The narrative that you must get a four-year degree to be successful has long been ingrained into our society. Despite popular belief, a university isn’t the only route to reaching your dreams. Did you know that some of the highest earners don’t have bachelor’s degrees? If you’re looking for a rewarding career but never considered learning a skilled trade at your local community college, here are five debunked myths that may just change your mind.
Skilled trades don’t pay well enough – you must have a four-year degree if you want to make a lot of money
Plenty of skilled trade jobs pay more hourly than jobs that require a degree. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aircraft Maintenance Technicians make, on average, $32.06 per hour. Compare that to Tax Examiners and Collectors, whose jobs require a four-year degree, and only make $26.75 per hour. That’s not even considering the amount of debt that most university students have to manage upon graduation.
The cost required to pursue a skilled trade is minimal – if there’s any cost at all. For Virginia students who qualify for the G3 program, their education is paid for as they are pursuing a field that is in demand in their area. And if a student doesn’t qualify for G3, there are several skilled trades and workforce training funding that helps cover costs.
Trades jobs are only for men
While it is true that most skilled trades have been, historically, male-dominated, the number of women in these fields is growing. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, between 2017 and 2018 alone, the number of women working in the trades increased by almost 18%. And while female full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree can earn a median annual salary of almost $40,000, experienced women in trades can make over six figures a year.
Regardless of your gender, pursuing a career in a skilled trade is an excellent way to provide for yourself and your loved ones.
Skilled trades are a backup plan for people who didn’t do well in school
A common misconception about skilled trades is that they’re all brawn and no brain. Keep in mind, though, that a “skilled” trade refers to the skills one must acquire to join that line of work. Each trade requires its own specialized training in science and mathematics. You wouldn’t want a carpenter to build your house if they knew nothing about geometry, nor would you want to hire an electrician with no knowledge of physics. Like doctors and lawyers, skilled trade workers are highly trained individuals with expertise in their respective fields.
Skilled trade jobs are dirty and dangerous
While some of these jobs may require you to get your hands dirty, there are plenty of skilled trades that will allow you to keep that white shirt on. In the past several years, skilled trades and technology have been intersecting, making certain jobs possible remotely. For example, excavator operators are now able to operate machinery via computers, states away from the actual site. No extra laundry required.
As far as safety is concerned, you’ll need to be more cautious in a construction zone than in a cubicle. However, organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration require employers to follow extensive safety protocols to protect workers. In fact, many G3 programs require OSHA certification as a part of their curriculum, so you know you’ll be prepared for any hazards you may encounter.
It’s hard to find a job in a skilled trade
This myth couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the demand for skilled trade jobs in the U.S. is far outpacing the number of qualified workers able to fill them. According to the 2021 Skilled Trades in America Report, 68% of tradespeople have struggled to hire skilled workers and 35% are slightly or extremely understaffed. This is due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the large numbers of Baby Boomers in skilled trades who are now retiring. Job satisfaction, however, is not a cause for the labor shortage. Satisfaction in the skilled trades remains quite high, with 83% of tradespeople satisfied in their choice of work.
Not only are skilled trade jobs in high demand, but they can also provide a satisfying and fulfilling career for those who chose to pursue them. If you’re interested in learning a skilled trade, consider a program at Virginia’s Community Colleges and check to see if you’re eligible for G3 tuition assistance.