How to Know If Your Child Should Go to College

Many parents expect their kids to attend college and assume they will be more successful as a result. But is college right for all students? Higher education certainly offers a number of benefits, including the possibility of a higher-paying job. In today’s world, however, college may not be the right path for all kids, especially if their career goals require a different kind of education such as a trade school or certification training. Today’s high school students have a number of good career options to consider.

Future Earnings

The statistics on education and earnings have consistently shown that those who “learn more, earn more.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that students who who earn a doctoral, professional, or master’s degree earn more than those with fewer years of formal education. And salaries often go up with each additional year of school. Of course, salaries ultimately will depend on the career choice the student makes.

But students who attend college and do not get a degree statistically earn less than those who earn an associate’s degree, which makes college an expensive mistake for those who drop out prior to earning their degree.

College Costs

Although the yearly income of college graduates is usually higher, the cost of their education is high as well, and many people struggle for years to pay their student loans. The average trade school costs approximately $33,000 vs. $127,000 for a four-year college. Students attending elite colleges will pay much more than that amount. As trade school advocates point out, their tuition tends to be significantly lower and many programs take only two years, meaning graduates have two more years of earnings than college grads.

Obviously, those who do not pursue any additional education after high school do not have to worry about education loans of any kind. However, they may find it more difficult to find a job that offers a sustainable wage.

Job Opportunities

Currently in the United States, unemployment is at a record low, which is helpful for those looking for a job. Those with specialized training have a good chance of snagging a well-paying job. Some fortunate graduates are able to get this training while still in high school. Vocational training, such as welding, drafting, and agriculture, can prepare students with interest in such careers without the need for a four-year degree.

Some high-paying jobs that do not require a college degree are:

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Radiation therapists
  • Elevator installers
  • Commercial pilots
  • Dental hygienists

All of the these positions pay approximately $70,000 per year or above. In fact, many trades, such as welding, are currently experiencing a shortage of workers. A skilled welder in some areas can earn a wage approaching $100,000. Even beginning welders earn around $15 an hour.

Career Education in High School

With so many employment options that involving various types of trainings, it’s important that kids think about their career interests in high school, prior to making a decision about college. While college is an appropriate path for many kids, it may not be right for everyone.

Make sure your child has access to career education in high school and has the opportunity to explore all areas of interest. If your local school doesn’t offer career readiness programs, consider other alternatives. K12 offers Destinations Career Academies and programs in several states that combine traditional high school with career education and exploration. These industry-relevant, career-focused courses, which vary by school, allow students to study subjects in career fields that interest them such as business, health science, manufacturing, information technology, and more. Once they know the type of career they want to pursue, they can make a more educated decision on whether to attend college and how to best plan for their future.

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