It’s common wisdom in our society today that you must have a four-year college degree to get ahead in life. But a new Center of the American Experiment study concludes that Minnesotans who choose a two-year degree, apprenticeship or occupational certificate often do better financially than their peers with a four-year degree.

The study—No Four-Year Degree Required: A Look at a Selection of In-Demand Careers in Minnesota—concludes that median lifetime earnings for machinists, radiologic technicians, plumbers, electric line installers and similar jobs exceed those of their counterparts with a four-year degree by up to 61 percent.

The study addresses the “skills gap” by selecting occupations in four career clusters—skilled manufacturing, health care, construction-related trades, and jobs like HVAC technician and electric line installer, which require just an occupational certificate.

Two factors explain why the median lifetime earnings of workers in these fields exceed those of bachelor’s degree holders:

  • the relatively low costs of entering these technical occupations—especially when it comes to student debt, and
  • the relatively high median hourly wages of these skilled occupations, compared to those of four-year college graduates.

Read more about the report’s surprising and dramatic conclusionshere.

See the full report here.

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