Some things in life are painfully overrated.
Take camping, for instance. Or iPhones.
I’ve never understood the allure of luxury cars or the Baby Boomer generation’s collective fascination with Bob Dylan either.
And although it pains me to say this — because it will probably ruin any chance I’ll ever have of scoring a date with her — let’s not forget singer Katy Perry too.
Here’s one more thing that’s overrated: college.
I know. They told you that if you want to be successful, you’ve got to earn a sheepskin from one of those hallowed venerable institutions of higher learning.
Guess what? They lied.
Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a few reasons why you should:
For most people, college is a really bad investment. The cost of college has risen more than 1100% since 1982, far outpacing inflation in general. If the price of other products rose as quickly as college costs have, today we’d be paying $13 per gallon for gasoline — and $22 for a gallon of milk. As the price of college continues to go through the roof it becomes more and more difficult — if not impossible — for folks to realize a decent return on their investment unless they pursue a technical degree, or study to become a lawyer or doctor. That’s why there’s an army of shell-shocked graduates out there right now with a worthless college degree and nothing to show for it other than a relatively low-paying job and a boatload of student debt. Besides:
Not everybody is college material. If they were, 54% of all Americans who enroll into college wouldn’t eventually become dropouts. Look, college is hard enough for those who are motivated; for people attending who don’t really want to be there, it’s almost impossible. So it makes little sense for anybody to attend a university unless they’re fully committed to getting a college education, especially when you consider the average cost of tuition, room and board for a private four-year university is approximately $48,000 annually.
The time spent in college earning a degree can often be put to better use gaining experience. True, certain professions like doctors and licensed professional engineers require college degrees. But there are plenty of jobs out there where it makes more sense to skip college and immediately embark on a career because on-the-job experience is more valuable than a post-high school education. And while those who decide to skip college won’t have a college degree after four years, they will have accrued four years of valuable experience under their belt. Even better, they’ll be more than $200,000 ahead in the ledger book, assuming they earned a modest average salary of $25,000 annually over that same period.
There are plenty of relatively good paying jobs available that don’t require a college degree. According to US Labor Department projections, 63% of all new jobs that will be created through 2020 won’t require a college degree. In fact, Forbes identified 20 surprisingly well-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree; many of those listed require just a high school diploma or equivalent including:
- administrative service managers ($79,540)
- construction supervisors ($59,150)
- wholesale and manufacturing sales reps ($53,540)
- electricians ($49,320)
- plumbers ($47,750)
- insurance sales agents ($47,450)
- brickmasons ($46,800)
Of course, I’m not advocating everybody skip college. I’m just saying it’s not for everyone.
Statistics show that people with a bachelor’s degree will earn, on average, $830,000 more over their lifetime than someone with only a high school education.
Then again, there are plenty of millionaires out there — and more than 750 billionaires — without college degrees.
Ultimately, what’s most important is that you find a career or vocation that you really enjoy because, when you’re passionate about what you do, the money becomes almost irrelevant.
Photo Credit: Anyjazz65
I studied graphic design at a great school, receiving a Professional Certificate, (all the studio classes, without the academics). It was plenty of prep for my chosen career. Places want to see your portfolio and problem solving abilities, not your sheepskin.
However, while working at a design studio I got to look over a dynamite portfolio. The kid took only individual classes from high profile teachers at several schools. The big difference was he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he “grew up” and matched the schooling to fill in the gaps.
The down side, most of us are clueless when we finish high school.
Bret @ Hope to Prosper says
“The down side, most of us are clueless when we finish high school.”
This is so true Olivia and it’s one of the biggest reasons why many students don’t get a proper return on their college investment. Instead, after college they wind up working at Starbucks, living at home, in huge debt, with a degree ending in “apology”.
I recommend a business degree for anyone who doesn’t know what career they want to pursue. It holds some credibility with employers and the subjects are useful both for entrprenuers and in the corporate environment. With a business degree, you can migrate to many related field, including sales, marketing, management, accounting, etc.
