I have spent the majority of the last thirteen years working on a college education that I originally planned on obtaining. Nonetheless, I have learned many valuable realities about the higher education market along my journey. Many high school graduates and unemployed adults have had the same thoughts about their future as I did before starting this long and expensive process. I only wish I had known then what took me too many years to learn now. Before you invest the time, money and future debt into a college education consider the following lessons from my personal experiences.
When I started my college education, I was told that all I needed to do was earn my two-year degree and I would be set for life. Once I completed the degree, I assumed I could walk into Disney world or SeaWorld and wait for them to bid over me to become a manager within their parks. Was I ever wrong! In most cases, a college degree is not a golden ticket to the career of your dreams. This is particularly true in the theory based programs (business, psychology, art, music, etc). Having an Associate’s degree in business management carried no weight at all when I applied for everything from car dealerships to fast food management. Without the prior experience to accompany the degree, it was nothing more than paper decorating my living room wall. The reality is that your degree should be used as an accompaniment to your experience in the field to show your ability to learn and desire to invest in your career.
If you are looking for a decent job with great pay and high demand, you may not need a college degree in the traditional sense. Most of today’s highest demand careers are coming from the vocational college market. These are non-credit college level programs that prepare you for a specific job right out of school. You can learn to be a Licensed Practical Nurse in as little as nine months or a Certified Mechanic in a year or even a Truck Driver in just three weeks. With each of these programs, you can learn the skills employers need to do the job and be to work as soon as you finish the program. Many of these program are a fraction of the cost of a traditional college degree, use financial aid to pay for it and offer better pay and better job security than my MBA does at the moment.
There is one other logical way to become successful with your future career, dedication. Despite my very expensive and highly commendable achievements in earning my various degrees, they have yet to land me a secure career. The one comment I keep hearing over and again from failed interview attempts is the value of experience in the field. Here is the one secret I wish I had focused on when I was a teenager working at McDonalds so many years ago…You can be financially secured and live a great life early on by starting at the ground floor of a business, giving it your all and working your way to the top of that company. I know of five high school classmates who worked with me at McDonalds fifteen years ago. These five friends chose to stay in the company. Before they turned 25, each of them became Store Managers of their own locations. Now they are all earning more money I ever imagined possible from a first job business and are debt free. In the meanwhile, I sit here over $100,000 in debt and have nothing to show for it. So ask yourself, do you really need that college degree to be successful?