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  • Leslie Juvin-Acker

How far can I go without a college degree?

Don’t think a college degree is right for you?

I’ve been asked: How far can I go without a college degree?

As far as you want to go. The possibilities are endless!

Now, let’s get realistic.

To be honest, I don’t know very many professionally and financially successful people without college degrees. Not only do these people have degrees, they have years of progressive professional experience.

But, wait, Leslie: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and all sorts of other ridiculously wealthy and successful people don’t have degrees! Surely, I too, can have the same success.

Of course you can. Your possibilities are endless. But let’s take a few things into consideration:

1. These men and women didn’t necessarily need a piece of paper to start their companies. What they needed most was a unique idea and a determination to turn their vision into a reality with energy and a lot of work. They’re not ignorant or lazy; their mindsets are the same: focused, dedicated, and open to learning and making mistakes.

2. They may not have formal education, but these folks have spent hours upon hours of reading, working, learning from others, and making mistakes. If that doesn’t count as education and experience, then I don’t know what does.

3. They don’t hire idiots or lazy folks to work for them. They hire people with advanced degrees, folks with years upon years of specialized experience, who are hungry and motivated for success. Check out the job listings for Microsoft or Apple corporate, for example. You’ll be lucky to find a job posting for someone with just a high school degree. Even Bill Gates recommends young people to study computer sciences due to the lack of talent in the market.

Degrees may be worth a dime a dozen these days, but they’re still worth something especially if you’re passionate about what you do and have the desire to stick with it on the long term. I advise that college should first be for the love of learning, not for the love of money.

I’ll also throw in that I know a lot of college graduates who have done nothing with their education. They just got a degree because it’s what they believed would help them earn that “magic number” salary. These people didn’t work in college, get internships, volunteer with organizations related to their passions and degree, they just went to class thinking that was all to getting a great job and having a fulfilling career. Today, a degree doesn’t do that kind of service. You are required to show more than just a degree.

So, college isn’t for you. What are your alternatives?

Trade School There are affordable trade schools teaching culinary arts, medical services, building and construction, and all sorts of trades. Many of these schools cost a fraction of traditional college and many of the graduates earn the same as college graduates.

Apprenticeship Along with trade schools, there are apprenticeships for carpentry, design, art, and so forth. Learning from a master in your industry is a great way to get experience, learn time tested methods, experience new trends as they are happening to your industry. Apprenticeships often go over looked.

Start your own business or sell your ideas Do you have a skill or idea you think you could develop, market, and sell? Why not start your own business? Be sure to understand that there is often a lot of money, time, and effort involved in having a business. I have a few friends who own successful start ups and they work – at minimum 60 hours per week.

Licenses or Certifications There are plenty of certifications you can get to help you move up in the career world: data entry, home inspections, property appraisers, financial adviser, real estate agent, hair stylist and more.

The opportunities for professional growth and wealth are limitless. With that said, you may not be willing to invest in a college education, but I hope you’re willing to invest in yourself.  If you plan to develop your career, be prepared and ready to study and learn more. All successful people share the mindset of focus, determination, and openness to change. If you’ve got that, then you can go anywhere.


Leslie, Inc. offers solutions for finding happiness through one-on-one coaching, mindful leadership retreats, and digital products. If you’re ready to GET HAPPY, check out Leslie’s guide packs. For more tips on achieving your state of happiness, sign up for Leslie, Inc’s weekly newsletter.

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