It's that time of year when the question on the minds of most High School Seniors is, "What's Next?" There's a lot of emphasis on four-year colleges and universities, but is that really the best fit for everyone?
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic challenged traditionally held notions of almost every aspect of our lives – work and education not least among them. As we grapple with the economic impact of the pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that young people are looking for options other than the standard four-year college route.
In a recent poll conducted by ECMC, a non-profit group that helps facilitate higher-education financing, they found that over 50% of high-schoolers are interested in options other than a typical college degree.
Is it Necessary?
According to the Indeed article, “Should You Go to College? 5 Reasons You Should (or Shouldn’t)," going to a four-year college does not guarantee success. In fact, there are many careers that do not require a degree at all. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) the challenges of the pandemic, young people have more viable options now for career-based training and/or education. As quoted in a recent CNBC article, James Rhyu, CEO of Stride Inc., notes: “We really believe that the skills necessary for much of the workforce is not going to be predicated on a four-year degree.” That same article also explains that “more large employers, including Apple, Bank of America, Google and IBM, have stopped requiring college degrees.” (here are more companies that no longer require college degrees)
For some, college is the best option. This will depend widely on your financial situation, the type of student you are and your potential future plans. According to Indeed.com, the best reasons to go to a four-year college are
your dream job requires a college degree,
you enjoy learning and academic life and
you will be able to pay off any loans soon after graduation.
Conversely, you should consider other options if you don’t like school, your dream job does not require a degree and/or you are only choosing this path to make someone else happy.
While a four-year degree may be the best option for some, it may not be for you. Take some time to consider your choices and carefully weigh what’s best for you:
Community Colleges & Online Learning – earning an Associate’s degree from a local community college can be an excellent, less-costly alternative to the typical four-year degree. Some careers only require a two-year degree. In addition, taking your core classes at a community college can save you money and give you time to determine if you are a good fit to transfer to a four-year college or university.
Earn a Certificate - professional certificates are becoming more widely accepted by employers as potential replacements for four-year degrees; not only that, they also offer career-ready education at a fraction of the cost of college. You can check your local Community College listings or explore offerings like Google’s certificate program. This option can also be particularly useful for those that are already working but looking to make a career change!
Apprenticeships – the practice of apprenticing has been in use for centuries, particularly for skilled trades in European nations. Thankfully, it’s becoming a more widely used program in the U.S. as well. The SC Technical College System’s Apprenticeship Carolina offers an excellent apprenticeship program in fields as varied as advanced manufacturing, energy and utilities, healthcare and information technology.
Software Engineering Training Programs – There are many Coding BootCamps available that offer a short-term option for breaking-in to a potentially lucrative career in software development, with the average boot-camp lasting about 12 weeks. Though there are more Boot Camps to choose from than ever before, they have the potential to be quite costly. The reward usually pays off though: there’s an average starting salary of $67,000 per year for the typical Coding Boot Camp graduate. For a FREE option, South Carolina’s Create Opportunity program offered through Midlands Technical College is a FREE six-month training program with guaranteed placement in a two-year paid apprenticeship at the completion of the program (applicants must pass a screening process).
The Final Verdict
Obviously, there are a lot of options out there and there’s no one-sized-fits-all approach. You’ll ultimately have to think about what solution is best for you. But whether you’re a soon-to-be high-school grad or a young professional looking to make a career change, there are a wealth of options available other than the typical four-year college degree!
Looking for more information?
Set up a virtual meeting with one of our certified Career Coaches through the Book a Learning Coach form or by calling 803-929-3400. After you submit, we will contact you to set an appointment. Our team provides help with interviewing skills, your résumé, interest/skills assessments, and more. Follow Richland Library on LinkedIn and subscribe to our YouTube channel for career development tips and tidbits.