For those who don’t want to study business, here are the future growth fields.
* Information Technology
* Accounting & Admin
* Health Care
Notice these are difficult areas of study and are math and science intensive. That’s why there is high pay and employment demand.
Engineering is NOT a future growth field (at least not here in the US). Yes, there will always be a need for engineers. Just not a very great need. The problem here is that it’s just WAYYY too easy to ship engineering jobs abroad to low wage countries like India and China. I’m not saying NOT to study engineering. Just that engineering is not a good field to go into if the only reasons you’re doing so are because you think you will make good money and jobs will be abundant. Rather, it is a field you should go into only if you are passionate about it.
You are absolutely wrong. Getting a degree in Engineering shows that you are willing to put the time and effort into any job you might run across. And even if you don’t get an engineering degree, that degree itself shows that you have the work ethic and can put in the hours to make yourself stand out.
But jumping back onto the job availability, you couldn’t be more wrong. the hottest jobs right now are Civil Engineering, Software Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Petroleum Engineering. The only engineering majors that aren’t really in demand right now are Electrical and Mechanical, because those are so common and a dime a dozen.
Please look up different job growth rates on BLS.gov, and Forbe’s – then we can talk.
Len Penzo says
Great comments, Michael. I agree with you on every point except one: As an engineer myself, and one who hires engineers from time to time for my job, let me make clear to those contemplating an engineering degree that mechanical and electrical engineers will ALWAYS be in demand. I suspect their growth rates are lower because there are so many more of them compared to the other engineering fields.
As for Matt’s comment — I agree with him when he says do not go into the field unless you are passionate about engineering. (Frankly, I can’t imagine anybody being able to go through the torture required to earn an engineering degree who wasn’t passionate about the field!)
Len Penzo says
@Olivia: “The down side, most of us are clueless when we finish high school.”
Sad but true. That’s just one of many reasons why, as my father-in-law loves to say, “youth is wasted on the young.”
@Bret: Great comments, my friend! Generally speaking, the college degrees that require the most pain to earn are the ones that pay the highest wages. There’s a reason for that, of course. A lot of kids simply make the wrong decision up front, preferring to take the path of least resistance by avoiding those math- and science-intensive courses. That obviously makes for a funner experience in college, but they sacrifice a lot lifetime earnings in the process.
Samar Misra says
You nailed it and excellent point. At the end of high school, I wanted to be a doctor and engineer, though physics was the only science subject in high school that kicked my bottom and dissuaded me from pursuing Engineering and physics almost prevented me from graduating high school on time despite struggling and hard work. Usually in grade school I was strong in Science and Math, though Geometry and Physics were different and till this day I love Arithmetic and Algebra.
After giving up Engineering, other career options I had in mind were Medicine, Dentistry, Allied Health, Public Health, Psychology, Business and Law /Public Policy came into mind in 4th year of college. I declared Business Admin with Psych minor midway through my 3rd year of college which I am glad I did as I liked Business study and naturally coursework so valuable and feel same with Psych, unfortunately the required Business courses as Statistics and Finance in 2006 weeded me out and had me switch to Sociology-Psychology which I graduated with. After few years of work experience, I thought of pursuing a Master’s in Social Work to become therapist and have wide variety of jobs available, but eventually decided to pursue a Master’s In Urban Planning which I love and is seen as a required and recommended Master’s in the field and falls in STEAM category (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Math).
I can never dare to be a school teacher and my heart goes out to many in this profession knowing how stressful, underpaid and unappreciated they are. Teachers are heroes that deserve much more, though not everyone is meant to be a teacher.
The first five paragraphs took the words right out of my mouth. Total agreement with you. And if people wish to go to college, fine for them, but it is NO guarantee of future financial success; know so many people who should not have gone.
Len Penzo says
My son, Matthew, was definitely NOT college material for many many reasons.
