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Because college can be the key to giving you options and ultimately the kind of life you want.

A college education can take you out of a minimum-wage job and into good-paying work you enjoy. It gives you choices.

Compared with folks who don't continue their education beyond high school, people who go to college:

  • Have a wider range of job possibilities and options,

  • Develop lifelong learning skills, and

  • Are in a better position to help their families and communities.

Even if you're not sure what your future holds, prepare as if you'll be going to college. What you learn will help you get the very most from life.

Tip: "College" means:

  • public and private four-year colleges and universities,

  • two-year community colleges or junior colleges,

  • business schools,

  • proprietary schools, and

  • vocational technical schools.

The more time you spend in college, the higher your salary is likely to be. Here are some examples of how college pays off in increased earning power. All of these jobs are fine and respectable. It's just a fact that jobs that require a college education pay more, giving you more personal choices.

Buying Groceries

Terry is a physical- therapy assistant (2 years of college). Terry will earn enough money to buy groceries for a week after working only 1 day.

Pat is an aerobics instructor (no college needed). To buy the same groceries, Pat has to work 3 days.

Buying a Mountain Bike

Jamie is a newspaper reporter (4 years of college). Jamie will earn enough money to buy a mountain bike after working about 1 week.

Chris sells newspaper subscriptions (no college needed). To buy the same mountain bike, Chris will have to work about 2 weeks.


Remember, money isn't everything when you consider a career! You need to think about your skills, likes and dislikes, and abilities. If they don't match your job, money alone won't make you happy.



"I'd like to have a cool job working with computers and graphics, but I need to go to college to learn all the right stuff."

Hugh Wyatt, 7th-grade student

Having a minimum-wage job can be great for after-school or as part-time work or starting in the job market. But is serving up fries or cleaning offices what you would choose to do eight hours a day for the next 30 or 40 years? Probably not. Unless you get more than a high-school education, though, it will be difficult for you to get more than a minimum-wage job.

In the 21st century, employers say, education beyond high school and the skills learned then will be essential. That's when you will be entering the job market. That's you and your job skills they're talking about. 

Many high schools and some employers offer technical programs focused on career training linked with community colleges or technical colleges. Some of the program names to look for: "Tech-Prep," "2+2," "school-to-work," or "school-to-career." These programs coordinate high school courses with college courses, putting you on a path to a college degree. Sometimes they also give you a chance to work at real jobs.

If you're interested in this type of technical training program, you'll probably want to take some occupational or technical courses in high school, but you'll also need to take the "core" courses in English, Math, Science, History, and Geography. Talk with your school counselor to learn about specific program opportunities and requirements.


If you decide on college, and if you work hard to get there, you'll find plenty of help and financial assistance along the way.

Getting ready for a college education requires a lot of time, effort, and careful planning by you and your parents. But college also provides information and skills that you will use for the rest of your life to help you succeed in whatever you do. Staying in school and going to college will help you:

  • Get a better job. More and more jobs require education beyond high school. With a college education, you'll have more jobs from which to choose.

  • Earn more money. A person who goes to college usually earns more than a person who doesn't.

    On average, over a lifetime, someone who spends two years in college earns $250,000 more than someone who doesn't--that's right--a quarter of a million dollars more over a lifetime.

  • Get a good start in life. College also trains you to express your thoughts clearly, make informed decisions, and use technology—all useful skills on and off the job and for life.

One of the best things about getting a college education is that you have more jobs to choose from. As you explore possible careers, find out what kind of education is needed for them.

You might change your mind several times about the type of job you want to have. Changing your mind is not a problem—but not planning ahead is. For more information about the education needed for specific jobs, talk with your school counselor or librarian or visit a college. You might even want to talk to your neighbors and other adults (your teacher, your doctor, your clergyman) who have jobs you think are interesting.

Two-Year College (associate degree)

  • medical laboratory technician

  • computer technician

  • car mechanic

  • commercial artist

  • heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration technician

  • hotel/restaurant manager

  • surveyor

  • water-treatment plant operator

  • registered nurse

  • physical therapy assistant

Four-Year College (bachelor's degree)

  • teacher

  • computer systems analyst

  • accountant

Four-Year College (bachelor's degree)

  • artist

  • FBI agent

  • graphic designer

  • insurance agent

  • newscaster/sportscaster

  • public relations specialist

  • social worker

  • engineer

Four+ Years of College (various graduate degrees)

  • minister, priest, or rabbi

  • scientist

  • architect

  • dentist

  • geologist

  • lawyer

  • marine biologist

  • psychologist

  • veterinarian

  • zoologist

  • doctor