Why Trade Schools Are on the Rise

January 17, 2020

As our country develops newer and more advanced technology and manufacturing processes, the need for skilled trades workers has become apparent. The workforce today requires specialized skills. And while trade schools haven’t always been a shiny lure in the past, they have been emerging as a viable alternative and strong competitor to the four-year college degree. Between 1999 and 2014, trade school enrollment increased by nearly 6.5 million

Despite what American society may have led you to believe, a college degree is no longer the ticket to the American dream (if there even is such a thing still). If you’d rather re-wire a circuit panel or crank an engine instead of rewriting or cranking out yet another literary essay, you are in good company and for good reasons.  


For most young adults, heading off to college is an incredibly expensive way to put off growing up for a few years. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do simple math:  Your average bachelor’s degree is going to run about $127,000 and take 4 years, according to the Washington Post. The average trade school will set you back some, but much less, at $33,000 and only take less than 2 years to complete a program. Many secondary schools across the U.S. provide funding for high school students to attend local trade schools, preparing students to enter the workforce right after high school graduation. At a time when student loan debt has reached an all-time high, trade school students graduate with much less debt, if any, and they have at least a two-year head start on their college counterparts at entering the workforce and bringing home some paychecks.

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Speaking of paychecks, trade school graduates will not only be bringing them in sooner than college graduates, but those paychecks will be comparable in amount. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce reports that even without a bachelor’s degree, there are still around 30 million jobs in the U.S. with an average salary of $55,000.  The average welder salary beats out the average starting salary for a teacher with a master’s degree in most states. And while the college degree is dropping in value, a shortage of workers has resulted in higher wages for skilled trades, according to NPR. 

Job Security

The U.S. Department of Education notes that skilled workers have higher rates of employment compared to college graduates, and studies show that only a quarter of college graduates even get a job related to their degree. With the ever-changing landscape of available jobs, it is entirely possible to get a college degree in something that will no longer exist in a few years. On the other hand, unless humans suddenly don’t need to transport goods, stop using electricity, never go to the bathroom, get rid of vehicles, stop getting haircuts, refuse to eat, and start being immortal, it doesn’t look like the skilled trades are going anywhere.

So, if you’re thinking that perhaps college just isn’t for you, and even if your parents have always stressed the importance of a college education, there are many reasons that more people are pursuing trade school degrees now than ever.  Not only does it cost less to get qualified in a trade, but a future of steady employment is worth its weight in gold.  And if anyone says anything about not going to college, you can laugh all the way to the bank.