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Your Options After High School

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Almost 3 million young adults will graduate from high school this year. There are many options available to them. The most obvious options are the following:

  • Work
  • Attend a Vocational or Trade Program
  • Earn a 2-year Degree at a Community College
  • Attend a 4-year College or University
  • Enlist in the U.S. Military


While there are some high-paying jobs available with just a high school education, this is not the norm. Most available jobs will be found in the service industry. According to the US Census Bureau, the average annual earnings for a worker with a high school diploma are $30,400 per year. These earnings may be higher or lower depending on your location and personal situation.

Attend a Vocational or Trade Program

The primary goal of vocational education is to prepare one for employment. Vocational education is typically provided by a local community college or an institute of technology. Vocational education is much more diverse now than in the past. You will find programs in retail, funeral services, information technology, and tourism, to name a few. Some vocational programs prepare students for manufacturing jobs. There are also trade and industry programs, such as construction, mechanics and repair, precision production, and transportation and material moving. Vocational programs that prepare students for jobs in the services and information industries include health care and technology and communications. Vocational programs vary in length depending on the course of study.

Earn a 2-year Degree at a Community College

An associate degree is an academic degree awarded by community colleges, junior colleges, and business colleges. Your studies usually last two years or through the completion of 60 credit hours. There are two main types of Associate Degrees. The Associate Degree of Arts is a degree that focuses on individual studies, social sciences, or the humanities. The Associate Degree of Science focuses on studies in math, science or technology.

There are two types of associate degrees – transfer degrees and career or professional degrees. The transfer degree is the foundation of a bachelor’s degree. The student completes all of the general education requirements before transferring to a four year college or university. The career or professional degree is awarded as an Associate of Applied Science degree. The general education requirements are relaxed and the course work in their program is increased. This degree is for those who want to enter the work force right after graduating. Certificates can earned for specific studies. Most certificate programs can be completed in one year or less.

Many students choose to attend a 2-year college part time. This means your associate degree will take more than two years to complete. Sixty-one percent of community colleges students in the United States are enrolled part time. To accommodate all lifestyles, most community colleges offer courses during evenings, weekends, and online. Attending a community college is far less expensive than attending a 4-year college or university.

Those earning an associates degree have average annual earnings of $38,200, according to the US Census Bureau.

Attend a 4-year College or University

Bachelors’ degrees typically require four years of full-time study. Some programs (such as Engineering) can take five years. The most common undergraduate degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A., A.B.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S., B.Sc.). The Bachelor of Arts usually requires the majority of your courses to be in the arts – humanities, social sciences, music, or fine arts. The Bachelor of Science requires the majority of your courses to be in the sciences – life sciences, physical sciences, or mathematics. A bachelor’s degree is granted after earning 120-128 credits. Most universities will allow the transfer of up to 60 credits from a community college.

Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree must select a major. Students will complete a required number of courses within their major in order to graduate with a degree in that major. They may also have to complete a number of courses in related fields to satisfy other requirements. Students must also complete general education requirements. These requirements apply to all students attending the college, regardless of their major. Generally, these courses fall into the following categories: Communications, Mathematics, Physical and Life Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Those earning a bachelor’s degree have average annual earnings of $52,200, according to the US Census Bureau.

Enlist in the U.S. Military

The U.S. Military includes the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, along with their respective Reserve and National Guard formations.

The Army is the most powerful ground force in the entire world. The United States Army supports the interests of the United State and upholds the U.S. Constitution.

The Marine Corps is the smallest, most dynamic force in the military.It is also the only forward-deployed force with operations by air, land, and sea.

The Navy is the largest and most powerful naval force in the world. It is handles operations both on and under the sea, in the air, and on the ground, anywhere around the world.

The Air Force has the most sophisticated and advanced aircraft in the world. They have the best-trained pilots, ground crews, and support personnel. The Air Force ensures air superiority and support for missions undertaken by the U.S. Military.

The Coast Guard protects our coasts and waterways. The Coast Guard performs a variety of critical missions. These include Maritime Safety, Mobility and Security, National Defense, and the Protection of Natural Resources.

There are thousands of Military jobs available in 142 different career occupations. 88% of Military jobs have direct civilian counterparts. Along with the training received in the Military, there are additional educational opportunities available. These opportunities include Tuition Support Programs, Credit Programs, Military Colleges, Reserve Officer Training Corps, Service Academies, and Officer Candidate Schools.

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