Homeschool Graduation, Homeschooling High School

May 3, 2018

6 Alternatives to the Four-Year College Degree

We've all read the stories about the college graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt who is employed as a barista and barely making their minimum payments. It can make you question the cultural myth that everyone must go to college at 18 to have a shot at a good life.

Or perhaps, you have a child with no interest in spending four years and thousands of dollars doing something to which they are indifferent. Maybe we should step back and provide our young adults with unbiased, feasible options to college instead of merely lamenting it as a horrible decision. 

What options are available to the 18-year-old who isn't interested in attending a four-year college?

Start a Business

Could there be a better time to start a business than when you're 18 years old without a care, or a mortgage, in the world? I don't think so. Starting your own business takes creativity, skill, and risk. You quickly learn what does and doesn't work. It's also empowering to find you can make an income for yourself and not be dependent upon being employed by someone else.

At this time in your life, you are better able to afford the risks of starting a business and reap the long-term knowledge and skill it will provide. So if you have a great idea, why not give it a try? You never know where it might lead.

Get a Job

Not everyone wishes to own a business since it can be a stressful, tiring endeavor, but that isn't the only option available.

It is possible to get a job without a degree, and this may prove extremely beneficial. You have the opportunity to try different career paths and find what interests you.

Maybe you later decide you would like to attend college and work experience may prepare you to make a better choice about possible majors.

As homeschoolers, flexibility in your schedule allows you to find employment in positions not typically held by students confined to a high school schedule. Find an interesting job as a teenager and your positive relationship with an employer may lead a full-time position in the future.

Join the Military

This option isn't everyone's cup of tea, but for the right person, it's a wonderful opportunity. There are many benefits for serving in the military such as VA loans, tuition assistance, and hiring preferences after service.

I know of a homeschool family who has had two sons enlist in the military. One completed his service, is now attending college, and will be able to use GI Bill funding to finish his degree. The other is currently is in the intensive program to learn a foreign language which will be extremely beneficial to a career once he has fulfilled his time in the military.

To learn more and decide if this is a viable alternative, visit

What options are available to the 18-year-old who isn't interested in attending a four-year college?

Be a Volunteer

Another option is to volunteer, and I do not mean "volunteer tourism" which has come under fire but find local organizations that could use your help. A love of history is highly valued at museums, and botanical knowledge would be welcome at an arboretum.

Volunteering allows you to have a positive impact in an area meaningful to you, as well as provides the opportunity to learn new skills.

Volunteering can provide experiences and references to include in a resume, as well as possibly becoming paid employment.

Attend a Trade School

From medical to industrial, to construction jobs, many skilled trades can provide an above average income with only a two-year degree. In 2017, the median income for a dental hygienist was over $74,000, and that of a radiographer was almost $50,000.

Many employment options do not require the time and cost of a four-year college degree. A two-year technical degree is a great alternative to consider for many positions in high demand.

Apprenticeship and Internships

Apprenticeships and internships may be the least understood alternatives to a four-year degree. Partly, because the meaning of both can be nebulous and used interchangeably, but an apprenticeship is often paid whereas an internship is ordinarily unpaid.

First, let's look at internships. These are often short-term and unpaid, which is a negative. However, you may be able to combine an internship with volunteering as I discussed earlier. Internships also have the potential to become paid positions if you take the work seriously and become a valued addition to the organization.

Apprenticeships are a different situation and in many ways a better option. Apprenticeships are paid positions which include training and education in a specialized field. The Department of Labor has a Registered Apprenticeship program to help place apprentices in needed areas. To learn more about the program and use their apprenticeship finder tool, visit the Department of Labor website.

In addition to the traditional apprenticeship described above, there is an entirely new way of building your skills through hand on training and education, Praxis. Have you never heard of it? Isaac Morehouse, a homeschool graduate, created Praxis to be an alternative to college debt and help launch you on your chosen career path.

During the program, you create a personal website and brand, a portfolio of projects, and a supportive network. It includes one-on-one coaching, a customizable curriculum, and a paid apprenticeship. The program costs $11,000, but the six-month apprentice position will earn you more than the tuition.

It unquestionably is for the innovative, creative, and daring person, but has the potential to set you on a fabulous career course without the debt and time investment of college.

Take Your Homeschool Creativity into the World

As homeschoolers, we've become accustomed to alternative methods of learning and acquiring knowledge, so we don't always accept a college degree as an automatic next step.

We should take our creativity and employ it to find alternatives to a four-year degree if our children desire a non-traditional path.

Is there anyone better than homeschoolers at finding every possible option in gaining a meaningful education? Take that creativity into the world and forge your path.


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Author Bethany Ishee

Author Bio

Bethany is the mom of six always-homeschooled children whose eclectic style of homeschooling draws upon Classical to Unschooling and everything in between. While homeschooling her children, teaching at a Project Based Co-op, and writing about learning outside of school, she still tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills. Your can find her thoughts on living without school at