On Campus
Jun 22, 2023, 05:55AM

Circumventing College

Young people can learn the skills for a rewarding career without spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on a degree.

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Millions of Americans graduated from high school this year and will pursue higher education. Some will attend college hoping to obtain the skills necessary for a desired job. Others will go because they want the so-called college experience: sex, alcohol, drugs and parties. And for others, it’s a mix of both. But those who attend college because they want the credential should reconsider whether or not it’s is necessary to obtain the job they want. Alternatives exist.

Few would expect an aspiring plumber, welder, or construction worker to rack up student loan debt attending a four-year college. Yet, people do this for jobs where they can obtain the necessary skills outside the traditional academic setting. Some include police officers, firefighters, journalists and coders. Just eight percent of police departments in the United States require cops to attend college, while 83 percent require a high school diploma. Most departments in the country are willing to hire a cop who doesn’t have a degree in psychology or criminal justice.

Instead of spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on schooling, one could look at the job requirements of various police departments that are hiring, figure out what the departments are looking for, and develop those skills, whether it’s maintaining a clean record, meeting physical fitness requirements, taking civil service exam practice tests, or attending a police academy.

Meanwhile, communities need volunteer firefighters, so one can learn about firefighting and gain experience without obtaining a degree. Departments may require various certifications to hire people full-time, including EMT knowledge, especially in smaller departments, but even EMT training usually costs less than $2,000. In the case of one of my friends in Maine, the department covered the cost of EMT training.

As for journalism, I know firsthand that one can do the profession without a degree. In the digital age, people can write online about topics that interest them to gain experience and parlay those experiences into paid writing gigs. They can read about how to write articles and learn basic article structure. Grammar checkers exist online, so being an English language expert, although helpful, is initially unnecessary. Over time, a dilligent and motivated person writing will learn from these corrections.

Fewer small-town newspapers exist, but there are online publications covering various niche topics. In the digital era, having vast knowledge of specific topics is usually the best way to gain an edge over the competition. When I was younger, I wrote about sports, particularly baseball, because I followed the sport closely. Eventually, after consuming content about current events, I had the knowledge to write about politics.

Additionally, some people attend college for computer programming, but that’s not necessary to learn coding skills necessary. While the liberal media and politicians like Joe Biden tell coal miners that they should learn to code was downright ridiculous a few years ago, someone interested can learn it online from many resources; some cost money, while others are free. Like other professions, one should look at skill requirements on job listings to figure out what employers want rather than sitting through classes that have nothing to do with the major at some overpriced college or university.

Given that only 60 percent of college students graduate and one-third of graduates work in jobs that don’t use their degree, the four-year degree is often a worse investment than people think.


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