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Home > Blog: Job Seeker Tips > Non-College Grads Need Better Job Advice

Non-College Grads Need Better Job Advice

Chanelle SchneiderChanelle Schneider (pictured) runs the blog There From Here, where she writes on career and life advice for Generation Y with a specific focus on those older GenY’ers who have yet to graduate from college. You can also find her on Twitter under @WriterChanelle, directing discussions on #GenYChat with the @GenYChat handle, and writing for as the DC Social Media Examiner.

"The Census reports on the level of education attained by adults age 25 and older. Our elderly population grew up in a time when education attainment was typically lower, and college attendance was less widespread. As this population is succeeded by younger and increasingly well-educated cohorts, the percent of the population that has attained higher levels of education slowly increases. Not only has the number of diplomas and degrees increased, but their percentage in the population has also increased, indicating a growth in attainment greater than the relative growth in national population.” —
CensusScope (see chart below)

Educational Attainment in Population
25 Years and Over, 1990-2000
  1990 % of total 2000 % of total
Total population
age 25+
158,868,436 100 182,211,639 100
Less than 9th grade 16,502,211 10.39 13,755,477 7.55
Some high school,
no diploma
22,841,507 14.38 21,960,148 12.05
High school graduate * 47,642,763 29.99  52,168,981 28.63
Some college,
no degree
29,779,777 18.74 38,351,595    21.05
Associate degree 9,791,925 6.16 11,512,833 6.32
Bachelor's degree 20,832,567 13.11 28,317,792 15.54
Graduate or professional degree 11,477,686 7.22   16,144,813 8.86

* "High school graduate" includes people with G.E.D. and other equivalents

More people may be getting degrees and becoming well-educated, but the number of people aged 25 and over who attended college but didn't graduate also increased 2.31% from 1990 to 2000, going from 18.74 percent to 21.05 percent. As this country continues to support the notion that a college degree is the minimum qualification for being hired, people are trying and failing to complete their degrees in the standard four years. This is a significant problem. (Analysis of the 2010 census data is still taking place, but estimates from 2009 suggest similar numbers.)

Thankfully, the data from 2009 shows improvement for non-degree holders. However, those with bachelor’s degrees are beginning to outpace the non-degreed. With more people attempting college but not completing it, there is certain to be a rise in unpaid student loan debt. A non-grad who pursues a degree but can’t list a completion date on their resume is just as un-hirable to many employers as someone with a high school diploma who never went to college. So, many people are beginning to wonder just what the value of a college education is. Should we go tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt just to learn what only college can teach us about life? Is it worth the everyday stress of calls from bill collectors later?

Many experts offer advice on what people in this situation can do to improve their chances at starting a career. Sometimes this advice is good. Most times, the advice looks like this:

"The top 5 highest paying occupations without a college diploma are as follows:

    1. Air Traffic Controller
    2. Funeral Director
    3. Operations Manager
    4. Industrial Production Manager
    5. Transportation Manager"

Go back to school when your lack of education becomes a roadblock, offers Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert.

"Some employers (and most recruiters) will screen you out (if you don’t have a degree or never attended college)," say Katharine Hansen and Randall S. Hansen of the blog "But if you have succeeded in the past without educational credentials, your professional accomplishments will likely be enough to propel you to an interview."

But what should people do if their prior success has been in jobs in which they don't have relevant experience? For instance, can people in their twenties be air traffic controllers after spending their summers not working internships because they needed money? Can they hold management positions without prior experience in management?

There aren't many articles that offer advice on how to start a career that will lead toward these high-paying positions. Non-graduates need better advice on the following:

  1. What to do if you can’t afford to go back to school
  2. How applicant tracking systems see the education section of resumes
  3. Entry-level jobs or paid internships that lead to these high-paying careers

What is not helpful are articles that claim you don’t need a degree to be a transportation manager, only to find another article that says you do, such as this from wiseGEEK:

"If you plan to become a transportation manager in the United States, you will usually need to have earned a bachelor's degree."

7 Resume Writing Tips for Your Education Section
Is College Still the Surest Path to Success?
Do Employers Put Too Much Emphasis on a College Degree? 

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