Most people believe that a college education is necessary for a stable career. An undergraduate degree is the key to success for most parents, teachers, and future bosses. A master's degree or doctorate is even better.
For certain professions, college degrees are required — even for entry-level positions. Yet, a college degree isn’t necessary to make a good living.
A skilled trade career offers the same benefits as a white-collar profession without the cost of a degree. From metal fabrication to plumbing to HVAC, the opportunities are endless. Here's why you should consider a skilled trade career:
You gain experience immediately. Some people don't perform best in a classroom environment. They're not great test takers and prefer learning on the job. They’d rather get into the “real world” and build their resume with experience instead of education.
In skilled trade careers, apprentices immediately work on projects and earn viable certifications. They don't compete for unpaid internships. They're already on the floor learning from skilled professionals.
The price tag is more reasonable. A lot of people don’t consider higher education because of its hefty price tag. According to The College Board, the average cost of tuition at a public college for an in-state student is about $10,000 per year. If you’re an out-of-state student or at a private school, college is more expensive.
With an associate degree at a trade school or community college, many students graduate with little or no debt. It offers an affordable price tag, higher scholarship availability, and easy-to-apply grants and loans.
While many college graduates leave school with little "real world" experience and a mountain of student loan debt, those that pursue skilled trade careers carry less debt burden. They also accumulate "real world" experience and applicable skills while learning on the job.
It takes half the time. While four-year college students are still in the classroom, trade skill students are graduates and earning an income after about two years.
Skilled trade experts make a good living. According to U.S. News & World Report, entry-level sheet metal workers made an average of $52,100 annually in 2017. A master tradesperson is able to demand even better pay. The average college graduate made less than $50,000. Salaries vary between state, company size, experience, industry, and level of education. Yet, skilled trade careers consistently make a good living.
A huge need for master tradespeople exists. With the baby boomer generation retiring, a huge opportunity awaits millennials and Generation Z to earn positions in trade careers. Aside from mass job openings, there's always a need for metal fabricators, welders, plumbers, carpenters, and more. Because trades are always in demand, there's ample opportunity and strong job security.
You get to do what you’re good at. A lot of college graduates leave with a degree in one field but end up working in a different field. Why earn a $40,000 to $160,000 degree and settle for any job that’s hiring? With a trade skill, you have the necessary education and training. This opens up careers to start your own business or apply for a highly specific job — and likely get it.
Earning a college degree isn't a bad idea, but it's not for everyone. Trade careers give you practical and useful skills, incur less student loan debt, and allow you to earn experience and an education. Plus, trades are always in demand.
With so many advantages to a trade career, it should be considered a more viable option in the professional world. To learn more about trade careers, download our Guide to Starting Your Career in Sheet Metal: