Career Options for High School Graduates

After high school, many alternative options appear, each leading in a different direction. This is an exciting and sometimes daunting moment in your life because your decisions will affect your professional life, financial stability, and even your choice of residence.

More recent high school grads are opting out of higher education than in the past. The percentage of 2019 high school graduates enrolling in college fell to 66.2% in 2022, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s significantly lower than the all-time high of 70.1% in 2009.

The number of students has decreased by 15 percent during the past decade. At the same time, the unemployment rate for teenagers (those aged 16 to 19) hit a 70-year low earlier this year at 9.2%. This has led to increased pay and a competitive labour market.

Arguments against attending university

Many factors contributing to the recent decline in college enrolment are discussed in a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. All of these things are worth considering if you’re a senior in high school trying to decide if college is the correct choice for you.

Non-college graduates are finding opportunities in the current job environment. With so many entry-level jobs available, many high school grads are skipping college altogether. After the COVID-19 epidemic, businesses like hospitality, construction, manufacturing, and warehousing saw a rise in demand for recent graduates. Find out why our job market is so strong and how you may benefit.

The cost of a college education is sky-high. The National Centre for Education Statistics reports that the out-of-pocket expense of a four-year degree at a public or private college has nearly tripled between 1979–80 and 2020–21 (when adjusted for inflation). College may seem unaffordable to some people, although many students get grants or government financial aid. That’s natural, given that the national average for student loans is $37 000.

A degree program isn’t a good fit for your hobbies or career ambitions. Many fulfilling professions don’t necessitate a four-year degree. While a four-year university education might not be necessary, vocational schools, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training might be. We compiled a list of 25 non-academic careers that pay at least $50,000 annually, including pipe welding, aviation mechanic, property management, and web development. You might find that more options are available if you don’t have a degree.

Do you need more time to decide if going to college is the best option? You might find the answers to the following questions helpful. If you need help weighing your options, talk to a guidance counsellor or an adult you trust.

Do you need a degree to get the job of your dreams? There are, of course, some careers that call for formal education beyond high school. Jobs in the nonprofit sector, academia, and other sectors are on the list. You can decide whether or not college is right for you by doing some preliminary study into the professions that interest you.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in academia? Even if they don’t know what degree they want to earn in the long run, some people appreciate the academic rigor and cerebral stimulation of being a student. While some people thrive in a traditional classroom setting, others find that gaining experience in various fields outside of school is more rewarding.

Is it feasible for you and your family to pay for college? The burden of student loan debt weighs heavily on the minds of many young people across the country. If a student is concerned about the cost, they can look into grants and loans or attend a cheaper institution for the first two years. Attending a trade school may be less expensive (keep reading to learn more about this option!).

Avenues that might make sense for you

If you’ve concluded that college isn’t for you right now, you may need guidance on where to go from here. The good news is that you have a lot of possibilities, but the bad news is that you could need help picking just one. Here are some alternative career options to consider when you put your high school cap in the air.

Start working, whether it’s a little bit or a lot.

As we’ve discussed, jobs are plentiful right now, but there need to be more qualified people to fill them. This is encouraging news for high school graduates considering previous further education to enter the workforce. Some sectors are even experiencing catastrophic shortages. For instance, due in part to aspirational goals to tackle climate change, the demand for electricians has seen a substantial spike that is expected to continue over the next ten years.

Launch an enterprise

Do we have any ambitious businesspeople here? It’s understandable to prioritize work on your business’s expansion and launch over an academic career if you’re desperate to get it off the ground. An education in business can be helpful, but it’s not required. Many successful businesspeople, including Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson, decided to forego higher education to build their companies.

Remember that excellent decision-making, persuasion, and money management are only specialized skills necessary for success as an entrepreneur.

Go to school online.

People interested in learning but have yet to desire to attend a traditional university might find many opportunities on the Internet. Free or low-cost online courses are a great way to learn the fundamentals of various disciplines, from graphic design and project management to leadership and programming.

You can begin with sites like MasterClass, Skillshare, and Hubspot, which offer hundreds of courses between them. Did you know some people create self-directed lesson plans using AI tools like ChatGPT?

Acquire the necessary skills through training.

You may succeed most at a vocational school or through an apprenticeship if you learn best in a hands-on setting.

Vocational schools (trade schools) offer a less expensive alternative to four-year universities by providing training in specific trades over two years or less. This route is recommended for those interested in jobs that require practical activity, such as welding, dental hygiene, drafting, and mechanical work. Many of these programs culminate in awarding certificates or an associate degree.

Another rewarding option is an apprenticeship. It’s a program that helps people acquire marketable skills while they earn a living. Apprenticeship programs can be found in many industries, including accounting and building.

Enter the Armed Forces

The military is a popular alternative to higher education because of the wide range of job options available in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Those who join the armed forces may be eligible for various perks, such as a yearly wage, medical care, specialized training, and accessible housing. The military may also cover your college expenses if you desire to further your education after serving.

Volunteer, go on a trip, take up a hobby

After finishing high school, many people prioritize self-improvement. If you are in a position to do so financially, now is an excellent moment to investigate potential job avenues. It is common practice in various cultures to take a year off between high school and college. Volunteering for a cause you care about is a great way to put your social conscience to good use. You gain experience and help an admirable cause simultaneously.

If you’re a high school senior, it’s time to start thinking about your future, and that means looking beyond the obvious or what your parents want for you. It would help if you spent time thinking about what motivates you, what you want out of life, and where you see yourself in the future. The truth is that going to college may be outside the cards. This is perfectly OK.