Kim Kardashian Proves You Don’t Need Grad School

Kim Kardashian West has announced that she is becoming a lawyer without going to law school—and she’s really on to something.

Like Kardashian West, growing numbers of Millennials are launching into graduate studies. According to a Council of Economic Advisors report, Millennial graduate school enrollment in recent years has grown at a much faster rate (35%) than even college enrollment (15%).

Unfortunately, while graduate school can be the ticket to a new and more satisfying career, it comes with an enormous price tag. Credible, a loan financing company, reports that students accumulate $66,300 in debt on average when paying for an MBA, $72,800 when paying for a Master of Arts, and $145,500 when paying for law school.

Fortunately, there are other options. Here are a few to consider:

1) Law Reader Program

The American Bar Association predicts that within 10 years Millennials will have taken over American law firms. But according to Gallup, less than a quarter of recent law graduates (23%) said their law degree was worth the cost.

Kardashian West is using the Law Reader program to realize her legal aspirations without incurring the cost of law school, and anyone with a college degree and good moral standing in California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington can follow her lead. Although program requirements vary by state, students generally pay a small fee to study legal subjects such as jurisprudence, professional responsibility and ethics, civil procedure, torts, contracts, criminal law, and constitutional law with a practicing attorney at a state-based law office. As long as students spend the requisite time and pass examinations at the conclusion of each course, they can take the bar exam and become attorneys in the state.

While most of us do not have the luxury of attorney friends who will fly to our homes to teach us the law—as Kardashian West does—we can still benefit from the lower cost and law office experience that reader programs offer.

2) Specialty Online Training Programs

Interested in a niche career? An online training program could be a better option than graduate school.

The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, a highly-respect art school, offers a Masters’ Degree in Animation & Visual Effects. The program includes required classes on drawing, modeling, storyboarding, rigging, history, and animation. The program costs approximately $37,541.

But online programs offer comparable, even superior opportunities, for less. Animation Mentor, for example, also trains animators. But instead of taking courses in modeling, storyboarding, rigging, and animation—which are distinct careers themselves—Animation Mentor students take only animation classes, giving them more time and opportunities to develop the skill sets and portfolio they need to succeed in animation-specific careers.

Like the Academy of Art University, Animation Mentor is led by industry professionals at top animation studios, and graduates secure jobs at top animation studios including Sony Interactive Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Disney Animation Studios, Blue Sky Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and more. But unlike Academy of Art University’s Master’s program, Animation Mentor costs only $14,994.

While online programs like Animation Mentor may not be for everyone, the low cost and high quality it affords should encourage those looking for new career opportunities that don’t break the bank.

3) Apprenticeships

New paths to employment are also available through apprenticeships. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that plumbing, pipe fitting, and steamfitting jobs will increase by 16% between 2016-26.

Mike Taylor is apprenticing to become one of these plumbers. He graduated from college with $75,000 in debt and told CNN that he waited tables until he realized he couldn’t pay off his loans. Then he joined a 5-year apprentice program at Plumbers Local 1 in Queens, N.Y. Every two weeks Taylor spends one day in class and nine days at work, and is paid $28 per hour. After another year of training, he’ll be paid $42 per hour. Taylor made $117,000 during his first year of apprenticeship, which he said he spent paying down debt, buying a home, and preparing with his wife for their first child.

While construction jobs like Taylor’s have the most apprenticed workers, new apprenticeship programs in other areas are popping up across the country. The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture recently launched the state’s first farming apprenticeship program, Norton Healthcare in Kentucky founded the first nursing apprenticeship program, and Techtonic, a software development company, launched the first software development apprenticeship program. These jobs offer respective, median annual salaries of $67,950, $71,730, and $105,590.

The immense costs of graduate school need not deter those in search of a fulfilling career. By identifying career goals and thinking creatively about paths to achieve them, we, like Kardashian West, can achieve career aspirations without sacrificing financial wellbeing.

Kristiana Bolzman is a Catalyst Policy Fellow and a Young Voices Contributor. She studied Politics and Journalism at Hillsdale College, graduated from The Heritage Foundation's Young Leaders program, was accepted as a Generation Liberty Fellow at the State Policy Network, and has served at Fox News and on Capitol Hill. Her research and writing focuses on education reform and the preservation of civil liberties.
Catalyst articles by Kristiana Bolzman