Job-ward Bound: Career Alternatives to College

The current economy is forcing a lot of new high school graduates to think seriously about what they want for their future. Many students will choose to enroll in college immediately after graduating, but that option may not be right for everyone. Here are some ways that high school graduates can enter the job market without getting a bachelor's degree.

By Sarah Wright


A Career Without College

Anyone can get a job, but what most people want is a career. What's the difference? Typically, people who make this distinction mean that a job is something you do to make money, but aren't really committed to. A career is something you're in for the long haul, that interests you, gives steady employment and maybe even opportunities for advancement. A lot of people seem to think that you need to go to college to have a good career, but that's not necessarily the case.

Here, we'll list some careers that typically don't require a college degree. As you'll see, these jobs take many forms and appeal to different interests and skill sets. Some of these careers require extra vocational training, but take much less time and money than a full 2- or 4-year college degree. If you're looking for career stability without having to earn a degree, consider one of these professions.

Skilled Labor

If you like working with your hands, or like having a tangible product at the end of a hard day's work, consider a skilled labor job. These jobs don't usually require a college degree, but you'll need training beyond your high school diploma. Entry into these careers may require additional vocational education, but often simply takes on-the-job training.

  • Construction Worker - There are many different aspects to construction work, from metal fabrication to carpentry. Construction workers typically get on-the-job training, and are able to advance as they gain more experience and knowledge.
  • Plumber - Plumbers can work for existing plumbing companies, or can work to start their own plumbing businesses. If you have entrepreneurial aspirations, this might be a good job to consider.
  • Auto Mechanic - You'll need to be able to remember a lot of mechanical and electrical engineering information if you want to be an auto mechanic. Like other skilled labor jobs, there is opportunity for advancement for auto mechanics who really take to their work.

Public Service

Several jobs in the public service sector don't require a college degree. These are all careers that require training, but provide longevity and stability. In most cases, these are government jobs that require workers to hold a position of authority in society, occasionally entering into dangerous situations.

  • Police Officer - There are several different ways to work as a police officer. In most departments, officers start as patrol officers and may work their way up to become detectives or supervisors. Some departments may prefer to hire candidates with some college coursework, but typically, a degree is not necessary.
  • Correctional Officer - Correctional officers work in prisons and jails. They may be responsible for interacting with inmates or performing administrative tasks.
  • Firefighter - Like police officers, some firefighters are required to take college-level courses, but a degree is usually not required.
  • 911 Dispatcher - Workers in this field are the first line of response when an emergency call is made. They get information from callers and direct ambulances, fire trucks and police cars to emergencies.
  • Fish and Game Enforcement Officer - This is a good job to consider if you're interested in law enforcement work and also have an interest in sportsman activities. Fish and game enforcement officers make sure hunting and fishing laws are being obeyed.

Medical Industry Work

Doctors are some of the most highly-educated people in our society, but you don't have to attend years and years of postsecondary schooling to work in the medical field. If you're interested in contributing to the process of healing others, there are plenty of jobs that require a little vocational training on top of a high school diploma. There might not be a lot of room for advancement within these specific job fields, but experience within the medical industry is valuable and can lead to advancement to positions in nursing or physician's assisting.

  • Phlebotomist - If you don't like blood, don't consider this job. Phlebotomists are trained in collecting blood samples for testing.
  • Nursing Aide - Nursing aides work under the guidance of doctors or nurses, and are typically responsible for less technical aspects of patient care. Aides may be responsible for helping incapacitated patients care for themselves.
  • Orderly - Like nursing aides, orderlies may be responsible for helping patients with personal care. They might also be responsible for helping to lift and transport patients around medical facilities.

If you enter one of these jobs, there's nothing to say that you can't go to college later if you decide you'd like to earn a degree.

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