Real Life 101: What isn’t taught in high school
Recently, on a road trip with my daughter, we caught up with each other’s lives. I told her about the opportunity to write this article. “Sweet!” she said, “What are you going to write about?”
“Not confusing getting a college degree with getting a career or with earning a living.”
“Amen!” she responded. “Look at me. Through my education, I’ve gotten the career I want-but I’m barely earning a living.”
My daughter is a fully licensed family practice doctor in her second year of a three-year residency program. After 4 years at the university and 4 years of medical school, her salary is a little over $40,000 a year. She had just informed me that after paying her bills, she had $250 to live on for the rest of the month.
“What? Family practice docs are always listed in the 10 highest paying careers,” I joked.
“In my dreams, Mom. Or, maybe by the end of my career, but not for years. If I wanted to earn $100,000, I should have become an EKG or ultra sound tech. They make that kind of money and the training is only two years.”
Like many young people, my daughter has student loans. She had a scholarship for medical school, but it didn’t pay for everything. She lives in an area where housing costs are extremely high. Her car’s “Needs service” light is always on. She’ll get it checked when she has some extra money. That will be a while.
No matter what your son or daughter studies in the university, they will only have a career if you can get a job in that field. You will only be able to earn a living if your salary exceeds your expenses. While some degree programs will qualify for good salaries right out of college, it often take grads several years to find good-paying jobs that use their education and interests.
In most cities around this country, it takes a salary of $15.68 an hour to be able to rent a place to live. That’s $2508.80 a month or $30,105.60 a year. With that salary, you may be able to rent your own place, but it won’t cover the payments of the student loans ($19,202) and credit card debts ($2,865) of the average college grad.
Don’t like this scenario? Then plan ahead. Avoid the student loan trap by learning skills or a trade that is in demand in the area you live, or want to live. Some high schools have skill training classes. All community colleges have them.
For example, I recently met Mike, a June high school grad. He’s working at a restaurant while waiting to get hired at a local shipyard. He’s smart and wants to go to college. But first, he plans to work and save money. Mike took four years of welding training, for free, at his high school. His beginning pay will be about $12 an hour. Top pay in this field is $20-25 an hour.
Find the shortest training that will qualify you for the best paying entry level jobs in fields that interest you. Then, you can work your way through school to qualify for even higher paying and more interesting jobs. Just like Mike, you can avoid debt and have the lifestyle you want as a young adult.