A college diploma is not necessarily your ticket to professional nirvana. What if you could skip college and still earn top dollar?
You may have been raised to believe that a college degree was your ticket to professional nirvana. But millions of recent graduates across the United States are discovering that’s simply not the case.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, around 8.5 percent of college graduates aged 21 to 24 were unemployed in the 12-month period between April 2013 and March 2014. Unfortunately, acquiring mountains of student debt has not proved to be their secret to career success.
Even more worrisome was the finding that 16.8 percent of new college grads were underemployed — meaning they were either jobless or hunting for work; working part-time, or working jobs for which they were overeducated and over-qualified.
What’s the solution? Ditch your college dreams and find a get-rich scheme instead? Not entirely. Instead, take a look at trade schools. Getting hands-on training could be the fastest and most affordable way to land a high-paying job in an industry you love.
If you’re still not sold on the idea, here are a few reasons you might consider attending a trade school instead of a traditional university.
Ask yourself: Do you really need a college degree?
College has an almost reverential status in the United States. While a college education is absolutely necessary for some professions, ask yourself if that college degree ties in with your life goals. If more young Americans asked themselves this question, fewer students would blindly walk towards an expensive degree they may never put to use.
Take a lesson or two from our friends in Europe. In Switzerland, even though university education is free, a vast majority of students pursue vocational or career training instead. The country’s vocational education training (VET) system, which churns out skilled workers year after year, attracts almost two-thirds of students who’ve completed nine years of mandatory schooling.
Germany is another country that can teach us how to treat students whose personalities are not suited for traditional academics. Germans consider these students to be potential assets and have put a system in place with a complex partnership between the government, trade unions and employers. The goal is to help everyone find the right vocation for them and provide the necessary training to help them get there.
How to train for a career — not a degree
Contrary to popular belief, trade schools aren’t just for beauticians, plumbers, electricians, mechanics and carpenters. It’s possible to receive career training in a host of careers — ranging from nursing and architectural design to culinary arts and even business administration.
These career training programs work because they’re short-term, focused, hands-on and are much more economical than traditional four-year degrees. A training program can prepare you for a specific career and provide a link between the academic and professional world.
Thanks to real-life experience, career training students are often more aware of the demands of their profession and are less likely to feel thrown in the deep end of the water at the end of their education.
More reasons to attend trade school
Put yourself in the shoes of an employer down the line. In front of them sits a young professional who chose a career — and stuck to it — in their teenage years. While your peers sat in classrooms taking notes or filling in bubbles on exams, you practiced and fine-tuned your craft.
Employers are bound to respect that you had the focus and clarity to go after a specific vocation instead of dragging your feet through a sea of courses trying to find their calling. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Plus, short-term career training programs can be the fastest and cheapest way to get a job that pays, this “USA Today” article found. The study the article covers found that some vocational certificate holders actually earned more than their bachelor degree-holding counterparts.
There are several routes to your dream job that bypass traditional college. Career training is one of them. If you have the conviction, you can make it work!
Ray Holder is an independent career counselor. Connect with him on Twitter.