Exploring Career Training Alternatives

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” Benjamin Franklin

The key to success is a good education. After high school, there are many options of obtaining continuing education and career training. Options include four-year degrees at a college or university, 2-year associate degrees, trade schools, apprenticeships and online professional certificates to name a few.

As you explore the various alternatives, ask yourself:

  • Which type of program fits best into your career goals?
  • Which fits best into your budget or is most cost effective?
  • Are your potential earnings substantially different when looking at one type of program versus another?
  • Which type of continuing education fits best into your lifestyle?

The differences between each type of secondary education program and the type of career fields they support are varied. For example, trade schools typically offer training in a particular subject, such as cosmetology, car repair, plumbing, and more. Some colleges may even accept transfer of trade certificate credits should you decide to pursue a 2-year or 4-year degree after completing trade school.

"By earning an associate's degree at a community college or trade school, many students can avoid accumulating a mountain of student loan debt," said Robin Schwartz, PHR, managing partner at MFG Jobs. "Standard programs may vary from one to two years, depending on the certification or degree being accredited. So, in half the time it takes to finish a four-year degree program, those pursuing the skilled trades can already be working in their industry and start becoming financially dependent. There are three specific types of associates degrees: Associate in Arts (AA), Associate in Science (AS) and Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS). An AAS degree is typically focused on a career field. Popular AAS degrees include: accounting, web design, nursing and paralegal.

A bachelor’s degree is a 4-year degree and students are required to take general education courses in areas such as English, psychology, history and mathematics in addition to career field specific courses. While this type of education can be expensive, there are alternatives available for students to get those general education credits under their belt at a lower cost. You will almost always need a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a master’s program for a career in law, medicine or teacher education.

Online career training programs offer high-quality, comprehensive career training and often have course programs mapped to National Certification exams. Students finish their courses with the information necessary to sit for a certification exam in their field, which may lead to more employment options.

Online options are especially appealing for military spouses all over the world, as they allow them to obtain career training even during frequent PCS moves. All that is required is an internet connection and device! The pursuit of career training certificates can also assist those who face frequent moves, as this training is often offered for careers that are “portable” – in that they can easily move with the certificate holder. For military spouses considering career training, please check into MyCAA benefits, as they may pay for most, if not all, of your training!

While the bachelor’s degree remains the standard for many professional careers, Northeastern’s Center of the Future of Higher Education & Talent Strategy recently conducted a national survey of HR leaders and found that, especially in a very tight market for talent, employers are more open to considering college alternatives. Educational qualifications are no longer set in stone, and companies are realizing that certain roles that required a bachelor’s degree could indeed be filled by persons with industry certification or experience in the field. Company managers and human resource professionals are adapting to this new way of thinking.

Competency-based or skills-based hiring is the result of employers realizing that many job roles may not actually require a college degree. This type of hiring process allows employers to consider a larger pool of potential candidates without degrees and is allowing many companies the opportunity to hire highly skilled, un-before considered talent for these positions.

Data from millions of LinkedIn users and job listings on that site show that many top companies are offering high-paying jobs where a four-year degree is not required. Laura Lorenzetti, editor at LinkedIn says, “The four-year degree isn’t gone altogether but we’re starting to see a shift in what these companies are looking for. There’s a growing emphasis on skills over school as they compete for top talent. People still see the four-year degree as a signaling factor, but companies are taking experience as seriously as a four-year college degree.”

While statistics show that those with a bachelor’s degree have high earning power, there are also well-paying careers that might only require a high school diploma along with some additional training.

Do your homework about the type of career training that will set you on the path to greater success!