Why You Don’t Need a College Degree to Succeed

Why You Don’t Need a College Degree to Succeed

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July 30, 2019

Author: Deanna Quintana, NCCER Guest Contributor

Have you ever heard of the game “two truths and a lie?”

If you don’t know the rules, the concept of this game is to give you three scenarios and you must decipher which is the lie.

Let’s play.

1. The total amount of student loan debt was $1.47 trillion at the end of 2018.
2. A college degree guarantees a high-paying job.
3. An average starting salary for college graduates stands at $50,004.

Which is the lie?

The Two Truths

While you may wish the total amount of student loan debt didn’t exceed that of credit cards or auto loans, it does. This is a truth. In fact, one in five Americans carry student loan debt and the standard payment plan expects borrowers to pay it off in less than 10 years — but for many, it takes longer.

The preliminary average starting salary for the class of 2018 stood at $50,004. Another truth. According to NACE, this was 2% less than the previous year’s statistics for the class of 2017.

The Lie

The lie: A college degree guarantees a high-paying job.

While many degree programs do in fact pave the way to a six-figure career, getting a diploma does not mean you will earn six figures. When you see the amount of degree holders that remain underemployed and underpaid, it’s clear a degree isn’t a guarantee of a great career.

We aren’t here to say college degrees are useless or that you shouldn’t attend a four-year institution — just that they aren’t required to achieve success.

The issue with the equation ‘college = success’ is that a formal, academic education is not for everyone.

Other Paths to Success

Talent and marketable skills can get you hired.

Look at the construction industry. Careers in carpentry, electrical, ironwork or pipefitting require only a high school diploma to get started because skilled professionals in these crafts can learn on the job and through specialized craft training.

The construction industry is a great example of how you can climb the ladder without spending four years in an academic institution.

For example, let’s say you are a student in middle school thinking about what you want to be when you grow up. You’ve always loved to build things and construction seems like it would be the perfect fit.

Now that you have a career in mind, you go to high school and start taking basic construction classes. After four years, you know that college isn’t your next step.

So, what do you do? Apply for an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships offers training programs and on-the-job experience while earning a pay check. There are few industries that offer this type of earn while you learn opportunity.

Now that you’re an apprentice, there are endless possibilities. You can become a skilled craft professional, work your way up to site superintendent and even become the CEO of a company. You can do it all without a college degree.

Degree or not, in construction you won’t sacrifice a good salary.

Construction executives coordinate the building process. Of the 331,650 individuals who filled management positions in 2011, their positions earned a mean of $105,650 per year. In fact, many executives and managers have an earning potential of six-figures in the industry.

But even if managing others isn’t your passion, looking at the 2018 construction craft salary survey results reveals that craft professionals are earning base salaries between $50,000 to $92,000 per year.

It all comes down to skills, experience and credentials.

Learn More About Construction Careers

Build Your Future works to recruit the next generation of craft professionals. Utilize the career pathways map, read about other forms of higher education and earn your credentials.

Remember you don’t need a college degree to succeed. Start your career in construction today!