Smart Career Choices Don’t Always Require a Four-Year Degree

26 Feb 2018

In the last few decades, most Americans have viewed college as the primary method to move up the career ladder. But the cost of attending college has more than doubled since the 1980s, even as grants for attending college have shrunk.

Today, the average student amasses about $30,000 in debt to obtain a four-year degree. It’s not hard to understand why some students are opting out of the traditional college degree.

Unfortunately, a high school diploma doesn’t have the credence it once did. “In the past, people used enter career pathways without training. That’s not the case anymore,” says Craig Nathan, director of field operations at the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP). “As far as we know, almost all jobs in the future will require some form of training.”

RMCEP’s Career Advising Program works in partnership with Clay, Mahnomen, Wilkin, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, Wadena and Cass Counties to advise students about post-secondary education and training. This comprehensive advising helps students narrow down their career choices based on interest and aptitude. It encourages them to explore all the options.

The good news for students seeking alternatives to a four-year degree is that there’s a big demand for skilled labor in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare. Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) created a tool to identify occupations that are in high demand specifically in Northwest Minnesota.

Training and education requirements vary; jobs may require on-the-job, vocational training or an associate degree. Examples of these jobs in demand that don’t require a bachelor’s degree include: personal care aides, nursing assistants, machinists, auto, machinery and HVAC mechanics.

Career advisors share this valuable information about in-demand jobs in Minnesota with students as well as the training and education they may require, whether it is an apprenticeship, on-the-job training or community college.

Advisors also give students a realistic picture of the area cost of living as well as the wages possible for a job right out of high school, versus one with vocational training or an associate degree.

Nathan notes that the data shows that wages dramatically increase with some form of training. Advisors encourage individual students to find the right fit for themselves in terms of education or training, keeping in mind their eventual career goals.

“The idea is to create an awareness of the need to think about going to some form of college, training or trade school. It doesn’t have to be four-year degree, it could be a certificate or AA degree,” he says.