Why You Don't Need a College Degree to Succeed
Most people think that a college education is crucial for success in today's working world. However, many people also lament the outrageous cost of tuition these days. In fact, over the past several decades, tuition rates have increased at about twice the general inflation rate. (See also: 12 Business Founders Who Succeeded Without a College Degree)
Could there be a way to get started — and succeed — in the real world without a college degree? Can you live large without budgeting for college?
The fact is, there are tons of jobs available that don't require a degree. A high school diploma is all you really need to get started in the working world.
No Degree Required
As part of my research for this post, I did a broad search on CareerBuilder for jobs that only required a high school diploma. Guess how many jobs I found?
Over 100,000. That's a significant amount.
Now, let me guess what you're probably thinking. "Most of these are just sales jobs or entry-level jobs. I don't want to do those jobs forever! I can't get ahead in those types of roles!"
I'll address the issue with entry-level jobs later. But first, let's talk about sales jobs.
Learning how to sell is a valuable skill. We're always selling in some way, shape, or form. In fact, nothing happens in business until a sale is made.
We sell ourselves when we're trying to convince a potential employer to hire us. We sell our ideas when we want our colleagues to take a particular course of action. And we sell our products and services so that we have enough revenue to pay our employees' salaries.
So it literally pays to learn how to sell. And it doesn't need to be a sleazy profession. Selling can be done ethically.
Now, on to the second issue — moving up from an entry level job.
Career Development Via Tuition Reimbursement
If you think you'll be confined to an entry-level position for the rest of your career, think again. You can gain new skills and further your education after you first get your foot in the door. Better yet, you can do this essentially without any money coming out of your pocket.
As a benefit provided to full-time employees, many companies offer tuition reimbursement. This benefit covers educational programs that provide vocational skill development. Why would they do this?
To gain a more effective workforce. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to the company. And as an added benefit, they also get a tax deduction for this.
Currently you can claim reimbursement for $5,250 worth of courses per year, every year. This, like a 401k matching contribution, is like free money that's too good to pass up.
Drilling down on the previous CareerBuilder search, I entered the keyword, "tuition reimbursement." More than 12,000 job openings showed up.
So what courses should you take?
There are many options, and you can certainly take courses that apply to your current position or likely career path. But I'm going to recommend a somewhat non-traditional class — Dale Carnegie Course: Effective Communications & Human Relations/Skills For Success.
Many successful people, including billionaire Warren Buffett, have taken and recommend this course. In fact, Mr. Buffett doesn't hang his diplomas from University of Nebraska or Columbia Business School on his office wall. He does, however, keep his Dale Carnegie diploma proudly displayed. "It changed my life," he said.
If this course made such a huge difference in the life of one of the world's wealthiest men, what could it do for you and I?
You can usually get this course reimbursed if you take it as part of a certificate program. I'm currently completing the program in Organizational Leadership [PDF].
Skills That You DO Need
I'm not saying that a formal degree isn't required in all cases. Obviously, if you want to enter a specialized profession, such as medicine or law, you'll need the formal training and education.
Many other career paths, however, are not as stringent in their education requirements.
If you have the drive, the focus, the commitment, and the self-motivation, you can succeed in the working world without a college degree.
Have you found success in the working world without a college degree? What worked for you?
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