Should You Learn a Trade Instead of Going to College?

The old way of thinking used to go something like this.

You graduate high school.

Then you go to college.

Then you get a good paying job.

What a lot of people – ahem, parents and educators – failed to tell a lot of the students was that the middle part, the college part, was going to cost them A LOT of money.

I went to college. I enjoyed the heck out of my time in college. I went to most of my classes and graduated somewhere in the middle of the pack. I got a somewhat decent job out of college but everything I was asked to do at this job, I had learned in high school for the most part.

Everything else was on-the-job training. It took about 10 years to advance my career to a point where I’d call myself successful. However, nothing in my career success is a direct benefit from going to college.

Oh, and it took me nearly 10 years to pay back the student loan debt I accrued, which paled in comparison to the national average of $37,712.

So what are the other options?


If you have the means, which is the ability to get a student loan or your parents have the means to fork over the tuition, then college is a great option. If you are going for a specific field like medicine or science, then college is obviously going to be required. You can’t go down to the union hall and become a lawyer apprentice, unfortunately.

College not only can afford you the education to think differently, but also can expose you to different cultures and people you may have never been around in your high school. You will learn a lot about yourself and your goals in the four years (eh, maybe five) you’ll spend at an institution of higher learning. However, like I stated above, the realization of your goals comes at a hefty price in the form of room and board.

Learn a Trade

College isn’t for everyone. Some people just suck at school. Some people don’t want to get in debt just to get a job. For those people, learning a trade or joining a union could prove to be the best career path for them. Maybe you enjoy commercial plumbing? Maybe you enjoy carpentry? Joining a local union will give you on-the-job and classroom training so that you can become a paid apprentice for these trades, and others.

What’s even better? That classroom training is paid. The on-the-job training is paid. In fact, the day you start will be the lowest wage you’ll ever make. As you progress through from apprentice to journeyman to master and so on, you’ll see your wage continue to go up.

All of that happens without a coin coming out of your pocket, so to speak, to get trained.

I say ‘so to speak’ because technically you’re paying union dues out of your paycheck every week. But those dues are used to take care of you when you’re out of work or “on the bench.”

Whatever path you choose, you’re obviously making the right decision for yourself. You’re already ahead of the game since you’re actively choosing to be proactive about your future.

Anything that keeps you from living under an overpass, am I right?!

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