Could a college degree be overrated? In some circles, yes. Many people build their education outside the confines of a traditional four-year undergraduate degree — and realize great success.
In fact, the unemployment rate for people with college degrees is higher than the rate for those who pursued alternative programs and trades, according to the most recent report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even better, most people find that taking an alternate route in education costs less than an undergraduate degree and is a shorter path to a profitable career.
With that in mind, here are six ways to build your education without a college degree.
Pursue a Trade or Vocation
The average college graduate pays nearly $130,000 for a degree — and is about $30,000 in debt the day they turn the tassel, according to a study by The Institute for College Access and Success. Meanwhile, students can pursue one of a myriad of trade or technical opportunities for around $30,000 and have a degree or certificate in as little as 18 months. Trade school graduates are on the job sooner and in less debt than bachelor degree students.
Most communities offer the trade, technical, and/or vocational school opportunities with programs in areas such as the following:
- Automotive Mechanics
- Dental Hygiene
- Graphic Design
- Computer Technology
- Culinary Arts
- Massage Therapy
- Pharmacy Technology
And if you’re comparing salaries, you’ll want to know that, on average, trade school graduates make $36,000 and a college graduate makes $46,000, according to data collected by Career School Now.
Build a Business
Independent thinkers and doers who have an entrepreneurial spirit can succeed in alternatives to college. Several educational and business opportunities offer relief from the constraints of working in the corporate world, such as specific hours, regimented goals, and monotonous work.
For instance, with Amway Education, people who are interested in owning and operating their own businesses can explore the type of products and services that fit their lifestyle and business dreams. Then they access online and offline learning tools to pick up practical skills to use in business and life.
Become an Apprentice
Many organizations stand alone or partner with the federal government to offer apprenticeships in industries that need more skilled workers.
You can get on-the-job training next to experienced professionals in fields such as healthcare, construction, hospitality, and energy that will help you secure a job and pursue advancement in emerging areas.
Many people can learn skills through volunteer work that will build their credentials and land them a job after the pro bono stint.
For instance, Peace Corps, Americorps, Habitat for Humanity, and Big Brothers and Sisters offer opportunities abroad and domestically. Full-time and part-time volunteers can help communities build needed resources and educate people on how to maintain those resources.
Take Online Courses
You can keep your job and learn new or higher-level skills that will help you advance or change careers through free online courses. You can take almost all of them at your own pace and at times that work for your schedule.
For instance, edX.org, Coursera.org, OpenCulture.com, and Mooc.org offer courses in everything from finance and computers to language and well-being.
Upgrade Your Hobby
Many people turn their hobbies into successful businesses by honing their craft and learning more about running a company.
Going in, it’s important to recognize that building a business is about more than practicing your hobby full time. You’ll need to learn and understand the business side, from finances and marketing to purchasing and sales. You can learn some of it from the online courses mentioned above. But it’s even more helpful to find a mentor who has launched a business, realized success, and is willing to let you peek at how he or she has done it.
Whether you just aren’t cut out for college, want to fast-track your career, or are ready to carve a different path, there are many ways to build your education and credentials outside of university walls.
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