Ready to plan your career? Or are you still wondering, “should I learn a trade or go to college?” The answer always depends on you and your goals. Friends and family often default to the suggestion that college is the way to go. While their hearts are in the right place, it’s simply not true for millions of Americans who are considering their options for building a life.

Read on to learn some of the biggest benefits of working in a trade and why it could be a better path to achieving your goals.

Benefits of Learning a Trade

#1. Trade School is Cheaper than College (And Faster)

Colleges are a huge investment of both time and money. Not only does it, on average, put you about $30,000 in debt, it also delays your career by four years or more. That’s a lot of time and money you’ll have to start making up the moment you graduate!

On the flip side, trade schools are far less expensive and, at most, run two years to completion. Compared to your peers, you’ll be two years ahead in experience with little to no debt. That gives you a huge advantage when it comes to the most important part of work: accomplishing your goals!

If you want to invest in a home, operate a business or start your own family, the biggest thing working against you is time. Every day you wait – whether it be for lack of money or lack of time – is another day between you and achieving your goal.

So instead of asking “should I learn a trade” you may want to consider asking “how long do I want to put off working toward my true goals?” 

#2. Progress is Straightforward

Skilled trades are just that – skills you learn and employ. Which means that when you learn a trade, you start on a path toward learning practical skills that most people need. Because skilled trades are built on the foundations of things you know how to do, your progress is easy to track.

Why does that matter? Because it’s fulfilling to know how far you’ve come. Dreaming about success can be fun, but real satisfaction comes from looking at who you were five years ago and realizing how you’ve grown.

Likewise, the trades are easily the best field to be in when planning to work your way toward self-employment. Once you’ve put in the time and effort, your skills will be enough for you to embark on your own. This is often the “final” career goal for many, and for skilled tradespeople, it’s much far more attainable. 

#3. Skilled Trade Jobs Are Plentiful

Nobody likes the idea of college debt. But it’s even worse when compounded with the pain of struggling to find a job. With the increase in University attendance nation-wide, college educations are much more common than they used to be. Jobs that used to require no degree now require one. Jobs that used to require a four-year degree now require post-graduate studies. And the people who have them are constantly competing for these limited jobs.

On the other hand, skilled tradespeople are always in need. There’s generally always more work that needs to be done than there are hands to do it. Apprenticeships allow you to learn as you work, which also means earning while you learn!

Looming overhead is the issue of the current tradespeople population. Many of the skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen we rely on are reaching retirement – with far too few in place to follow in their footsteps. That’s good news when it comes to the job prospects of up-and-coming tradespeople!

#4. You’ll Never Be Outsourced

The last 20 years have completely reshaped our work economy. It’s safe to say that the concept of outsourcing has been one of the biggest ones. Millions of jobs that used to be common in America are now done by workers all over the world.

Every job that can be filled overseas is one less position available to you. But physical trades, especially those that surround our everyday lives, can’t be outsourced.

That doesn’t mean you won’t ever have competition – far from it! But it does mean that you’ll typically be competing with those who are on equal footing. Ultimately, your own work ethic and quality of work will be the driving force behind your success. 

#5. Skilled Trades Pay Well

Never let anyone tell you that you need a college degree to achieve financial security. It’s certainly one path, but there are too many variables to support that claim. While a lawyer may end up making millions, many college degrees land people with jobs earning the same or less than their peers working the trades.

There’s nothing wrong with following your passion, even if it earns less, but it’s an important reminder: don’t skip the trades just because you think you can’t establish financial security.

If a college degree takes you toward your ultimate life goals, go for it! But if not, don’t rule out the other options that may get your there faster or with more life satisfaction. Working in the trades pays well – and a lot of jobs pay 6 figures. And if you decide to start your own business, there’s no hard ceiling on how much you could potentially earn.

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Ken Rusk is a blue-collar entrepreneur who has started several successful endeavors and mentored hundreds of young people in their pursuit of a satisfying career and fulfilling life. Discover how Ken’s approach to life and work can help you set and achieve your goals – all while avoiding the nearly inescapable trap of college debt. Pre-order his new book, Blue Collar Cool: How to Earn Without the College Burn today!