25 High-Paying College Alternatives

The focus of junior high and high school is often to get into college to secure a degree in a lucrative field. So often, in fact, that many schools won’t even disclose the alternatives to college — like a vocational career or the military. In reality, getting a degree through higher education isn’t always the best option for young adults, and they deserve to be informed of alternative paths.

College is an undoubtedly expensive route post-high school. In 2020, the student loan deficit reached 1.6 Trillion and rising. While some trade schools require certifications that have a cost, it’s still only a fraction of the cost of college tuition (not to mention its added expenses like books and housing.) On average, you can expect to pay $20,000-47,000 per year at a four-year institution. Alternatively, the total cost of vocational school is $33,000.

While tens of thousands still can be a daunting number to pay up front, it pales in comparison to a bachelor’s degree, and often with the same starting salary, if not higher. Consider applying for vocational scholarship opportunities or taking out a credit building loan to get your foot in the door. Alternatively consider the trade jobs don’t require an upfront investment. For these blue-collar careers, you can expect to only need an apprenticeship to get started. In these cases, you’re not paying the upfront investment, but you are trading your time for the skills needed without (typically) getting paid.

So what are the best careers that you can get right out of high school? These top-paying trade jobs have an average to higher-than-average projected growth rate — which means in ten years, you won’t be scrambling to find the next in-demand field of work. For the best return on your investment, consider the careers with the potential to earn up to $80,000 annually, and do a cost to benefit analysis to understand how much up front capital it will take, and how quickly you can expect to earn it back.

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