Which brings up the question: Is a college education really necessary? Can you get a good job without it?
Although there are a lot of conflicting opinions, the answer is basically yes, you can get a good job without a college education. In fact for those in reentry, it might be better to look toward an apprenticeship, certificate program or other specialized training that will lead to a specific job.
High dropout rates, excessive debt
Going the college route, in fact, can be a gamble, with the chances of graduation not guaranteed. According to the Institute of Education Sciences of the National Center for Education Statistics, (part of the U.S. Department of Education), only 59% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their college education in 2006 had graduated by 2012.
And on top of that, 71% of those who did graduate from four-year colleges in 2012 carried student debt, according to the Project on Student Debt of the Oakland, Calif.-based Institute for College Access & Success. The average debt level for graduates was $29,400, a 25% increase over the amount of debt graduates carried in 2008.
To make matters worse, according to a 2014 Accenture college graduate employment survey, 41% of recent college graduates are earning $25,000 or less.
Although even with a degree many recent college grads can’t find work, the unemployment situation may ease a bit, if job creation forecasts are any indication.
Job creation forecasts show hope
In “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020,” a study released by the Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, the U.S. economy will grow to 165 million jobs by 2020. This is a nearly 18% increase over the number in 2012.
During this time period there will be 55 million job openings as a result of baby boomers retiring and the creation of new positions.
Of the upcoming job openings:
36% will not require any education beyond high school
35% will require at least a bachelor’s degree
30% will require an associate’s degree or some college
If the total number of jobs are broken down by occupation, these are the ones in which workers are least likely to need a college degree. The numbers are the percentages of the total number of jobs that only will require a high school diploma or less.
- Health care support: 42%
- Transportation and utilities services: 45%
- Manufacturing 47%
- Leisure and hospitality: 50%
- Food and personal services: 57%
- Construction: 63%
- Natural resources: 66%
- Blue collar trades: 66%
No college degree required for these good jobs
Among some of the specific jobs that only require a high school diploma – according to analysis by Careerbuilder.com that was included in an August Forbes.com website article – are:
- Transportation, storage and distributions managers. Median hourly pay: $39.27
- Gaming managers. Median hourly pay: $31.99
- Real estate broker. Median hourly pay: $29.48
- Construction and extraction worker supervisor. Median hourly pay: $29.20
- Legal support workers. Median hourly pay: $26.97
- Postal service mail carriers. Median hourly pay: $26.75
Although these jobs don’t formally require more than a high school diploma, some jobs do require on-the-job training or participation in an apprenticeship program. The advantage is that the training is a part of paid employment, unlike a college or even a community college education. And the effort will often result in steady, well paying jobs that, for the most part, are expected to remain in demand.
Visit your nearest American Job Center to find out more about the training and apprenticeship programs your area.