High school students usually ask two urgent questions. What career path to take? What college to attend?
Most will choose four-year colleges for a bachelor’s degree. Plan on that standard college model if you want to be a doctor, teacher, engineer, lawyer, or counselor.
But if you’re going that route, count the cost. The investment to attend college has escalated. The average annual cost of American private college is over $38,000. The average for attending an in-state public institution exceeds $10,000 per year. Students often borrow money to cover expenses. These loans must be paid after graduation—many with interest.
The typical American college graduate enters the workforce earning about $55,000—with an average loan debt of just over $28,000.
A 2019 study of 2,200 adults found most took 18.5 years to pay off their student loans. You might be close to 40 before you’re free of your college debt!
But that’s not the only option.
It’s wise to consider your gifts and the needs of those around you. Do you enjoy working with your hands? Do you like to fix appliances or gadgets that break? Many needed service careers require only an associate degree. Others involve pursuing certification or an apprenticeship.
The average in-state tuition and fees at two-year community colleges for 2019-2020 were about $6,000 less than in-state public four-year colleges! In 2018, 59% of two-year college graduates finished with no debt.
Mike Rowe hosts the Discovery Channel’s series Dirty Jobs. He spoke before Congress in 2017 about the lack of workers for trades jobs. Think plumber, HVAC inspector, construction worker, electrician, welder, landscaper, dental hygienist, ultrasonographer . . . Rowe noted that trade jobs are often unfairly described as second-rate options. People assume these jobs are unsatisfying and ill-paying. But economies badly need skilled workers. Trade jobs can be enjoyable and pay the bills!
One fast-growing trade job is wind turbine tech. These technicians make about $56,000 per year. Occupational therapy assistants train two to three years. On average, they earn over $61,000 annually. Electricians usually learn through apprenticeship. Most make around $56,000. A radiographer (X-ray technician) earns about $57,000 per year with a two-year degree, and a more specialized radiation therapist can garner $110,000 or more per year!
The Mike Rowe Works Foundation is giving away $1 million this year to students who want to attend approved trade programs. The website claims, “There are more than seven million jobs available across the country, the majority of which don’t require a four-year degree.”
Might you save money, avoid debt, and use your God-given talents to serve others without a university diploma?
Why? The world needs hardworking, godly people in every kind of job. Skilled laborers serve a needed and valuable purpose—often without incurring a debt burden.