You may have been told you will earn more money or be more successful in the long term if you earn a college degree. Or, that you can only get so far without one. While there are certain career paths that require a formal education to advance, we do not agree that earning a degree is the only road to success! In fact, some people who have not completed their education end up earning more than some who have — that is to say, a degree is not necessarily required for professional or financial success.
Trade school vs. college: Cost and length of educational programs
The cost to attend college is continuing to rise, which makes an alternate career route seem more appealing (and possible) to some. Trade schools and skilled worker training programs cost significantly less than four-year universities and even most two-year colleges. The investment of time and money into education at a trade school versus a university can quickly get you into work, reducing or eliminating the need to take out student loans and help you start making money sooner.
A traditional four-year university takes 64 percent of attendees more than four years to graduate, extending the amount of time they spend in school and not in the workforce. Forty percent of attendees actually fail to graduate at all, but may still have loans to cover the expense of the degree, according to the Institute for Education Statistics. The study also states that graduation rates were even lower when the more selective school was in the acceptance process.
Potential earnings in the workforce
Once people graduate with a degree, it can be challenging to find a job where they use their degree. The Economic Policy Institute says that college graduates under 25 are underemployed at a rate of 16.8 percent, meaning those people may be earning less than they expected to.
However, skilled workers who attend training programs or trade school instead of universities are often highly sought after for their particular skill sets. Depending on the industry, unemployment rates can be as low as 2 percent (in mining, installation and manufacturing industries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). There is also a higher level of job security for many workers, who can feel more secure in the fact they have the skills to continue earning a paycheck week after week.
Skilled workers who specialize in trade are able to quickly earn big money. The median salary for many careers is between $40,000 and $55,000 a year, with huge opportunities for growth as you progress in your career. On the other side, the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ most recent survey states that the median salary for college grads is $35,000 to $55,000, meaning that degree doesn’t put them much farther ahead than skilled workers.
If you or your child are deciding whether to go to college or a trade school, consider your skills and long term goals as you make the decision on which may be the best route for you.