Career Pathways

"I just don't feel like a 4-year college is right for me, but I don't want to miss out on the opportunity to have a professional career. It seems like there should be another way to get there..."


Career Interest

Is Machining right for you? Click here to find out more.     

How Do I Start

Find out more to build your pathway and find ways to become a Machinist. 

Career Prep

Looking for resources to prepare for your career? This is the place. Click here. 

Get to Work

Click here for resources and guides to help you find a job in manufacturing. 


What's a Pathway?

Just like it sounds, a Career Pathway is the way to get from where you are today to the career you want.


Most people envision their career pathway as a straight line that everyone follows. It is commonly presented as graduating from high school, going to college, graduating with a degree, finding a job, and so on. Everything just works out in a perfect straight line, right? 

Traditionally Expected Pathway


It works that way for some people, but not for most of us. For example...

  • What if I'm not ready for college or university yet?

  • What if my career choice is not a traditional 4-year degree program? 

  • What if I need to work while I go to school because of my family situation? 

  • What if I have to go to school near my home and cannot go off to school like my friends? 

  • What if I have earned college credit during high school? Is there a way to fast-track some of this? 

  • What if I want to take some time to go work first before I commit to a career? 

  • What if I want to save money or try a different approach to career training? 

  • What if I just don't know???

So many question - and so many different options. But the good news is that you can STILL GET THE CAREER YOU WANT...but it means there are MANY PATHWAYS to get there. 

Instead of just one pathway, there are many ways for you to reach the same destination. You just need to know what is available so you can chart your own course and take the path that works for YOU. 

More Common Pathway

Many ways to get from where you are to where you want to go. Find your path and chart your course. 


Choosing a Career Path

There are so many careers out there - your first step is to decide what type of career interests you. From there, you can identify ways to prepare for and pursue your next steps to become qualified so employers will hire you. 

You can choose a career path anytime. The sooner you have an idea of the path to take, the sooner you can begin to take steps to move toward your career. If you know what you want to do already, that's great! If you're still trying to figure things out, you may want to go check out the Career Assessment page first. 

When to Prepare

You can begin to prepare for your career right now.  If you are in...

  • Middle School - You are required to prepare your High School & Beyond Plan in 7th and 8th Grade. check out the resources on this site to learn about careers that may be of interest and find out what you can do to prepare in high school to become career ready after school. 

  • High School - You can begin now to be job ready after graduation through programs such as dual credit, Running Start, Work Based Learning, and other work-related programs. Many high schools have partnered with youth apprenticeships, colleges, and other programs to prepare you for careers. 

  • Post-High School - If you are graduated, you have several opportunities to get the training and education you need at any time to prepare for your career of choice. It's never too late to start or even change careers. 

Your Career, Your Choice

Career preparation is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Even with the same career, there are multiple ways to arrive to the same destination. Different people have different situations, circumstances, challenges, and opportunities that affect what they do and how they do it. You have so many choices that provide flexibility in how you can decide to do training and preparation for the career of your choice. 

You should be aware that...

  • You can afford education. There is always an option out there for you to get the training you need for your career 

  • Higher education is not an exclusive privilege. You have access to training for a better career. 

  • You can do it!! Don't let anyone tell you that you're not good enough, smart enough, or able to succeed. You can!

  • No matter what challenge you are facing right now, someone else has been there before and they did it. 

Sure, there are some jobs that require specific degrees. However, there is not a specific pattern that must be followed to obtain those degrees. In most cases, though, a specific degree is NOT required. Instead, employers are looking for specific knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes to get the work done. That can come from many other sources of training, development, and experience. 

Many Education and Training Paths

You have probably heard that you need to plan on obtaining some kind of training after high school to prepare for your career. Unfortunately, it may have been limited to coaching about ONLY universities (4-year degrees and programs). There are MANY educational pathways available to obtain the knowledge, skills, and training needed to be successful within your career. 


Find What Works For You

The key to a Career Pathway is to develop a course that works for YOU.


When you understand what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to go, the options available to you, and resources you can use to get you there, you can create a new world of possibilities. 

Consider the following examples of different Career Pathways and how they might apply to you. The top row identifies a handful of individuals who took more of a TRADITIONAL approach to prepare for their careers. The second row shows how others work in similar positions, but took a DIFFERENT approach to their Career Pathways to reach the same destination. 


Similar Outcomes, Different Paths to Get There


Let's share a few examples of individuals in similar positions who took different approaches to reach the same destination. This is meant to demonstrate you don't need to follow the same path - there are several ways to get to your career that can match your situation, needs, and preferences,.




Mechanical Engineer


5-Year Bachelor of Science

Washington State University


Junior Year: Summer

Hired after college into first professional job. 

Progressive promotions over past 10 years. 

Professional Man


Mechanical Engineer


2-Yrs Assoc. Degree Mech. Design from Community College

+ 3 yrs Experience

Returned to school to complete BsEng


Worked while going to school to support family. 

Worked as Mech. Designer throughout school. Employer helped pay for school. 


Mechanical Designer


2-year Assoc. Degree

Spokane Falls Community College 



Hired after college into first professional job. Hired as Designer I and worked way up.

Currently working as Designer II after 5 years. 


Headshot Portrait

Mechanical Designer




Multiple certifications from training courses.


10 years of hands-on experience at reputable engineering firms.  


Work experience. Started ​working as a drafter using skills learned in high school classes.

Currently a Mech. Designer II 

Professional Smiling Woman




4-Year Bachelor (Business)

Eastern Washington State University


Worked part-time jobs  Junior and Senior for local businesses to support young family.

Continued after graduation. Expanded into full-time role. 

Works for same family-owned business.




4-Year Bachelor (Business)

Eastern Washington State University


Worked part-time jobs  Junior and Senior for local businesses to support young family.

Continued after graduation. Expanded into full-time role. 

Still works for same family-owned business, more duties and pay. 

Young Man


Graphic Designer


2-year Assoc. Degree 

Spokane Falls Community College


Summer between years

Hired after college into initial position as a graphic artist. 

Currently on 3rd job in 3 years. as Lead Graphic Designer. 


Several side gigs for individuals and businesses.

Young Businesswoman


Graphic Designer



Certificates - Several completed through online training in Adobe

Certificates via Coursera & others




Initial work competed through independent gigs and Fiverr

Currently working as Sr. Graphic Designer for local design firm. 

Asian Man




2-year Assoc. Degree 

Spokane Community College


Co-op / Final Quarter

Hired after college into initial position as a CNC Machinist I.

Currently works as a CNC Machinist II after 5 years on the job for the same employer. 

Smiling Portrait





AJAC Machinist Apprenticeship program certificate 


None - completed apprenticeship while working

Promoted from Assembler to Machinist I after completion of Apprenticeship program.

Currently works as a CNC Machinist II after 3 years of program (+5 years of previous employment).. 


That is up to you. There are several paths to get you to a good career. However, there are no short cuts! You still need to do the work to get the qualifications needed to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities that employers are looking for to become a skilled employee. 

Here are some options to consider as you evaluate options. 

  • Career of Choice

  • Location of Training

  • Availability of Alternative Training

  • Experience

  • Ability to Gain Knowledge Elsewhere

  • Family Situation