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August 14, 2010


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I'd think that for most people the cost of four years of college would be a lot more than $20K in debt. Maybe you'd be ahead even more money.

That being said we have every intention of sending our child to college. We'll even support the attainment of a graduate degree, depending on circumstances.

I'm not sure I'd consider 37.5k a great paying job, much less a high paying one. I guess it depends on the age, marital/family status of the indvidual. Not to mention that benefits are most likely not provided. Additionally the majority of them are not available to just out of high school graduates.

Even the highest one might be consider good paying jobs at best,eg the ones over 60.

Having picked my nits, I don't disagree with the premise that if one can get a 40-50k job out of high school, one might be better off financially than some college grads. And if finances are all that matter maybe a better call. Then again, where is the job/wage growth potential?

Now if you want to talk about a skilled trades job, now you're talking. Even those though, require 4 or more years of an apprenticeship program.

the whole blue collar mentality of get out of school, get a job and stick to it forever is changing. statistics show that in the percentage of college graduates today vs. historically. so while these kinds of discussions may have received more attention from the baby boomers in the past (hence from their experience), it receives much less attention today with the younger generation. college doesn't necessarily have to be expensive. there are several ways to trim down the tab much like you have written in the past. there are more colleges and online degree programs today that are supporting the demand and growth. sure, you make a point that following the path above has its advantages, but how does on battle 1) employer perception (when the resume is viewed) and 2) the competition?

It is worth noting a few things-
1) this is salary for people 6-8 years into their career, not right out of High School.
2) Most of these are going to require some sort of apprenticeship/trade school options, so while it is certainly a lot cheaper career path than say, high quality private school, it wouldn't be free.
3) The other question is about selection bias-this is what the most skilled, luckiest high school graduates make. We're talking about pretty specialized positions, with high entry barriers. Think about the private investigator: I quote "Private detectives or investigators might testify at hearings, analyze data, search databases, or question suspects. Knowledge of psychology and the law, critical-thinking skills, and the ability to listen and read body language are also useful." That sounds like some amount of college training (or previous police work, which usually requires a college degree) would be pretty essential. And we're still talking about salaries that basically everyone with a good engineering degree will make soon after college.

I've looked into becoming an air traffic controller and I can tell you for sure that you won't be making $60k right away. You start at around $33k or so, plus extra amounts depending on where you are based. That being said, it can definitely be a good paying job once you are in it for a while.

They are telling college students that you will have 7 careers in your life time.

Humm. I have been doing one for 26 years and if I look at my college years jobs as careers then I have had 3 different jobs. So I guess I need to get my butt fired so I can get a totally different career because I have 20 years left to do those other 4 they are telling me about before I retire at 68.

You know I just want to be average like everyone else.

I guess that's why Homer Simpson is doing good for himself and his family

I think the 7 different careers is an indication of future job security. I think what they meant to say is 7 different employers. I'm 30 and just starting my career path and am lucky to have had the same employer since graduating college. Most of my friends have already gone through their 7.

#4 I could be wrong but I really don't think its too likely you'll waltz into a $80k job in a nuclear reactor without a degree nowadays.

I kinda wonder about the "Photographer" one. It's a super-saturated field, like graphic designer, and there are more photographers than there are jobs. Likely, most freelance photographers are NOT earning that sort of money at all. I don't even see how the median is that high, when there are so many photographers and not enough jobs. The data seems off to me for that one.

MasterPo sure hopes being a "Nucelar Power Reactor Operator" requires a 4-year degree! :-O

"Avoid the four-year sacrifice that most people put into getting their college degree. Instead, get a job out of high school and earn money for those four years. At $20k per year, you're ahead of the game by $80k when the college student graduates."

FMF - You're just flat wrong on that.

Looking over the working life span of the average American, someone with a 4-year degree universally has a life time income more than a non-degreed person. A lot of caveats to that but it's the rule.

Throughout history it has been shown time and time again those with a formal education do better overall than those without.

And considering the state of the economy and future prospects every advantage is needed.

ps- Just how many opportunities for a "nuclear reactor operator" do you think there are in the country?

Well FMF, no one seems to agree with you. But on the other hand.
A friend of mine (in their early 30's) gave up a $125k job with good growth potential to go back to a top tier law school. Probably cost 80k+ a year. Don't know about the need for debt. Went to law school full time. So I figure about 250k for school (rounding up) and a loss of 375k in salary. Total cost 625k.

Started at a medium firm. Don't know the salary, but assume 125K for conversation. Talk about not making financial cents! (pun intended).

Hope my friend always enjoys the lawyering.

In my area plumbers and electricians do quite well.

Some other options: plumber, electrician, auto mechanic. Probably more of a demand for those than some of the ones on the list! On the other hand, these jobs do require some amount of training and apprenticeship. That may not be the equivalent of college tuition, but that still needs to be taken into account.

