There are many benefits of learning a trade, from career opportunities to acquired skill advancement to technical know-how and confidence in your abilities and knowledge.
The big picture benefits of learning a trade
This may not be readily apparent, especially in a culture which puts a college degree or higher education at the pinnacle of educational achievement. But there are quite a number of ways that learning a trade is actually a quicker path towards personal achievement than more common education paths. Consider these benefits of learning a trade:
- Trade schools are less competitive to get into than colleges. With few people pursuing skilled trades, getting accepted into a trade school is less difficult than it is to get into good college programs. This doesn’t mean the programs have any less value, there is simply less interest from the public at large.
- Trade schools are more affordable. While it is definitely possible and common to use student loans to put yourself through trade school, the overall cost of most programs is far lower than even the same number of credits in an average college, and often is still less than a degree from a community college.
- Trade schools take less time for certification. Many trade school programs take one to two years, while a standard bachelor’s degree takes four. In that time you learn skills in a hands-on way and often can even gain employment in your field of work. This is both good for being able to afford the programs, it’s good for having an income while you’re still in school (in field!), and it doubles as a form of apprenticeship, enabling you to get more out of your time in trade school.
- Trade schools teach you practical skills. Many college graduates find themselves working outside their field after they graduate without a clear idea of how they want to use their education in their chosen field. This is because many college courses are filled with information that is not directly applied during the course, and students are unsure of how to apply their knowledge in the work force. With a trade, there is no mistaking how to apply your skilled trade knowledge in the work force, as you are essentially carrying it out from day one.
- Most trade schools will help you find a job after certification. These programs typically pride themselves on having a high employment rate after certification, and some even “guarantee” employment in your field. This works in their benefit because it is wonderful advertising for their programs, but it truly helps program participants to leave their program with gainful employment right off the bat.
- Skilled trades are sustainable long term. While many can involve a lot of manual labor, these skills are more sustainable long term than college degrees. Partly this is because the job market is flooded with individuals holding bachelor’s degrees, and the pool of skilled tradesmen is relatively dry. It is also partially because the need for skilled trades doesn’t come and go – we will always need electricians, welders, plumbers, etc. But many topics of college degrees have more ebb and flow as society considers them important or not. Additionally, many degrees need you to return to school to maintain your certification (like education and medical degrees) while skilled tradesmen learn “updates” in their field right there on the job.
If these six reasons are not enough to convince you, then there are other considerations that are more individual and nuanced that we can discuss as well.
It is 2022 and we all know what a toll the past two years have taken on the job market. So many people were laid off around the country, (indeed, the whole world) and while we think of medical professionals as those who were considered “essential workers” there were more doctors and nurses laid off than skilled tradesmen. Like we mentioned – we all still needed electricity, HVAC, plumbing, etc. Most stilled tradesmen stayed employed and many even advanced their careers quickly by showing that they were willing to work.
The benefits of learning a trade to a self-sufficiency lifestyle
As we pursue a level of self sufficiency, it cannot go unsaid what a huge benefit we gained from Jefferson learning a trade. He has only been out of welding school for going on 3 years, and he has advanced his knowledge, career, income, and confidence beyond what either of us ever imagined.
We have accomplished so many things because of this career change:
These are just the personal, immediate-to-us benefits of learning a trade.
- We are debt free.
- We are single income and I have the freedom to stay home with my babies.
- We have never lost a job or been laid off, but rather been offered OT.
- We have gotten bonuses and raises regularly (more than once per year).
- We have grown the confidence to set ambitious goals like one day owning our own business.
- We have forgotten what it’s like to be too afraid to try something new. We simply learn the new skill. We have accustomed ourselves to “DIY” in the sense that we look to other tradesmen for advice and then feel ready to take the plunge into doing things such as moving into a total fixer-upper and renovating it ourselves without hiring out work or going into debt.
This really is just to name a few perks and benefits. But what these things all add up to is that they’ve created the most helpful framework for us to live well.
And not only do we live well, but the way we are living currently is more sustainable than any other version of our lifestyle has been. That is so important and so relevant I cannot emphasize it enough.
I will say that adopting this lifestyle and embracing life within the trades did not happen overnight. When we got married we set out to become debt free (though I was the only one of us who carried any debt – we also embraced “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine”). We also knew we wanted kids so we set out to make Jefferson’s income enough for us to live on alone.
Which was hard!
At the time I was a public school teacher making almost double what he made as a manager and mechanic at a bicycle shop. But resolving our debt was practice for living on one income, because we mostly lived on his income and put all of my income to repaying debt. (We didn’t itemize it out, it was “our money” and “our debt” by then.)
When he began trade school was right when we discovered we were expecting our first child and while we were excited about both, we were nervous about both and about moving into this new single-income phase of life.
Some worry is judicious and some is frivolous. Fortunately our worry and concern helped us stay the straight and narrow in the beginning of the journey to him learning the trades and he was hired before he’d finished his first semester of trade school, and was able to begin working in field 5 months into his program.
His trade has not only facilitated the end of our debt, our single-income lifestyle, financing the birth of our second child, acquiring raises and bonuses, but it allowed us to move out of state and start at an even more lucrative company even during the height of a global pandemic. And his earning potential has only increased since then.
In our home his trade education has given him the confidence to buy and renovate a whole home. It’s slow going, but not because we’re too poor, not because we’re too afraid to tackle things, but because he is working. We’ve done everything ourselves from tiling a kitchen to ripping out walls and building our own countertops and flooring the whole place and painting murals on walls.
The “achievements” in this house just never end, and it’s because he went to trade school and essentially learned that he can do anything he sets his mind to.
So if you’re not sure if trade school is lucrative enough, or if it will facilitate the lifestyle you want, or if it is a respectable education that can catapult you into success, please know that trade school makes all of that possible and more. These are the benefits of learning a trade.
As always, if you have any questions about this post, about trade school education, or would like to speak directly to someone whose life was changed by trade school, you can reach out to us here via our contact page.
Wishing you all the best with your trade school endeavors!