Best job options for someone with a criminal record

Last updated: April 23, 2024
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Janice Reed
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Best job options for someone with a criminal record
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Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, some mistakes can impact your future more than others. For instance, many Americans with a criminal record struggle to find employment.

But everyone deserves a second chance. Even if you’ve made mistakes in your past, you should have the opportunity to try again and find employment. However, you may come across challenges that people without a record won’t have to overcome.

Let’s explore what it means to have a criminal record, what types of jobs you can get if you have a criminal record, and how you can improve your chances of landing a job despite your past mistakes.

What does it mean to have a criminal record?

A criminal record describes a person’s criminal history. In the US, a line on someone’s record can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of crime someone committed.

No matter how you feel about having a criminal record, know that you aren’t alone. According to a recent study, having a criminal record is far from uncommon. For instance, four times more people are incarcerated today than in 1980.

To date, 7.7 million living Americans have been incarcerated. 12.1 million more Americans have a felony charge without any incarceration. Finally, 45 million Americans have at least one misdemeanor.

There’s an overlap between those with at least one misdemeanor and the 19.8 million Americans who have either been incarcerated or have a felony conviction. But these numbers still go to show that many Americans live with a criminal record.

But what does it mean for someone to have a record in their criminal history? And how does this impact their job outlook?

The same study also explored the impact of a criminal record on someone’s earning potential. According to their data, various types of criminal records have different impacts on earning potential:

  • Incarceration: 52% reduction of earning potential

  • Felonies: 22% reduction of earning potential

  • Misdemeanor: 16% reduction of earning potential

That’s because many employers have strict policies against hiring someone with a criminal record. Others will only hire someone with a criminal record in certain positions.

Can you find a job if you have a criminal record?

There’s no denying that having a criminal record can make your job search more difficult than for people who don’t have one. But it’s still possible to get hired despite having a criminal record. It helps to be aware of the obstacles you’ll face so that you can prepare for them adequately.

Your job options will depend on what type of criminal background you have. For instance, some companies won’t mind misdemeanors but will refuse people with felony convictions.

Others will accept employees with a felony or incarceration history as long as they can pass a drug test.

In some cases, hiring managers will only refuse to hire someone with a violent or sexual criminal history.

Keep in mind that background check limitations depend on your state. Some states with “ban the box” laws don’t allow employers to run a background check before you’re considered for employment.

This means you can make it past the interview stage and have a chance to present your side of the story before recruiters find out about your background on their own.

6 job options for people with a criminal record

If you have a criminal record, you still have options for your career. Here are some examples of jobs you can find to get a second chance.

1. Delivery

Do you have a driver’s license? If so, working in delivery could be a good option for you.

Many delivery jobs and gigs hire people with criminal records. The severity of the record they’ll accept depends on the company.

For example, Uber won’t let you pass the background check if you have a felony, driving crime, or violent crime. But if this applies to you, consider another delivery app like Postmates since they may review your case if you’ve had rehabilitation.

Another example of a company that hires delivery drivers is FedEx. While FedEx won’t discriminate based on your background, some positions may be limited. For instance, you won’t be able to get a job that involves driving if you have a DUI — but other options may be open to you.

Delivery drivers make a median hourly wage of $16.51 per hour. You’ll also need your high school diploma or equivalent. Plus, you’ll need a valid driver’s license. However, if you sign up for a ridesharing or delivery app, you usually won’t need your diploma.

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2. Food service

There is a wide variety of employment available in the food service industry. It’s a great option for those who have a DUI or don’t have a driver’s license (or their own vehicle).

Some examples of jobs available in food service include:

  • Restaurant servers, bussers, and hosts

  • Dishwasher

  • Food preparation worker

  • Cook

  • Short-order cook at a fast-food restaurant

Many of these positions are suitable for entry-level workers, which makes it a great opportunity for someone with a criminal record who’s starting completely fresh.

Working in food service also provides an opportunity for advancement. Dishwashers can learn how to become cooks, who can then learn how to manage an entire kitchen. Servers who become highly skilled at their jobs can become floor managers.

You just need to know which job opportunities are most realistic for people with a criminal record. For instance, companies like Starbucks hire people with felonies on a case-by-case basis. Others, like McDonald’s, won’t. Many restaurants hire workers for the kitchen, no matter their criminal history.

Wages in the food service industry vary depending on your role. For instance, cooks make an average of $15.21 per hour, while servers make an average of $13.95 per hour.

3. Technology

The technology sector is in high need of skilled labor. If you’re able to develop in-demand skills like programming, web design, development, and more, you’ll be seen as a valuable asset for many companies.

