Unlike other countries, where graduating high school students are provided robust alternatives to traditional college such as trade schools and apprenticeships, we in the U.S. lack an educational structure that allows our students to make career choices without necessarily going on to a university. Though that is the case, if you spend some time searching you can find viable educational solutions that will allow a student to train for a profession even if they do not attend a traditional four-year college.
Working in the trades is a respected career option that takes preparation, including education and on-the-job training, but does not require a bachelor’s degree. Often local community colleges offer training in the trades and access to apprenticeships or job training. There are also specific schools dedicated to the trades, as well as vocational programs offered on the local community level. These trades include electrician, aircraft mechanic, plumber, construction manager, wind turbine technician (seems like an up and coming job with increased use of alternative energy sources), welder, and carpenter, to name a few; and while traditionally working a trade meant “working one’s hands,” newer fields such as game design, cyber security tech, and sound mixer are examples of trades that don’t necessarily require a traditional college education, but are also not considered “manual labor.”
The ROI in the trades is often quite good since trade school costs much less than college (the average price for two years at a trade school is about $33,000—less than a single year at a four-year college). Electricians, ironworkers, plumbers and carpenters can all have starting salaries of over $50,000—with room for salary and job growth.
So if you’re not inclined to go to college but you feel a great deal of pressure to do so, consider a great alternative that may lead to a fulfilling career someday. Depending on the field, you may find you get on-the-job training, have the opportunity to work with your hands, be able to escape sitting at a desk all day, and get to experience a variety of work settings. Four years of college is not for everybody; trade school is a terrific alternative.