For decades, society has viewed getting a college degree as the ultimate path to success. However, with the cost of college in the US quickly becoming unaffordable for many families, people are rethinking how they approach their careers. Now there are many different paths you can take to success, particularly if you work in a creative industry or a trade where experience is more important than education.
Here are 7 reasons why you might want to skip that college degree.
A college degree can put you in a mountain of debt
College degrees are getting more and more expensive, and financial aid isn't keeping up. Most students have to take out thousands of dollars in loans, that will take decades to pay off later in life. This can be completely counterproductive to achieving your long-term financial goals. A college degree isn't a guarantee of a high-paying job, but you will still be responsible for making your student loan payments regardless of your employment status. It may be more prudent to skip the traditional four-year degree and look for more affordable forms of training.
Many college students don’t end up using their degree
It’s incredibly difficult to choose what you want to do with your life at the age of 18. You are still learning and growing, and your goals are likely to change dramatically in your young adult years. Because of this, it doesn’t make much sense to commit to a career path right out of high school unless you are absolutely sure that’s what you want - otherwise, college will just feel like a waste of time and money. A better alternative is to spend that time trying out entry level jobs and putting together some savings. Being a part of the workforce will give you a better idea of what it’s like to actually have a job, and you can try out jobs in different industries to get an idea of what you want to do long-term. If you still feel like you need a college degree, then you will have money saved up to pay for it, and you can approach it from a more mature perspective. However, you might find yourself happier just working your way up the ladder from an entry-level job.
The internet is an incredible source of knowledge
To be successful in many industries, you can actually learn many of the things you need to know online. In most cases, companies don’t care how you acquired your knowledge and skills, as long as you are able to get the job done. And with so many videos and publications available online, as well as affordable online skills training courses, you can educate yourself from the comfort of your bedroom, as long as you have a computer. For example, if you want to be a photographer or videographer, you can actually learn a lot by watching online tutorials. If you want to be a computer programmer, look into coding classes online. The same goes for virtually any job that doesn’t require a specific professional specification. Before applying to college, it might be worth doing some research in the field you are interested in to see how much you can learn on your own.
Technology is changing fast, and your college degree may not be able to keep up
Just a few decades ago, you could be pretty sure of how your degree would help you in the job market when you were finished with it. However, technology is advancing exponentially faster now than it was in the eighties and nineties, so the things you learn in college might not actually be helpful by the time you are done, particularly if you’re wanting to work in business. Taking it upon yourself to stay on top of changing technology and learn online can be more productive in the long run. A better solution might be to look for internship programs with the companies you are most interested in, as they will teach you the skills you’d need to be using day-to-day while you’re on the job.
The gig economy is changing the way people work and shop
If you can’t or don’t want to get a college degree, the gig economy is actually going to be your best friend as you build your career. In the past, it was incredibly difficult to become a freelancer in any industry, but now virtually anyone can do it with some strategy and perserverance. Online freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fivver make it easy for workers to connect with employers who need their skills. There are so many gigs available online that don’t require a college degree, like social media management, writing, audio transcription, search engine optimization, and more - the list goes on and on. You might be surprised by how far you can advance your career purely through the gig economy, and then you can build up a portfolio of work to impress full-time employers later on. You can also use the gig economy to supplement your income during slow periods of work. Companies like Lyft, Postmates, Rover, and more allow you to do things like give people rides, deliver food, and walk dogs on your own schedule and make money for it.
Anyone can start their own business
If you’re an independent person, you will probably be happier working for yourself than for someone else, and you can empower yourself by starting your own business. While it may seem intimidating at first, it’s actually easier than ever for entrepreneurs to get started because of all of the resources available online. You can turn any of your valuable skills into a business, whether that’s making clothes, teaching kids your favorite sport, or designing apps for people - there’s no limit to what you can achieve. If you think you might want to start your own business at some point, now is actually the time to start testing the waters and educating yourself about how you can be successful.
Perserverance will teach you more than a degree ever could
Sure, there are things you learn in college that could be important for your future career. However, what college doesn’t teach you is the resilience and problem-solving skills that you need to use in real life. There’s something about having to figure things out on your own, without a defined path forward, that helps you grow as a person, and that’s going to make you incredibly valuable to future employers. There are so many famously successful people that don’t have college degrees, like Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg. Your path forward may not be as obvious as a college graduate, but you can still end up with a successful career.
How to Build Your Career Without A College Degree
If you’re opting not to go to college, you still need to educate yourself in order to be successful in your chosen industry. You’ll need to develop a plan and set goals for yourself in order to keep moving forward. Here are the steps you can take to start building your career right out of high school - or switch career paths if you’ve already started working.
Narrow down your interests
It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do right away, but deciding on a general path will make things easier as you start to explore new employment opportunities. Start by making a list of the things you are interested in, which could be anything from sports to politics to fashion, and then make a list of things you are good at, which could be things like managing money, posting on social media, or writing compelling documents. Then, do some research to see what careers might be out there for you. Look on job boards to see what opportunities are actually available, instead of just using career advice sites, which are much more hypothetical.
Get certified in the skills you need
Once you’ve decided on the type of work you want to do, the next step is to get relevant certifications to show employers that you are capable of working for them. Certification courses give you much more than just a credential - they can also teach you real-world skills that will help you advance. Depending on what industry you are in, you may be able to take classes online or at a nearby educational center.
Dip your toes in with an internship
Regardless of how old you are, an internship is a great way to try working in a new field, and they don’t typically require much except a willingness to learn. Many companies today are offering paid and unpaid internships for both adults and students, and you’ll learn many of the job skills you’ll need in the industry.
Internships look great on a resume, and you can parlay them into a job later on in your career. Another great thing about internships is that you can use them to see whether or not you will actually like working in a specific industry. There are so many times when a job seems great on paper, but when it comes to actually working, it’s not the best fit.
Network with people who already work in the industry you are interested in
If you don’t already know someone in the industry, reach out to friends and family to see if they have connections, or turn to online social media networks. Talking to someone who’s already achieved success can provide you with some amazing insights about what it takes to find success and what employers look for. If you make a good connection with this person, they can even serve as a long-term mentor as you build your career.
There are so many fields where you can start in an entry level position and work your way up to the top. For example, many retail and restaurant workers have the opportunity to work their way up to management positions. If you want to work in an office job, try starting off as an admin assistant to learn the ropes. Artists of all kinds often start off assisting someone else to learn instead of going to college. You can also start your own business at any point without a college degree.
Many young people experience conflict with their parents when deciding not to attend college. Parents want success for their children, and if they attended college, it makes sense that they would think it is the best path for everyone. If your parents want you to go to college, but you would rather jump straight into the workforce, then it’s important to develop a plan of action to convince them that you’re ready. Talk to them about your long-term goals and how you plan to learn the necessary skills involved. You should also give them examples of other people who have achieved success without a college degree. Once they see the practicality of going a different route, they are going to be much more supportive and encouraging. It may also help to remind them of the financial benefits of skipping out on college as well - there’s no risk of either of you going into debt to pay for the education, and you also won’t have to worry about paying for books and housing costs.
College isn’t for everyone, so don’t let other people intimidate you into going if you don’t think it’s going to be the right fit. While many people thrive in an academic setting, others find more success diving straight into work. As the economy continues to evolve, it’s likely we will see even more people skipping out on college to start working right away, and more acceptance for people who opt to take the road less traveled when it comes to their careers. Determination can go a long way towards building a successful career, regardless of your education.