Jobs for Drug Offenders

Getting a job with a drug offense on record can seem daunting. Drug offenders may face many challenges when entering back into the workforce. Not all employers are comfortable hiring someone with a drug conviction. Still, getting a job is one of the most important parts of reentering into society.

Employment can help an offender afford housing and healthcare. Getting a job will allow an offender to begin a new life. There are many jobs that may consider hiring someone with a drug offense. The key is to know where to look.

Types of Drug Charges

The two types of drug charges are felony drug charges and misdemeanor drug charges. While both carry heavy consequences, there are some key differences.

Misdemeanor drug charges

Misdemeanor drug charges are the less severe of the two types. Examples of misdemeanor drug charges are theft or possession or small amounts of drugs. Misdemeanors generally have less extreme penalties. Penalties usually include fines and sentencing to a year or less in jail or prison. Misdemeanors are classified as first, second, or third degree. First degree crimes are the most severe and carry the harshest penalties.

Felony drug charges

Felony drug charges are the more severe of the two types. An example of a felony drug charge is major drug trafficking. Felonies generally have the most extreme penalties. Penalties include significant fines and sentencing to over a year in state or federal prison. Felonies are also classified as first, second, or third degree. First degree is the worst type of drug felony. First degree drug felonies are usually aggravated drug charges that may involve harm to others.

Career Consequences of Drug Charges

When someone has a drug charge on their record, it can be harder to get a job. Felony drug convictions can be especially problematic. Drug charges often lead to collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are consequences that occur outside of the justice process. Collateral consequences often include laws against employing drug offenders in certain career fields. Even if there aren’t laws dictating that an offender can’t be hired, employers are often unwilling to hire someone with a drug conviction.

This is unfortunate, as statistics show that getting a job is important for offenders reentering into society. Getting a job helps an offender to avoid going back to criminal activity or jail. A job can help an offender pay for a place to live and afford needed physical and mental healthcare treatments. In short, getting a job is the best way for an offender to start a new life.

There is some hope for drug offenders. Recent research shows that current practices for dealing with drug offenders is not effective at reducing drug use. Research does show that employment and public health initiatives do help drug offenders to rehabilitate and become productive members of society.

Some governments are responding to this by “banning the box” on job applications. This means that employers are not allowed to ask for criminal history on job applications. Employers in states who “ban the box” must evaluate a person’s skills and suitability for a job before running a background check. This gives offenders with a drug conviction a chance to be considered for a job on fairer terms.

The Fair Chance Business Pledge is another way the government is trying to get rid of barriers for employment of offenders. Companies that have signed the pledge have expressed a commitment to giving offenders a fair chance at employment by hiring processes like “banning the box” and more. A list of organizations that have signed the pledge can be found in the White House archives.

Jobs That May Not Accept Drug Offenders

Despite the recent efforts to create more job openings for offenders, there are still many jobs that are not likely to hire drug offenders. Fields that involve handling sensitive information or working directly with customers like banking, cosmetology, and real estate may be unlikely to hire drug offenders. May careers that require licensing ban applicants with a criminal conviction. Even if there are no laws against licensing offenders, there may be other issues. Licensing boards are often allowed to reject someone who doesn’t appear to have “good moral character”. Even if an offender is able to obtain a license, employers may choose not to hire them.

Job Options for Drug Offenders

The best job options for drug offenders are jobs that do not run background checks. This may include jobs that don’t involve handling sensitive information or working with customers in person. Trade jobs are less likely to have strict regulations about criminal history. Freelance and online jobs are another option. These jobs are unlikely to need extensive licensing or training that may have regulations about criminal history. Below are some trade, freelance, and online job possibilities a drug offender might consider. Associated education requirements and job pay are included (as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Automotive mechanic

Typical education requirements: Trade school. Certification is usually required.

Average hourly pay: $21.02

Carpenter / woodworker

Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship.

Average hourly pay: $24.58

Construction laborer

Typical education requirements: None / on-the-job training.

Average hourly pay: $18.70


Typical education requirements: None / on-the-job training or culinary school.

Average hourly pay: $12.12


Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship or trade school.

License may be required. Average hourly pay: $28.46

Film / video editor

Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $28.36

Graphic designer

Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $26.29

HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) technician

Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship or trade school.

License may be required. Average hourly pay: $24.12

IT Computer Support Specialist

Typical education requirements: Associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $26.46

Mechanical engineer

Typical education requirements: Associate’s degree.

Average hourly pay: $44.62


Typical education requirements: None / on-the-job training.

Average hourly pay: $18.72


Typical education requirements: Apprenticeship or trade school.

Average hourly pay: $27.96

Truck driver

Typical education requirements: CDL (commercial driver’s license) training.

Average hourly pay: $21.91

Web designer / developer

Typical education requirements: None (though a certificate helps).

Average hourly pay: $34.69


Typical education requirements: Trade school or college degree, and on-the-job training.

Average hourly pay: $21.33


Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree or freelance experience.

Average hourly pay: $29.89

Fair Chance Pledge Companies

The Fair Chance Pledge has been signed by over 100 companies. It may be worthwhile for drug offenders to try applying at one of these locations. Some Fair Chance Pledge employers are listed below. A full list can be found at Clean Slate Staffing.

Ace Hardware

American Airlines



Baskin Robbins

Bed, Bath, & Beyond

Best Western

Buffalo Wild Wings

Calvin Klein

Campbell Soup



Delta Airlines


Dollar Rent a Car

Dunkin’ Donuts

Enterprise Rent a Car





General Electric



Home Depot




Jiffy Lube



Kraft Heinz Company



Men’s Warehouse

Newell Rubbermaid

Olive Garden Italian Restaurants

Packing Corporation of America

Papa John’s



Red Robin


Salvation Army


Shoprite Supermarkets









Steps to Increase Chances of Getting a Job

There are a few different things a drug offender can do to increase their chances of getting a job.


Employers may worry the drug offenders are currently using drugs or at a risk of a relapse. Becoming sober is an important step to becoming a reliable employee. Consider attending a drug rehabilitation program. This will show an employer that you are serious about beginning a new life.

Education and training

Many jobs available to drug offenders to not require extensive education. That said, having an educational background will help with building skills necessary for different types of jobs. It will also be a good addition to a resume. Consider taking classes at a trade school or community college. Offender reentry programs are also likely to offer some skills training. Online classes are another option, especially for people interested in freelance work.

Strong resume and interview skills

Knowing how to apply is one of the best ways to increase the chances of getting a job. Creating a strong resume that highlights your skills and accomplishments is key. This shows the employer that you can benefit their organization. Knowing how to interview is also important. It is important to be honest if asked questions about your history of a drug conviction. The key is to take responsibility for your mistake and emphasis the efforts you have made to grow and learn. Then put the focus back on the skills and strengths you bring to the table.


Expungement may be an option for some drug offenders. Expungement laws vary from state to state. Expungement is more likely the offense was several years ago and an offender has remained clean. Expungement involves destroying a criminal record so a felony conviction is not available to public. This allows any background checks to show up clean.


Getting a job is an important step for an offender. Getting a job will allow an offender to make a new start in life. There are a lot of barriers for drug offenders seeking a job. The government is also making efforts to open up more job opportunities for offenders.

The best job opportunities for offenders are trade jobs, freelance work, and online jobs that require minimal licensing and background checks. Companies who have signed the Fair Chance Pledge may also be an option for drug offenders seeking a job.

In order to best prepare for getting a job, a drug offender should make efforts to leave drugs in their past. Learning how to create a strong resume and interview well is also important. Lastly, it may be possible for some drug offenders to get their record expunged.

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