By – Stephanie LaFlora
There’s a huge debate happening right now over the negative impact that college has on students after graduation. The verdict is clear: college sends the majority of young Americans into huge debts that they struggle to pay. Despite the downsides, college seems hard to beat long term. But, if you do a little research, you’ll find there are people out there choosing alternative routes and they are winning.
So, here’s a few alternatives to college that cost less, and may pay off more…
Become a Software Engineer
I work in tech in Boulder, CO and I can tell you with absolute certainty that you can get a job without going to a traditional college if you can code. In fact, you could learn to code for free on Code Academy and make $70,000 in your first job if you’ve got the chops.
Four year colleges have caught up in the last decade or so and do offer computer programming degrees but you can save a ton of money and time if you attend a special coding boot camp. Bootcamps range from $10-$20K total and only take 12 months in average, though longer programs are available if you want to learn more skills before getting a job.
You can come out coding school making $70K or more, but in just a few years make well over $100K. The ROI on this is just too good to ignore. University simply doesn’t match up.
Start a Drop Shipping Business
As a marketer, I’m surrounded by data driven opportunity seekers and drop shipping has to be one of the most trending topics around the office. Retail e-commerce is a $220 billion dollar market in the U.S. alone and is growing by nearly 17% a year.
Wait, but what is drop shipping?
Drop shipping is when you run an online store (or e-commerce) where people purchase items on your site and then what they purchase is shipped by a supplier (not you) directly to the customer.
Drop shipping eliminates the need to manage order fulfillment (which blows), while you focus on the marketing (the fun part! — can you tell I’m biased about this?) and maintain relationships with vendors. In short, it takes the hardest part of running a commerce business out of your hands. There’s tons of success stories out there, including how Jenn Leach makes $10,000 a month on just 10 hours a week of work.
I’m actually beginning to look into this for my own passive income goals and I’m a bit obsessed with research so I thought I’d share some pretty rad stuff I’ve found so far.
Here’s a few things you can do to get started with drop shipping:
- Take shopfiy’s courses: Shopify wins when their drop shippers win. They’ve got a huge library of resources, including courses that will teach everything you need to know to get started with your own business.
- Consider buying a ready made or existing business: Don’t know what to sell for your e-commerce business? No big deal. In fact, that’s even better because you can make a data-driven decision based on what’s trending and already working. Shopify has a website that allows you to buy ready made dropship business’. You can view average monthly revenue, website traffic, and sales. You can even inherit social media followings and email lists with your purchase. It’s pretty sweet.
- Do keyword research on what’s trending: You can use fancy sites like SemRush to do keyword research on what’s trending. But you can also check out Google Trends for free. My recommendation: start with my favorite resource on this, Shopify. Their top trending products for 2019 is the best place to start.
Become a Dental Hygienist
The average dental hygienist makes $74K. To get the job, you’ll need an associate degree which is far cheaper than 4 year programs, and you’ll be done in half the time. As a hygienist, you’ll have a flexible schedule, job stability and plenty of advancement opportunities.
By now, you may have seen the Netflix documentary, Minimalism. It’s a look inside the lives of people who chose to reduce their living costs significantly by buying less, or living in tiny homes and mostly just being more selective about what they prioritize financially. This allows them to do amazing things like travel the world, spend more time with family, and follow their passions. I don’t think this lifestyle is for everyone, but I do think that it forces the questions: Do you need everything you have? And what would you want more than the stuff you work so hard to acquire?
But how does this pay off better than college?
Great question. In short, if your cost of living is a fraction of the average person, you don’t need to make as much money and can choose work based on desire and less on making a ton of money.
Teach English Abroad
I’m sure you’ve seen those teach English abroad jobs, and probably wondered about their legitimacy, but they are real jobs you can do and you already have the skill! There are tons of programs to choose from and you can travel the world doing it — what’s not to love about that? The highest paying teaching jobs are in the Middle East and Asia ranging from $2500 – $5000/mo. If you’d rather stay stateside, you can search for remote jobs instead and teach digital courses.
Launch a Virtual Assistant Business
As a virtual assistant, you’ll help with things like data entry, managing calendars and coordinating errands. To get started with your own business you’ll simply need a phone, computer and an internet connection. As your business grows, you can hire people to deal with the day to day, while you manage the marketing and operations. Not into starting a business? You can search tons of virtual assistant jobs online where pay is $57K. Not bad for no degree.
Start a Senior Home Care Business
There are 81.3 million Baby Boomers in this country. As they get older, many of them want to stay home rather than live in senior living facilities. In fact, research shows that 90% want to live independently. This is a major business opportunity. With some research and hard work, this could be the game changer you’ve been looking for.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope it stirs the pot and shifts your perspective towards new — and perhaps better — ideas. College is definitely worth it for some people, but if you’re going to study Philosophy, chances are you’d get better returns elsewhere.
I want to thank Stephanie LaFlora of the blog, Personal Finance in Your 20s for contributing a great article related to student debt and career alternatives.
Stephanie is a writer and marketer that is obsessed with personal finance and helping millennials save money. Stephanie’s blog, Personal Finance in Your 20s, shares totally doable money management how-to’s to help make adulting easy.