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Trade School

A Great Alternative to the Four-Year College Degree

By Julie Senger

With traditional, four-year college and university tuitions continuing to increase each year, many recent high school graduates are looking for another alternative. According to *Collegedata, “The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities, and $33,480 at private colleges.” When you multiply those figures by four, you get a total tuition cost of $38,600, $99,720 and $133,920 respectively.

As for starting salaries, “In its most recent survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that for ten broad degree categories ranging from engineering to communications, 2016 graduates are projected to have an average salary of $50,556” (Poppick). However, as of 2015, “the average cost of living for a single person residing in Atlanta is $31,303” (Elkins & Gould). If you used every dollar of your remaining income after all your cost-of-living expenses to pay down your student loans, it would take 5.17 years for state residents at public colleges, 8.35 years for out-of-state residents at public universities, and 10.12 years for private college tuition students to pay off their student loans. These are numbers you will probably want to consider when making your decision about whether to attend a traditional four-year college or university.

You may also want to consider that while “21 percent of the class of 2016 accepted a job before graduation, 51 percent of graduates from the classes of 2014 and 2015 said they are working in jobs that do not require their college degree” (Dickler). And finally, “The Institute of Education Statistics estimates that 40% of attendees at a four-year college drop out before completing their degree” (Hamm). So, what is another great option for recent high school graduates and anyone else who might be looking to pursue a degree, certification or advanced training to help them secure a profitable career?

If you’re a fan of the show Dirty Jobs, then you know its star, Mike Rowe, is a big proponent of attending trade school. According to recent research, trade jobs account for “54% of the labor market,” and “over the next ten years, 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled. But two million of those will go unfilled due to the skills gap” (The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Study). Therefore, the chances of you finding a job upon the completion of your chosen program are likely very high, as there are currently not enough skilled workers to fill the necessary positions. Also, most skilled trade careers are safe from overseas outsourcing because hands-on work can only be carried out locally.

Do you fancy the idea of a varied work environment, one where you don’t sit in the same cubical each day? Do you enjoy working with your hands? Do you enjoy fixing things? Building things? If so, trade school may be an ideal choice for you. Examples of trade school programs include automotive, marine craft or aviation technology and repair, plumbing, welding, carpentry, electrician school, landscape design, appliance repair, HVAC, truck driving, dental hygienist, sonographer, respiratory therapist, paralegal, web developing and so much more!

Another benefit of trade school is that most programs take two years or less to complete, so you’re able to get started earning a salary in your career two years sooner than you would while earning a four-year degree. And, “over thirty percent of young people with an associate’s degree — and 27 percent with an industry-relevant license or certificate — earn higher incomes than those with a bachelor’s degree” (Trade Schools, Colleges and Universities).

So, while society has always seemed to focus heavily on encouraging high school students to “pursue a traditional, four-year college degree,” students deserve to know just as much about trade schools and associate degree programs. We would be doing them a disservice if we didn’t shine equal light on these types of opportunities, allowing individuals to pursue advanced education and training in viable, reputable career fields that employ more than half of America’s workforce.

*All numbers within this article are based upon the following sources that were utilized at press time:

Collegedata, “What’s the Price Tag for a College Education?”

Dickler, Jessica, “College Grads Enjoy the Best Job Market in Years”

Elkins, Kathleen and Skye Gould, “How Much It Costs for a Single Person to Live in 24 Major US Cities”

Hamm, Trent, “Trade School Might Be a Better Choice Than College. Here’s Why”

The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Survey, “The Skills Gap in the U.S.” (2015).

Poppick, Susie, “Here’s What the Average Grad Makes Right Out of College”

Trade Schools, Colleges and Universities, “7 Benefits That Prove the Value of Education”