Can a Felon Work for the Government?

So you want to work for the government after your prison time? Well, that sounds good, but can you get a job as a felon in the government? Let’s take a look at this question.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • Can You Get a Government Job?
  • Government Jobs Easier for Felons to Get
  • Government Jobs More Difficult for Felons to Get
  • Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?
  • Background Check?
  • Have a Plan

Can You Get a Government Job?

Yes, you can get a government job. There is no law preventing you from applying for a position with the federal government.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPE) does not prevent you from applying for or being hired for government jobs.

In fact, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. Many felons have been allowed to apply for and even successfully been hired for many types of jobs.

This doesn’t mean that you can get all government jobs. There are many that would be considered to be off limits. But you can work for the government.

Read on to understand more about this issue.

Government Jobs Easier for Felons to Get

When it comes to finding a government job, there are certain types of positions that will likely be easier to get.

Many lower level entry positions will be easier to find. These may be jobs that don’t involve working directly with the public. 

These may include jobs working in a government warehouse, being a driver transporting goods for the government, some clerk positions, etc.

Basically, these are the types of jobs that don’t involve working around sensitive information or in areas that don’t involve security concerns.

There are a lot of these positions that frequently become available within the government. 

The government has a number of agencies that have a wide variety of work available. 

Some are facilities that utilize the services of different workers to carry out clerical or secretarial jobs. Some involve basic maintenance positions, cleaning, repairing, and generally caring for daily duties.

Of course, you will have to meet the qualifications for each of these positions. You will also be required to go through a suitability check along with a background check.

All federal positions require you to complete a, “suitability adjudication,” which means you must be evaluated as to the likelihood that you will carry out the duties of such a position with, “integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness.” 

Government Jobs More Difficult for Felons to Get

There are some areas that will probably be more challenging to find a job with the government.

One of the main restrictions is on jobs that involve transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms. The Gun Control Act prohibits felons from owning or using firearms. Well, this applies to working a job that has these requirements.

Some others of these positions may involve having a particular type of professional license. Many types of licenses can be challenging for felons to get. There are typically strict requirements to obtain a license in many areas that involve more education and a license to practice in that area.

Some of these areas may be such professions as an engineer, plumber, electrician, or even in the medical field.

Those positions are typically ones that require access to sensitive information. Many of these require a security clearance. Not all federal jobs require a security clearance

A position with a federal agency such as the FBI has very stringent requirements to qualify in any capacity.

Let’s take a quick look at factors listed by the FBI for those they will consider hiring.

You cannot be employed by the FBI if you have been convicted of a felony or have used drugs in a manner that goes against the Employment Drug Policy. 

You must also pass a drug test administered by the FBI. Anyone who has defaulted on a federal student loan is not eligible for employment.

So, the FBI is not going to be a good place to apply.

Does the Type of Felony Make a Difference?

Yes, the type of felony does make a difference. There are specific statutes or laws that prohibit employment depending on the crime committed.

For example, certain federal laws, like those involving treason, have a lifetime ban on federal employment. Other federal laws prohibit federal employment for a certain number of years.

There are current restrictions related to national security positions due to the seriousness of crimes that violate national trust. Not being loyal to the U.S. carries a ban on employment with the federal government.

People convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes under federal or state law are prohibited from employment in any position requiring the individual: to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition.

Other serious felonies like those involving violence or sexual offenses will prohibit you from government employment.

Background Check?

Most positions in the federal government have a rather strict background check.  

The types of background checks in the government look for felonies and other serious crimes in addition to arrests, misdemeanors, and other convictions. Mostly, the background check will look at your criminal record over the past seven years.

These are all important factors in any government position.

This is especially true for positions in sensitive areas of the federal government, such as the FBI.

A felony charge may still appear on a background check even if the charges were dropped, especially if fingerprints were taken. Many areas of the government, like the FBI use a fingerprint database when doing a background check.  

Just having your fingerprints show up in a background check can raise a red flag and make it difficult to get a government position.

There are factors that will be considered for felons, however.

Federal agencies will typically consider such factors as your character and conduct. They will also evaluate potential conflicts between your criminal conduct and the specific job duties and interests of national security.

