Jobs without degrees are on the rise.

College as we know it is about to disappear.

The mindset of most young people is still that college is the natural way to go. But it has started to change.

✅ 1. College in the US is getting unaffordable for many.

Total annual cost for college out-of-state could go up to $41.000.  The US student loan debt amounts to $1.7 trillion at the moment. This puts a big burden to most of us right at the start of our careers. The financial pressure of student loan payments can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Check these student loan statistics to get the full picture.

✅ 2. Pay is no longer the key driver.

People with college degrees will statistically earn more than people without degrees. But pay is no longer the key factor to determine one’s career choice. Factors like self fulfillment, personal impact, and contributing to a healthier environment are getting more important:

93% percent of high school students say that their decision to work in a company is primarily influenced by the company’s impact on the environment and society. 

The Covid experience has reinforced this trend, since people had more time for reflection. (Read our blog Why is our view on careers dramatically changing?)

Research shows that for students who choose to pursue an alternative course of study or career in vocational or trade fields, job prospects can be just as promising as those with college degrees..

✅ 3. Online-learning is growing immensely.

The amount of on-line training sites and programs is growing rapidly. This already started before Covid. It both applies to degree programs and other skills based programs. Online programs offer affordable alternatives.

✅ 4. Working from home is a strongly increasing trend.

There’s a rise of the “gig economy”. Again, this already started before Covid. Technology enables quite a variety of jobs to be done from home, often part time. And Covid has lead many companies to sustain homework longer term.

Time to revisit the college-bias at high school. 

Our high school system is about gathering new knowledge and skills, and quite a bit of it, in a relatively short amount of time. High school students are continuously tested on progress, and corrective actions are put in place to make sure sufficient progress is made each semester, each year. 

And the high school ecosystem offers many stimuli to take that step to college. There’s a perception, with parents, school counselors, and hence with teenagers that ‘college is the right way to go’. Also called the ‘Bandwagon Effect’. When so many people believe into something, you got a tendency to believe into it as well. 

It’s about time to revisit these assumptions, to jump the bandwagon. Let’s look at 2 alternatives in tech. How jobs without degrees are coming up.

Flatironschool. Nearly all job-seeking graduates across our programs begin fulfilling careers at leading companies like Google, Apple, Black Rock, and even NASA.

Flatiron School offers Tech programs and confirm that 86% of students landed jobs in tech in 2020. Tuition is low compared to college. As an example: a 15 weeks Software Engineering program would cost $ 16,900 (march 2022).

Check out some participants and their stories

The majority of job-seeking grads accepted offers within months of starting their job search, at an average starting salary of over $70,000.

Check reviews of Flatiron school at Another nice example of “how personal talents actually determine someone’s true value at work, not their college degrees.” 

Take a look at A third of their employees finished high school. That’s generally as high as education gets with Catalyte’s employees before they join the company. 

Catalyte works with severe selection criteria. But they aren’t looking at degrees someone has. They are not interested in their resume’s. They are only interested in what personal talents people bring.

People who join with an average annual salary of $ 25.000 typically see it close to quadruple in about 4-5 years time. 

Find a list of alternatives to Flatiron or Catalyte by

The importance of college degrees diminishes after you start working.

Having recruited tons of people in the past, I must admit that a college degree was often part of the success criteria I listed for a job. It’s a tangible and safe criterion to work with. 

But, proven track record is most vital in the recruiting process, and figuring out the role one played in establishing that record. 

It’s the experience, skill, knowledge and attitude someone possesses, someone has grown over time, that determine their value for the job. The importance of their educational background diminishes at the same speed as their experience grows.

Upskilling applies to all employees, independent of background.

A major trend with organizations today is to invest significantly in ‘upskilling’ their employees. It has become the number one priority for Learning & Development professionals. It is a nice way of saying that the skills needed for tomorrow don’t match the skills taught at school or college today. The ‘upskilling’ applies -interestingly- to employees of any educational backgrounds.

Life experience matters as much as work experience.

And you know what, it’s not only work experience that matters. It’s life experience at large that’s relevant.  High school students who played active roles at school, in the school’s paper or musical organization, actually gathered life experience that could be worth much more than top grades for everything.  They had a better chance to figure out what their personal talents and interests actually are. Parents who spend time raising their kids, collect valuable experience that could make them better coaches, managers or team members.

Catalyte replaces track record by a selection for personal talent. It’s an approach that is expected to grow in the future. 

The use of going to college

Jobs without degrees are on the rise, but some jobs will continue to require extensive academic learning. Think of the medical or legal professions as examples. 

And in general, we believe that going to college does offer a framework to deepen your analytical and problem solving skills.  College stretches and teaches you to think. But then again, it’s essential to land in jobs where you work with smart colleagues you can learn from, and at organizations that challenge your thinking, by how they work, what their strategies are, how you jointly work on finding better ways.

Point is that we will continue to need a mix of people with degrees, with tested intellectual qualities, versus people with proven hands-on skills who might catch up with the intellectual part later on. But it’s the way we get to the right balance, and the way we get to developing both, that we must revisit. We don’t need 75% of high school students to go to college. We can perfectly do with less, but better make sure that high school students choose the paths that fit best with them, not with the bandwagon.

College may offer a way to speed up the development of your intellectual horsepower. But it’s not the only way to get there.

Want to know more?

Check our blog Alternatives to 4-year college are attractive for a broader view on alternatives to college.

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