We hear about it all the time: “You have to earn a bachelor’s degree to get a decent job.”

Society has developed this stigma that college is the end-all, be-all of a person’s success. However, there are plenty of successful individuals who do not have a degree.

Chris McCormick, a Marathon Petroleum employee for 15 years, is proof that success is possible without a college degree.

“I started out as a terminal helper, which didn’t require a degree, then moved on to a terminal operator position then to lead operator of the facility,” McCormick said. After that, I got into the operations trainee program, which is like a managerial program, and did that for about a year. Now I’m the Louisville group terminal manager.”

McCormick attended college for one year, but decided that was not the route he wanted to take. As part of a four-generation Marathon family, McCormick decided to carry on the family tradition.

“When I first got the job my dad told me, ‘Keep your mouth shut, do your job, if the boss asks you to work, work.’ So I kind of went with that mentality and volunteered for any tasks that were available, and made sure I showed up on time to work,” McCormick said.

Continuing education after high school is beneficial, but a university is not the best option for everyone. According to Forbes in April 2015, only 40 percent of Americans have completed an associate degree or higher, and 22 percent attempted, but never graduated. If you have enough drive and determination, success is possible, even without a degree.

Sure, individuals who have a bachelor’s degree tend to make more money and have more employment opportunities. But sometimes, college just is not an option because of financial situations, time requirements or the simple lack of desire to go to school. According to Forbes in April 2015, 60 percent of Americans believe college is too expensive and not worth the hassle. The same year, Forbes also found that 43 percent of people without a bachelor’s degree said they are satisfied with their education and employment.

Although it is possible to get a job after high school with no degree, it is easier with at least an associate degree, some sort of certification or intense job training.

“Do I think that everybody needs to go to college? No. Do I think everyone will succeed in college? No. But, if an individual wants to make a living wage and support their family then I think they need education beyond high school,” said Lilly Massa-McKinley, director of the Bellarmine University career development center.

We as a society need to quit looking down upon the person who received an associate degree from the local community college or went to trade school. There are plenty of opportunities and room for advancement in fields that do not require a bachelor’s degree.

“An associate degree is a valuable degree, there’s a lot of opportunity with that degree,” Massa-McKinley said. “It’s when you stop at high school only where people have fewer opportunities.”

Without trade schools, we would have no plumbers or electricians, and an associate degree can lead to a successful career. There is no doubt that a bachelor’s degree is valuable, but it’s just not feasible for some people.

“I think that college isn’t for everyone, and trade school may not be for everyone either. I’m still a big believer that there are a lot of good jobs out there that will allow you to be gainfully employed for a lot of years,” McCormick said. “Everybody is always going to need electricity, and as spoiled as we are today, everyone is always going to need heating and air and indoor plumbing. As far as trades go, those are jobs that are going to be around for a long time.”

So next time we second-guess the person who skipped college, remember they could be just as successful as those with bachelor’s degrees one day.

“I would say through my experiences, treating people right, treating people fair is a big part of being successful,” McCormick said. “Looking at everyone as if they are a person rather than just an asset, getting to know them and being a good person in general and a hard worker.”

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