10 Alternatives to College

Posted on 6 min read 69 views

College is a huge accomplishment, and something to be proud of. However, it’s not for everyone and that’s ok. With the ever-rising tuition, lifelong debt, and hundreds of jobs that don’t require a 4 year degree, you don’t have to attend college to learn the same life skills. In fact, according to the U.S. Consensus Bureau only 35% of adults over the age of 25 have a 4 year degree or higher. If you think you want to be a part of the other 65%, fear not. Below we have some great alternatives to the 4 year degree. 

Work College

Work colleges give you the ability to go to a 4 year university, but you have to work. It isn’t much, around 10-25 hours per week to pay for your tuition. You pay much less in tuition or even free and you gain work experience to boot. 

It will be hard work to get used to school and a part-time job. However, the money you will save in the long run will make the struggle worth it. 

Community College

If you still want a formal education, but don’t want the formal education price tag, then community college could be for you. It still allows you to go to school if that is what you are looking for but for half the time and more than half the money.

You also have the added bonuses of smaller class sizes, closer relationships with your professors, hands on training for your career, and the ability to work and go to school with their flexible night or online courses. 

Plus, you can still get a great median salary that are 5 to 6 figures like an air traffic controller, computer programmer, or police officer. 

Start a Business

Currently, there are around 22 million people who are self-employed in the U.S. alone which works out to be 14% of the entire U.S. workforce. If you have the passion, work ethic, self-discipline, and a great idea, it may not be a simple pipe dream. Some of the most successful people in history were entrepreneurs without any higher education. This includes: Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Now with the computer and access to the internet, starting your own business has never been easier. Whether you want to start a small etsy store to sell the jewelry all of your friends request for holidays, freelance writer, or even a marketing consultant, you can market yourself for any business. 

Start small, but dream big. 

Vocational Training or Trade School

If you like working with your hands and want some formal training, then trade school is a great option. Desperately needed skills such as electrician, plumbing, welding, and lock smiting are dying out. Young people have been convinced that these jobs are some how lesser than sitting behind a desk all day. Everyone at one point in their lives has needed a plumber, how can those skills not be worth it? 

When you graduate, you will most likely have a job waiting for you right away. These jobs are hard work and you will start at the bottom, but what job doesn’t have that? Over time, you will gain experience and that experience will be more valuable than any schooling. People look for experienced tradesmen as their needs are usually an emergency. Being able to save people’s quality of living can earn you $70,000 or more. 

Take a job, any job. 

Start off your working career immediately by taking an entry level job. College is for trying to find your dream job right? What if you could do that but still earn some money. You’re friends will be studying for midterms on the weekends, eating cold ramen, and throwing up Budlight. You on the other hand will have health insurance, starting your 401k, and have weekends free. Many people suggest going into retail or food service, but you don’t have to. 

In the days of the internet and information, you can teach yourself the administrative skills to work in an office. Maybe it will still be minimum wage, but it won’t be serving tables. After high school, think of all your transferable skills such as: Word, Excel, copying/scanning, Social Media, etc. Then apply to a temp agency. They will do all of the hard work for you including helping with your resume. 

Become a Real Estate Agent

This is a great option for young people who don’t want the college degree, but have the drive for high income potential. You can enroll in a program for real estate, usually at a community college, for a few months, then take your state licensing test. It’s that simple. 

Real estate agents make around $40k which is up there with many jobs that require the 4 year degree. However, if you’re really good at your job and know how to market yourself, your income can be much higher than that. 

Another plus? The majority of real estate agents can be home-based and create their own schedules. This enables more free time and the salary allows you to live your life and even start a family. 

Coach a Team

Did you play tennis, soccer, football, baseball, basketball, fencing, golf, or swimming in high school? Congratulations, you have all of the qualifications to coach elementary, middle, or high school sport teams. 

The school will automatically pay you and you can coach more than one team at more than one school. A huge plus is this is something easily turned into a business. You can start traveling around your county coaching different teams during different seasons if you have an aptitude for a few different sports. 

It’s rewarding work especially if its something you already love. Now you are simply adding changing kids’ lives for the better. A win/win no?

Produce Content for the Internet

There are 3 great options for producing content for an internet audience. 

  1. Start a blog where you can write about what you want, when you want.
  2. Start a podcast where you can talk about what you want, when you want.
  3. Or start a Youtube channel where you can create videos on what you want, when you want.

See a pattern here? If you have a talent for this, there is no reason you can’t start now. Thousands of people are making great money doing this and it usually involves their passions/hobbies. Find something you don’t mind spending hours talking about, thinking about, or being seen doing and start making great content. 

Online Classes

There are plenty of free online classes that you can take. This is a good introduction into formal education if you were on the fence about it. Also, if you have an interest in learning something or adding to your resume, this is also a great option. You get to choose what you learn and how much time you’d like to devote to it. 

Online learning sites make it free to learn something you have a passion for. You don’t need to waste your time with general education classes you hate like math…


If you have the opportunity to travel either because of family, or the Peace Corp, take it. This will enrich your life much more than many of the things college can offer you. You will not only learn about other cultures, another language, depending on how much, or meet new connections. Traveling also allows you to see potential living situations. Many universities are free for international students, meaning you, and if you don’t mind leaving everything you know and your family for 4 years, this might be a great alternative to an American college. 


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