Graduating seniors will soon walk down the high school  halls for the last time as students. After receiving their diplomas, they’ll head into the real world.

For 70% of the state’s graduating seniors, this means going on to attend college, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. Thirty percent of students attend a four-year college because it’s perceived as the natural progression after high school, and 23% think that is what is expected of them.

The decision to attend a four-year college should not be taken lightly as it is a large investment of time and money. The cost of tuition is on average of  82% lower at a two-year public community college compared to a four-year school.

The college route is probably best for those who have a career path that requires a bachelor’s degree, or for those who want to pursue a master’s. However, the number of recent college graduates working in jobs that don’t require a college degree rose from 38% in 2000 to 44.6% in 2015.      

While college can provide a quality education, trade or vocational school is another alternative option geared toward preparing for a specific career in a shorter amount of time. After 10 years, a worker with a one-year certificate made a median of $1,347 less per year than a worker with a bachelor’s degree.

In 2018, the five best industries for jobs in Minnesota according to job seeking agency, Zippia, were: 1) Management industry; 2) Architecture and engineering industry; 3) Computer and mathematical industry; 4) Healthcare practitioners and technical industry; and 5) business and financial operations industry. This was determined by comparing average salary, job availability and average stress level of jobs in the industry. (

Aitkin County experiences workforce shortages in many industries that don’t require a four-year degree. It’s important to ensure our youth have opportunities to pursue careers in these fields to fit the current and future workforce needs of the area.

Whether their chosen path entails college, trade school or work, the community wishes the best for its younger generation. Join in congratulating local students at their upcoming commencement ceremonies. Aitkin High School graduation will take place May 31 from 7-8:30 p.m. McGregor High School graduation is June 2 from 2-3:30 p.m. Hill City graduation is May 31.

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