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Try these 4 alternatives to a college degree

Most people think they need a college degree to get into a good career. Even though college is a great option for some, it's not for everyone. So if you're looking for a job that doesn't require a degree, there are a lot of options out there. Check out some of the alternatives to getting a degree, plus some of the jobs you can find without one.

What is a certification?

Certification is a credential you earn after taking and passing a class for a specialized subject. You can earn certifications in different fields like health care, technology, and different trades like construction or engineering. Having a certification shows future employers you have what it takes to fill a more advanced role, even without a four-year degree.

Benefits of trade school as an alternative to a college degree

Trade schools have tons of options for certification across different trade industries, including common trades like construction, manufacturing, and health care. You can also finish a certification program much faster than a degree program, which takes at least four years for a bachelor's.

Since you can finish trade school and get certified in a year or less, this career track makes an excellent alternative to a college degree. Another advantage of choosing a trade certification is tuition is usually cheaper. A lot of colleges have higher tuition rates than trade schools, so if you're looking to save some money, a certification course is worth looking at. Once you've received your certification, make sure you create a profile on CareerBuilder to that employers can find you.

Other alternatives to college degrees

Getting into a trade or vocation can also give you opportunities to join a worker or trade union, which also has special benefits for members. Take a look at some of the other alternatives to earning a college degree:

Certification programs

Certification programs are probably one of the most popular choices for people looking for something quicker than a degree program. These programs also take a lot less time to complete than a four-year degree, so if you're trying to find a job quickly, a 12-month certification course might be a perfect choice.


Another option is to do an internship. Internships are programs where you can gain real-world skills and experiences. These programs often model actual careers. An engineering intern, for example, will usually work alongside a supervising engineer, learning the skills and techniques of the profession. Some internships are even paid and can also lead to a job offer down the road.


Apprenticeships are similar to internships, where you learn what it's like to work in a specific job. Apprenticeships usually involve shadowing a professional, which is how you learn about the career. An electrician might take on an apprentice, and many labor trades have apprenticeships for new professionals. If you're interested in one of the trades, like plumbing, electrical engineering, or automotive mechanics, working as an apprentice might even be a requirement for advancing.

Highest-paying trade careers

Check out some of the highest-paying trade jobs you can get without a college degree:

Massage therapist

Massage therapists use touch therapy to help clients relieve pain or stress. Many massage therapists treat physical ailments like chronic pain and muscle issues and also discuss symptoms and possible modalities to promote healing and overall wellness. Massage therapy is also a vocational career you can get into with a certification. Average salary: $56,500

Vet technician

A vet technician takes care of animals who are recovering from surgeries or illnesses. They may also work in animal hospitals, private clinics, or research institutions. Vet techs typically work with licensed veterinarians and assist them with everything from routine tasks to emergency procedures. Several common tasks you might be responsible for in this career include monitoring animals' vital signs, taking X-rays, testing samples, and administering anesthesia. Average salary: $63,000


A chef preps and cooks meals in various settings, like restaurants, fast food companies, private institutions, or wherever food is served. A chef's responsibilities depend on where they work, but some of their common duties include buying ingredients, planning meals, prepping food, and creating menus. They also test recipes, create new recipes, cook full-course meals, and keep the work area clean and safe. Chefs might also manage entire kitchens, prepping and cooking processes, and restaurant wait staff. Average salary: $72,000

Dental hygienist

A dental hygienist cleans and cares for patients' teeth and oral health. They'll get patients situated in the exam room and check patients' teeth for diseases and cavities. They also teach clients how to care for their teeth. They also assist dentists in routine cleanings, where they'll help remove tartar and plaque from patients' teeth, apply sealants and fluorides, and take oral X-rays. Average salary: $72,000

If you're looking for a fast track to your career, vocational certifications are a great alternative to a college degree. Browse the resources in our Career Advice to find the best alternative options for you. Our Job Support Center is also regularly updated with thousands of jobs across a range of industries where you'll find the place your talents can thrive.

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