In fact, I have actively encouraged him to put all of his efforts into pursuing his current passion of cooking by getting a job working at a local restaurant where he can begin to learn the basics of the industry. As I’ve told him, that will mean starting with washing dishes and busing tables. The good news is he’ll be spending his early years learning the basics — which is what he would surely end up doing if he went to college and eventually dropped out.
Derek Knight says
Unionized Plumber in Canada ( $35/hr ) Subject to change but could be $70,000 + Overtime. Three cheers for Apprenticeships !
Most College students exit that same time period with Loads of debt. My Networth increased by over $200K while I was getting my Plumbing license.
However guidance counselers didn’t even consider this an option.
Len Penzo says
When I was in high school back in the 1980s (I know — don’t say a thing) my high school had lots of vocational programs for kids who wanted an alternative path to college. Machine shops, carpentry, drafting … we even had a multi-bay auto shop where kids could learn to be auto mechanics. Sadly, those days seem to be gone.
I blame that on the “college is the only way to succeed” mentality that took over not long after I left high school.
Agree with you both on this. I too was in high school in the ’80s – and I’m not ashamed to admit it! 😀 I remember back then lots of kids went out and got apprenticeships or jobs – it was obvious to everyone who was college material and who was not. Now it seems every Tom, Dick and Harriet goes straight for a degree. Where I live a plumber or builder can earn a very decent living, especially if they are running their own business. I expect in the future it will only get better for them, what with all these overeducated people who don’t want to get their hands dirty, good tradesmen are going to be able to name their price.
Kurt @ Money Counselor says
Hey, watch what you say about Bobby D, bub. 😉
Len Penzo says
Back in my college days, I saw Bob Dylan in concert (only because he opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and I couldn’t understand ANYTHING that came out of his mouth. Not. One. Word.
Oddly enough, I was completely sober at the time too.
Or hook up with this guy. He’ll pay you to drop out. Interesting, no?
Len Penzo says
That’s awesome, PK. Thanks for sharing the link! 🙂
Too many people blindly follow the go to college advice. I did too but at least I got an accounting degree out of it and a good job. If I had decided to major in liberal arts I would have been in for a world of hurt.
Len Penzo says
Interestingly enough, Lance, although I earned a valuable degree in college that’s been very good to me financially over the years, if I had to do it all over again, I’m not so sure I would go to college. I think I’d throw myself into whatever it was that I loved more than anything else (in my case, electrical engineering wasn’t #1, #2 or #3 on my list) and try and make a business out of it.
The average person makes 1.66x more than the person who doesn’t go to college? Sign me up for college, Len. I’ll take that bet every day.
Len Penzo says
Hut! Hold on, Joe. Hold on …
The average person who goes to college and earns a bachelors degree makes, on average 1.66 times more over their lifetime.
But 54% of everyone who goes to college eventually drops out before they earn that degree. Then consider that probably half (if not more) of all people who actually beat the odds and earn bachelors degrees, end up with diplomas that are in relatively low-demand and/or are not coveted by employers who pay high wages. Add it all up and that’s not a sure bet by ANY means!
In fact, that means the average person has a better than 50/50 chance of wasting their time and money when they decide to go to college.
I don’t really think that college itself is the issue. If you strategically plan to get your degree based on what is needed in the market today. In my field (IT) we have a heck of a time finding American kids who are getting CS degrees, and ready to enter the job force.
Your points about getting behind the curve while racking up debt are valid, but there is still no doubt that for most folks, they have very limited earning potential if they never get their degree.
Len Penzo says
I hear what you’re saying, Jefferson.
Part of the problem is that a lot of kids aren’t interested in IT, engineering and other science-based professions. And I find that a bit ironic considering kids today are more technology savvy than ever.
Unfortunately, speaking from experience, kids who strategically end up choosing to get a, say, CS degree that aren’t passionate about CS will most likely turn out to be mediocre employees at best. Not all, but most.
