OPINION: Beyond the 9 to 5: what else the world has to offer

By Paige Wilson | March 19, 2024 1:30pm

Photo courtesy of Paige Wilson.

For as long as I can remember, people have always asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought I would need a college degree for every answer I supplied. I am still learning that more often than not, most jobs don’t need a college degree. 

High schools start encouraging students to go to college starting freshman year. My high school enrolled us in college prep classes, insisting that if we wanted to be successful we needed to have a college degree. Some of us might have listened to our teachers because, hey, what did we know then? On the other hand, some of us felt conflicted. We wanted to be successful, too, but either (a) we didn’t know what we wanted to do as a career, (b) school wasn’t built for our learning style, (c) working a corporate job wouldn’t bring us happiness or (d) we couldn’t afford it. What we didn’t know is that more than two-thirds of jobs are in occupations that don’t typically require a college degree. Some of them pay more than a job would if you had one. 

Yes, there can be benefits to going to college. You’re required to take general education classes to improve your knowledge, there is a wide range of subjects you can explore, you make lifelong friends, and after at least four years, you get a degree. However, only 46% of college graduates surveyed say they currently work in their field of study. 29% report working in a different field, while 16% of those under age 54 (and therefore not likely retired) say they are currently unemployed. A lot of questions relating to college stress me out: What if I didn’t pick the right major? What if I didn’t choose the right school? What if I just wasted all this money for no reason? 

An alternative to going to college is getting different certifications. Various organizations offer online certifications for every career path, and they are self-paced. For the people who don’t succeed in a classroom setting, online certifications are a way of getting additional training in one specific field without having to take all the required general education classes. Google’s certification program records that certificate graduates report a positive career outcome (e.g., new job, promotion or raise) within six months of completion. 

One of my mentors when I was younger didn’t have access to education of any kind growing up, and still, they are successful in what they do and are well educated. They gained experience from working with local businesses, earning approximately 60 national and three international certifications. This is just one example of how not having a college degree doesn’t need to slow you down in life. Some of the other options that don’t require a degree are becoming a real estate agent, finding internships, being an entrepreneur, building an audience, some remote jobs and more. We live in a generation where social media provides jobs not only for the influencers but for people working for/with them. 

In 2023, 55% of companies removed degree requirements, particularly for entry-level and mid-level roles, the survey shows. Employers said they dropped these requirements to create a more diverse workforce, increase the number of applicants for open positions and because there are other ways to gain skills. Companies know that gaining a college degree is time-consuming and expensive. 55% of companies are willing to train new employees that don’t have experience. 

Alongside these companies not requiring a college degree, there are numerous online or remote jobs. This is an option for those of us who want to travel the world while we're young. Waiting until retirement to travel can be nice for some. However, most would say they would rather travel in their prime. The experiences we have and the people we meet wouldn’t be the same if we were 65.

Another option that would give someone the flexibility to travel is by turing one of your hobbies into a career and owning a small business. There are 33.3 million small businesses across the country, employing more than 61.6 million people. One of the benefits of working for a small business is the community you'll meet and the connections you’ll make. 

As I’ve previously stated, college does have its benefits. However, it’s not the only option. I don’t think that high schools should stop encouraging college, but I think they should also bring light to the other options the world has to offer. Everyone is different, and what works for others may not work for you. There is a job for everyone — your job just might look different.

Paige Wilson is a freshman at the University of Portland. She can be reached at wilsonpa27@up.edu.

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