Choosing whether you want to go to college or join the workforce can be one of the toughest and most important decisions you ever make. How could you possibly be expected to make such a monumental choice? If you find yourself grappling with this decision, ask yourself these three questions and you’ll have your answer.

What Is My Goal in Life?

We’re all unique, and we all have different goals. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you have to. The fact that everyone else is doing something isn’t necessarily a good reason to skip out on it either. In the end, it all comes down to you.

Life will throw unexpected things at you. The path will not be straight, and it will not be easy. Your ambitions might even change completely. And that’s okay. What’s important now is that you figure out what you want to strive for in life, starting today.

Don’t limit yourself when you’re thinking about what your goals are. If you have multiple aims in different areas, that’s fine. If there are only one or two that really seem important to you, that’s okay too. Once you have a list of ideas, determine how important each of them is to you:

  • What is absolutely necessary?
  • What could you do without?
  • Which ones are compatible?

What Professional Careers Will Let Me Do That?

Now, consider your goals. Can you think of any professional careers that will allow you to do those things? If you can’t, do some research. You’d be surprised about the unusual but fun jobs that are out there. Even if you already chose a specific career as your main aim, consider doing some research to see what similar jobs and possible career paths you could take.

Don’t worry if you can’t find an occupation doing exactly what you’ve been dreaming about. You don’t have to. You just need to find a profession that allows you to do the thing you want to do, or at least allows you to move toward it. Maybe you need a lot of money to accomplish your dream. If you do, look for high-paying professions. If you need time away from work to pursue your vision, look for a job that will give you that.

Look for positions related to your objectives as well, which will help you get your foot in the door. If you want to be involved in travel, for example, consider working for an airline company.

Will a College Degree Help Me Break Into That Field?

Okay, so you’ve got a career in mind that will allow you to accomplish your goals. Now you just need to break into that field.

Sometimes a college degree is the best way to do that. Sometimes real-world experience will help you more. Sometimes that answer differs based on the company or hiring manager.

Look at the career paths of people currently working in your dream industry. Did they need to go to college? While job requirements today are more likely to include college degrees than those in the past, you can pick up great internship and part-time work ideas to make even non-collegiate work count toward your goals.

A degree probably won’t disqualify you from any position, but some employers specifically tell you that it’s not necessary to have one to work for them. A high school diploma and on-the-job training may be all you need. For example, heavy equipment technicians don’t need college degrees, and these jobs are forecasted to grow 11 percent throughout the country.

Other jobs do require a degree. To be a professor, you usually need a master’s or PhD. To be a doctor, you need to go to medical school. To be a lawyer, law school.

It all comes down to three questions about what you want in life and how you’re going to get there.
College is a great choice for some, but may not be necessary for everybody. It all depends on you as an individual and how you want to reach your unique goals.