Breaking Stigma: Felons and Cyber Security Careers


As a seasoned cyber security professional, I’ve seen my fair share of raised eyebrows when people find out that I used to have a felony on my record. Despite the fact that I’ve moved on from my past mistakes, it seems like society is still stuck in the past, assuming that once you’ve been convicted of a crime, you’re forever labeled as a criminal. But here’s the kicker: that stigma is simply not true, especially in the world of cyber security. In fact, felons can be some of the best candidates for careers in cyber security. In this article, I’ll break down the stereotypes and show you how breaking the stigma on felons can lead to a successful and fulfilling career in this field.

Can a felon have a career in cyber security?

Yes, a felon can have a career in cyber security, but the opportunities available may be limited due to the nature of the industry. While some cybersecurity jobs do not require security clearances from the government, individuals with a recent criminal record may be restricted to certain job opportunities within the field. However, this does not mean that all doors are closed. Here are some potential career paths and tips for felons looking to enter the world of cyber security:

  • Network Security Specialist: Individuals with a criminal record may be able to secure jobs as Network Security Specialists. This role involves monitoring and analyzing network activity for potential security threats. The job does not require a high-level security clearance, but may require certifications such as the CompTIA Network+ or Cisco CCNA.
  • Penetration Tester: Penetration testing involves intentionally breaking into computer systems in order to identify vulnerabilities. While this job may require security clearances for high-level government contracts, there are opportunities in the private sector where a criminal record may not be a disqualifier. Certifications such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) or Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) may be useful.
  • Cybersecurity Sales: Sales roles within the cybersecurity industry may not require a security clearance, as they do not involve handling sensitive information. Individuals with strong communication and networking skills can excel in sales positions, selling cybersecurity products and services to clients.

    It’s important for felons to be honest about their past and focus on building strong skills and certifications within the industry. Networking with individuals within the industry can also open up job opportunities that may not be available through traditional job postings. The cyber security industry is constantly evolving and there is a need for talented individuals with a passion for the field, regardless of their past.

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    1. Know the laws and regulations – Before considering a cyber security career, it’s essential to research and understand the laws and regulations surrounding felons’ employment in this field. Review the Federal and State guidelines for cybersecurity jobs, and make sure your background will not disqualify you.

    2. Get professional certification – Having professional certification, like Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), will help you stand out and prove your expertise in the field. Focus on gaining additional technical skills and certifications to enhance your chances of employment.

    3. Be honest and own your mistakes – During the interview process, be upfront about your past, and explain how you have learned and grown from your experiences. You don’t have to go into too much detail, but showing that you take responsibility for your past and have made positive changes shows integrity.

    4. Build a strong network – Networking is valuable in any industry, but it’s even more crucial when you have a criminal record. Connect with peers, join relevant professional associations, and make an effort to attend conferences and workshops to build relationships with industry experts who can help you navigate employment challenges.

    5. Consider alternative career paths – There are many cybersecurity job roles, such as digital forensics, incident response, and risk management, which may not be as strict with background checks as traditional roles like penetration testing. Explore different opportunities and figure out which areas you excel in and may have a stronger chance of gaining employment.

    The Impact of a Criminal Record on a Career in Cyber Security

    Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field with promising career prospects. However, for individuals with criminal records, breaking into this industry can be challenging. Even though there are several positions in cyber security that do not require security clearances, a recent criminal record can limit the job opportunities available.

    In the US, a criminal background check is a typical requirement for most job applications. Employers in the cyber security industry emphasise honesty and trustworthiness and a criminal record can cast doubt on an individual’s suitability for the job. Felony convictions involving cyber crimes, hacking, identity theft, or any other similar offences can significantly decrease the chances of being hired. However, having a criminal record does not mean that an individual cannot pursue a career in cyber security.

    Jobs in Cyber Security That Do Not Require Government Security Clearances

    While obtaining security clearances for higher-level roles can be challenging, there are plenty of job opportunities in cyber security that do not require security clearances. For instance, many companies offer positions such as network security analyst, cyber security specialist, security auditor, security engineer, security administrator, and incident responder, which do not require a security clearance.

