Do Trade Schools Accept Felons?

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A common question asked by many is whether or not trade schools accept felons.  A trade school or vocational college typically will accept enrollees that have a criminal history and most programs are open to felons.

However, before you begin a training or educational program, you need to thoroughly research the policies for hiring and inquire about any potential barriers that exist to certification or licensing in the state where you plan to work.  This is extremely important because if you go to a trade school for a particular skill and get certified or get a degree, that doesn’t necessarily make you employable if your state prevents you from working in the industry due to your conviction.

What is Covered in this Article:

  • Criteria for Program Acceptance
  • Community College programs that Accept applicants with a felony
  • Trade School Offerings for Felons
  • Trade Apprenticeship Programs
  • Educational Job Programs that Lead to a Background Check by the Employer
  • Programs that Do Not Allow Felons to Participate
  • Financial Aid for Felons
  • Pell Grants for Felons
  • Obtaining Grant Funding

Criteria for Program Acceptance

You can break down trade school offerings or community college programs under one of three classifications when it comes to accepting students who have been convicted of a felony.

  1. Programs that do not necessitate a background check;
  2. Programs that a felon can enter, which can lead to employment that often requires a background check before hiring; and
  3. Programs that cannot be taken by a felon or candidates with a criminal history.

Community College Programs that Accept Applicants with a Felony

Evidently, you are primarily concerned about trade school offerings or community college programs that will accept felons into their schools. In most instances, felons are readily accepted in agricultural programs and business programs, such as economics, general business and finance. Language programs and fine arts curriculum’s generally accept people who have been convicted of a crime.

The field of information technology is open to felons, especially such programs as computer support technician, network systems technician, IT administrative assistant, and web developer. Math, engineering and computer science programs accept felon candidates as do social science programs in community colleges.  If you are really interested in this field, we highly recommend that you download our free guide to help you get employed again as it will steer you into the right direction to work for yourself as an IT consultant.

The key here though is whether or not you will be given a background check after you complete your degree.  Odds are that yes, you will, so you need to think about this prior to enrolling into any program.

Trade School Offerings for Felons

Trade schools often pass felons through for such programs as:

  • HVAC technology – a very popular choice for felons;
  • Auto body training;
  • Automotive technology;
  • Woodworking and cabinetmaking;
  • Diesel truck technology;
  • Manufacturing technology; and
  • Welding

Apprenticeship Programs

Felons can also be accepted in workforce training networks that feature apprenticeship programs. Featured programs include electrical apprenticeships, fire service training, hazardous materials instructions and plumbing apprenticeships. Again, HVAC (Heating, ventilation,and air conditioning) is a highly popular field for felons. Therefore, trade schools regularly accept candidates with felony backgrounds to participate in the above training initiatives.

Programs that Typically Lead to an Employment Background Check

While a background check is typically not needed for program entry for the following programs, it may be needed in order to become certified in a job. Some employers may also impose restrictions on the job, depending on the job duties or the kind of conviction. Courses under this classification include:

  • Bookkeeping;
  • General business accounting
  • Pharmacy technician
  • Social work

Educational Programs that Bar Applications from Felons

When it comes to educational or job barriers, you will find that the following programs are not receptive to anyone applying with a criminal history –

  • All educational programs (becoming a teacher)
  • All law enforcement programs (becoming a police officer)
  • All health science coursework (becoming a pharmacist) Some convictions are not considered a barrier after a specified period of time in the health science field.

Though these are the general rules with these programs, history has shown that there are always exceptions to the rule.

Financial Aid for Felons

If you need help with paying for a course at a community college or trade school, you can obtain the needed assistance through government grants and student loans. However, if  you have ever sold and possessed illegal drugs while receiving federal aid for schooling, you cannot take out a loan or apply for a grant.

Any conviction that was removed from your record or which happened prior to your 18th birthday (unless it was categorized as an adult-tried offense), will not affect your financial eligibility for school.

Some Loan and Grant Stipulations

A drug conviction for possession can result in a delay in obtaining financial assistance for one to two years from the date of the last conviction. Illegal drug selling convictions can result in financial aid delays of two years from the date of the last conviction.

Pell Grants for Felons

If you desire is to go to a college to obtain a higher education, a Pell grant for felons can be completed by way of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The grant is based on the applicant’s income and current assets. You aren’t necessarily unable to get these grants, like many people think, if you have a felony on your record. One part of the application asks applicants if they have ever been convicted of a drug charge or charges. If you have a conviction of this nature in your history, many sources state that you don’t have to respond with a “yes” as long as you are involved in and complete a drug rehab program.  While we don’t have an official representative able to confirm that, it’s definitely worth noting.

Obtaining Grant Funding – The Online Source

Business grants for felons are issued too. You just need to access to look at the featured offerings. Whether you need money for school, housing or a business start-up, carefully peruse the site to see what you can find.

Making use of the above information can assist you in fulfilling your career goals and integrating yourself, once again, into mainstream society. Make optimal use of your time and look at your career or trade school options. Pasco assessments are given at One-stop Career Centers that can help you make up your mind as to where you rank the strongest in the current job market.

If you are unable to get grants or student loans due to a felony conviction, another interesting alternative is to use, which is a peer-to-peer lending program.  Your felony conviction has absolutely no bearing on the decision for your loan, it is strictly based on financials.

Do you think that trade schools are a good alternative for felons?  Or, do you think getting a traditional degree is still best?  Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

1 thought on “Do Trade Schools Accept Felons?”

  1. At the beginner of the add an add for SWIFT Transportation popped up for convicted felons. That really is a crock of crap because they DIDN’T hesitate to tell me that since I was locked up and hadn’t had a drivers piece for the past two years I didn’t qualify. Then I was told that because I had no work history for the past 15 years years do to bring incarcerated they couldn’t help me. Their advertisement says convicted felons but they did not hesitate to tell me no. I mean I even obtained my CDL permit 6 days after being out of prison. That in IT’S self should show that a person like me is serious about being a professional truck deiver


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