It is important for students — and their parents — to remember that there is more than one path to success.

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NO one expects the path to medical school to pass through a community college. But it is the best way for me.

I chose this route as it builds my qualifications without massive student loans. After I passed enough college-level courses in high school to earn an associate degree, I attended the Renton Technical College for certification as a surgical technologist.

My education stretched well beyond the classroom at Renton. I’m now working full-time at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health-care leadership at the University of Washington. I now have established relationships with doctors and firsthand knowledge of the medical profession and patient needs.

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I may even undertake a monthlong medical mission, which would give me additional exposure to how medicine is practiced around the world.

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Community college can do this. In middle school and high school, everyone likes to talk about the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math. However, jobs requiring technical skills and a post-high-school credential — but not a four-year degree — make up half the STEM job market in this country.

These jobs can pay the bills and lead to a great career. Eighty-nine percent of students who graduated from my program in 2013 were employed in a program-related job within six months after graduation, and they earned a median starting salary of $45,154. I even won a scholarship that made this path easier.

Starting out, I did not know all this. My parents encouraged me to find an education beyond high school, but never pressured me. They only asked that I find something that works for me, and they are delighted with how it is turning out (although my mom is a bit leery about the medical mission, to be honest).

In writing this, I do not mean to criticize more traditional paths. High school followed by college then employment or graduate school has obviously worked for thousands before me.

But it is important for students — and their parents — to remember that there is more than one path to success. My current plan may include medical school, but even if I stop now, I could still enjoy a middle-class lifestyle.

Community colleges can open a wide variety of doors. Thanks to my education, I am on a path to becoming a doctor without paying off loans until retirement.