What path will you take? College or trades?

Why college?

Unless you are one of the lucky few who receive a full scholarship to college, IS a college education — and tens of thousands of dollars in debt for you or your family — always the right path after high school?    Depending on your situation — your aptitude, career interests, high-school record, and life goals — learning a trade by attending a career college or vocational school might make much more sense for you. Besides, if you later decide a college degree is appropriate, you can find many alternatives for obtaining it.

What Does it Mean to Work in a Trade?

It simply means that you have acquired a set of specific skills and knowledge related to a particular job/career field. A growing number of jobs and careers in healthcare, technology, mechanics, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), agriculture, animal husbandry, construction, and other trades are available to job-seekers with a certificate, vocational diploma, or associate’s degree from career and vocational schools.

Even more appealing for people considering a career in skilled trades — many of these jobs are in high demand, with expected growth to continue for some time. Furthermore, because more young people choose college over trades, the shortage of skilled workers is growing. Besides the demand for these jobs, skilled tradespeople can easily earn $40,000 or more annually.

What’s the reason more high-school graduates choose college over trade school? Studies and anecdotal evidence show a combination of factor: perceived value and status of a college education, myths and misconceptions about the types of trades jobs, and stereotypes of trades workers.

What’s the Difference Between Vocational Schools and Four-Year Colleges?

Vocational schools traditionally aim to provide a directed course of study that focuses on the training and skills students require for a specific job. Four-year universities and colleges, on the other hand, traditionally focus on providing a broad education covering a wide range of topics, centered more on teaching theory and developing critical-thinking skills.

A recent high school graduate can expect to earn a middle-income wage within a year of their high school graduation. By the end of the fourth year following high school graduation, the now journeyman level tradesman, will expect to earn in a range from $40,000 annual income to $50,000/ yr and more. This is likely at least equal to what the 4 year college graduate will be earning upon college graduation.

With the continued expectation of a skilled tradesman shortage into the foreseeable future, the now journeyman level tradesman can expect full-time employment through retirement. In all likelihood, the same cannot be said for the individuals with four year undergraduate college degrees.