What To Do After Dropping Out of College (Plus Job Options)
Updated December 12, 2022
An illustration of a person looking thoughtful as they look at their laptop screen.
Dropping out of college is the term for beginning your college education, then deciding to leave before you earn your degree. If you decide to drop out, you still have many career options. For some, this decision can help lead to new life experiences that allow them to discover true passions, create career goals and plan a new life.
In this article, we review if this might be a good decision for you, discuss what to do after dropping out of college and list 13 jobs you can consider when deciding on your new career path.
Should you drop out of college?
While dropping out of college is a big decision, it can be the right one for some individuals. Here are a few reasons to consider leaving school:
A serious illness or injury
A family emergency
Lack of financial means to continue
Important opportunities outside of school
The desire to reevaluate your life trajectory
What to do after dropping out of college
Here are some ideas for steps you might take after dropping out of college:
Find an internship
An internship can be a great way to gain professional and educational experience outside of a college setting. You can find a full or part-time internship that aligns with your interests, timeline and monetary needs. A successful experience may also lead to a job offer after you complete your time as an intern.
Volunteering can also be a useful way to learn new skills and build your professional network. You may also have the opportunity to explore your interests by volunteering for an organization or cause that you care about and would like to support. Volunteer work might also look good on a resume for your future educational or professional career.
Start an entry-level job
Having an entry-level job can help you make money while gaining skills that can be valuable for your career. For example, if you want to work in the marketing industry, you could start by working an entry-level job as a receptionist at a marketing firm. This job can begin to teach you the necessary skills for that field and provide you with an opportunity to expand your network.
While a full schedule of college courses may not have been the best option to fit your needs, you might benefit from taking one or two classes at a time. You can sign up for classes at a community college or an online institution. This can be a great way to earn college credit in a way that works for your needs and lifestyle.
Reflect on your positive experiences
You may have learned valuable life lessons during your college career. Consider some skills or abilities you may have gained, such as time management or critical thinking. You may have also enjoyed a few classes on a particular subject that could help you focus on building a career in a field you find interesting. This can help you reflect on your time at college and turn it into a positive learning experience.
Talk to others who chose the same path
Try to find support from people in similar situations. On social networking platforms, you may find other former students in your area who dropped out and are now excelling in a career. They might mention different career paths they took that can help you reevaluate your options.
Seek the help of a career counselor
If you're unsure of what to do next, consider speaking with a career counselor. They can help you find out what your passions and goals are and create a new path for you. A career counselor can help you decide what jobs you qualify for based on your current experience and education. Counselors may also offer suggestions on how to continue in your current career path without a college degree.
Make a plan
After you leave school, you may have many options available to you regarding where to go and what to do. Consider making a plan and setting a list of goals for yourself to help guide these decisions. This plan might also contain a timeline, including if and when you'd like to return to school.
Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career
13 jobs to consider after dropping out
There are many career options you can pursue without a degree, including entry-level jobs, jobs that require certificates or trade school jobs.
There are a variety of careers where a formal education isn't necessary. Consider applying to an entry-level job to gain relevant experience and climb the corporate ladder. The following jobs do not require a college degree:
National average salary: $39,161 per year
Primary duties: A data entry clerk compiles, updates and records information into a computer system. They frequently move data from paper documents into a digital record. Data entry clerks may also verify that documents contain the correct information before inputting it into their system.
Read more: Learn About Being a Data Entry Clerk
National average salary: $46,007 per year
Primary duties: A receptionist may welcome and direct visitors, including issuing visitor badges and answering questions. Other typical duties include answering phone calls, replying to emails, informing staff members of a visitor's arrival and maintaining a clean lobby. Receptionists may also offer administrative support to fellow employees in the workplace.
Read more: Learn About Being a Receptionist
National average salary: $60,523 per year
Primary duties: Customer service representatives assist clients with questions or complaints. They may also process returns, explain more about their services, assist with products, record interactions with customers and communicate results with superiors. Customer service representatives should be able to maintain a positive attitude during all of their interactions with clients.
National average salary: $73,635 per year
Primary duties: Sales representatives promote and sell products and services by seeking new clients to create relationships with and maintain relationships with existing customers. Other duties include meet sales targets and performing regular analysis of customers to continue to meet their needs. Sales representatives may to work with other sales team members to complete group sales goals.
Read more: Learn About Being a Sales Representative
Jobs that require a certificate
Some of the careers that require a basic certification include:
National average salary: $43,123 per year
Primary duties: A bookkeeper prepares and maintains records for financial transactions. They may also use an understanding of financial law to help ensure companies are legally compliant. Other duties include posting transactions, balancing ledgers and adhering to state requirements for finances.
Read more: Learn About Being a Bookkeeper
National average salary: $52,406 per year
Primary duties: Physical therapy aides support physical therapists by helping prepare treatment areas and clean equipment. They also interact with patients and perform procedures under supervision. Specifically, physical therapy aides may help with exercises, apply heat packs, measure mobility and restock supplies.
National average salary: $53,416 per year
Primary duties: An event planner coordinates functions and gatherings for an individual, group or company. Specific duties include making decisions on all aspects of the event, including decorations, food, drinks and entertainment. They also coordinate with vendors.
Read more: Learn About Being an Event Planner
National average salary: $59,178 per year
Primary duties: A funeral director meets with families of the deceased, offers comfort and helps plan services. They may also handle paperwork, place obituary notices in the newspaper and organize memorial services. Some funeral directors assist with embalming services for the deceased.
National average salary: $95,886 per year
Primary duties: A real estate agent finds client leads to sell, buy or rent property. They can do research to set competitive market prices before making offers to sellers. These professionals may also review buying contracts to make sure all terms are correct, create listings for real estate properties and show properties to prospective renters and buyers.
Read more: Learn About Being a Real Estate Agent
Trade school vocations
A trade school is an excellent way to improve your experience and skills without investing as much time and money as going to college. You can learn about a field you're passionate about and can compete for higher-paying jobs after finishing your trade school course. Some of the careers in this field include:
National average salary: $57,245 per year
Primary duties: An electrician works on electrical equipment in businesses, factories and homes to install and fix lighting, communication, control systems and power. They also troubleshoot electrical issues by testing devices, replacing electrical wiring and examining elements like fixtures, circuit breakers and transformers. Many electricians also fix air conditioning and heating systems.
Read more: Learn About Being an Electrician
National average salary: $59,046 per year
Primary duties: A graphic designer creates logos, signs, brochures, book covers, web pages, yearly reports, advertisements and other images. They may also meet with clients to collaborate on images and incorporate a client's tone into the design.
They use computer software programs to create designs, understand appropriate text style and size for readability, create drafts for clients to review and proofread final drafts to ensure there are no errors.
Read more: Learn About Being a Graphic Designer
National average salary: $85,019 per year
Primary duties: A dental hygienist primary duties are to review patients' health records, then clean their teeth. A dental hygienist may also teach patients how to brush and floss properly. Other duties include taking X-rays of teeth, administering local anesthesia and preparing teeth to fill cavities.
Read more: Learn About Being a Dental Hygienist
National average salary: $101,726 per year
Primary duties: A radiation therapist explains treatment plans to patients before radiation procedures. Before the procedure, the radiation therapist may also use X-rays to determine which area of the patient to treat and confirm the correct dose of radiation to use.
These professionals also examine machines to ensure they're working correctly, keep detailed treatment records, operate the radiation machine, and implement protective measures to avoid overexposure to radiation.
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