Why Non-Traditional Career Paths can Be More Lucrative than Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Written by  //  2014/05/19  //  Academics  //  Comments Off on Why Non-Traditional Career Paths can Be More Lucrative than Climbing the Corporate Ladder

College may seem like the next logical step for most high school seniors. However, students should be willing to broaden their scope and consider other paths. A traditional four-year university may not be for everyone, and in some cases, a trade school may be more appropriate.

Trade School vs. a Four-Year Academic Institution

Wearing a tie and spending a typical eight-hour work day in an office cubicle just doesn’t click for some people. Some people are better off wearing a hard hat and safety goggles in a blue collar environment. Ultimately, students need to weigh the pros and cons between a vocational school and four-year university because the choice they make will have a tremendous influence on the opportunities that become available to them later down the road. There are also cost differences between the two schools that must be taken into consideration.

College Can Be Cost-Prohibitive

Did you know that the typical bachelor’s degree costs $127,000 and takes 10 years to completely pay off? Furthermore, an estimated 40% of students at a four-year college end up dropping out. This means that not only do they end up with incurred expenses, but they also did not acquire the degree they set out to obtain. For students that are not at the top of their class or feel that they are not particularly studious or book smart, they may want to consider trade school, which costs $33,000 on average. To widen the cost gap even further, if you factor in student loans with a 4% interest over 10 years, a bachelor’s would cost $154,000, while a trade degree costs $40,000; that’s a $114,000 difference.

Trade School has a Quicker Completion Time

A bachelor’s degree takes four years to earn for full-time students. Should they choose to pursue postgraduate studies, then add another two to four years on top of that. Compare this to a vocational degree, which generally takes two years. Granted, some trade degrees do take longer, but for the most part, trade schools often require less schooling. This means that not only is the tuition more affordable, but students earn their degree sooner, which means they can enter the workforce sooner.

Bachelor’s and Vocational Degree Recipients Earn More or Less the Same

High school grads who transition straight to the workforce earn around $30,000 on average. The average college grad, by contrast, makes $45,000, while vocational degree holders earn $42,000. This only translates to an additional $90,000 over a 30 year period for four-year degree recipients compared to their vocational counterparts. If you add in the fact that vocational students generally enter the workforce two years earlier and spend 32 years in their trade, that narrows the lifetime income difference to just $6,000 between bachelor and trade degree holders.

Making an Informed Decision

Don’t choose a four-year school just because it’s what the majority of high school graduates are doing. You have to consider the cost difference, and even more importantly, know what it is that you aspire to do career-wise. For both students and their parents, the decision is something that warrants a lengthy discussion and maybe even a meeting with a career counselor. Students can also visit campuses, read brochures, speak with instructors or take a guided tour to learn more about the differences between the two institutions.

Ultimately, the right decision is the one that you feel will best prepare you for what it is you want to pursue once you receive your degree and begin your first job search.

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