It shouldn’t be impossible in our world today to find jobs out there that pay well enough for employees to be able to afford a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t as often the case today as it was fifty years ago. All too often, the idea that a high school student might shun college leads many to envision for them a future in the fast food or retail industries, where wages for even department supervisors are perpetually stuck at the level of barely getting by. Since parents and guidance councilors can’t let that happen, the answer is to push them toward college. Indeed, for many, college seems to be the only answer. What if that isn’t the right answer, though? College tuition costs are rising at an alarming rate for students who don’t qualify for financial aid, and there are more than a few middle-class high school students who fall into that particular crack. Is it worthwhile to spend four years after high school spending money and attending classes that may not necessarily be satisfying or lead to a good career, only to find out later that college really didn’t pique your interest?
Part of the problem is the popularity of a college education these days. Universities compete for enrollment, and high schools want nothing more than to let their communities know that all the tax dollars are worthwhile because “Look how many of our students go on to college!”
There is an antidote, however. The simple fact is that not everyone is cut out for college. It isn’t a matter of not being smart enough or talented enough, or even getting good grades. Rather, it’s more about what you enjoy doing. Do you enjoy working with your hands? If your answer is yes, then college may not be right for you. Heck, you may not even have to fool with a trade school, even though that is a bit of an “in” in many cases. The trades have been in decline for years, but with more and more college graduates unable to find work in their chosen fields, manufacturing trades are slowly turning around their previously negative image, and are being seen in a whole new light.
Of course, manufacturing isn’t the only shining star in the trades these days. The computer revolution has brought forth a host of alternative careers that can easily match or beat the earnings of typical college-required professions. In fact, some of these computer-based jobs are great lead-ins to business ownership that can boost your personal earnings from moderate to the high six-figures far more quickly than you might dream!
In the manufacturing trades, steer clear of that old standby field of drafting. For the most part, those jobs are being taken up by engineers these days since the software they use is much, much more user friendly than it ever was before. Companies have simply cut out the middleman- the draftsman. Instead, take a good look at machining- a field on the rise since the resurgence of “Made in the USA” pride. Additionally, CNC programming, manual machining, and even machine maintenance and repair typically are learned on-the-job if not at short trade school programs.
In computers, web development and site design are great places to start, but don’t think for a second that the field of software design is filled. To make a splash in these fields, you generally don’t need much more than a deep working knowledge of computers and the internet, passion, and a desire to succeed. It may also help somewhat if you love working on your own, since designing apps for phones these days can be done with nothing more than a good computer and an idea.
College degrees are important for some fields, but by no means all. More often than not, the best thing you can do to make good money in any field without college is to simply find something that you love to do, and then do it with passion, as though there weren’t any money in it for you at all. You might then be surprised how easily the money comes!