon is also  eligible for Federal Work-Study. Again, it’s unlikely, felons can’t always perform the job duties in prison.

Eligibility for financial aid returns once a felon leaves prison. One option for incarcerated felons is to apply for aid right before release. This way the financial aid goes through when they are out of prison.

Financial Aid for Felons on Probation or Parole

If a felon is on probation or parole, they may be able to receive federal student aid. Depending on the felony committed, there may be limitations. Felons convicted for sexual or drug-related offenses are unlikely to receive financial aid.

Committing a Felony While Receiving Financial Aid

If someone commits a drug-related felony while receiving financial aid, they may lose eligibility. If the felon passes two consecutive drug tests, they may become eligible again. If the felon completes a drug rehabilitation program eligibility may also return.

Financial Aid Resources

There are a few options for ex-felons looking to receive financial aid.


If an ex-felon is eligible for federal aid, they can use FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) to apply.

Another option is This site offers financial grant opportunities for a variety of needs. They offer financial help for school, housing, or business start-ups.

Depending on their conviction, some ex-felons may not be eligible for grants or loans. In this case, is an option. Prosper is a website that offers peer-to-peer lending opportunities.

Other Options – Community College

Some ex-felons want jobs that need a college degree. In this case, community college is an option. Community college students can expect to spend more time in the classroom. Students usually have to take classes outside of their field of interest as well.

Some popular programs are listed below.



Computer science

Fine arts

Information technology



While an ex-felon may be able to receive a college degree, there are some fields that are unlikely to hire them. Jobs handling sensitive information or interacting with customers may not be an option. If a lot of time has passed since the felony took place, it’s possible these fields will consider hiring. Some fields that are unlikely to hire ex-felons are listed below:


General business accounting

Pharmacy technician

Social work

There are some college programs that are unlikely to accept ex-felons. Some degrees that ex-felons may not be able to pursue are listed below.

Education / teaching



Health science


Law enforcement

Massage therapy

Sports training

Other Options – Apprenticeship

Another option for ex-felons is to go without training in college or school. There are many trade jobs that are willing to train employees on the job. Take some time to research what organizations offer on-the-job trainings in your area.


An ex-felon can expect to face challenges when re-entering into society. Finding a job is an important step in starting off on a successful path. Trade schools are an excellent option for ex-felons seeking training for a career. Trades are a popular career for ex-felons because they are less likely to screen employees based on a background check.

A little research will go a long way in finding what jobs and training are available in the area. Once an ex-felon decides on a training program they might want to seek out financial aid. There are many resources available to help ex-felons to find financial aid, schools, and job opportunities.

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