making a living, college education, alternative to college

I’m Not College Material: How Do I make a Living Without a Degree?

Obtaining a college education is often seen as the only way to succeed and develop financial security in the future. However, if you’re a young person who is having doubts about college or believe you are not college material, then it’s important to know that you do have other options. While college is definitely one pathway to success, it’s not the only one. In fact, college might not even be the right fit for you and your life goals.

Going to college or not going to college will be a huge decision that you need to make. If you are leaning more towards avoiding college and finding a different path in life, then discovering your other options will be of benefit.

Alternative to College for Young People

Less than 50% of students that begin college education will actually finish their degrees. If you don’t feel that the commitment to college is for you, then it makes sense that you would avoid the debt and stress of college education.

Learning a Trade Through Apprenticeship or a Vocational School

Trades are one of the most effective ways of making a living without a college degree. Construction professionals, HVAC technicians, and even medical encoders can all earn sizeable incomes without a college degree. It’s still necessary to get some formal training for these types of careers, but the time commitment is much less than college, and it will be much more affordable.

Some of the best trades for making a living include:

  • Avionics Technician
  • Construction Manager
  • Electrician
  • Commercial Driver
  • HVAC Technician
  • Welder
  • Medical Technologist (Radiology, Respiratory etc.)


Training for roles like these can often be completed in one to two years, leaving you with a viable alternative to college that is just a fraction of the price.

Start an Entry Level Job and Build a Career

Businesses prefer to promote from within their own organizations, which is why starting an entry-level job may be a better route than attending college for three or four years. By starting in an entry level position you can be making a living while developing the essential skills and knowledge that will help you to climb the ranks and forge a career that you can be proud of. Sales positions and helpdesk staff (call center) positions are popular for non-degree holders looking to begin a career.

Start a Business

Entrepreneurship is another viable alternative to college, but it’s not for everyone. You will need a sound business idea, some money to get your business off the ground, and you will need a basic understanding of business finances, management, marketing, and sales. If you have a great idea, then working with a business mentor can be beneficial. You can find local business mentors by joining a business forum or simply by reaching out to local small business owners.

A college education can definitely help in some specific industries but obtaining a degree should not be seen as the only way to get started in a successful career. Know that you have options and don’t be afraid to find an alternate route to the career and lifestyle that you want to live.