alternatives to 4-year degree

Alternatives to the Traditional, Four-Year College

There is no doubt that there is value in a college degree. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reiterates the fact that college degree holders, generally speaking, earn more income than those without postsecondary education. There is also a much lower unemployment rate among college graduates. It’s no wonder why, right out of high school, so many students are pushed to go to college right away. The truth is, though, that a traditional college education is not always right for everyone. It’s important for students – high school grad and adult learners – to know that there are valued alternatives to college.

Many students believe that the only option in college or university is the four-year degree path. But a four-year college degree is not the only path one can take towards success. In fact, of the 30 jobs projected to grow the fastest in the next decade, only seven require a standard four-year degree. Many of the top thriving jobs today are in fields that only require an associate or certificate level education – such as some promising health care careers. Some positions just require on-the-job work experience.

If you wish to go to school and find success, but do not have the means (whether the time, or the finances) to commit to four years of college, don’t worry. You are not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, just 33 percent of adults aged 25 and up have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Know that there are other alternatives to college and a four-year degree. As a career-focused college with flexible programs, Goodwin College knows this first-hand. Below, we detail some four-year college alternatives that can bring you great success.

Trade, Technical, and Vocational Schools

Entering a technical school, vocational school, or becoming a tradesman can be a solid alternative to going to a four-year college— especially if you know what you want to do already, and you like working with your hands. These types of schools, unlike a traditional college, offer very career-specific courses for very specific career paths – you will not be required to take classes that aren’t related to your program at a vocational or trade school.

Vocational schools, synonymous with trade schools, are really for students with hyper-focused career goals, but need some level of postsecondary training before entering their field. These schools prioritize job preparation above all else, literally teaching students the skills of the trade. Technical schools are of the same variety, with very specialized career education. From each of these alternatives to college, you can walk away with a diploma or postsecondary certificate (rather than a college degree) and enter the workforce right away. That is their main benefit – providing students with a straightforward path into the workforce, and near guaranteeing them a job.

The programs at technical and trade schools, however, can be fairly limited. Generally, you will find programs in hands-on fields such as automotive training, HVAC training, computer technology, electrical work, plumbing, metal work, masonry, construction, lock smithing, and culinary arts. The good news is that there is a growing, domestic demand for high-precision skills in fields such as this. Right now, skilled trade works are largely an older and aging population. As these workers retire, more jobs are likely to open up for new hires. And there is usually room for growth. For example, becoming an electrician in trade school, and finding work at a local power company as a basic lineman, can grow into a $70,000 annual salary with enough hard work.

Career-Focused Certificate Programs

Similar to the above, there are postsecondary certificate programs offered at colleges that still place a strong focus on career education. Goodwin College is an example of a career-focused college in Connecticut. The difference is the curriculum approach. In a career-focused college certificate program, students gain a comprehensive education that combines career-focused classes with general studies, so that students can refine all the skills that employers desire today (including communication, ethics, and critical-thinking). Students in these programs also benefit from hands-on experience, in-field training, and a lifetime of career placement services after graduation.

If you are hesitant about committing to a four-year degree, but understand the value of a college education, career-focused certificate programs are a really positive alternative for you. These programs can provide you with essential industry-specific skills, and prepare you for certification in a given major – at Goodwin College, you can choose: Business Administration, CNC Machining, Environmental Studies, Manufacturing, Histology, Phlebotomy, Medical Assisting, as well as other in-demand fields. All of our certificate programs are flexible, with online and on-campus options available, as well as short in length. You can earn a college education in months, not years, at Goodwin College.

Two-Year Degree Programs

At Goodwin College and many other postsecondary institutions, you also have the alternative of earning an associate college degree. This option allows you to get a college degree without investing several years in school – most associate degree programs can be completed in just two years’ time. And, you can still reap the benefits: the BLS reports that associate degree holders sometimes earn up to $1,637 per week!

Associate degrees, like traditional bachelor’s degrees, are offered by accredited and reputable colleges across the U.S. You do not have to worry about sacrificing a quality education by lessening your time in school. Another important call-out is that many important careers do not require a bachelor’s degree – nurses, respiratory therapists, homeland security officers, and dental hygienists are just some examples of careers with an associate degree requirement only.

Associate degree programs at Goodwin College cover many in-demand fields, ranging from healthcare to manufacturing, to science and early childhood education. Some of the programs can be completed in flexible formats, such as part-time courses, and in as few as 16 to 20 months. You can learn more about our programs by clicking here.

Accelerated Degree Options

Another alternative to spending four years in college is an accelerated degree path. Accelerated degree programs are offered in some colleges, and allow students to complete their bachelor’s or associate degree in less than standard time. At Goodwin College, for example, standard academic semesters are offered in 15-week-formats. Our accelerated programs, however, operate on a 7.5-week semester, allowing students to complete their degrees and get into the workforce even faster than anticipated.

If cost is deterring you from getting a traditional college education, keep in mind that there are resources you can use to alleviate the cost. And, some colleges simply cost less than your traditional liberal arts school. Be sure to do your research. Goodwin College, for example, has one of the lowest tuition costs among private, nonprofit colleges in the state of Connecticut – add this to financial aid opportunities, and the fact that we offer a fixed tuition model, and you can expect little to no out of pocket expense.

As you consider your future, the value of a college degree, and today’s alternatives to the traditional college experience, it is much easier to say “yes” to postsecondary education. However, keep in mind there are other alternatives to college if education is not the path for you. Getting a job out of high school, landing a fellowship, traveling, or enlisting in the military are other popular options.

If you’d like to learn more about the flexible degree and certificate options at Goodwin College, or the costs of our career-focused programs, please do not hesitate to call 800-889-3282. No matter what age you are or where you are coming from, know that it is never too late to get a college education – even if it’s not right now.