Those skills are so in-demand that companies often won’t be as strict with background checks. Of course, this depends on a company’s specific requirements and values.

The best part about technology skills is that you don’t need to go back to college to learn. You can find several free certifications online to learn all sorts of high-value skills. All you need is a working computer and access to an Internet connection.

Working in technology can provide you with a lucrative career. For example, web developers have a median wage of $37.12 per hour.

4. Construction

If you don’t see yourself learning technology skills or working in front of a computer all day, a job in construction could be a better option.

Most construction jobs will require you to undertake some training. But a lot of this training is available on the job. The level of training required varies depending on the type of job. For instance, roofing requires much less training than plastering.

Some examples of careers in construction include:

  • Painter

  • Brickmason

  • Roofer

  • Carpenter

Your salary will vary depending on your role when you work in construction. For example, carpenters make a median pay of $49,520 per year, while roofers make a median salary of $43,580 per year.

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5. Administrative work

Working as an administrative assistant in an office or as a virtual assistant can be a viable option for many people with a criminal record.

Which companies accept employees with a criminal record varies on a case-by-case basis. For example, Google has signed the Take the Fair Chance Pledge, which means they don’t discriminate against people with a criminal record. If you’re a fast learner and feel comfortable with a computer, this type of career could be for you.

Administrative assistants make a median wage of $19.71 per hour.

6. Work-from-home employment or self-employment

Would you rather be in control of your career? If you work for yourself, you don’t need to pass a criminal background check. You’ll need to do more work to find clients, but because you’re a freelancer and not an employee, your criminal history shouldn’t matter.

Self-employed workers are also in control of their hours and schedule. While this type of freedom and responsibility isn’t for everyone, it’s a great option for many people with a criminal conviction.

Many companies will also hire people to work from home without requiring a background check. With a work-from-home job, you get the usual benefits of a full-time job without having to commute to an office.

Some examples of self-employment and work-from-home roles include:

  • Transcriber

  • Data entry

  • Virtual assistant

  • Freelance writer

  • Bookkeeper

  • Product or user testing

Many of these options are entry-level positions, which makes them perfect for someone looking for a fresh start.

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4 tips to get hired with a criminal record

Are you struggling to find a job? Here are four ways you can increase your chances of getting hired if you have a criminal offense on your record.

1. Know what prospective employers look for in a background check

There’s no use ignoring the reality — you have a criminal record, and several companies perform background checks. But it helps to know what the company you’re applying to is looking for in their background checks.

For instance, many companies look back on the past seven years. Some go further and verify the past ten years.

When you know what companies look for, you’ll be aware of what will come up when a company performs a check. This can help you prepare.

2. Get your record expunged

You don’t have to live with your criminal record forever. If you’ve turned your life around since your conviction, it’s possible to get your record expunged after a certain amount of time.

The waiting period varies based on what type of record you have. It also varies depending on which state you’ve been convicted in.

Keep in mind that getting your record expunged isn’t free. You’ll have to:

  • Find and pay for a lawyer

  • Pay court fees

  • Pay filing fees

But, in many cases, going through this process can be worth the investment. Remember that a criminal record can reduce your income potential by as much as 52% for incarceration.

If you’re struggling to save up for your expungement, consider starting a side hustle. Many side hustle options don’t require a clean criminal record.

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3. Be honest about your past

When you apply for a job, don’t try to hide your past. If the company performs a background check, there’s no use in trying to hide the reality of your criminal record.

Employers screen job applicants not just for criminal records but for honesty, too. So, if you make it to the interview stage, take some time to discuss your background. Be forward and explain how you intend to move on from your past mistakes.

Many employers will appreciate your honesty. They’ll also get a chance to gauge your other skills and character traits for themselves during the interview.

4. Apply in person to meet your potential employer

Another way to have employers gauge your character is to apply for jobs in person. Going through the hiring process in person can help you start a conversation about your application and build rapport with managers.

If you live in a state where companies are allowed to run background checks before they offer you a job, you can take this opportunity to discuss your past. When you speak to someone in person, you’re no longer just a name on a piece of paper — you’re a human being who’s trying their best to be honest.

Get hired no matter what’s in your past

It’s undeniable that finding employment is more challenging for people with a criminal record. However, it’s not impossible. With some grit and determination — and when you know where to look — it’s possible to achieve your life goals and find a stable job.

Jobcase knows that mistakes should not define your future. That’s why we’ve created the Second Chances Resource Center to help people who need support overcoming their past — check it out to get advice on the next steps to take.

1 Comment


Vonnie Jones
Bullet point

Great news 😀