For a long time, young people have been persuaded that the best way to secure a successful future was to go to college. Parents, teachers and guidance counselors still mostly pitch a bachelor’s degree as the first step towards a lucrative career. This has led to a shortage of workers in many skilled trades. It’s also misled many people who could actually get high paying jobs as construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and other trades.
Misconceptions About Skilled Trades
There are several persistent stereotypes about trades that prevent many high school graduates from pursuing them. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that not going to college condemns you to a low-paying career. The fact is, workers in skilled trades can earn very good salaries. They certainly have an advantage starting out. Not only do they save money by not going to college but even entry-level jobs or apprenticeships often pay upwards of $50,000 per year.
People also have a dim view of skilled trades that date back to shop class in middle or high school. Careers that require you to wear a hardhat and workboots are often seen as less important and lower status than white collar jobs. This prejudice ignores the fact that skilled trades are essential for society to function. Additionally, workers in these fields are now required to have a certain amount of education including relevant certifications or licenses.
The Downside to Attending College
While high school students and their parents often overlook the benefits of pursuing a skilled trade they also tend to have an overly optimistic view of college. There are several potential drawbacks to this path.
- Not everyone is suited for college. Some people prefer working with their hands, building or repairing things.
- As the costs of a four-year degree, not to mention graduate degrees, continue to rise, many college graduates spend years if not decades paying off student loans.
- Many college graduates, especially in the liberal arts, have trouble getting jobs. Even in fields typically associated with high-paying careers such as finance and computer science are dependent on economic conditions.
Advantages of Skilled Trades
In summary, there are quite a few benefits in pursuing a skilled trade.
- Less expensive than college. Community colleges and trade schools offer lower tuition than colleges. Scholarships and grants are often available as well. This makes it realistic to graduate without debt.
- Start working sooner. While it takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, you can earn an associate’s degree or certificate in half that time. This means you start earning money sooner.
- High demand. As members of the Baby Boom generation retire, there’s an increasing demand for skilled tradespeople.
- Good pay. Plumbers, electricians, bricklayers and others in skilled trades make good salaries. They often earn higher starting salaries than college graduates.
- Valuable contribution to society. You’ll be able to feel pride in doing something that’s truly necessary. Additionally, you have a certain amount of job security. While economic conditions always influence job opportunities, people will always need homes built, electrical wiring, plumbing and other essential tasks done by trade workers.
These are some of the points to consider before you assume that you or your children must get a bachelor’s degree. Learning a skilled trade is a viable alternative, now more than ever.