Trade Ya!

My father, God rest his soul, had two PhDs, but didn’t know the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer. Most of us are not do-it-your-selfers!


It’s been drilled into our heads for decades that the only way to get ahead is to get a bachelor’s degree; then it was, you gotta have a Master’s if you want to separate yourself from the crowd. What with the skyrocketing cost of college, these long-held truths are finally being questioned.


According to CollegeData, the 2016-2017 average cost of an in-state college education is about $25,000 per year and the annual outlay for a moderately priced private institution is a cool fifty grand.[1] Oops, we forgot a few minor expenses like room and board, fees and services, transportation, books, and supplies (not to mention beer and pizza). Talk about sticker shock! (Click on picture above to read entire article)

Should you consider a career in the trades versus going the “professional” route of 4-7 years of college then starting your work life tens of thousands of dollars in debt?


The Manchester Journal’s William Schmink asks a series of interesting questions, “When was the last time you could get an electrician, plumber, or other skilled laborer to show up on the same day you called? Have their fees gone up or down? Why are there 200,000 or more high-paying manufacturing jobs left unfilled …?” “Vocational or trade schools are making a comeback. Over the last five years, these schools have experienced relatively strong growth, about 4.1% annually, and are expected to continue to grow by about 2.6 percent a year over the next five years.”[2]


I highly recommend anyone interested in the trades to read an article by Trent Hamm, where he compares trade school versus attaining a college (bachelor’s) degree.[3] His findings are thought provoking if you have an aptitude for the trades or you aren’t overly thrilled with the idea of sitting in classrooms for another four or five years, then still not knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life. (I created the chart below from Mr. Hamm’s article).


Bachelor Trade School
$127,000 Cost of Study $33, 000


Financing 10 years

at 4% interest



$46,900 Starting Salary $35,720
22-26 Age Starting Career 19-21
No Job Security? Yes
Yes Outsourceable? No


Greater Later Life Earnings Potential?



Granted, the lifetime earnings potential for those with a college degree is much greater than building a life working in the trades and the effects on one’s body lean heavily in favor of the white- collar worker versus those in flannel shirts and jeans (I can attest to this personally since I have done both. Custom-made $1,500 suits are darn nice).


For many, writing a check to get work done is superior (and cheaper in the long run) to the do-it-yourself route. Who will you write the check to? It’s to someone who has gone to trade school.

(This is an excerpt from my new book HIRED! Every Method for Employment)

[1] Collegedata, What’s the Price Tag for a College Education.

[2] William Schmink, Trade School vs. College, Manchester Journal, Mar. 28, 2013.

[3] Trent Hamm, Why you Should Consider Trade School Instead of College, The Simple Dollar, Oct. 19, 2017.