    Some other jobs within this field may require a security clearance but may be more flexible. These jobs may require only a lower-level security clearance, making them accessible to people with some criminal history. However, the restrictive nature of this role means that it is generally suitable for individuals who are seeking to rebuild their career and attain an improved standard of living.

    Some possible job opportunities for felons in Cyber Security include:

    • Cybersecurity Analyst
    • Security Engineer
    • Software Developer
    • Application Security Engineer
    • Security Administrator

    Factors That Affect Employment Opportunities in Cyber Security for Felons

    There are several factors that can affect an individual’s employment opportunities in cyber security if they have a criminal record. Factors that may affect job prospects include the type of offence committed, the severity of the crime, how recent the conviction was, and whether a security clearance is required for the job.

    The type of crime committed and when it was committed will have the most significant impact on employment opportunities. An individual who has been convicted of identity theft or cyber attacks will find it challenging to obtain a job in cyber security. Other convictions such as drug-related offences may not be as relevant.

    Another significant factor that can affect employment opportunities is the level of competition in the job market, especially for entry-level roles. Cyber security is a highly competitive industry, with many individuals vying for a limited number of positions. In such a market, having a criminal record can place an applicant at a significant disadvantage.

    Steps to Take to Improve Employability in the Cyber Security Field

    Despite the challenges, there are steps felons can take to improve their employability in the cyber security industry. These steps include obtaining relevant certifications and experience, networking with professionals in the industry, and demonstrating a strong work ethic and dedication.

    In this field, certifications are essential as they lend credibility to an applicant’s skills and expertise. Felons can take relevant certification courses in cyber security such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and many others to stand out from competing applicants.

    Networking with professionals in the industry can also be helpful should they know about a job opening and are willing to vouch for a candidate. Furthermore, having volunteer experience to showcase and demonstrate a strong work ethic is also beneficial.

    The Importance of Skills and Certifications in Cyber Security Job Applications

    The cyber security industry values expertise and the ability to solve problems creatively. Experience and certifications are essential factors that employers consider while hiring, offering a chance for applicants to prove their skills and knowledge.

    Beyond the certifications mentioned earlier, it is essential for felons to showcase their genuine interest in the field. They can take part in open-source security projects and contribute to industry conferences to exhibit their problem-solving skills. These opportunities provide a platform for growth and learning and can be used to build a portfolio that demonstrates skills and dedication.

    Overcoming challenges in attaining a career in cyber security as a felon

    It is crucial to ascertain what challenges might face when looking for a career in cyber security as a felon. However, the challenges can be identified and overcome by adopting strategies designed to demonstrate the necessary skills and credibility required. This includes implementing a concise and engaging resume that highlights relevant work experience and skills, effectively answering questions regarding the criminal record, and having a solid plan to develop a strong network.

    Ultimately, a felon pursuing a career in cyber security should identify why they are passionate about the field and demonstrate their commitment. Starting with entry-level positions and gradually working up the ladder while building relevant experience in preparation for the higher-level positions they may aspire to attain. Felons must put in the extra time and effort to secure a position in the cyber security field.

    The Role of Honesty and Transparency in Job Applications for Felons in Cyber Security

    A significant factor in succeeding as a felon in the cyber security industry is an applicant’s honesty and transparency about their criminal history. Companies nowadays often conduct an extensive background check, and falsifying information could be grounds for a revoked offer or termination.

    Felons must address, in writing and verbally, that they have a criminal background in job interviews or applications. Making excuses or trying to deny past behaviour can harm an applicant’s prospects and make the hiring manager feel less confident in their honesty and integrity. However, emphasizing the measures taken to overcome past mistakes and demonstrating a passion for cyber security can help identify a potential candidate.

    Making a Successful Transition into a Career in Cyber Security as a Felon

    While there are challenges in starting a career in cyber security as a felon, there is no blanket rule preventing felons from entering the field. It ultimately depends on factors, such as the type of crime committed, severity, how much time has passed, and the hiring manager’s willingness to take a chance on an applicant. However, with determination, the right skills and certifications, and honesty, a felon can successfully transition into a career in cyber security and build a promising future.