There’s an awful lot that can be said about the value of a college education and advanced degrees! But there is also a lot about higher education that doesn’t get said frequently enough: A college education is not for everyone! Indeed, higher learning can be of benefit for attaining a vast array of professional and personal goals. However, a lot can also be achieved without a college degree!
Please do not infer from any of this that a college degree is of lesser value. It is not! Even if you’re interested in pursuing a career that isn’t dependent on a college education, advanced learning is never a bad thing. Some formal training may be required to attain certain goals, so it may be in one’s best interests to take courses in subjects that will be beneficial regardless of your career choices. Classes in business management, basic accounting practices, marketing, promotion and other fields may be helpful in obtaining the success being pursued. Courses like these do not need to be part of a formal 2- or 4-year degree program and can likely be obtained through community colleges, adult learning channels, night school, and online coursework. Though not as common as they once were, some high schools may still offer automotive and/or machine shop classes, or mechanical drawing and CAD (computer aided design) for understanding the basics of design and construction.
While there are trade schools and specialized training programs for a number of industries and their related careers, be advised that not all of them are worth your time or money. Be very circumspect about choosing a trade school. Make certain that they have a respected reputation for their training programs and any job placement services they claim to offer. There are a lot of for-profit programs that make lots of promises to their enrollees but do not live up to their hype when it comes to helping their graduates obtain employment.
Having said that, one of the bigger advantages to going the trade-school route is there will usually be fewer and lower cost loans to repay for your education. And if the program does indeed provide reliable and competent placement services, you could be earning decent money upon completion of your training, enabling you to reduce your financial burdens fairly quickly. There are also some training programs that offer scholarships that could also contribute to a reduction in learning & training costs.
Programs available to those wanting to be trained but who do not want to attend college or university are numerous and rich with opportunities.
Among the many types of careers you can achieve are: Truck Drivers, Carpenters, Electricians, Automobile Mechanic, Computer Programmer, Landscape Designer, Civil Service Employee (Post Office, Railroad), Pilot, Administrative Assistant, Website Developer, Police Officer, Fire Fighter, Flight Attendant, Massage Therapist and many others. Sure, some formal training may be necessary, but success in these careers can be achieved without a four-year degree.
If you’re considering one of these avenues of employment, you can find a lot of resources online and at your local public library. Begin by exploring the types of training programs that interest you, their location, ease of access, how much course work is done online and in-person, your costs and potential for financial aid. This will help you determine the program that is right for you.
Research the length of the programs that interest you. How much time will it take to achieve your goal if you pursue training full time or part-time? H ow much of the training is hands-on vs. theoretical coursework? Does the program offer their own internships or provide placement services into apprenticeships? What is the success rate of the program’s placements into competitive employment? What are the average salaries of those who complete the training and land jobs? It’s a good idea to also investigate how much work there is available in your chosen field? Is the industry you’ve selected growing or showing signs disappearing and being replaced? How much of the work in your chosen field is there for independent contractor vs. salaried employee?
Among the resources you can tap into are the Occupational Handbook and the Employment Projections publications from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While these two sources may not be updated as often as they could be, this shouldn’t be an in issue unless you are pursuing the newest of the new careers that may not have found a way into the BLS’s lists yet.
Online tools such as LinkedIn are available to find names of people at companies that interest you, and to investigate programs and trainers. Comparative compensation information can be found at Salary.com. Sites like Indeed have tons of information on who is hiring in your chosen field. There’s no shortage of resources to begin your search. And again, if you have difficulty finding what you’re looking for, your local librarian can be an invaluable resource.
So, if a four-year degree program isn’t for you, there are still options worthy of exploration of where to apply your current skills, gain new ones, and going after the type of career that interests you. College may not be right for everyone, but there is good chance a program is out there that is right for you. Good luck!
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