Psychology of Money

10 Ways to Skip College and Get Paid to Get Educated

Thinking about going to college? Think carefully.

For starters, that education might not get you the job you want. CBS News reports that half of all adults with a bachelor’s degree are working in positions that don’t require them. That includes 323,000 restaurant servers and 1115,000 janitors.

It’s something to think about when the average student debt is over $37,000. Sweeping floors or waiting tables might not provide enough income to comfortably cover living expenses and those student loan payments.

Even if you get a good job and you’re smart enough to avoid the degrees with the worst return on investment, it’s not easy to say if college is worth it. You also have to consider the years of income you missed out on while attending college, and the years of debt payments you’ll have going forward.

Then there are the personal factors. Some of us can’t tolerate so many hours in a classroom. As pointed out by Robert Reich (and many others), college isn’t for everyone.

Sure education in general is a good thing, but it matters how you get it and how much it costs. What if, instead of going deep into debt to learn things of questionable relevance, you can get paid while you get a truly useful education?

Here are ten ways to do exactly that.

1. Get Paid $100,000 to Skip or Drop Out of College

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel started the “Thiel Fellowship” in 2011. It’s a two-year program that lets you “continue your education by building something you care about…” You’re given $100,000 to facilitate your project, paid out over the two years, and you work with “the Thiel Foundation’s network of founders, investors, and scientists.”

What’s the catch? We’ll, you do have to be under 23 years old to apply for a fellowship. And to qualify you have to  have an idea for a “cool project or company.” Oh, and you absolutely have to skip college or drop out to become a Thiel fellow.

2. Apply for Positions Offering On-the-Job Training

Most jobs come with the training and/or education needed to prepare you for the specific work to be done. For example, I received training and certification as a highway flagger in order to direct traffic when I worked for a temporary employment agency.

But what does a flagger training certificate get you? A job as a flagger, and that’s about it. You might want to look for jobs where you’ll gain education and skills with wider applications.

For example, consider the job of “assistant manager” at a fast food restaurant. With ambition and work almost anyone running a register or flipping burgers can get promoted to that position in a few months. Once there you’ll learn management skills that can be used in many jobs, even those that pay much more.

A job where your employer pays for you to attend sale’s training is another great example. Learning the theory and practice of sales prepares you for dozens of possible careers.

To find places where you receive on-the-job training, search employment websites using various related terms. For example, a search of “we will train you,” on turns up openings for management, satellite dish installation, and insurance sales, all with employers willing to train you. The insurance sales position offers $18 per hour to start.

A search for “paid training” on (no location specified) pulls up 102,000 results. The more interesting ones include “assistant events coordinator,” “marketing consultant,” and “medical scribe.”

3. Become a Paid Apprentice

Becoming an apprentice is the classic paid-to-learn position, and the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship Program can help you find these opportunities. Here are the benefits you can expect according to the DOL:

  • A paycheck from day one, guaranteed to increase over time as you learn new skills.
  • Hands-on career training in a wide selection of programs, such as healthcare, construction, information technology and geospatial careers.
  • An education and the potential to earn college credit, even an associate or bachelor’s degree, in many cases paid for by your employer.
  • A career once you complete your apprenticeship, you will be on your way to a successful long-term career with a competitive salary, and little or no educational debt.
  • National industry certification upon graduation from a career training program and can take that certification anywhere in the United States.
  • Recognizable partners including many of the nation’s most recognizable companies, such as CVS/pharmacy and UPS, have Apprenticeship programs.

The DOL says apprentices average $15 per hour to start, and $60,000 annually once an apprenticeship is completed. And when you go through their program you get a “nationally recognized credential from the Department of Labor.”

4. Use a Job as Business Training

Many jobs can be used to learn what you need to know to start or buy your own business. For example, a former tenant of mine started out as an employee for a successful carpet cleaning business, then bought the business (with no money down) and made it even more successful.

