With the average student having $32,731 in college loan debt, many graduates are rethinking going to college.
It doesn’t help that inflation is on the rise while employment wages remain the same.
To many students, taking on large amounts of debt to go to college doesn’t seem worth it.
If you don’t want to go to college, you may be curious about what other alternatives there are.
Here are 10 alternatives to going to college.
I Don’t Want To Go To College (10 Alternatives)
1. Trade and Vocation School
Perhaps one of the best alternatives to college is going to a trade or vocational school instead.
While you will still take home some debt, it’s usually a smaller amount than you would accumulate if you were to go to college.
One of the best aspects of going to a trade school or vocational school is that you only learn about that specific trade.
There aren’t any electives that you need to take to fulfill a college degree.
In college, you often have to take classes outside of the career path that you have an interest in.
Colleges do this to ensure their students are well-rounded.
However, all it does is make a student have to pay for more classes and tack on more debt.
At a trade or vocational school, you only learn what you need to learn for your specific trade.
For example, if you want to be a mechanic, your trade school courses will only include everything you need to know about being a mechanic.
If you want to be a stylist, your vocational courses will only include everything you need to know about being a stylist.
You can fill your head with the things you need to know while avoiding extra debt.
Another great thing about trade and vocational schools is that there are plenty from which to choose.
Most trade schools have everything from law enforcement to animal health, so you’re sure to find something that matches your interests.
2. Paid Courses And Self-Instruction Courses
Thanks to the internet, there’s no shortage of online resources that you can use to get the education that you need.
Instead of going to college, you can look for courses where you can pay a small fee to learn what you need to know to land a job..
These sites use a professional with experience in their field.
They then teach you about the specifics of their job which allows you to go forward and start building your portfolio.
While some offer advice rather than actual instructions, you can also find courses that are similar to college courses.
For example, if you want to learn how to code, then you can learn for free at CodeAcademy.
There are other free services out there, too, which you can work through at your own pace.
This enables you to take on another job to help you pay the bills while you learn the trade that you really want to join.
The best thing about paid courses is that they’re usually far cheaper than courses at college, and since you’re able to work through them at your own pace, you’re also more likely to retain the information and provide high-quality services for your future clients.
While you may face some stiff competition from those who have a college degree, once you start building a portfolio for yourself, employers will care more about your experience than your lack of a degree.
Instead of going to college, you can pay for cheaper courses for the job you want.
3. Digital Traveling Employment
If the idea of traveling the world has always interested you, then the good news is you don’t need to go to college to do it.
Digital nomads are people who make a living while traveling to different countries.
Some are writers while others are photographers, journalists, and even teachers.
Many of these individuals end up creating their own niche and making decent money off of it.
There are a few benefits of working in a different country.
For example, many countries have lower costs of living than the United States.
This allows you to work less and earn more.
Other countries have started embracing digital nomads to encourage travel and industry in their countries.
Some even allow digital nomads to waive taxes in return for a few things like staying in the country for a certain amount of time.
Obviously, to make it in this type of market, you need to have a pretty strong set of particular skills, but you can hone those skills outside of college, too.
You can pay for courses or just start learning through experience.
Photography is one of the best careers for a digital nomad lifestyle.
You can easily spend weeks taking pictures of the various attractions of the city or area you’re staying in for a time.
Besides private sales, you can also sell your photography as NFTs, put them in galleries, or sell them to publishers who need photographs of the content you’re documenting.
Another digital nomad career is teaching.
A popular subject to teach while traveling is English.
While some schools and organizations prefer their teachers to have a degree, not all of them do.
You can even find small schools that might be willing to pay you to teach their students how to speak English.
If traveling is in your blood, then you can ditch college and create a lifestyle of being a digital nomad.
Back before college became the norm, many trades relied on apprenticeships.
Families would send their children to master crafters or tradesmen, who would then teach their students how to perform their jobs.
The children sometimes spent several years with their mentor before advancing and starting businesses of their own.
While apprenticeships aren’t as common today, they do still exist, and they also make a great alternative to college.
There are several fields that offer apprenticeships, including:
Some even consider farming to be a sort of apprenticeship.
For example, a child might learn from their mother and father how to take care of the farm.
Their parents can also teach them how to run the business and what they need to do to survive in a changing world.
In a traditional apprenticeship, there’s a master or mentor who has a lot of experience in the field.
The apprentice follows the mentor around and learns by watching and doing alongside them.
It’s basically like a longer version of job shadowing.
As the apprentice hones their skills, the mentor shows them the next tier of difficulty.
An apprentice isn’t deemed ready until the mentor says so.
It’s only when the mentor is sure that the apprentice has nothing else to learn that they graduate.
At this point, the apprentice might stay in the job and work alongside the mentor as an equal, or they might leave the position and start a business of their own elsewhere.
Some jobs might ask for you to pay an apprentice fee when first signing on.
In most cases, you have to apply and hope that the company will choose you as an apprentice.
It’s usually helpful to know the company since they’re more likely to choose you that way.
An apprenticeship is a great alternative to college since it usually teaches you everything you need to know about a job for free or for a small fee.
A popular choice for many people who don’t want to go to college is to join the military instead.
Although there’s always a risk if you’re deployed to an active combat area, you do also gain some skills by joining the military.
Life in the military isn’t all about shooting enemy targets.
Everyone gets a job.
Depending on your skills, interest, and aptitude, you may get assigned to mechanical work, clerical work, human resources, or even engineering.
In some cases, you can even earn college credit while serving in the military.
You also learn ideal skills that employers look for like leadership, discipline, and teamwork.
