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The decision to go to college is a big one; it’s expensive, it’s time consuming, it’s difficult. But, irrefutably, it’s unequivocally worth it.
In a study by Anthony Carnevale out of Georgetown, “What’s It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors,” a very provocative percentage is revealed: 84. “That is how much more money a full-time, full-year worker with a Bachelor’s degree can expect to earn over a lifetime than a colleague who has no better than a high school diploma.”
While it’s possible, of course, to acquire a job without a degree, the staying power of those jobs is slightly more dubious. The U.S. was once a mecca for manufacturing jobs, but those now only account for 11% of private employment. Even though your job might feel secure, it’s crucial to remember that things change. Many who had jobs in the auto industry believed in the longevity of their positions, only to find themselves exactly where no one wants to be: middle aged, uneducated, and out of work.
Still, college is not for everyone. Nor, can everyone afford it. But if you’re going to forgo a traditional education, you still need to make yourself employable; and, one of two things must be done in order to accomplish that: get certified or get licensed.
Licenses are the next best thing to a college degree, given that you are legally not allowed to perform the task at hand without them, creating a sort of “seller’s market” for those who are qualified. Certificates are a close runner up, giving you valuable skills in a short amount of time.
Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so before committing to a program, check with the government establishment that issues your particular license. (For example, social workers might receive their licensing through the Department of Health while an ambulance driver goes through the Department of Transportation.) Certification requirements depend on the institution with which you are learning, and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few semesters to complete.
Arguably the most lucrative and highly employed of licensed professionals are those in the skilled trades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists electricians at a mean hourly wage of $25.50, with the demand for all skilled trades increasing, such as carpenters, plumbers, and mechanics of various types. Skilled trades also give you an edge through a government-mandated, hands-on apprenticeship, allowing for on-the-job training during school.
Other licensures or certifications that do not require college are as follows:
- Certified nursing assistant
- Real estate agent
- Dental hygienist
- Travel agent
- Massage therapist
- Bank teller
- Truck driver
- Insurance agent
- Fitness trainer
Again, a college degree still has the ability to open doors to which a high school diploma or GED won’t even come close; but if your personality or pocketbook won’t cut it, there are certainly options out there that will allow you to create viable alternatives!