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May 17, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Guest: How to land a high demand job with a low cost degree


Cindy Zehnder

With the end of the school year just around the corner, thousands of Washington high school students are focused on what is next in their lives once they’ve tossed their tasseled caps into the air.

Fortunately, the educational pathways to a living-wage job may be shorter and less expensive than they realize. The challenge is making sure students know about and connect to these abundant education options within our community and technical college system and licensed private career schools.

Turns out, it’s not how long you’ve studied but what you’ve studied that counts in the job market. Those who pursue short-term degrees in high-demand areas are being rewarded with living-wage jobs in our state. And they can reach those well-paying jobs faster and more efficiently (and often with less debt) than longer, less-focused educational paths.

For example, students in a two-year aviation maintenance technician program at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood earned $37,000 on average their first year out of school. Those who completed a nine-month bookkeeping program at North Seattle College earned $33,000 that first year.

These middle-skill jobs are growing throughout our state. But they have sometimes been overlooked by young people charting their next educational step. It’s only now in the aftermath of a shifting economy that these critical mid-level occupations in manufacturing, healthcare, IT and other growth areas are gaining the exposure they’re due.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Cindy Zehnder, community college, higher ed