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So WHat are some alternatives to College?

While valuable, a collegiate education is not the only path made available for students after high school graduation. There are a variety of post-secondary opportunities that don’t require extensive schooling or the completion of an academic degree. These opportunities include work in retail, developing a marketable trade, hygiene services such as barbering, or even a career in the U.S. military.


In beginning the process of career development, it’s important that students engage in thoughtful and meaningful conversations with their parents and/or guardians regarding their future plans. Students should ultimately choose the course that is not only best for them financially, but also that reflects their interests and passions. A job is a temporary thing, but a career is long-term, and so it’s important to invest the effort into careful consideration.





While often the most obvious, careers in service can be an excellent start. Food and retail service jobs rarely require the completion of any lengthy schooling or training. They also typically provide consistent and reliable hours due to their constant demand, and many jobs have room for gradual promotion within the business over time. Service skills are also largely transferable, meaning they can be applied to other jobs in the industry as well as others. While the service industry may be limited in upward mobility, it is possible to reach a high paying job after years in the industry.


Examples of Service Jobs:

  • Food Service

  • Retail Service

  • Factory line worker

  • Bank telling

  • Hospitality

  • Travel/Transportation

    • (tour guide/agent/flight attendant)

  • Gym Workers

  • Substitute teaching



Working in the construction industry can also be a relatively easy career to transition into. In most cases, the highest level of education required is a high school diploma or its equivalent. Typically, all that’s required to enter the industry is experience, which is gained firsthand by working in the industry. This can be done via a formal apprenticeship or by just speaking to workers and employers that are already established. Construction workers can specialize and diversify their skills and talents over time, allowing them to market their abilities to their benefit. it’s not uncommon for construction workers to be knowledgeable in other fields such as welding or electrical work. Workers who have gained substantial insight from their experience often begin their own companies later in life, and there is usually plenty of available employment as a result.




Every mechanical system, no matter how perfect, requires maintenance. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technicians are a necessity in today’s modern world of buildings and machinery. To become a technician, students must enroll and complete an HVAC training program or apprenticeship, or they can be inducted to the industry by gaining firsthand experience alongside other workers. In taking the latter route, however, students should be aware that in order to market themselves to the fullest extent, HVAC technicians typically possess additional credentials that certify them to work with various chemical refrigerants/other substances. Gaining these certifications outside of a registered course/apprenticeship can be difficult, and so participating in a multi-year apprenticeship is recommended.



For students that find themselves able to make great first impressions and love talking to people, real estate can be a great opportunity. To become a real estate agent, students must take pre-licensing real estate classes in their state and sit for an examination to earn their license. A real estate agent works on commission, receiving a percentage of the properties they sell. 



Service careers such as barbering, make-up artistry (MUA), or nail technician work have the potential to be especially lucrative. These skills do require an active market and careful advertising to diversify one’s brand from other workers in similar services, but if done correctly these efforts can be well-rewarded. The various fields often retain their own specific requirements for entry, such as barber school or MUA courses/certification, but the single most important element which defines success in these fields is the quality of the worker’s own craft. Students seeking to enter these career fields must take the time to develop their skills in order to become competitive.





For students with a passion to be their own boss, there are many opportunities to be an entrepreneur by beginning your own business based on ideas or skills you may already have. For example, a nail artist who begins their own shop is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is definitely not an easy route as it requires a lot of hard work but it can be very rewarding to see your own ideas become reality. 



Emergency Services are an essential part of our society. Many emergency services only require a high school diploma or equivalent such as a G.E.D. Jobs such as Police Officer, Firefighter, or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) are well-paying jobs but carry a high risk of injury or death. Each service has its own academy and/or courses that you must take before joining the workforce. 




The United States Military is a multifaceted opportunity in which one can learn many different skills that are able to be carried to the job force once their military career is over. Joining the military is a simple process that begins with the student contacting the recruiter in their area. The military has opportunities to teach many skills from information technology to emergency medical services. While it is a well-paying opportunity with benefits and room to grow, joining the military can pose both an ethical dilemma and a risk to one’s life through injury or death. Joining the military is also a contracted commitment that one must be certain of before making. 




Alternatives to traditional 2/4 year colleges, trade schools are private or public institutions that allow students to gain the necessary certifications/licensing to enter specific professions. The courses offered at these institutions are typically shorter than the traditional 2-4yr academic degree, and can usually be completed for a fraction of the cost.


Some Nashville Area Trade Schools: 


  • Lincoln Tech

    • Welding 

    • Automotive technology

    • Relationships with CATERPILLAR

  • Remington College

    • Pharmacy Tech

    • Dental Assisting 

    • Medical Office Admin

    • Computer Tech

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