No Student Debt — Viable Alternatives to College

If you’re thinking about going to college, know that the average college graduate comes out of university saddled with $35,000 in student debt. While a few will get to work in their field of study (30 percent), the rest will work in jobs totally unrelated to their field — with half of them working in jobs that don’t even require a degree. College isn’t that great anymore, and there are better ways to spend your time and money.

1. Learn a trade.

Skilled blue-collar work is always in demand. Most industries — particularly construction, manufacturing, and trucking — actually have a shortage of workers. Wages in these industries for skilled workers have crossed the $30 per hour mark, and those numbers are continually rising. The average white-collar job that requires a degree will usually pay around $47,000 a year. You can earn more than that as a skilled worker as starting wages in certain industries can amount to more than $50,000–$55,000 a year. Learning a trade can take six months to two years — but most companies will sign you up as soon as you graduate or even before. Trucking companies will even pay for your CDL training and even give you a monthly allowance. Learning a skill allows you to start earning earlier for a very minimal investment.

2. Start a business.

Smiling waiter taking orders from customers at the counter

If you’re going to get saddled with $35,000 worth of student debt and just end up waiting tables. It’s better to put that money to good use. Starting a business — whether it’s launching an ambitious startup or just opening a simple sandwich shop — does have its risks, but the payoffs can be huge. Identify what your community needs or cater to a certain niche. If you can provide a product or service that is unique and innovative — your chances of succeeding is all but assured. You don’t even have to rent an office as you can use your own house or one of those chic shared office spaces. It’s also important to choose a business that you’re particularly good at or at least one that interests you — losing focus after the first few years is one of the biggest reasons businesses fail.

3. Get to work.

Since half of all college graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a degree anyway — you can probably get those same jobs the moment you finish high school. Go into sales or work in fundraising if you have the social skills. The average car salesman in the US earns more than $42,000 per year — putting you up by $168,000 on your peers that went to college. Learn as you work and take advantage of every training session your company provides. Experience trumps degrees in almost every circumstance, so you’re in a better position in 4 years than graduates fresh out of college. 


College is expensive. Unless you’re going into the STEM fields or you’re really dedicated to learning — you’re much better off focusing your time and money into other endeavors that won’t saddle you with student debt.

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