Have you thought about the military? The person pictured in my avatar is
my son. He joined the USAF right after graduating high school. He tested
well in electronics, eventhough he still asked me to change the lightbulbs
in his bedroom...REALLY
He enlisted for 6 years: it's a fast track promotion program that on the USAF
offers, and you become an airman 1st class upon graduation from basic
training. That saves you 16 months of in service time, and leads to becoming
a senior airman much sooner. It also pays more, and A1C's can do things
that basic airman can't. Here comes the good part....
The USAF has 3 degree granting components: the Academy, the University,
and the Community College of the Air Force. The latter was made a degree
granting institution by President Gerald Ford in 1974. The CCAF is a fully
accredited college, and has on average 350,000 students! (all branches use
the CCAF, either on base or online). My son first went to Keesler AFB for
850hrs of math and physics, and received college credit for every bit. He
then went to Sheppard AFB for courses in electronics, math (again), and
principles of avionics, etc. Another 800+ hours in total at Sheppard, and
all classes were college credit. He was at Keesler and Sheppard between
November 2006-May 2007 (classes are all day long), and he received
48 college credits.
He was then sent to Dover AFB to work as an Avionics and Flight Information
specialist on C-5 aircraft. It's really a regular job, and he worked 7am-3pm
all summer. In September, it was back to class for another 500 hours! Keep
in mind that he was being paid to attend class, and the USAF gives you
a room (sort of like a hotel room with a small kitchenette!), and free meals.
Anyway, he finished the last round of USAF classes, and then took classes
on his own time to get his Associates degree in Avionics and Electronics.
The remaining classes were in composition, business, and public speaking.
The USAF paid for them ahead of time, and professors from nearby colleges
conduct the classes on base. Not a bad deal!
Pay: As an A1C, Jr's starting take home pay was around $1,100/month, but
recall that room and meals are included. At Dover AFB, you are able to move
off base after 6 months. The housing allowance for an A1C is $1,268 (+/-),
and most airman share an apartment or house, and pocket the difference.
My son and two other airman rented a house 1 mile from the beach, and each
paid $500 total for rent and utilities. With his basic pay and housing allowance, he was taking home over $28,000/year, with benefits health and
education benefits that you wouldn't believe. In the civilian sector, you'd
have to be making around 50K to take home that much, and with those
benefits! Add in the free tuition, and the fact that my son is still 20 yrs old
(21 in a couple months), and that's a smoking deal! He can begin working
on his bachelor's degree at any time, and the USAF will pay for that as well.
You don't have to wait until you leave the military to receive education
Other little perks include a private pilot's license for $800; car insurance through USAA: he was paying $3,000/year for liability as a high school senior,
and paid $38/month for liabilty through USAA (bought a new car, and pays
$130/month for full coverage now; military discounts at most retail stores that
average around 10%; he has always been moved to 1st class while wearing
his dress blues on commercial flights, etc. Best of all, a 20-yr-old gets paid
to play with the largest airplane in the United States military!
Now if you decide to go to college, go with a state school, or get some sort of tuition scholarship. My wife and both graduated from Villanova in 1984, and
tuition was $5,200/year. It is now $33,000, and that's ridiculous for anything
but sciences and engineering. Speaking of sciences and engineering, get a
degree in these fields. I have a BA and MA in History, and quickly realized
my only option to begin making a living early was in the building trade ( I was
joined by a part-time prof I knew!).
The math is quite clear:
4 years of full-time college at a private university will cost $120,000, and
$20,000 in lost wages each year because if you don't work while in school
(assuming a wage of $10/hr, which is pretty easy to find in my area). That
$200,000 over 4 years! You might find a job that pays more than a person
with only a high school diploma, but that person had better not be a plumber,
electrician, or carpenter (in that order). That's really something to think about
before making what will be a business decision.
Trout Bum: In his forward to the book, Gary LaFontaine states that a person
has to be at least 30 something, and have something to loose in order to be
regarded as a trout bum. Doing it in your teens or 20's is simply an adventure.
A nice adventure, but not a bum....yet