Multiple Pathways to Success

Learn about your options after high school. 

What are my options?

Did you know most jobs require some education or training after high school? While college remains a strong investment, you have many possible first steps after high school that can lead to a good career. Beginning a program aligned with your interests, values, and skills can expand your options as you pursue your goals. And BigFuture can help you learn more about how to begin building your future, your way.

4-year college

Individuals with 4-year degrees, often called a bachelor's degree, earn, on average, over 60% more a year compared to individuals with a high school diploma. A college education pays off even after accounting for the cost of the degree. In the last decade, almost 70% of new jobs required a 4-year degree. If you’re interested in building a foundational set of skills valued by many employers, exploring different passions, and expanding your network, this path is worth considering. If a 4-year degree sounds like the right first step for you, we have you covered.

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2-year college

Individuals with 2-year degrees, often called an associate degree, earn, on average, about 20% more a year compared to individuals with a high school diploma. An associate degree pays off even after accounting for the cost of the degree. These programs are usually offered through community colleges and are local, affordable, and can get you credits that can be transferred to other degree programs. If a 2-year degree sounds like the right first step for you, we have you covered.

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Many careers require significant on-the-job experience and training. Apprenticeships combine hands-on learning (usually paid) and education that result in a credential. Skilled trades, like electrician, have historically required apprenticeships but you can qualify for a new wave of jobs through an apprenticeship.

Job or Skills Training

As the world around us evolves, so do available jobs. Focused training programs can help individuals more quickly prepare for workforce demands and set a foundation for ongoing learning and growth. As you evaluate these options, consider how they can help you earn a credential with value to multiple employers.


For many people, pursuing a military career right after high school can provide structure and a clear path to opportunity. Individuals can receive immediate benefits, including potential signing bonuses, and security in planning for their futures through educational funding, retirement pay, and lifelong healthcare.


Some people need to begin working full-time immediately after high school or want more experience in different jobs before deciding where to invest in additional education. While most careers require some kind of postsecondary education, starting work is the right first step for some people. 

There is more than one route to a destination

While college can be a gateway to career success, almost half of American workers have been Skilled Through Alternate Routes (STARs). Beginning your journey at a different step than college doesn’t mean you can’t enroll later, as shown in the illustration of nursing paths below. Meet some STARs, learn more about the obstacles they overcame, and consider how you might continue your education over your lifetime to achieve a fulfilling career:  

What does it mean to be Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STAR)?

Meet LaShana Lewis.

Is college the only path?

Hear from young people considering skilled pathways.

What is the Paper Ceiling?

Learn more about the invisible barrier for STARs.

✦ Videos brought to you by our content partners Roadtrip Nation®, Career Girls, and Opportunity@Work.✦

How can I learn more?

Read about the steps you can take to consider your options

What are my career options?

A Guide to Career Exploration

Does College Still Matter?

Why College is Still Important

See how SAT scores connect to career readiness skills.

How it Works

Discover credentials that can help you on your career path

Credentials are proof of your competence in a given subject and can be earned by completing a course or program of study. Use the Credential Finder to search for and compare credentials as you consider different education pathways to help you achieve your career goals.