How do I start a new career without college?

Recent discussions on my Facebook wall regarding college, its value, and its potentially adverse financial impact on a young life, have raised a few questions. Near the top is, “How do I start a new career without college?”

Here is my take, in no particular order:

You already know, intrinsically, what your next career path will be. It’s the thing you wake up thinking about, and the thing you think about while you’re doing your current job. It’s the thing you talk to your friends about, non-stop.

If you’re looking at practicing medicine (Dr., nurse, dentist, etc.), your path into college/university is already set – and that’s a good thing for all of us, frankly. But before you commit, you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about the human body with many free resources available. Think of it as a deep dive/trial to see if you really, really like it.

If your path is lawyer/attorney, you may need to move. Pick a friendly state (one that doesn’t require a JD (Juris Doctor degree) or Doctor of Law degree, to take the bar) and study. Lots. See this article in Slate to begin with, then the resources below for courses.

Find (or start) a meetup group in the subject area. This will get you close to people in the field, in a friendly, non-pitchy way. You get to learn from them and see what the culture is like. A meetup group can mean the meetup website, or another association/in person meetings.

Look at maker spaces for opportunities to learn about subjects: from woodworking to lasers to 3d printing and welding, circuit boards, electric cars, hydroponics… so much more. You’ll meet some great, very passionate people already in the field. If, for example, you’re interested in welding, many maker spaces have the hardware and classes to teach you the fundamentals. You can supplement this with YouTube or many of the resources below, and practice in the maker space on your own time. As you get better at it, find a local shop that will let you apprentice.

Use social networks to find people already in the field of interest, and ask for 30 minutes of their time to learn more about the practical side of the business and their function. What classes did they take, and what would they do differently knowing what they know now? People love to share, especially if they’re passionate. It’s one of the most valuable aspects of higher education, and this is method is free (well, you should pay for the coffee or lunch).

Assuming you have the desire, and the aptitude, the simplest career change is to doing something “online.” This can be learning to code, online marketing, WordPress development, or anything having to do with turning what you know (not what you “do”) into money. It’s not for everyone, nor is it a silver bullet, but it’s the most direct.

One last note. If you’re crafty, you can find the classes required for a degree. Then, using the resources below, take the classes (free in most cases) and achieve the equivalent education (and sometimes certified) to the degree you’re seeking. No, you won’t have the degree, but you’ll have the education, and that’s a big help when making a career change.

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Husband, father, epic adventurer, perpetually curious, rule breaker, startup guy, innovator, maker.

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