Alternative Options for Non-College Bound Teens
In today's society, there are two truisms: You absolutely need some type of post-high school education to survive in today's work force, and not everybody is cut out for a traditional four-year college.
To get a feeling for the importance of any type of education beyond high school, look around. Many workers did well with a high school diploma for many years. Now, factories are closing down and businesses are cutting back on their work forces. The displaced workers are discovering that higher education means the difference between staying unemployed or snagging new jobs.
The Two-year Option
"A four-year school is not for everyone," says Erin Finn, dean of enrollment management at Harcum College. "A two-year school offers alternative opportunities."
Two-year colleges, technical schools and business schools will fit the needs of many students, yet these students often shy away from these alternatives. Some parents may make it clear that they have bigger goals and dreams for their children. Unfortunately, many parents see a bachelor's degree as the only appropriate start to a career.
Finn disagrees with this train of thought. "Certain careers simply do not need a bachelor's degree," she says. For example, a dental hygienist is a two-year degree.
Advances in technology have changed the scope of many traditional "vo-tech" classes, as well. Twenty years ago, a high school student wishing to be an auto mechanic went to vo-tech, graduated from high school with his skill and took a job at the local garage. Today, that high school student is getting an education at school, going off to work in a co-op program, and after graduation, he attends a technical college that provides a degree in auto mechanics. Today's cars are more sophisticated. Mechanics no longer tear an engine apart and put it back together. They must know about computer systems. The technological advancements of the automobile require the auto mechanic to further his education.
"Plus, an associate's degree is a great way to test the waters for a career, like the veterinary tech program," says Finn. "The student can get a good feel for a veterinary career and decide whether or not becoming a vet is the right career choice."
What are the options available to young people who either aren't ready for traditional college or have no desire to get a bachelor's degree?
For students who eventually want a bachelor's degree but want a more low-key atmosphere, junior college may be the place to look. The campuses are usually small, and classes are geared toward general education credits, which can often be transferred to a four-year college. Many junior colleges have the amenities of four-year colleges, such as sports, Greek life and an active student life.
Two-year, post-secondary educational institutions offer certificate programs (less than two years of work), professional technical programs (terminal associate degrees) and transfer programs (associate of arts and associate of sciences degrees), as described by the University of Toledo.
Vocational or trade schools provide the most career-intensive training, such as to become automotive mechanics, cosmetologists or electricians. Art school may be the most logical choice for a young person who desires a career in animation or graphic design. For an in-depth look at the types of schools and certifications offered, do your research online.
Finn is quick to remind her potential students that for some careers, certification is necessary. When looking at trade, vocational or two-year schools, students need to ask if their program requires certification in addition to a diploma to begin working in the field.
Online colleges are becoming more popular and might look like an ideal choice to a new high school graduate who wants to work full time while earning a degree. However, online classes take a lot of discipline – most of the work is without face-to-face contact with professors or classmates. Some online colleges have age and employment requirements, as they are looking for adult learners as opposed to the traditionally-aged college student.
In the current job market, a job that requires a two-year degree may be easier to find. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in health and technology fields are in the top 10 careers in demand. These are also lucrative jobs. An associate's degree in a technical field can command starting salaries of $35,000 or more. With hundreds, if not thousands, of options out there, high school students can pursue their dreams with the post-secondary education best fitted for their individual needs.