They will look at the nature, seriousness, and circumstance of your criminal offenses, how long it’s been since your conviction, and your rehabilitation or efforts.

Have a Plan

If you are interested in looking for a job with the government, it is essential to have a plan going forward.

When applying for a government position, the federal government adopts the Ban the Box initiative that does not include a question about your criminal history on the initial application. This type of question will not come up until later in the application process. 

This will benefit you from the outset.

It can be challenging to get a job with the government. However, there are some steps you can follow to give yourself the best chance at success.

When you are thinking about applying for a government job, it would help to know exactly what they will find out when they run their check. 

To get ready, you can run a background check on yourself. In fact, we recommend doing that to know what the government will discover. It helps to be prepared.

If you have any doubt, you can contact an attorney. Don’t take a chance on the results. You would have the best chance at getting a government job by having your record expunged.

It is essential to be honest in reporting all information on applications. To not do so is itself a crime that could lead to your perhaps being incarcerated again.

Rehabilitation, such as going through a drug program for any drug offense, could make a difference.

Engaging in some volunteer work can help you re-establish your connection to the community.

References are always important. Someone who knows and trusts you can vouch for you on an application, which will make a difference.

Also, take time to have a current resume that documents your work history and your positive accomplishments after your release.

Many government agencies look at applications on a case-by-case basis. If you can show that there were mitigating factors that led to your felony conviction, this may help your chances.

If it was a one-time crime instead of a series of convictions, you will have a better chance of getting a government position.

It is essential that as you seek to live an honest lifestyle, that you follow the law and be honest in all information you provide to the government when you are applying for a job.

Not doing so will jeopardize your freedom and could result in going back to jail.

Don’t take that chance. You are not defined by your past mistakes but by how you respond to them. Make a good choice.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to work for the government with a felony? What was that like, and what happened? Please tell us in the comments below.


felon working for government, government jobs as a felon, working for the government with a felony

You May Also Like

  • They still won’t hire you. I mean think about it. Why take the chance when there is a line of other people with no history. Maybe as a last or for some notoriety. Like your the “hey I hired a felon poster boy”. It sucks that 20+ year after I finished my sentence for a youthful nonviolent crime. “I took no Stole a car and was in a short chase”.
    Got my degree And have been turned down from every job I ever answered “Honestly” the criminal history ?? to. My suggestion would be to move to an area where nobody knows you, lie and cross your fingers.

  • In South Carolina, can it how can or the requirement for a convicted felon to get a drivers license and or get expired drivers license renewed. This includes the CDL.

  • Am I a ” felon” if arrested 4 a felony amount of theft 10yrs ago but not charged as a felon or had any rights taken away?

  • Like any other job (unless law enforcement or high level security check), if you know the right people you can get hired anywhere even with felonies.

  • I finished my sentence in 2014 for cocaine trafficking and attempted armed robbery, I rehabilitated myself and to this day after 9 yrs in prison I can’t gain honest employment that gives me a living wage and a chance to move up and succeed, I’ve been working as a busboy with a wife and a son and I’m about to be evicted I need help, please tell me what to do? I’m at my wits ends and about to loose my marriage, the system is design so that you get frustrated and break the law again.

  • Everyone on this list get your crimes expunged and do a governors pardon following the expungement. I did that and I can legally buy and carry fire arms in the state of California

  • Try applying for jobs at a non-profit, they have different criteria and while your working work on the expungement and pardon

  • If felonies can not be expunged and convictions happened 7 yrs ago, can an ex felon be hired by the FBI? Who to talk to if you want to commit to being a positive impact and pursue positivity. A person’s Perspectives of life change…. What well paying agencies really offer employment to ex felons? Does the FBI have bonding job placements for ex felons?

  • My son has felonies that are over 10 years old sales of cocaine and misdemeanors he has been doing good no charges in years he’s trying to go back to school college get his life back together but the field he wants to work and it’s department of children services drug and alcohol counseling and there’s a criminal justice of course he has to take will it stop him from getting that government job if that is a government job

  • Betty Campbell, you said “felonies”, how many does he have? I would suggest that he contact the state licensing department for that field and speak to them. I would say that he would be able to with the time frame. Plus, with it being Counseling, they should have different criteria because he’s going to be able to use his past as a learning experience for himself and be able to better teach and understand the people he’ll be working with. Don’t let his felony stop him from accomplishing his goals in life. It is not the end of the world. And to Anthony, even if people do get their records expunged, most state and federal agencies require you to list your convictions. An expungement does not make charges disappear, it just closes them off to certain areas; the government, no and can help to restore your rights.

