Traditionally, high school students have been advised to obtain a degree at a four year college, then focus on a career or graduate school. Unfortunately, there are now many college graduates that cannot find work in their field of study, yet they are still burdened with massive student loan debt.
There are also many high school students who are pushed toward attending college to fulfill the dreams of their parents, but who cannot envision themselves sitting behind a desk for the rest of their lives. Skilled trades offer both financial security and fulfillment for those who like to work with both their hands and their minds, yet they are often viewed as less desirable than desk jobs or management positions.
Alternatives to four year college degrees
If a high school student is unsure of the career path that they would like to follow, there are options to attending a four year college immediately after graduating from high school. These options include:
- Community college.
These two year colleges are a less expensive option for those who plan to attend a four year college but who want to save money on their first two years of school or are uncertain of the field of study that they plan to pursue.
Most classes that focus on the chosen field of study don't begin until the third year of college, so general classes can be taken in a community college setting. If the student has a specific four year school to which they intend to transfer after two years, they should contact the school to be sure that they accept class credits from the community college.
Community colleges also offer technical training for skilled construction and service trades, but classes may be limited in both the number of different trades taught and by class sizes.
A high school graduate can apply for an apprenticeship at a local trade union or non-union contractors' association. An apprentice will usually earn while they learn, working during the day and taking classes at night, for a period of four or more years. When they graduate apprenticeship school, they will be licensed to perform as a journeyman in their chosen field. Apprentices are paid low wages at the beginning, but are usually guaranteed local journeyman wages when they graduate.
- Commercial trade schools
These private schools offer a fast track to proficiency in a chosen field. They specializes in skilled trades and a student can usually expect to complete a course of study in less than a year. Most trade schools have job placement programs to assist graduates in finding immediate employment after graduation.
One example of classes that are offered at trade schools, such as HVAC Technical Institute, is commercial hvac classes. Jobs in hvac (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) are in high demand, especially for service technicians, who are needed to perform repairs on hvac equipment in even the worst economic downturns.
Students should be encouraged to follow their dreams, even if their dreams don't follow those of their parents, their peers, or society at large.