Does the Army Accept Felons?

The military is a great career choice for many felons and non-felons. It has produced some very successful and hardworking people. The military will teach you the self-discipline, responsibility, and work ethic to have a successful life. You can apply these lessons in and out of the military. Military service looks great on a job resumé. They can also give you many retirement benefits that will last a lifetime. The military will teach you the self-discipline, responsibility, and work ethic to have a successful life.

For those who are coming out of prison, the military can be the next perfect career choice.

Can You Join the Military with a Felony?

The short answer is yes, yes you can! Any branch of the military (Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, or Coast Guard) need people to serve. The general rule of thumb when deciding to accept people is that they have “good moral character”.

Having a felony on your record doesn’t immediately disqualify you in most cases. You should prepare yourself to explain your felony when asked.

In most cases you can get a waiver if you’ve had a felony. A waiver allows you to “skip” a standard under certain conditions. The military gives waivers for almost anything. But there are some felonies that the military cannot give waivers for.

The military standards for which felonies get waivered is different for each branch. The standards also change over time. It may depend on how bad the military needs recruits. The main thing a recruiter wants to know is if you have become a better person since your time in prison.

Generally, violent crimes are not accepted. Receiving more than one charge in your life can also disqualify you.

A lot of previous felons who join the military can continue to cause problems while in the service. There is a lot of money that goes into training military members. The recruiters have to make sure that the money is going to the right people. They don’t want to waste it on people who may cause problems for others.

It is important to know that each branch of the military has its own recruiting process. Each branch has to get approval from its own headquarters. This means every branch recruits in a different way. What passes with one branch may not pass with another.

Another important note is that some military jobs require security clearances. These security clearances require a very thorough background check. Having a felony may prevent you from getting a clearance. Not every job in the military requires a security clearance, but some of the more “advanced” jobs do.

If you think your felony may prevent you from joining the military, you should still ask. Show your recruiter that you are a changed person looking for a second chance. You may surprise yourself with what can happen.

Pros and Cons of Each Branch

Each branch of the military has its own standards. When it comes to felonies, you may have more trouble in some branches compared to others. We will talk about how easy it is to get into each branch, along with the general entry standards.

You should also know that pay is roughly the same across all branches.

Can You Join the Air Force with a Felony?

  • Standards for Felons: Hard
  • General Entry Standards: Hard

The Air Force prides itself on being the leader in air, space, and cyberspace. A lot of the work the Air Force does is not as “tactical” as some of the jobs in the Army. A majority of the work happens behind a desk. The Air Force is the leading branch for cybersecurity and space operations.

The Air Force is one of the hardest branches to get into. This is due to its testing standards, but it has some of the easiest fitness standards. Studying for the ASVAP will help prepare you to get good test scores.

The Air Force has broken down felony offenses into a system of categories. All felonies can get a waiver but they need approval from higher authorities. The more serious violent felonies need higher approval, and this can lead to not getting a waiver.

Can You Join the Army with a Felony?

  • Standards for Felons: Easy
  • General Entry Standards: Easy

The Army’s primary area of concern is land warfare. Their job is to dominate on the ground by using ground troops along with light and armored vehicles. There is also a small fleet of helicopters for air support if needed.

The Army is the easiest to get into and most relaxed about felonies due to the nature of their work. Knowing how to shoot a gun and read a map is easier than some of the more technical work you may have to do in other branches.

There are still a lot of job opportunities from ground soldier to tank operator. The downside is that often you get placed in harsh environments for long periods of time. You also remain on the frontlines and get to experience combat on deployments.

The Army is more relaxed for testing, but has more strict fitness standards.

Can You Join the Coast Guard with a Felony?

  • Standards for Felons: Hard
  • General Entry Standards: Hard

The Coast Guard is one of the most underrated branches of the military. The Coast Guard does rescue operations, prevents illegal immigration, and stops drug smuggling. These things happen almost every day which keeps them busy.

The Coast Guard is very selective. A lot of their works deals with secret information, and they are almost always staffed. There aren’t many new openings for work. The few ones they do have go to the best applicants for the job.

Testing and fitness standards are some of the hardest in the military. You have to be able to perform a lot of difficult and stressful tasks.

Can You Join the Navy with a Felony?

  • Standards for Felons: Hard
  • General Entry Standards: Medium

The Navy is the leader of warfare on the water and works alongside the Marines. Typical Navy jobs will put you on a ship or a submarine (or on the coast) for months on end. Being with the Navy usually means you get to travel to a lot of different places around the world. You also get to learn a very unique set of skills when working on a ship.

The physical fitness standards are tough. You will need to prepare for their tests in advance. Entrance exam scores aren’t too important unless you want to apply for some of the cooler jobs.

They use a “chart” system to classify different felony groups. and some of the more serious offenses need higher approval than some of the lessor ones.

The Navy is great for people who love adventure and like being on a ship. It can be a problem for some who aren’t comfortable with tight spaces, get seasick, or don’t like being a boat for a long time.

Can You Join the Marines with a Felony?

  • Standards for Felons: Easy
  • General Entry Standards: Easy

The Marine Corps is by far the most elite branch in the military. They specialize in amphibious warfare (from the water to land) and invasions. Marine also conduct ground operations.

While the mental testing might be pretty easy, the physical aspect of being in the Marines is intense. They have some of the hardest requirements from any branch. Marines are strong fighters who are well trained in the art of war.

If you are looking to get down and dirty then the Marines may be best for you. Like all branches, some felonies are unacceptable but exceptions can happen. The Marines have some of the least strict felony policies.

How to Apply?

The easiest way to apply to be in the military is to go to a recruiter’s office in your town. You can look online to see their location. It is important to note that if you are on probation or parole, you cannot apply and must wait until afterwards.

When you speak to your recruiter, it is best that you mention your criminal history right away. They will have some questions about what happened and it is best to answer as truthfully as possible.

Show your recruiters that you have changed and that you are ready to start over. Explain to them how the military is a great place to do that. You should also begin studying for the ASVAB and start working out to get in shape.

All Summed Up

The military is a great place for second chances. You can learn how to be better and build skills that you would use for the rest of your life.

Despite a criminal history, most branches are accepting of you as long as you can show a change in behavior. Being honest about your history is a great way to show this change.

Each branch of the military has its own pros and cons. You should think about what kind of work you would want to do and which branch can best support your goals.


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