Depending on the type of career that interests you, you may be able to show the employer that you have the right skills and attitude for the job.
Since you’d be a military veteran by that point, they might also be more willing to hire you since you served the country.
If you find that you enjoy military life, then you can also always pursue it as a career.
There are plenty of jobs within the military that allows you to advance and earn more money and benefits.
Keep in mind that as a veteran, you’re also able to get a discount on your college education.
If you decide you want to go to college later, then having served in the military can make attending college more affordable.
If you’re not sure where you want to go or what you want to do, then you might consider joining the military.
It’s a great alternative to college since it can open up some doors and offer you a discount on college tuition if you decide to attend later in life.
6. Online Colleges
If you want some of the education that college offers but not the tuition fees, consider going to an online college.
There are several benefits of attending an online college.
One of them is that you’re usually able to learn at your own pace.
While you can expect deadlines and likely scheduled exam times, most of the learning is at your own pace.
This allows you to work at a job, take care of your family, or handle the rest of the problems that life throws at you while also getting an education.
It’s an ideal situation for someone who already has a lot on their plate.
Another benefit of an online college is that their tuition is usually cheaper than in-person colleges.
While tuition rates do vary from online college to online college, you can find some that offer all the courses you need at a lower rate.
This helps you save money and graduate college with less debt.
While some might scoff at an online college degree, at the end of the day, it’s the same kind of degree as someone who physically went to classes.
Employers won’t care as much about where you got your degree from and more about what you can offer their business.
Finally, online colleges are more convenient.
You can relax at home with minimal distractions and learn to your best ability.
7. Become An Entrepreneur
If you already have a business idea in mind, you may want to launch a career as an entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur is essentially someone that starts their own business.
They often work from the ground up to make their business succeed.
These are the individuals who throw fundraisers to invest in their business idea and spend hours perfecting it.
It does take some business knowledge to become a successful entrepreneur.
That said, you can get that information by taking online courses, listening to what other successful entrepreneurs have to say, and reading books about successful entrepreneurs.
Although no two businesses are the same, it’s worth learning what other entrepreneurs did and didn’t do.
You can emulate them to a degree to make your own business idea a success.
Thanks to the resources that the internet provides, it’s easier than ever to start your own business and make it thrive.
Automation has also made performing certain tasks within your business easier and cheaper.
Getting started as an entrepreneur usually means you need to get funding first.
You don’t need a college degree to be a master salesman, but it does help to take some marketing courses to help become a better salesman.
Then you can start releasing successful fundraisers to gain capital to start your business.
You can also take out a business loan rather than a loan for college.
If your business fails, then you can always claim bankruptcy.
With the vast number of resources available to you, becoming an entrepreneur without a college degree is easier than ever.
It’s a great alternative to college for those who want to get started making their business idea the next big thing.
8. Career Climbing
Going to college usually means you’re able to jump ahead a bit on the career ladder.
Since you received an education, you have certain skills that employees on the lower rungs of the ladder will take a few years to learn.
Because of that, employers will often hire new college graduates into positions that take others several years to achieve.
That being said, if you don’t mind waiting and putting in the work, you can always skip college and just go for the career that you want instead.
For example, if you know that you want a role that’s higher on the career ladder, then you’ll want to get hired into the company at its entry point.
Unless you happen to have skills that you developed elsewhere, in most cases, you’re only going to be able to get an entry-level position.
Then, over time and through hard work, you’ll get promoted by the company.
As you continue to develop your skills and prove to the company that you have their best interests at heart, you’ll eventually arrive at the position that you wanted in the first place.
Depending on how high that position is on the career ladder, getting there could take decades.
However, the benefit of working this way is that you become an expert on the company.
You know it inside and out.
You also don’t have to worry about carrying student loan debt with you.
All the money that you earn can go right into your pocket.
You’re also able to get at least a four-year head start over those who attend colleges since most degrees take four years to obtain.
If you don’t want to go to college, career climbing is another way that lets you get to work immediately and get the position that you desire.
Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to start your own small business at home.
You don’t even necessarily need to work in a position on the internet to make money.
You can make a business out of mowing lawns, doing landscaping, providing handyman services, or even babysitting.
Freelancing is essentially contractual work.
You and a client agree to certain terms.
Then you perform the service and receive payment.
You can freelance for almost any type of job that doesn’t require a license.
By investing in yourself locally, you can even grab clients from other businesses.
By focusing on your customers and delivering what they need consistently, your reputation can lead you to a successful freelance career.
Because you can freelance almost anything, you’re able to get started right away.
You don’t need a college degree.
Instead, most clients will either look for a portfolio, resume, or reviews to determine your quality.
By polishing those things, you can grow your business and find financial security.
A final alternative to college is to become a reseller.
There are tons of shops that give resellers a platform to sell their products.
While Etsy does cater to homemade products, you can also find tons of resellers on there as well.
One of the most popular items to resell is clothing.
You spend your time going to thrift stores and finding high-quality products at low prices.
Then you resell them at higher values and earn money.
You can do this for almost any type of product.
Whether it’s electronics, collectibles, or something else, buying low and selling high is a great career.
You can also buy pallets from Amazon of returned or rejected products.
As long as they’re not too damaged, you can sell those at higher prices and earn a profit, too.
You don’t need a college degree to make a career out of becoming a reseller.
You just need a bit of luck and a good eye for a bargain.
College is an expensive choice.
With some students not seeing the benefits of going to college, many are looking for an alternative.
These 10 alternatives to college above are a great way to get started with your career today and without debt.