  • The system is designed for Felons to commit crimes again and get back in the whole loop. I have a Health and Safety Violation for Sales of Narcotics (Cocaine). And Honestly I’ve been trying to live a normal life but it’s hard. I did manage to land some jobs that pay 60k~ 70k. That is a living wage , but I am jobless again because the company insurance does not want to insure a Felon. It’s at risk for them I guess. I’ve been rejected and been accepted so I’m assuming it’s literally up to the employer if they are willing to take a risk. They do have to pay more insurance for you. What I can recommend is.. Find a trade guys. You need to find a trade where you become an asset to the employer where he has no choice but to overlook your felony. And Honestly, the living wage jobs that all are EOE. (Equal Opportunity Employer) but what that means is they do a Legit background check , they do legit drug testing so Do not lie on your resume. I suggest you tell them about your Felony before they find out Later on, thats what I did. Don’t go into too much detail like you hurt someone or robbed someone.. just tell them you have a felony and what code you violated. Too much talking can get you disqualified forsure. It’s hard for people like us man.. We all trying to live and succeed, We are not the same people as we used to.. but this world is so judgmental and this System makes it so hard for us to become Normal people. It’s unfair.. I know so many people that are Worse but just have not been caught yet. Don’t give up , Do not go back to that life style, it is not worth it and your family doesnt deserve to suffer again. I personally don’t suggest going to college for a Degree unless it’s a specific field like medicine , computer science , software designer , Construction etc. Those are where your felony can be overlooked because of your skills. I been in Construction and I know a lot of felons here. I don’t work in Labor, I’m a project manager and I been having the best luck. 70k~100k. We can do it.. don’t give up. Fuck the system , fuck everyone who doubt us.

  • It’s definitely complicated but not impossible. It depends on the crime, the sentence, how much time has passed since and money. I was convicted of a felony possession of cocaine, violated my probation with a failed drug test. I was sentenced to 16 months in state prison. Served it and discharged parole. Tried getting a job that pays more than minimum was hard. I decided to go back to college for a bachelors in chemistry which I just got last week. In my freshman year, my astronomy professor suggested that I apply for a NASA internship and gave me a letter of recommendation. I applied and got denied, but I kept pushing myself and applied again about 10 months later. To my surprise, I was offered a 10 month internship at NASA Armstrong Flight Research center. Then after that I asked my science professors if any faculty was doing research I could volunteer for. I ended up working with a few chemistry professors on 3 different NASA research grants for the next 3 1/2 years till I graduated. Now, I have 3 recommendation letters from various professors and under California prop 47 I’m currently in the process of having my non violent felony reduced to a misdemeanor THEN having that expunged and my right to own a firearm reinstated. Once that’s completed, I’m going to apply for Certificate of Rehabilitation followed by a governors pardon. Assuming the pardon is granted, I will then apply for a federal job at the Department Of Energy as a nuclear chemist. The prop 47 reduction and expungement cost me around 1,800$. The COR and pardon are going to run about another 2000$. At this point it’s over 19 years since I discharged parole, and I don’t see any reason why they’d deny me. Although I’d require sensitive security clearances, I think all my achievements and letters from professors will get me into a federal job. Now, I’m certain I’d get denied on a FBI application because my history could jeopardize my credibility if I had to testify as a FBI agent. So I’m going to still be limited.

