What If You’re Not University Material?

Most people think that to get a decent career a university degree is a must.  However, for those who drop out of school, or are languishing in a dead end, tedious, paper-pushing job it might not have been the best way to go, especially if they’re stuck with a huge student loan to repay.

University teaches critical thinking which is an important skill when employees need to adapt to a constantly changing environment.  But you don’t always need to have a Bachelor’s degree or better to survive and thrive in this economy.  Just be smart about the field you choose and the training you get.

Make sure you get some skills.  A job that requires only a short period of training will have a lot of competition for the positions, which will keep the pay low.  By contrast any job that requires a one-or two-year certificate or diploma together with extensive on-the-job training can pay considerably more.

Consider a college or technical institute

Both are typically less expensive than university, and a diploma or certificate can be obtained in just two years.  There are huge varieties of training and educational programs that are definitely worth checking into and the employment opportunities pay off quite quickly in higher earnings.

Online degree programs are another option that can save you money. When taking your courses online, you can save on tuition, transportation, and other university costs. You will have access to your coursework at all times, so you can set your own schedule.

It is also worth noting that many students are now earning advanced degrees like the MA in Strategic Communication and the MS in Nutrition Education online, giving you more options when looking to further your education.  When going for one of these degrees, you can continue working as you complete your online courses, since these programs are completely flexible, giving you an advance over your competition.

What about a trade?

TV’s construction expert, Mike Holmes, has often lamented the current lack of interest in specialized trades.  If you like hands-on work you can go through a combined education of apprenticeship and classes – earning as you learn.

In four years, as a journeyman, you can earn very good wages in a booming housing market or (especially) in the oil patch, for example.  With experience, those with an entrepreneurial bent can easily start their own lucrative businesses.

If you’re motivated you can go to night school (or try distance learning) and get a degree while working a full-time job.

Give some thought to the future prospects of the career you choose.  Any job that can be automated or outsourced overseas probably will be, whether the position is high paid or low.

A job is at risk if there is little actual skill involved, if the work is skilled but technical, and face-to-face contact with customers isn’t necessary.  (It surprises me that banks still employ a full complement of tellers more than twenty years after the introduction of the first ABM’s, and online and mobile banking.)

Go to www.hrsdc.gc.ca for the 10-year Canadian employment forecast for various occupations and industries.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. krantcents on October 4, 2011 at 8:43 am

    A secondary education is not enough! College, trade school or some additional training is necessary to succeed in this economy.

  2. PKamp3 on October 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

    In America, (I’m not sure if that preface is necessary) a degree seems to be looked on as the ‘gateway to the middle class’, a sort of certificate allowing you entry into decent paying jobs. As you point out, in the great stampede for everyone to get a degree, a huge number of alternative careers have a lack of interest.

    Like you mention, there are a huge number of service jobs that can’t be outsourced strictly because the skills are needed locally – like the trades you mention.

    Good post, and I hope people will take the advice to heart.

    • Boomer on October 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      @PKamp3: I think there are too many university students just passing time (and having good times) without really knowing where there major will lead, not to mention all the ones that drop out for various reasons.
      It would help if they had some sort of “career days” in high school with other options that can still lead to well-paying jobs.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. SE Book on October 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I myself was one of those people who couldn’t go to college not because my family couldn’t afford it but because they didn’t want to, and from that wasn’t able to get a loan due to the lack of having a FASFA form. You can’t get into college or apply for loans until the age of 13 without your parents financials declared. I have to admit it was tough at first but I got into a rock solid company that helped me grow and mature into my own business. So you don’t need a college degree but it can help!

    • Boomer on October 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      @SE Book: It’s more difficult now to get good on-the-job training. It seems like you worked hard to educate yourself. Good luck with your business.

  4. My University Money on October 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I for one always encourage my students to ignore most teachers who preach from the, “university or bust” model. I think the trades represent great options for not only males, but many females as well! University will always be there, no need to rush it.

    • Boomer on October 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm

      @My University Money: My parents really pushed me into going to university after high school, but at 16 I wasn’t really prepared to lock myself into a lifetime career.
      Sometimes it makes sense to take one, or several, years off to evaluate your options.

  5. MizLoo on October 5, 2011 at 7:03 am

    The book “Shop Class as Soulcraft” offers compelling anecdote on why, even if university IS for you, a trade or apprenticeship may better serve you. Memorable quote paraphrased “Do not study/train for a job that can be done at the end of a wire.”

  6. christine on October 14, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Education/University degree seems to be very important for everyone and that includes me. But after reading the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” I somehow understand the value of perseverance and how we can change ourselves even without a degree.

Leave a Comment

Join More Than 10,000 Subscribers!

Sign up now and get our free e-Book- Financial Management by the Decade - plus new financial tips and money stories delivered to your inbox every week.