Earning a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university isn’t the only way to launch a successful career, especially when considering the cost of tuition (see sidebar). 

 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 33 percent of adults 25 and older have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. If you’re a member of the 67 percent without a four-year degree, don’t worry. If a traditional four-year college isn’t the right path for you, check out these eight alternatives, according to careerbuilder.com:

Start a business.

 There are 27.9 million small business owners in the U.S. and the barriers to starting your own business have never been lower. A storefront with expensive rent, utilities and employees is no longer necessary to sell goods or provide a service. A computer and an internet connection are all you need to start a business from home.

Attend community college.

 Community college is emerging as not only a good value, but also a promising way to land a job. The programs offered are often a direct response to the needs of the current job market. In just two years, students can earn an associate degree or a certification as a veterinary technician, a dental hygienist, web designer or even a winemaker.

 Community college also affords you the option of transferring to a four-year college after receiving your associate degree.

Enroll in technical, vocational or trade school.

 Technical schools specialize in career-driven courses that teach skills that apply to specific careers, such as carpentry or electrical work. Unlike a four-year college, you aren’t required to take classes that aren’t related to your career focus. This option is great if you already have a career in mind and want to go directly into it.

 In addition, there is a growing demand for high-precision skills. Skilled trade workers are a disproportionately older population. As they begin to retire, there will be a large number of jobs to fill. Technical college will prepare you to take on those roles.

Try an apprenticeship.

 Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to learn a trade in an in-demand field. And unlike many internships, you get paid. Programs offer on-the-job training from experienced professionals. If you go this route, you’ll likely be working with your hands. The construction industry currently makes up two-thirds of apprenticeship programs in the U.S.

Join the military.

 There are many practical benefits to joining a branch of the military. In addition to a competitive salary, free health care and little-to-no living costs, the military will pay your tuition while in service. Soldiers have access to a variety of online learning options and there are satellite classrooms on many bases. Once your service is complete, you can also use the GI Bill to pay for part of your tuition. The military also offers retirement with benefits after 20 years of service.


 Volunteering isn’t just a way to support your community. It builds character and gives you access to experiences outside of a formal educational setting that will be useful when you enter the workforce.

Consider a gap year.

 If you don’t have to make a decision about your future right away, consider traveling and dedicating yourself to finding your passion. Making a career choice is a big decision. It doesn’t have to be rushed.

Annual 2019-2020 tuition for state colleges and universities

The following are estimated annual 2019-2020 tuition rates for some of Michigan’s popular four-year colleges and universities. These figures do not include housing or other fees. From high to low, they are:

Kettering $41,878

Lawrence Tech $35,020

U of M **$17,522

MSU $15,737

U of M *$15,558

Wayne State $14,175

Oakland University $13,916

Grand Valley SU $13,306

Western Michigan $13,047

Eastern Michigan $12,508

Central Michigan $12,510

Ferris State $12,419

Saginaw Valley SU $10,821

Baker College $10,052

Oakland Community $ 4,570

Mott Community $ 3,265

(** annual tuition for juniors and seniors; *annual tuition for freshmen and sophomores)

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