Due to the rapidly rising costs of education, some people argue that university is worthless, but it is still widely regarded as the best way to start a successful career. About 60% of American adults believe it’s probably or definitely worth it, even today†
However, the college route presents some undeniable challenges, and it won’t pay off for everyone. If you dislike the idea of spending years in an expensive university or find the subsequent career options distasteful, trading jobs are a viable alternative. They can help you earn a good income without requiring a bachelor’s degree.
Here’s what to consider before deciding to pursue a trading job, including how they work, their pros and cons, and some examples of the best on the market.
What are trading jobs?
A trade job is any career that requires advanced training from something other than a traditional four-year college. That could be a trade school, hands-on experience, an internship, independent certifications, or a combination of the four.
Trade jobs are often highly specialized and practical, and their qualification requirements usually reflect that. Getting hired usually requires you to undergo training that digs deep into the technical skills required for the job, gains hands-on experience, and demonstrates your capabilities.
Many traditional trade jobs are physically demanding and require skilled manual labor. For example, the construction and manufacturing industries are popular sources of trade jobs such as welder, plumber and auto repairman.
It’s also worth noting that, technically, trading jobs aren’t always “jobs” that involve full-time employment. In many cases, merchants can start out as employees or contract workers under someone else, then pass into small business ownership.
In general, it’s easier to make the big bucks leveraging your skills when you’re in charge of the operation. So, if you are interested in starting your own business, mastering a trade can be a great way to do it.
Trade in Jobs vs. the College Route
Investing in education is undeniably the most reliable path to success. There is a reason why immigrant parents work so hard to send their children to good schools. You can change your family’s fortune in one generation by attending a great university, earning a pragmatic degree and entering a lucrative field.
The data shows that going to university is still the most reliable way to make a lot of money. Graduates earn about $1 million more during their careers on average than those who enter a trade right after high school† Additionally, college graduates tend to have more flexible career options, while craftsmen often possess skills suited to a single industry, complicating career changes.
However, there are significant costs associated with going the college route, and unfortunately they are rising. That includes:
The Financial Cost of Attendance: The cost of tuition is already huge, but it is still going up. In fact, it is rising much faster than headline inflation. Since 1980, it has increased by 1,200%, while the consumer price index has only increased by 236%† The average trade school education costs $33,000, compared to $132,000 for the average bachelor’s degree. Delayed access to the workforce: Traditionally, attending college prevents you from earning money four years after high school. Today, however, it takes longer for people to complete their studies, to the point where more people graduate in five to 10 years than in four years.†
Trade jobs typically require less time in training before you can enter the workforce. That training also costs a lot less than college, which means you can start your career earlier and without tens of thousands of dollars in student loans putting you through the paces.
As a result, you have an extra half-decade to save, invest, and put compound interest to work, plus significantly lower monthly costs. The average student loan has a monthly payment of $460 and lasts about 20 years, which is a serious financial headwind†
There is no universally correct path
Hopefully you got out of that section unsure if I think it’s better to go to college or pursue a trade job. If so, it’s because I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other.
Statistically, you can probably make more money with a college degree than with a traditional trade job. However, you will also have to delay your entry into the workforce and potentially incur significant student debt.
That said, trends and averages can only tell you so much. You are an individual and your results will be different from everyone else’s. It is possible to become a millionaire in a trade or go bankrupt with a college degree.
Plus, money isn’t everything. You may find the traditional academic route distasteful, or perhaps repairing cars is your one true passion. If so, that’s great! Choosing a profession will not condemn you to a life of poverty.
📘 Learn more: Fortunately, student loans aren’t entirely unavoidable. Learn how to get a college degree with as little as possible: Debt-Free College: Where to Get Help Paying for College.
10 Best Trading Jobs in 2022
Trade jobs are as varied as the career paths available to graduates. Whether you’re happiest doing manual labor or providing medical care, there are plenty of lucrative occupations to suit your skills and temperament.
Let’s look at options in a few different areas, their earning potential, and the training and education you’ll need to secure them, assuming you’ve completed high school or earned your GED.
Trade JobJob DescriptionMedian Annual IncomeJob RequirementsPlumberInstall, repair and maintain plumbing systems in buildings, such as pipes, valves and drains. $56,330 Two to five years in a paid apprenticeship or trade school followed by a licensing exam. Electrician Install, maintain, inspect and repair electrical wiring systems $56,900Four years paid internship followed by a licensing exam.Automotive MechanicInspect, maintain, and repair vehicle components such as the engine, computer and electronic systems.$44,050Trade training followed by a paid internship and a license exam.Wind Turbine TechnicianMaintenance, repair and replacement of the electrical, mechanical and hydraulic components of wind turbines.$56,230Trade school followed by extensive on-the-job training.Dental HygienistEase patients’ oral health through prevention and maintenance. Assist dentists with procedures. $77,090 Accredited Dental Hygienist Program followed by Licensing Exam. Paramedic Provide transportation and medical assistance if needed in an emergency. $36,650 Get a CPR certificate, complete an emergency medical program, a paramedic program, and then pass licensing exams. Web Developer Create websites for clients, including designing the style, writing the code, and fixing bugs. $77,200 Demonstrate capabilities through training certifications and a robust portfolio of past work. BookkeeperKeep accurate records of a company’s financial transactions. $42,410 On-the-job experience and training plus certifications. Pilot Operate aircraft such as airplanes and helicopters. $130,440 Flight school and comprehensive certification exams. Real estate broker Facilitate real estate transactions for consumers and businesses. $49,040 Minimum courses and a licensing exam followed by real estate experience.
Are Trading Jobs Worth It?
Pursuing a trade job is a viable alternative to going to college. You can earn a comfortable living without earning a bachelor’s degree, and the diversity of occupations available means there’s probably something you’d love to do.
However, earning a college degree is traditionally considered the superior career choice for a reason. Chances are it will give you more earning power and a more diverse array of potential career options. If you can get a degree without student loans, that’s probably your best bet.
That said, there isn’t one right answer for everyone. There is no way to know for sure what your ultimate earning potential, training costs, and financial burden will be. And of course you should always consider which route will make you happiest, and there is no arguing about taste.
In the end, all you can do is try to choose the career path that you believe will maximize your satisfaction and financial security. If you want help, consider talking to people who’ve chosen the careers you’re considering to get first-hand insight.
📘 Read more: Still in doubt whether you want to go to university or practice a profession? Have a look at our analysis of the two courses of study: Vocational school or University of Applied Sciences? What is the difference? Pros and cons of each
This post Earn a good life without a degree
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