The Smart Service Dispatch

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January 20, 2021


Blue Collar vs. White Collar: An Outlook for 2019

Torn between the two career paths? Take a look at the pros and cons of each to help inform your decision.

Every young person worries about making the “right” school and career choices. Parents get nervous too! The questions go on and on:

Is college mandatory for success in the 21st century? If so, which degrees provide the most benefit? Will you enjoy yourself pursuing your field? Can you land a good job only if you have a degree under your belt? If you go to trade school, will you miss out on some magic key to success? 

Of course, everyone has a slightly different story, but statistics can clue us in to trends in the eternal blue collar vs. white collar dilemma. 

Cost of Education

According to the College Board, the average cost of a 4-year public college for in-state students is $37,640. But for out-of-state students, the cost jumps to $95,560. Students attending a private college for a bachelor’s degree can expect to pay an average of $129,640. 

Even when students work while attending school, the high cost of college saddles many with debt that lasts for a lifetime. And the above figures assume that you don’t need an extra year to fit in all of the requirements, which some students do, raising costs even further. 

Trade schools, on the other hand, vary in length. For example, it only takes six weeks to go through commercial trucker training (though it can take up to five years to complete your education and apprenticeship as a mechanic). This makes it a little tricky to directly compare trade schools, but the highest total tuition is estimated at around $33,000. This means even the most expensive trade school possibilities represent a savings over the cheapest 4-year degree programs. 

Start Earning Money Faster With Trade School

Because trade schools tend to take a shorter period of time to complete, those who attend them can enter the workforce sooner. This means you get to start saving for retirement, a down payment on a home, a new car, or any other goal sooner than if you had gone to college. In the long run, this can make a big difference, especially when you consider that you can also start paying for your education earlier too.

Even when you need to complete an apprenticeship before earning an official title, such as Journeyman, these are typically paid positions. According to the US Department of Labor, the average apprentice starts out earning $15.00 an hour. When you do a good job, you often get promoted out of your apprenticeship, meaning there’s decent job security for new trade school graduates. 

College degree holders may be able to land higher salaries in the long run, but blue collar workers have an advantage in that they can often set their own prices as independent contractors or business owners. 

Tangible Skills on Your Resume

Technicians of all kinds exist in a highly competitive market and boast tangible skills on their resumes to help them land jobs. It’s also very easy for trade school grads to demonstrate those skills during job interviews.

College students do not always have very tangible skills when entering the workforce. They might have a sought-after degree and maybe some computer skills and “soft” skills like interpersonal communication, but they often need an internship or entry-level job to teach them the true ropes. Plus, some college grads still need internships, depending on the industry they want to enter. In many ways, this corresponds to trade school apprenticeships.

Business savvy is not exclusively learned through business school.

There’s no written rule that says you have to have a business degree to own or run a business. Hands-on experience and a willingness to seek out answers whenever you have questions can teach you the basics. For any business or marketing questions you may have, there’s bound to be a helpful blog (like this one!) on the internet or even a video on YouTube that will teach you the basics. Don’t forget about heading to the library to investigate their business section. You have many ways to self-educate at your fingertips.

Bottom Line: The blue collar path has many advantages.

If you enjoy working with your hands, puzzling out problems, and helping people, then blue collar represents a healthy, viable, financially-sound career path for 2019. If the idea of traveling to a new place and solving a new problem every few hours gives you anxiety, a career with a more consistent day-to-day may be more appropriate. A college degree may lead you down that path. 

The important thing is that you make your own decision and don’t feel pressured one way or another based on anyone else’s ideas or standards. Only you know what will make you happy. Find something that makes you excited to get out of bed each day!