  • I have a felony conviction in NE Oklahoma for endeavoring to manufacture methamphetamines. I was charged in September of 2013 and convicted after pleading guilty in February of 2015. I was also charged with larceny of CDS which was dismissed. I am done with my probation although I still have around $800 in fines to pay. I had two arrests since 2015 for non payment. A back injury sustained outside of work left me unable to work. I went through court ordered counseling and recovery classes, paid my D.O.C. Fund off as well as the D.A. 991 fees. I never failed a drug test or missed a meeting with my PO. In August 2018 I received a reckless driving charge in a neighboring county (not a felony) and I have around $700 left to pay in fines for that charge. I currently have a warrant for that charge for nonpayment because I lost my job and wasn’t able to find steady work for three months. The county had sent a letter notifying me of a warrant being issued and a way to resolve it but they had been sending documents to the wrong address so I never received them until I requested a balance upon payment after employment. Okay now that there is enough background laid I can get to the reason I’m here desperately seeking advice. I got a job through a temp agency working for the state in two state agency buildings (Edmondson and Kerr) which house such state agencies as DHS, ABLE Commission, Child Support, Community Sentencing, Workers Comp, DOC, etc. in downtown Tulsa. I love the job. I’m a perfect fit and everyone in the building loves me and they all overwhelming want me for the position. My boss desired my placement for the position so much that he began the process to by out of the contract with the temp agency at great expense a couple weeks ago even though I’ve only worked there for less than 2 months I passed a background check ran by the temp agency somehow but upon doing a background check for the state employee position through the actual company I was deemed ineligible for hire. I’m devastated as this is a job worth fighting for and the break I’ve been praying for. They want to hire me. They don’t want anyone else for the position (CMT II maintenance man) but no one knows anyway of making it happen. I can see the red flags myself, subsequent arrests for nonpayment, current warrant, and outstanding debts but there must be a way. Can someone please help?

  • I have noticed there are people out there that seem to think anyone with a felony should starve and die on the streets because they made a mistake. There is this belief that a person should be holier than thou then the Pope himself but see you on the news people no criminal record have caused mass shootings and killed a lot of people. You cannot judge a person by whether they have a record or not you should judge a person by their moral values. There are upstanding and educated professionals out there that have been caught downloading Child Pornography and have no record does that make them better than those with a nonviolent conviction.

  • I notice many of the violators responding to this article were convicted for drug violations. My story is different, but has impacted my life adversely for thirty-seven years as I am sure many respondents here can equally attest. I killed an armed home invader in my home while recovering from brain surgery and recently completing college studies. I approached law enforcement ten days prior to the incident and was laughed at by a particular detective. Following the shooting law enforcement claimed that I never approached them. I was charged with murder. Furthermore, police withheld evidence, lied under oath and chased witnesses from town who would have otherwise absolved my culpability. I was convicted of manslaughter (mitigating circumstances). I served fifteen months following ten months as a pretrial detainee. I dropped down to 110 pounds (PTSD). Since release in 1985, I picked up four academic degrees with an attendant boat load of extracurricular leadership associations and awards. Despite this I have never earned more than $10.70 per hour in any employment capacity. Work was sporadic and I was frequently fired from jobs because of my felony conviction. In 2003, my ex-wife notified police that antique weapons she had inherited from her grandfather were mine. Living in North Dakota at the time did not forbid felons from weapons ownership. Strangely, charges were bumped up to the federal level and I pleaded guilty to Felon in Possession of a Firearm twenty years after the manslaughter conviction. I was given a six-month sentence in a Bismarck halfway house. I again lost appreciable body weight and all my earthly possessions relinquished through court order to my ex-wife. I spent the subsequent year living in a homeless shelter. To date I am involuntarily impoverished and “retired.” Thankfully, I make a small amount of income because of a service-connected disability forty-five years ago. I applied as an enumerator with the US Census Bureau recently having worked with that agency in that capacity in 1979. I possess a ten-point hiring preference. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll make it a point to chronicle such inequities. You see, in addition to being a trained mainstream journalist and a certified paralegal I am also a published writer. I cannot scarcely tolerate the thought of others wasting a lifetime in poverty, desperation and social alienation as I have. I will spend the rest of my days casting the light of truth on a hypocritical system that damns millions to criminal conviction simply for being poor. A person’s entire life should not be decimated for relying on the artifice of public defense when the damnable outcome is invariably determined before the trial begins.

  • The information provided is helpful and encouraging. However, amid all of the excellent I formation, you dropped this bomb:
    “Other serious felonies like those involving violence … will prohibit you from government employment.”
    Mine is a conviction for a violent offense. It is a strike. Am I completely out of luck? I wish that more information were provided on what appears, from the foregoing, to be a total ban.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}