While on vacation a couple years ago, my son and I were lucky enough to get a private behind-the-scenes kitchen tour by the head chef of a very nice Washington DC hotel (we met him by chance in the hotel elevator). The chef said something that stuck with me after I asked his thoughts on the importance of culinary school. He said he’d rather hire an unskilled passionate kid than a culinary school grad who didn’t truly enjoy cooking. He summed it up this way: “Passion is more important than skill because you can teach cooking skills in any kitchen — but not passion. You either have it or you don’t.”
I am a prime example that college is not for everyone.
While in HS I was working PT doing grunt work in the field I’m currently in now (technology engineering). I graduated HS, started working FT in this field. I began attending college that year PT. after a year of college I gave up.
22 years later I am a Senior Executive in the same company a self taught board certified professional engineer. This will be my first year eclipsing 400k$.
I would attribute the following factors to my path.
Passion for what I do.
Knowing in HS what I wanted to do.
Clear goals that would always escalate throughout the past 22 years.
My wife who is my silent partner in my career.
Mentors in my career field.
I also have experienced the pain of educational loans. My wife was double engineering major at two ivy league schools. While she graduated top of her class, once in the real word she decided she hated engineering and has not worked one day in the field.
Len Penzo says
That’s terrific, Kenny! Thanks for sharing your story.
Readers: Remember Kenny’s story. Don’t let anybody try to tell you that one needs a college degree to be successful. It’s just not true.
“He said he’d rather hire an unskilled passionate kid than a culinary school grad who didn’t truly enjoy cooking.”
That sounds like something one of my college professors said. She had her own IT business and was talking about how important communication and language was. She made a statement similar to something like, “If I had a choice between an English major with good communications skills and a skilled programmer with very little communication skills, I would pick the earlier over the latter. I can always train a person to program.”
I think about that all the time.
Samar Misra says
Though isn;t it true sadly that there are many ambitious and sincere youngsters with a passion in STEM career areas, but unfortunately do not have the skills nor personality for the career.
I recall being so passionate about pursuing Engineering and Tech when I was a teenager, yet Physics discouraged me and I was not strong at it and struggled and Physics is a backbone of Engineering. I always hear of many brilliant students who got accepted into Engineering and are halfway through the major, yet switched majors as was too difficult and got weeded out. One of my family friends started out in Engineering at University of Maryland and switched to Computer Science. Also, one of my cousin’s cool friends started out in Engineering at UT-Austin, but then switched to Business. These are so common.
Plus, I can see situations of many people who have skills and personalities to become best physicans, but their values and morals do not match the system’s values or morals of profit over health, too much emphasis on drugs and symptoms rather than natural remedies and lifestyle and root cause. I know I wouldn’t ever last as a physician in the medical system of honestly natural remedies, plant eating, yoga, exercise and meditation have helped me most rather than medication, vaccines recommended by mainstream.
I am very happy to be in Urban/City Planning with goals towards communities, public health and international development.
Jefferson I hear what you are implying about IT majors, but in what areas of the US. I have two friends that are seniors at Montclair State University in New Jersey and are even having a difficult time finding a ” unpaid internship” simply to graduate. In this case if they can not find a job to work for free to graduate, how are they suppose to find jobs after completing their degrees?
I am pro college. But I also feel we are doing an injustice to the high school students for not educating them on the implications of their career choice. There should be a handson course or workshop or something that walks them through different career choices, what the real work for the college degree involves (an English major should know they are most likely to become a copywriter than win the Pulitzer prize), how much loan they have to take for the degree and budget with the realistic salary they are expected to get after graduating. That will at least give some students a wake up call.
Len Penzo says
I think that is a great idea, Suba. Kind of like a truth in lending disclosure — but for college! 😀
I’m glad to see this post, Len. I think a lot of young people feel pressured to go to a four year school. There are a lot of technical schools and business colleges out there that will teach kids the skills they need to get a decent job without so much debt.
Len Penzo says
Absolutely, Sassy. The Forbes list of good paying jobs that I linked to also highlighted a lot of careers that required 2-year associates degrees like nursing and dental hygienists. That’s a bit more than a high-school diploma, but still less than the 4 or 5 years it takes to get a Bachelors degree.