Service companies are best for this strategy. Many have low start-up costs, but even more importantly, they tend to be small businesses, so you’re able to work closely with the owner.

This latter aspect is important because you need to learn about the business itself, not just the work. For example, as a window cleaner you learn how to clean windows, but as a future owner of a window cleaning business you also need to learn how to find clients, order supplies, hire employees, set prices, and so on.

5. Find a Paid Internship

An internship is a temporary position where you get on-the-job training. Although there are some unpaid (or poorly paid) internships, there are also many that offer at least enough to pay the bills while you learn new skills.

For example, the 25 highest paying internships listed by have a median monthly pay of between $4,500 and $8,000.

You can locate other paid internships for which you may qualify on

Sometimes internships are offered only to college students. In that case you might want to enroll in college, at least for a while. Your internship can help pay for your formal education, which you can quit once you have the skills needed to get a decent job.

6. Volunteer to Earn and Learn

You can learn a lot from volunteer work, and some of that knowledge and those skills can be used later to get a job or starting a business. You can also get paid.

It’s true that most non-profit organizations don’t offer volunteers much more than a stipend for living expenses, but since housing and other expenses are often covered you might be able to save some of your stipend. In any case, it’s nice to make something while you gain knowledge and skills.

Here are some examples…

Peace Corps – After two years overseas, during which your living expenses are covered, you get a lump sum of $8,000. As with many of these opportunities, having a college degree looks good on your application, but it’s not an an absolute requirement.

Americorps – Projects are in the U.S. and last 12 months or less, during which time you get training, housing, and a living-expense stipend.

UN Volunteers – Overseas assignments last 6 to 12 months, and you get a stipend.

International Executive Service Corps – You’ll do economic development work around the world and get a stipend for living expenses.

7. Join the Military

The military can provide you with all sorts of training that might be useful for later employment. Meanwhile you’ll be housed and paid.

If your goal is a specific career, be sure to ask for the right position and training. Before you sign that contract to enlist, read up on how to negotiate with a military recruiter.

8. Work for a University

If your primary objection to college is the cost, consider working for a university as a way to get free or reduced tuition. Profiled in a CBS News report, Fred Vautour sent his five kids through Boston College for free by working as a janitor for the school. In his case that job benefit totaled $700,000 in free tuition.

U.S. News and World Report says most colleges offer tuition benefits to employees, and many extend that to family members (can you convince dad to sweep floors at Boston college?). Check colleges near you to see what their policies are, and then consider applying for any position they have open.

9. Work for a Company That Pays Your Tuition

Why not collect a paycheck while your employer pays for college? Fortune reports that it’s becoming more common for employers to offer free college as an employee benefit. has a list of companies offering tuition reimbursement. Some pay your way to a Bachelor’s degree in full, but only at a specified school. For example, Starbucks will pay for a bachelor’s degree if you enroll in Arizona State University’s online program.

Others offer a certain amount or percentage annually, but allow you more choice in where you enroll. Wells Fargo, for example, reimburses up to $5,000 in tuition each year, and Proctor and Gamble pays up to 80% of tuition and fees.

10. Write Articles

I learned so much from writing this article, and in general writing is a great way to get paid to get educated on variety of subjects. Apart from what I’m paid for my articles, the research I’ve done for them has helped me make money as an investor.

How much can you make while you learn new things? The Write Life has a list of magazines that pay $500 or more per article.

And you can look for a niche that suits you. For example, has a list of 20 fitness magazines that pay up to $500 per article.

But unless you have a lot of experience, you aren’t likely to sell many $500 articles. Fortunately, if you know how to quickly research and write about a subject, and you find enough clients, you can make a living at $50 per article.

Starting online is simpler than writing for print magazines. Check out the big list of websites that pay at least $50 for articles. Find a few that fall in your area of interest or expertise and start writing and submitting your articles.

If you know of other ways to get paid to get educated, tell us about them below… and keep on frugaling!

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