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.

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.