5 things to know before you go to college

Submitted by Minnie Knych

Northwest Workforce Council Career Center

Not long ago I interviewed a young woman who had just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and returned to Friday Harbor in search of her dream job. For several months she had been unsuccessful in her job search. When she saw the list of job openings, she became more frustrated and slapped the table. “I have a Bachelor’s degree. That has to be worth something.” Not much, is the answer… unless you choose carefully to train for an IN-DEMAND career. That young woman had enjoyed her sociology and world history classes in high school, so she got a degree Liberal Arts that wasn’t much use in the job market. She had a large college debt to pay and few prospects for a career that would pay well.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider learning a trade and working a few years before seeking a Bachelor’s Degree.

1. Your earning power.

Besides earning a living wage two years sooner than a Bachelor degree student, you could possibly earn more. A licensed electrician in WA state can earn $100,000 and more per year. To become a journeyman electrician, you can start with a two-year electrician degree at Bellingham Technical College. Or, you don’t have to go directly to school, you can apprentice with a master electrician and be paid while you learn.

2. Tradespeople can choose where to live.

Tradespeople like, nurses, plumbers, electricians, truck drivers, HVAC technicians, x-ray or MRI technicians can move to almost any state and find a job immediately. Of course, certification requirements for trades vary from state to state, but there isn’t a state in the union that doesn’t need more skilled professionals. Having a marketable skill means having the freedom to live almost anywhere.

3. You will save yourself and/or your parents from a mountain of debt.

According to smartmoney.com, the average cost of a Bachelor’s Degree at an in-state public college is $37,200. Including room and board the annual cost increases to $53,949 per year. That brings the cost of a BA to over $200,000. On average a BA graduate owes at least $30,000 in student debts. Statistics show that even four years after graduation, that student will still owe student debt.

The average trade school degree, on the other hand, costs only $24,000 for a two-year trade certification. – less than what many four-year degree holders will still owe after graduation. Not only that, but students who earn a two-year trade certification will enter the workforce sooner than those earning a bachelors, giving tradespeople a jumpstart on earning an income. On average, those who earn certification are able to start working at a higher wage than the starting salary of someone with a BA degree. Besides, statistics show that you may change careers at least 5 times in your lifetime.

4. For some trades you can skip the school altogether.

For instance; Electrician, plumbers, masonry, and many other trades offer apprenticeships that allow you to earn while you learn the trade from someone who is experienced and certified. An apprentice electrician can earn a starting wage of $25/hour while learning on the job. Every two years, there are weekend classes and tests to take to advance toward Journeyman status. Some trades like CDL truck driver or dental assistant can take less than 1 year to earn certification.

5. Studies show that five years after high school graduation, a majority of Bachelor degree graduates are employed in a job unrelated to their degree.

Earning while you learn a trade can give you time to have more life experience to make that decision about further education.

So, if you really want that degree in gender studies or early Mesopotamian archeology, why not learn a trade first. Then you can work part time at your good paying job and pay your own way through a BA degree without incurring debt.

If you want more information about careers, wages, or work skills training, contact the Career Center at 360 378-4662 or mknych@workforcenorthwest.org.