Top alternatives to college

You don’t need a four-year degree to carve out a successful career.

Top alternatives to college

Trade school and apprenticeships are great alternatives to college.

Going to college isn’t the right path for everyone. Still, you can find job training and forge a successful career without attending a traditional four-year university by pursuing one of a number of alternatives to college.

Of the 3.2 million youth ages 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2019, 66.2% were enrolled in colleges or universities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Here are eight things you can do after high school if you don’t want to study a for your bachelor’s degree.

1. Attend community college

If you want to get a secondary education but don’t want to shell out big bucks for a bachelor’s degree, consider getting an associate’s degree from a local community college. These programs usually take only two years, and associate’s degree jobs can fetch six-figure salaries. Air traffic controllers, for instance, require only an associate’s degree and training from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy, and they earn a median wage of $124,540 per year, according to the BLS.

2. Go to a trade school

Not interested in becoming a part of the suit-and-tie crowd? Blue-collar jobs are great alternatives to college. Attend trade school to become an electrician, plumber, HVAC technician, transportation inspector, or other occupation. Most trade school programs can be completed in a less than a year, allowing you to get your career off the ground pretty quickly.

3. Get a fellowship or apprenticeship

Fellowships and apprenticeships let you get real-world experience in a trade while getting paid for your time. These programs can kick-start your career—or at least give you a taste of what it’s like to work a particular occupation. Two resources that are at your disposal are the U.S. Department of Labor’s, which compiles hundreds of apprenticeships nationwide for a range of professions, and, a database that lists more than 1,300 fellowships globally.

4. Join the military

According to, 180,000 young Americans enlist for active duty service each year.  Enlisting in the armed forces just requires having a high school diploma (or GED) and passing a physical examination. Moreover, there’s a wide range of career fields within the military, including lesser-known jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); finance; hospitality; and marketing within the five branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

5. Volunteer

Giving your time and energy to help others also helps you gain new skills and build a resume. And while you’re volunteering, you may very well discover that you possess hidden talents. There’s no shortage of volunteer job listings on Monster.

6. Take a gap year

Believe it or not, taking time off before entering the workforce can make you a more attractive job candidate by allowing you to gain valuable life experiences, travel the world, and experience other cultures. Proof: Research from the American Gap Association, a nonprofit organization researching the benefits of gap years, shows the majority of gap year participants found taking time off helped them acquire skills to be successful in their career, impacted their career decision, and ultimately helped them find a job.

7. Monetize a hobby

If you have a special talent, there’s nothing stopping you from turning your hobby into a full-time moneymaking job. This is a popular alternative to college for creative minds like writers, photographers, artists, and musicians. Depending on what your passion is, you may be able to start your own business.

8. Get a job

A number of occupations don’t require a college degree—many of these jobs pay rather well, especially considering that you don’t have to spend a dime on a college education. For example, you can start working as a physical trainer, loan officer, or insurance sales agent right after your graduate high school.

If that sounds like an alternative to college that you’re ready for, let’s get going. Need some help? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Go ahead and snag a great job without a degree under your belt.