There are way to many people that are finishing high school and going onto college to do an arts degree simply because they have no direction.
Instead they should take a year off, try a few different jobs for 6 months and then travel the other 6 months.
I’d really like to see a community driven program where students can try 3-4 vastly different working environments (e.g corporate office setting, trade setting, education/nursing setting) to find out their interests and what those workplaces are actually like.
REALLY, REALLY, REALLY good idea! As someone else said before, most people are clueless as to what they want to do after high school. And there really isn’t way to ‘test drive’ various different careers at that time. Even college internships are often NOTHING like actually working in the field that you are studying. As a result, SO many people don’t find out they really don’t like the field they studied until after they have already graduated!
frugal redneck says
I completely agree that college isn’t for everyone. Take my wife and I for instance. When we got married I was framing houses making $12/hr, my wife, a barista at the local coffee joint making minimum wage plus tips. We were barely scrapping by week to week. Then, my wife, being the dreamer that she is decides that she needs to go to college. We had many talks, and I thought it’d be a great idea for myself as well. She chose pre-law, I went for accounting. Now the difference between my wife and I; I’m pretty consistent — think square accountant, her, well she’s consistent — consistently inconsistent. That said, I finished my degree going from $12/hr to $70k/yr, she just amassed $15k in debt. However, had I gone to college right after high school and not waited (matured) for 4.5 years, I probably wouldn’t be in this position and I thank my wife every day for pushing me to go, inadvertently. College; for me a win — her, well the verdict is still out.
College is not for EVERYONE. But, for me, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have a CS degree. I spent no where near what is mentioned. I went to community college and then a state school – perhaps 20K total. This was 12 years ago.
Len Penzo says
I hear ya, Spedie. I graduated in 1988 and went to a state college; my entire college expenses (room, board, tuition, books, etc.) over a period of 4 years and 3 months came to just under $15,000.
shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet says
I’m pro-college and even pro-semi useles degree (hello BA in History with a minor in Writing), but the biggest problem I see with college right now is that we think every 18 year old should go- or that every 18 year old should know what they want to do with the rest of thier lives. Guess what? They don’t. I’m pretty certain that’s as much of a factor in the 54% drop out rate as not being college material. It’s also a major factor in why it now takes the majority of people 5-6 years to get a 4 year degree- they change majors as the grow and realize they don’t want to actually be whatever it was they decided they were going to be at 16.
I believe we should reset our societal expectations to people not going to school until mid-20s. Take time to get some real world experience and to figure out what you want to do. Know what going to college will actually do for you.
Going to college is simply what most kids “do” after high school right now. It’s just like moving from the middle school to the high school. They do it because it’s what they are supposed to do, not because they want it (or even need it).
Based on purely personal experience- education means more and provides more benefit (with the benefit of the student getting better grades) when they go back later in life, after working, after figuring out what they like and don’t like, etc. (Again, based solely on my grad school experience and C going back to school, but we’ve both seen it in the other students, too.)
Adam Hathaway says
I couldn’t agree more with this article. Look at how much a licensed electrician makes hourly and then think about how much one would make if they had many working for them. I have a college degree and I will support my kids getting one as well but I will not force them into it.
Love, LOVE this article, thanks so much Len. My story is similar to Kenny’s. I graduated high school in 1988 and although I was in AP courses, giving me almost an entire freshman year’s worth of credits, I knew definitively that I could not tolerate another class much less 4 years of schooling. I wasn’t going to waste my parent’s money and my time on something I knew I’d never complete.
I took a FT position as a bank teller, in order to secure health insurance and start a retirement plan. While my peers were eating Ramen noodles every meal, I was earning a meager income, socking away as much as I could into my 401(k), and gaining years of experience. I also learned how to budget a household and realistically prepare for the future. I sometimes think that’s missing in college because the focus is on the degree and what it can bring to the table. I think we all know that there’s more to life than a piece of paper and a job, even if they go perfectly to the letter, which rarely happens either.
