Getting a higher education gives you a chance to explore your interests, take advantage of resources provided by your institution, and become specialized in a specific field. It opens doors for networking, job opportunities, and higher wages. For many, however, it also means a path to a lifetime of debt. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public schools.
More and more, getting a four-year degree at a liberal arts college seems less worth it to young people entering an extremely competitive job market. On the other hand, specializing in popular fields, such as nursing or construction, is gaining popularity.
Costs for school in these trades can be significantly lower than traditional four-year college tuition:
The average tuition cost per semester for in-state, full-time nursing students is between $864 and $1,019. Out of state costs range from $2,627 to $3,168.
Public university in-state dental students pay about $5,700 to $34,800 per year, or $22,800-$139,200 for four years. Non-resident tuition runs around $11,000-$53,000 per year or $44,000-$212,000 to complete the program.
An auto mechanic certificate program typically costs between $5,000 and $20,000 and lasts six months to two years.
Other fields, like construction, don’t necessarily require a four-year degree, but does give applicants a leg up. Aspiring cost estimators should look into a bachelor’s degree in construction management or building science, as well as related work experience in accounting, finance, business, or economics.
Although on average these costs are lower than traditional school, they do not come without debt. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimated that the average educational debt was rising; in 2013 it was $162,113, up 6.9% from 2012.
In some ways, choosing to attend a specialized vocational school can increase job security, as many of these fields are in high and consistent demand. As the significance of a bachelor’s degree decreases, and prices for speciality schools stay comparatively low, considering a career in a speciality trade seems like a great idea.