Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Nov 6, 2012

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Despite the staggering prediction of 21.6 million American students attending higher education this year, a college degree is not always necessary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 25 percent of college graduates are in jobs that do not require a college degree. In fact, only seven out of the 30 fastest growing jobs in the U.S. require a bachelor’s degree.

The fastest growing occupations without college degrees, and therefore without the need for expensive and lengthy student loans, are typically in the medical or labor sectors. Some of the positions include glaziers, physical therapist assistants, diagnostic medical sonographers and plumbers.

One thing to consider when deciding on a college education is whether an increase in debt from student loans is really worth the payoff. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of pursuing a degree is the increased possibility of finding a job in this current economy. Unemployment rates among college graduates are significantly lower than those without a degree. According to the Bureau, unemployment among college students is 3.8 percent in contrast to the 8.4 percent seen among those with high school diplomas. For some, accepting student loans and debt will benefit them in the long run.

Erin Davis, director at McGraw-Hill Higher Education, said it is possible to build a stable career without paying for higher education and expensive student loans.

“By doing their research before making the decision on whether to pursue additional education beyond high school, students can be sure they’re deciding on a career path that reflects their own passions as well as their financial goals and limitations,” Davis said to Fox Business.

There are several options for high school graduates, beyond the highly paved road of college and universities. One option is to enroll in a trade school. Trade schools teach students condensed and focused skills in two years or less. Instead of teaching a general and balanced coursework, as many universities do, trade schools teach only what is necessary for the student. For example, an electrician could enroll in a trade school and within a predetermined time frame, find a job in his or her field. Instead of teaching the student about art history and economics, the trade school coursework would focus only on electrical topics. Due to the shorter training period, trade school students can leave with fewer student loans than regular students.

Another option is to earn certifications. There are multitudes of certifications offered online, at local colleges and in government programs, which do not add significantly to student loan debt. Davis said that certifications can be completed in less than one year and will usually have flexible learning schedules. Certifications also make a significant impact on future employment opportunities.

“They show an employer that you have the basic skills and knowledge to hit the ground running and perform well quickly, which in this economy where employers are still struggling to find qualified candidates with specific skills, that’s a huge advantage to have,” Davis said to Fox Business. “Certifications are a good way to give you the credentials that you need to start a career that you may not already have the qualifications for and also not having to make a four year commitment.”

A final type of non-college educations is old-fashioned experience. Internships or apprenticeships offer valuable hands-on training without having to add on more student loans. Sometimes, the experience is paid-training. These learning programs can range in length from several months to a few years. Internships are available for various fields such as writing, politics and fashion. Apprenticeships typically fall under labor or trade fields.

Even volunteering experience can improve a person’s chances in the work field.

“You’re also performing real work, even though it’s unpaid, but you’ll be able to offer valid explanations to future employers about how you overcame cultural differences and obstacles in other countries as well as in specific business situations although you are not in the traditional working world,” Davis said.