Metropolitan opera chorus member - 100K+. Most of them are trained opera singers though with separate careers, and most probably have classical voice degrees. But hey, if you are good enough to pass the auditions and compete with a thousands or more singers who'd kill for the job... You'd probably have had spent a lot for voice lessons, though, even if you don't have a degree.

If you don't have talent, but have some physical strength you could try to be a stagehand in Carnegie Hall or the Lincoln Center, and earn over 200K. It'd probably lots of competitions to get there, and some years of experience.

Good luck with getting one of those 7 jobs!

Why not report the *average* salary of the high school grad without a college (or associates) degree?

MasterPo --

I said:

"Avoid the four-year sacrifice that most people put into getting their college degree. Instead, get a job out of high school and earn money for those four years. At $20k per year, you're ahead of the game by $80k when the college student graduates."

You said:

"FMF - You're just flat wrong on that."

No, I'm not. Whether you earn more with a college degree than without (which is what I advocated in the last paragraph, btw), it's a mathmatical fact that $20k per year times 4 years is $80k.

KH --

We've done that before. This is a different angle on the same issue.

"No, I'm not. Whether you earn more with a college degree than without (which is what I advocated in the last paragraph, btw), it's a mathmatical fact that $20k per year times 4 years is $80k."

This is true, but you have to subtract taxes and the money it takes to live during these 4 years. Sure, a college student need to live to, but a dorm room is usually cheaper, plus if you live on campus you may not need a car.

kitty --

Of course, any worker will need to do that -- including a college grad once he gets out and gets a job.

I can't agree more, especially because I'm a living example of it. I have worked at a major utility company in California for the past five years now, and I seriously recommend everyone to consider the skilled trades as a viable option. College is not the best option for everyone.

After passing basic aptitude exams, that any high school graduate that has successfully completed a physics and algebra class can pass, the company immediately put me through the training required to do the job. While training I received a good salary and benefits. Thanks be to God, I have been able take advantage of the provided training, and in short order have risen to a job the offers outstanding benefits and $100K+ salary. Interestingly enough I’m not an anomaly, many of my co-workers are “uneducated”, and the company has operated this way for over 100 years. In addition, my company offers tuition assistance of $5K+ a year for undergraduate studies and up to $50K for graduate studies. So now that I’m older and more mature, I can expand my opportunities at the company’s expense, ah I mean investment =).

Bottom line our country needs skilled labor, and companies are spending the money to attract and train to get it. We really need to consider what the college education investment is for (specific talent/motive) before handing over so much money, or chaining ourselves with so much debt just because we’ve been trained to believe that without a degree you won’t amount to anything. I know too many people that got a generic degree that are out of work, or don’t make anymore than the uneducated co-worker. Often, and worse in my mind, I talk to college students who no longer have any interest in what the set out to do, and only keep going because of parental expectation or they believe they would be branded a “loser” if they don’t have a degree.

I am a freelance photographer, I've been doing it for two years. I earn a decent salary for the country I live in (Chile). But I can tell you I didn't start out making a decent salary in the first year.

And though I did go to college, even if I hadn't gone to college, I spent 20k on equipment alone last year. Nobody can have a career in photography without a SIGNIFICANT investment in equipment. You also have to consider the other costs that photographers have that most non-self employed people do not -- insurance, for both gear and health, website maintenance, equipment maintenance, computers, etc.

Even though I don't use my college degree directly (I studied sports management) I'm definitely glad that I went to college. I wouldn't want to be running a business without the knowledge that I picked up along the way in school.

I don't get why these always become a one or the other discussion.College for the most part will pay off for most people. However, not eveybody is cut out for college. If you can make a decent living without going to college more power to you.I don't think that anyone here is going to start telling kids to drop out of Highschool so they can financial prosper, but for the people that higher learning is not cut out for there are options.

On another note I hope that air traffic controllers get some extensive form of training.It wouldn't be a good job to learn on the fly.


First, I think we need to eliminate the idea that some people are not "cut out" for college as if they "can't make the grade". I think the heart of the article is there are options, and blowing head long into college isn't always the wisest or best option. In light of that, I beleive we should do more counseling of our youth and consider first what are the motivations and returns each person should expect from there college investment.

Second, air traffic controllers are heavily trained and certified, more than any four year college graduate I might add. Their training is on an on going basis and required by the Federal and local governments, not to mention local authoritative agencies and committees. Each must undertake hundreds of hours each year for continuing education and maintenance of their cirtifications.


I didn't mean to imply that people can't make the grade. What I meant was that many people would rather go the hands on route to learning than the traditonal college education. I am one of those people that would rather learn practical or hands on than a class room/ lecture hall environment.

I see these lists of jobs that don't require a college degree and they are full with jobs/careers that require extensive and continous training.People think that just because someone doesn't have a degree that the job is easy. The main problem is the stigma that if you don't have a degree that someone is uneducated.Which couldn't be farther from the truth.

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