No College Degree? You Can Still Get a Great Job

A woman asking a man questions in a job interview in a casual office setting.

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These days, there are more and more opportunities for job seekers who didn't finish college.

There's a reason people are often encouraged to obtain a college degree, despite the huge expenses involved. Having a degree can open the door to more opportunities on the job front. That could mean higher pay and more financial security.

But these days, those without a college degree have more options for getting a great job -- and earning a respectable wage. More companies are offering apprenticeship programs to non-degree holders, including big names like Amazon, Google, and Salesforce.

Learning the ropes

Currently, many companies are grappling with labor shortages. In some industries -- notably, the tech field, which requires specialized skills -- those shortages have actually existed for years. Many companies are also recognizing the need to address inequities in their hiring practices. Apprenticeship programs could be one way to help solve both issues.

These programs are designed to offer on-the-job training to people who display an interest or talent in tech and other high-demand areas. IBM, for example, kicked off its apprenticeship program in 2017. By the end of 2021, it will have trained more than 1,000 participants and hired the majority of them.

IBM's average apprentice salary is roughly 50% higher than the average local income where a person is working, reports the company. And those who are hired through the apprenticeship program often see their pay increase once they're on board.

All told, up to 20% of IBM's jobs no longer require a four-year college degree. And while climbing the ranks may require more advanced schooling, that's something workers can pursue on their own time, once they're earning a high enough income to cover their education costs. Furthermore, some apprenticeship programs may help workers obtain a degree. At IBM, some training courses within the apprenticeship program are eligible for college credit.

Bank of America is also known as a company that will hire people without a college degree. Non-degree holders are eligible for entry-level positions and, in some cases, higher positions through an internal program called Pathways that offers on-the-job training. To date, Bank of America has hired 10,000 employees from low- and middle-income communities through the program, and it intends to hire 10,000 more by 2025.

Great news for workers without a college degree

If college were a more affordable prospect, perhaps more people would go. But given the way higher education costs have soared in recent years, a degree is just plain unattainable for many people.

The fact that more companies are opening the door to non-degree holders is a positive development in the labor force. Not only can those without a degree obtain interesting jobs that lead to career growth, but they also have the potential to start off earning a more generous wage. That can help those who are new to the workforce build savings and start out young adulthood on a financially solid note.

In the coming years, we could see even more apprenticeship programs introduced, and across more industries. That's reason enough for non-degree holders to be hopeful.

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