At the end of their 4 years (sometimes more) of college, I had been promoted twice, my salary had almost doubled, and I had purchased my first house at age 21, which I paid off at age 34. Meanwhile, the majority of my friends were in considerable debt and starting out in their careers, many not even their chosen field.
After 11 years in the banking industry, rising to managerial level in consumer lending, I started my own company in administration, finance and accounting for non-profits in 5 states. That was 14 years ago and I’m on the verge of hiring my 24th FT employee as I can’t keep up with new companies approaching us to audit or assume their back office operations. I’ve taken some courses and attended plenty of seminars and conferences but no formal degree(s) hang on my walls.
I know without a doubt I did the right thing for me.
I enrolled in school as an English major because I loved to write. The university advisors were very honest that it would be difficult to make a good living outside of academia. After freshman year I ended up using my English credits as a minor and switching to a business major. I ended up as a business writer, which is a decently lucrative job that is also flexible enough so I can find time for creative writing. Just thought I’d share because I think my path is an example of directing a passion into a realistic plan (that, in this case, does include college).
David C. says
My nephew graduated from high school and it was anticipated that he would attend college like both of his parents. He made it through freshman year and was absolutely miserable. He just didn’t enjoy college, even though he is an intelligent kid. His parents are accountant/office manager types and the thought of spending his days behind a desk thoroughly horrified him.
After a summer of working odd jobs and a lot of soul searching, he began trade school to become a mechanic. He was always an inquisitive kid who loved to take things apart and put them back together. He breezed through the training with a high placement and was employed within a month of graduating.
Fast forward a year, he is working for a high end marina and is often out on the lake enjoying the breeze, rather than anchoring a desk chair. From their customers, you’d things were hunky dory in America. He is not getting rich, but he is doing something he loves and is planning his future while not constrained by unnecessary education debt.
Sorry for the long diatribe, just wanted to relay a story of how college is not for everyone and to let folks know that there are alternatives to university.
As a mom, this type of article doesn’t point me to the conclusion that college is always a poor investment. It does point me to the idea that I want to do way better than average in helping my kids understand what they want out of life by age 18 instead of hoping that spending $100K will allow someone else to teach them that by age 22.
It’s actually really surprising to me that more people don’t draw similar conclusions.
Len Penzo says
College isn’t always a poor investment, Hannah. But, as the article states, unless you’re going for an engineering, science, technology or math degree the odds are it will be.
And I agree, I too think it’s important to help our kids figure out what they want from life as soon as possible.
Samar Misra says
I love how there are free colleges in USA like Berea College which has variety of majors and students work on campus and have their tuition paid for.
I agree 1000%. College isn’t for everyone and you shouldn’t go right after college just because everyone else does either. It’s a big investment and the degree you get will be guiding you in a career for the next 40 years. If you have no idea what you want to do with your life, don’t go to college! At least not yet. Get a job. Take some classes at a community college. Figure out you and then you can consider college.
And if it isn’t right for you, it’s not the end of the world. As Len said, you can make good money if you have skills. My best friend growing up was never college material. He ended up going to tech school to work on cars. He now makes close to $100K a year with the the way the pay is structured at the dealership.
College for me is really important like it’s a necessity for everyone. It kinda increases the rate of being successful in life. With a college degree, a person has an advantage in getting a better or high-paying job compared with others. And, having a degree tells something more about the person. However, it really depends on the person how he makes a living.
Stevie Wonders says
I suspect a lot of the driving force for college is that far too many employers still require degrees for jobs that don’t need them. Perhaps non-traditional and online programs can help make this cheaper and more convenient? I got my degree that way part-time while working full time.
As for the endlessly repeated stats about degree holders earning more, I also suspect much of that is that non-degree holders have trouble getting the better paying jobs, because again employers require degrees for them. A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
I could not agree more. I am writing a paper on this exact topic, where did you find your sources?
Great article! I always hear a college degree and Master’s is required for being a therapist/social worker as they make low while enough.
