Although earning a college degree is important to students for numerous career plans, the presence of vocational education as a viable alternative should not be discounted.
The number of people pursuing college degrees has steadily been on the rise in recent years, while the number of those pursuing a vocational education during or after high school has greatly decreased. According to a June 17, 2010 Economist article, one-fifth of high school students received technical industry training specialization in 2005 compared to one-third in 1982. Meanwhile, the number of 17-year-olds aspiring to attend a four-year university in 2003 increased to 69 percent, twice the amount from 1981.
A college education is a valuable experience and can often lead graduates into satisfying jobs with good salaries, but a degree does not always guarantee better pay than a vocational education. According to an Aug. 9, 2012 DailyFinance article, 24 percent of men with an educational certificate make more money than those with bachelor’s degrees. Furthermore, 50 percent of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, according to a recent survey in the same article, all while the demand for skilled workers is on the rise, driving up wages. A college education does not seem to be an automatic ticket to a cushy job or, in fact, any job at all for recent graduates.
College students spend large amounts of money on their education, with the average student spending $20,986 a year for a four-year college, according to the same DailyFinance article. On the other hand, students pursuing a trade school or community college education spend on average $8,451 a year for two years instead of four for a bachelor’s degree. The average student pursuing a vocational education racks up far less debt and is able to start working and making money in a chosen field sooner than college students.
Another thing to consider is students who make it to college do not always leave with degrees in hand. In society, vocational education is often looked down upon as something only for “working class” kids to consider, a path some say wastes the potential of bright young minds.
However, not every person has the funds or desire to pursue a white-collar office job. Perhaps the rate of college dropouts could decrease if there were less pressure on kids and young adults to only aspire for college instead of vocational education. There are 46 percent of American college students who fail to graduate within six years, according to a Jan. 24 Huffington Post article mentioning a report called The American Dream 2.0. Students often cannot afford the expenses, and others are not motivated to complete their degrees in the first place.
If students are unsure college degrees will allow them to achieve success, they should stop and consider other options. Vocational education can be just as good of a choice as college for students and can offer added benefits of more job opportunities and fewer educational expenses.