Are your friends busy applying to traditional, four-year colleges? Does that sound completely unappealing to you? If the idea of sitting in a crowded lecture hall sounds like something meant for someone else’s life and makes you want to forget the whole thing, you’re not alone.
There’s a long history of the four-year degree being considered the only true path to success in America. And, yes, for some of your friends, that may be true. But traditional college education is not for everyone. And that’s perfectly fine.
Don’t believe it? Here are just five of the many reasons why tech school can be a great alternative to college.
1. It’s shorter and less expensive
Say you go straight from high school into a four-year degree. Odds are you won’t don a mortarboard and walk down the aisle to get your diploma before an investment of 4-6 years. During that time, you’ll probably take many courses not related to your field of interest or even your declared major—and if you change your major, you could be looking at even more time between you and graduation.
In tech school, you’ll take targeted classes based on your talents and interests, and you can wrap things up in an average of two years (and potentially as little as six months). You’ll have less tuition and fees to pay and fewer books to buy.
Additionally, enrollment schedules are often more flexible with vocational college alternatives, so you don’t need to wait a full year to get started if you miss fall term. Some even offer year-round classes with shorter breaks. The sooner you start, the sooner you’re done and ready to kick off your career.
Lower tuition also means you’ll leave school with less debt than your traditional college counterparts. Considering that four in 10 adults under age 30 carry significant student loan debt, alternatives to college start to look good in a hurry.
2. It offers many certificate and diploma programs
Just because you spend less time in school doesn’t mean you have less to show for it. Your typical tech school awards a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree. There are several flavors of associate's degree, such as an Associate of Arts, an Associate of Science, and an Associate of Applied Science. Continuing education programs are often available in select fields.
Some real-world examples:
- An auto technician in Kansas has the opportunity to receive a bachelor’s degree in Auto Restoration Technology at McPherson College, which is recognized as the only program of its kind in the nation.
- A tech student in Missouri has a variety of industry programs to choose from at Ranken Technical College, including Fabrication and Welding, High Performance Racing Technology, and Electrical Automation Technology.
- A construction manager can complete a certificate program in as little as two semesters at the Technical College of the Low Country in Beaufort, SC.
3. You can specialize (and earn more)
There is a huge market for jobs with competitive pay that don’t require a bachelor’s degree—try 30 million of them, with an average annual salary of $55,000. You’re also more likely to get and stay employed in your actual field of study than your friends who spend more time in school to get that four-year degree.
Alternatives to college, such as vocational schools, combine hands-on training in the real world with academic rigor that you can use in a wide variety of industries, such as auto repair, transportation, construction, plumbing and many others. Tech college puts success in your hands and lets you make your own way.
You frequently will need training in specialized tech that a run-of-the-mill bachelor’s program simply won’t cover. Employers are desperate for workers with these skills in “last mile” industries, and will pay for them.
4. You’ve got job security
Where can you find a high-tech, lucrative career that is outsource-proof and always in demand? By now, you’ve guessed it—technical school. And there’s even data to prove it.
A survey of 100,000 students showed that those who had more exposure to career and technical education (CTE) were more likely to graduate from high school, attend a two-year college, get a job in their field, and earn higher wages.
And the demand is only expected to grow. Experts predict that nearly 76,000 auto mechanics (46,000 new positions, plus 30,000 to fill in the gaps as people retire) will need to be added to the workforce every year until 2026, if not beyond.
5. Your career begins today
The pressure may be intense to join your friends as they march off to traditional, four-year colleges. But if that just doesn’t feel like your style and you need an alternative to college, tech school may be a better way to go. You very well may get out of school more quickly, find a job sooner, and even earn more.
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