What would you all say of work in Public Health in future?
Samar Misra says
I usually hear in sources of my field that a Master’s is required in Urban Planning and see many have a MA in my field of Urban/Regional Planning .
I like Public Health, but don’t know much of it. I hear some Public Health jobs require a Bachelor’s while certain ones as Epidemiologist require a Master’s in Public Health with focus on Epidemiology.
In my opinion:
I just think it’s sad in this country to see so many kids in a nation that gives them everything, not achieve.
Most of the doctors and engineers have either come from overseas from a less fortunate family, or have an ethnic background where parents help guide their children to succeed and understand the importance of an education; what it means long term. Sad to say, but this seems to get lost somewhere in the typical American household.
Yes, there is a need for plumbers and the blue collar trades and most people look at the dollar amount they get paid per hour, which is wrong and we shouldn’t misguide high school kids into chasing money. I’ve seen plumbers work, knee deep in s**t in the freezing rain. It’s back breaking work and most of them need to retire in their 50’s from blown out knees or back—-not something to look forward to.
Samar Misra says
I hear it is brutal work even with police officers and firefighters.
Dart Throwing Monkey says
Sometimes I wonder whether, we as a society would be better off if instead of applying to college straight out of high school, everyone was forced to take a year off and work…
A year of work experience required before you could apply to college.
This would keep out a lot of people who shouldn’t be in college and reduce the amount of baristas with $100k in student loans. Also… supply and demand. With less demand for college, prices for tuition would come down.
WOW! I feel that way about everything that is overpriced. My oldest dropped out of college first semester, I made him, wasting time and gas, playing computer games with other students instead of going to classes, he is still paying the loan and will be for a few years. He now makes $12 or more doing something he loves, so. My youngest is 22 and has been helping a disabled parent, but he wants to be a writer. He has a talent, that much I can say, He has been playing around with Fantasy. He wants to go to college but doesn’t want the debt. I tell him to consider Technical school. It’s past time he started working on his future. Even if it doesn’t include a higher education.
We need more tradesmen…badly.
My son had the option of Community College with a choice to go further with my financial help, if his grades were high.
But, he chose something completely different.
He and his father have been doing welding for the past few years (hubby has 6 patents with a machine shop and used to have a Go Kart (Outlaws too) team….so the son picked it up and really liked it.
Sure enough he had a job straight our of highschool and has continued working in a good job, with good pay AND benefits.
He is also working to get his welding certs so he can have more room to grow. The best part? He LOVES it….and he realizes that his type of work will always been in demand.
He is gaining experience and skills that will serve him throughout life.
I wish more out there would, or could, make that choice.
For some reason too much of the media and others look down on trade skills and push college education. As if that is the only choice for a better life?
I can attest that it’s not always that way. I took the trade route…went into IT, got my certs and now make great money in a solid field. (I’m in both IT and in Healthcare)..
Len Penzo says
I hear ya, TQ. Back in the early 80s, trades were advertised as equally-good options for those graduating from high school — and rightly so. In fact, my high school had many shop classes: wood shop, metal shop (which included machining and welding), electrical shop, drafting and even an auto shop with two bays where we could bring our cars to work on. Those days are long gone at most high schools.
I’ve been looking at non-4year degree options with my son as he will soon graduate HS. The process has been eye opening. Community colleges are much different from what I remember from the 80’s. They offer a host of trade and technology options at a very reasonable cost (especially with in-state tuition). I’m a big proponent of CC, I have BS in Mechanical Engineering – there is no notation on my diploma of my CC years.
At CC one could spend a year taking a variety of classes and work their way through with no dept (or a minimal cost to the parent). Use this time to decide to stay with community college (2yr Associates, trade training, or transfer route) or start over at a more prestigious (and expensive) university – but be more likely to graduate knowing what you want.
