College isn’t for everyone, but if you’re asking advice from most academic counselors and authorities, it can seem like the only path to a successful career.

Four-year degrees aren’t always necessary for a great-paying and rewarding job!

Apprenticeship and vocational training are often successful alternatives to college for a lot of people. Trade programs teach students valuable skills while paying competitive wages, all while working toward well-paying and secure jobs. There are millions of unfilled trade jobs today and a multitude of programs available to those willing to work hard.

A report from earlier this year indicates that contractors, farmers, electricians and plumbers are in short supply in several parts of the country.

Most of these industries offer some form of apprenticeship, during which a student will earn a percentage (usually 30-50 percent) of what licensed experts make. Apprenticeships allow a student-worker to earn money while working towards their own certification and learning hands-on.

The median annual salary for electricians and plumbers is about $45-$50,000, with growth projected far above the national average.

Both jobs have similar options for certification.

  • A full-time apprenticeship for $12 to $20/hour for 8,000 hours
  • An online course that meets once a week for four years and costs $850 on average
    • There are plenty of opportunities to lower the program cost. Scholarships are available for the unemployed and reduced tuition for members of the organization.

In contrast, the average 2016 college graduate has $37,000 in student loan debt. The amount of student debt continues to increase year over year.

Low-cost vocational training can be a great alternative to an expensive and often impractical college degree.

Mike Rowe, actor and television show host of Dirty Jobs, said it best:

“Five and half million unfilled jobs is clearly a terrible drag on the economy and a sad commentary of what many people consider to be a “good job,” but it also represents a tremendous opportunity for anyone willing to learn a trade and apply themselves.”

A college degree isn’t the only option when starting a career: it pays to know all educational options available to you before blowing the bank and going into debt to earn an advanced degree.

For more insight on how you can reach your goals and build a life you’re proud of, check our weekly blog updates or find a Bridge to Wellbeing event near you!