Choosing between a traditional college and a trade school could have you weighing several pros and cons. Educational paths are as varied as careers. You might assume the jobs you’ll get with a college degree would pay more than any you’d get with a trade school course, especially when you compare a two or four-year degree to the short amount of time it takes to complete a trade school program.
But, you shouldn’t rule out a trade school if you’re focused on cash. There are never any guarantees, but you can get a lot more bang for your buck by focusing on these specific points.
1. What Do You Want to Do Each Day?
Consider which career you want. What do you want your workday to look like? Is there a particular kind of work environment that appeals to you? Take into account the hours you’ll be working and if you’ll be working alone or with a team.
Some careers require a college education. There isn’t a trade school workaround for these types of jobs, so your choice may make the decision for you. Still, there are many positions in the workforce that require a trade school education.
Here are a few of the possibilities:
- Aircraft mechanic
- Architectural and civil drafter
- Commercial diver
- Dental hygienist
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
- Home inspector
- Respiratory therapist
- Web developer
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are some of the highest paying trade school careers. Deciding how you want your workday to look will help you determine if a trade school is right for you.
2. Decide on a Standard of Living
Are you wondering what this has to do with getting rich on a trade school education? It’s simple: you need to decide what “rich” means to you. Being wealthy can mean a variety of things to different people. Deciding what type of life you want to live, housing you’d like to afford, and the car you’d like to drive will all help you determine how much you need to make to acquire that lifestyle.
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings of US workers was $990 in the second quarter of 2021, or an average annual salary of $51,480. Understanding how this figure translates to the cost of living in your area can impact your standard of living. It’s important to understand the job market in the area where you want to live, the typical salary in your field, and the cost of living in your area.
3. Consider the Costs
It’s important to consider what it will take to finance college versus trade school. The average cost of college is $35,720 per year. Multiply this number by a two or four-year degree program. For a private school, the expense is higher, and it’s lower for state and community colleges. These amounts include housing and living expenses. Students living at home could save a substantial amount on housing and grocery expenses.
A trade school can cost an average of $33,000. This is the total expense. Most programs take less than two years to complete — huge savings over a traditional education! You’ll also be making money sooner than you would if you were waiting on a four-year degree.
It’s important to consider the time investment as well as the monetary investment. Also, check that the class times offered to fit in with any other responsibilities you may have. Considering how much time you have to devote to a degree program can also influence the path you choose.
4. Do the Math
You’ve decided on a career and researched the costs. Now, it’s time to crunch the numbers. Compare the full cost of an education program with the average salary of the career you’ve chosen. You’ll see that it’s entirely possible to get rich on a trade school education when you spend less on your education and make more in your field.
Going back to school might not be as prohibitive, and you have the option of retraining for a new career or going a more traditional route later. Even if you know your career path isn’t a good fit, you might be reluctant to start over again if you’re already invested a ton of money into your original choice.
And don’t forget the possibilities for creating your own business specializing in your trade. If you’re successful, you stand to make a great deal more than just a basic income. Plenty of plumbers, welders, and electricians start contracting businesses, and there’s no reason why you can’t grow that into a million-dollar operation.
5. Be Smart With Your Money
You can choose the college route or a trade school and do well, but you’ll do even better when you learn to be smart with your money. Saving while you attend a college or trade school will help prepare you for any expenses life may throw at you. Learning to budget, invest and manage your money well is a life skill that will pay off in dividends, often literally, no matter which type of path you choose.
Deciding between traditional education and a trade school is a big decision. Before you dismiss a trade school education, consider what you want to do for a living and how you want to live. Look at the costs, crunch the numbers and learn to be savvy with your money. It may be possible to fast-track your career and get rich in the process.