I also sense an urgency that is unwarranted, i.e. get into school ASAP, graduate early, go quickly to the next step… (not to save money but to get into a career quickly). So what is the rush? Kids today will likely live 100+ – take an extra year or two to experiment. If you know for certain what you want, certainly dive in, but for the rest, some experimentation would be a sound investment. Better to take a one year detour than spend 4 years then hate the degree. Many also go military for a few years, then go to university comfortably paid for by their military service. So they start 3-4 years later, big woop in the grand scheme of things.
I graduated out of high school last year (Class of 2018) and I don’t know what to do. I really want to do what I like but I’m stuck at a crossroads, cause I really don’t know what I want to do. I’m taking a English class in a community college. I think I’m going to do two years of community college, and I don’t know what I want to do. So I’m confused. I’m 18, plz comment, your opinions are welcomed.
Len Penzo says
Kamari, there’s no need to fret. It takes time for many many people to figure out what they want to do in life. I went through high school planning to become an architect. I got accepted to a great college with a top-notch architecture school. Guess what? One year into my studies I decided I didn’t want to be an architect anymore — so I changed my major to architectural engineering. Guess what? Another year later I discovered I liked electronics better, so I changed my major again to electrical engineering.
You’re at an age that is supposed to be about figuring out exactly what you want to do in life; for many people, that is a process of trial and error — and one that may take a few years to figure out. The only way you’ll know is by trying lots of different things.
And remember … university is not the only answer. For many people, it’s the wrong answer!
Good luck to you!
I don’t believe a person has to go to college, My husband was a firefighter/EMT. He loved his job, as do all the rest of those in that field. Police personal love their jobs, most anyway. These professional people did not go to college but to training classes, paid training, Three professions that don’t get the pay they deserve but do get the gratification. These and military are the real HEROS.
Bruno Araujo says
Well, yeah. We have a lot of job positions that doesn’t even require a college education.
As someone who has seen my parents struggle without a degree in California, I can say with full confidence that a degree can definitely help. No matter what the degree is. My parents are doing fine right now, but it took them so long to get to where they are now. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a living without a degree, but it definitely took them longer to get there, then if they had went to college. Now college is pretty expensive for sure, but an education is an education. Community college is practically free now with Fafsa and all the grants you can apply for. That’s half your college right there. Then when You go to a university to finish you can go to one that is least expensive. No one needs to go to a UC to get a “good” degree. It is possible to make it work and you don’t have to get a degree that “guarantees a good paying job”. To me college isn’t just about a degree that pays either, it is a huge opportunity to expand your knowledge and grow which is not something everyone has the opportunity to do. Personally I think college is worth it.
Samar Misra says
Interesting Link On Highest Paying Trade Jobs!
Nice how the one job that always sticks out where you can always work on a computer and with people rather than get dirty and work with hands a lot, is Web Design.
if people wish to go to college, fine for them, but it is NO guarantee of future financial success; know so many people who should not have gone.You want to run successful online business you need good SEO services.
John Dalton says
According to my point of view, a college education doesn’t matter unless you don’t have any skill in your hand. Skill is something that helps you to run your house and make you perfect in it. Similarly, I am running a Peer To Peer Lending business and I would recommend a skillful person for the job.
Great article, Len! It’s so true.
To be honest, not all students dream to pass exams to college and sit near the desk all the days to get new information. Some of theme prefer to work and get skills in such a way. At the same time, there are students who are ready to pass courses and get the diploma. I think that everyone has the right to choose and it doesn’t depend on your own capabilities and possibilities only.
Peter Patria says
I totally disagree with you. College is for everyone and it must be a place of learning only.
Short and to the point, Len. I’m not exaggerating with I say this is one of the smartest articles I’ve ever read.
Len Penzo says
Tell that to Peter. LOL
College is not an as easy place for all students as they consider it in high school. I just read your blog and want to say thank you for writing some smart reasons why college isn’t easy for everyone.
Different reasons for not going to college. Sometimes it really depends upon the person who is not able to continue the college due to his mindset or nature. In some other cases, people want to go to college but are not able to go because of the heavy fee structure and family conditions