“That horrifying moment when you look frantically for an adult and realize that you’re the adult and you’re supposed to be adulting.”
-An Adaptation of Many Popular Memes
Adulthood is an endless maze of decisions and consequences. We don’t always know what to do, where to turn, or the best path. As we graduate high school and realize that we have to decide what to do next, we’ve just taken our first step into the wild world of adulting – and it’s a scary place to be.
For most new high school graduates, college is the way to go. However, there are other valid options. In this two-part series, we’ll examine some pros and cons of diving directly into the workforce, entering college, or attending trade school. Parents and students can decide which option suits this new adult’s goals best!
There are more pros and cons than time or space will allow for one article to examine, but we’ll check a few of them out. To start with, let’s take a look at some benefits of each option!
Choosing to go to college is a monumental decision. If your student has decided to go this route, they must choose the right school to fit their needs. While they may be eager to start packing up their room and preparing for dorm life, the best way to make this decision is by an informed examination of the available information.
What are some reasons to launch a college journey?
1. Salary Potential
While long-term success is less of a promise than it used to be, a college degree in a practical career is still a valuable investment. However, students should be smart about their majors and know which degrees may benefit them.
MSNBC ran an article in August of 2022 examining why college graduates struggle to find work after graduation. They noted, “According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, unemployment rates for recent graduates are higher than the national average of all workers. In June of this year, unemployment rate for this demographic was 4.1 percent, compared to 3.5 percent of all workers in the U.S.”
On the other hand, Kiplinger also published an article last year examining the most lucrative college degrees. As they stated, “[N]ot all college degrees are created equal. And with student loan payments looming for many, we thought it would be good to know which college majors pay best.”
According to their research, the top five college degrees to obtain for maximum success are:
- Computer Engineering
- Computer Science
- Electrical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Aerospace Engineering
Glancing through Kiplinger’s entire list of the top 25 most lucrative college degrees, it’s clear that students with an aptitude for STEM are excellent candidates for life-long success with a college credentials.
Having a financially successful career after college is directly tied to a wise decision about which degree one obtains. By helping your student think through these aspects, you’ll guide them through a daunting process that many young adults struggle through.
2. Provides a Starting Point
In many industries, a college degree gives you an advantage over other potential applicants.
Fremont University explains it this way, “College not only provides students with knowledge specifically related to their major or field, it also equips them with the necessary communication and teamwork skills to succeed in the workplace.”
Earning a college degree specific to your career field provides you with a basic working knowledge of your job. Your job-specific credentials also offer potential employers insight into your baseline skills. You weathered college and successfully obtained your degree, which means that you aren’t greener than a new sapling. You have no on-the-job experience, but you have knowledge in the field.
3. Job Access
While college alternatives are gaining popularity, having a college degree may provide you with access to more job opportunities. In 2022, TruthOut noted, “… 75 percent of new jobs insist on a bachelor’s degree, while only 40 percent of potential applicants have one.”
These numbers elevate the 40% of potential applicants to the top of the potential hire list. While a good-paying job will still depend on several vital factors (including a sensible degree), the overall chances of landing a job due to your college degree alone appear reasonably good.
Trades are the foundation of our country’s infrastructure and represent an essential portion of the workforce. Trades are a dying industry, which makes workers in those fields valuable commodities.
Trade schools offer on-the-job skills and the knowledge necessary for that career, and it’s clear that workers in these fields are in high demand. Let’s check out some of the pros for students considering this route.
1. Reliable Job Opportunities
In 2022, Newsweek ran an opinion piece that stated that “the biggest unmet demand may be for blue-collar professionals like welders, machine tool operators, carpenters, and plumbers. These workers, essential to the functioning of the economy, are where the employment future for most belongs. The current shortage of welders, now at 240,000, could grow to 400,000 by 2024. Amid a mild recovery in the U.S., by late 2021, nearly one million manufacturing jobs went unfilled.”
The trades will always be essential and are the backbone of our country. From electricians to plumbers, those trained in a trade will almost always have employment opportunities.
Best Colleges notes, “Trade school offers training for specialized, in-demand careers with greater job stability. Many trade school fields, like plumbing and HVAC, resist fluctuations in the economy that impact most industries. Even in the most challenging times, many trade jobs remain necessary, making them highly desirable.”
As American birth rates continue to plummet and fewer workers are entering the trade force, the outlook for consistent work and high-value skills is a positive one for trade school graduates. American industry and tradework are already in crisis, and current trends appear to offer steady employment for skilled workers.
2. Cost Effective
Trade schools offer reliable career opportunities for a fraction of the cost of a traditional college degree. Indeed explains, “Depending on the type of trade school and the length of the program you want to enroll in, average trade school tuition can range from $3,674 to $15,923 according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.”
If you have limited financial options or want to minimize debt, trade school can be a practical choice.
3. Time Advantage
Trade schools offer practical career education in a short amount of time. On average, trade education takes between six months and two years. This can be extremely advantageous for students seeking to begin their careers sooner rather than later. Through trade school, trained professionals join the workforce and begin recouping their financial investments quickly.
Directly Into the Work Force
Some high school graduates enter the workforce directly after graduation. Students choose this option for many personal and logistical reasons. According to a 2022 survey, 48% of students who didn’t enroll in college went directly into the workforce, and 90% of Gen Zers are choosing alternative education methods post-high school.
Before your teen chooses which path they’ll take, let’s see some positives of the “directly into the workforce” approach.
1. Start Your Life
Those who skip post-high school education altogether have the advantage of starting their adult life immediately. Marriage, kids, travel, hobbies…all of these often get postponed for higher education. Entering the workforce right away can be a great option if you already know what you want from life and can achieve it by skipping the extra costs and time of additional education.
2. Life Experience
For those who are unsure about what they want to do long-term, joining the workforce can often offer clarity. Gaining some life (and work) experience can help to hone your skills and expose you to the world in new ways.
Business Administration Information states, “Going to work right after high school may help you make a better decision about schooling in the future. According to NBC News’ “College Freshmen Face Major Dilemma,” 80% of college-bound students don’t choose a major, and half of those who do declare one eventually change it.”
Getting a taste of the real world offers perspective and experience.
3. It Doesn’t Have to Be Permanent
If you choose to jump into the workforce, it doesn’t have to be a permanent decision. Many students take a gap year (or longer) after high school to decide what they want. Why waste time, money, and energy in college or a trade if you don’t know what you want?
According to The Classroom, students “may decide to defer their college plans for a variety of mental, emotional, social or financial reasons. Usually, they will attempt to secure employment as an alternative to continuing education right away. In doing so, they may actually make their path to success that much clearer.”
All The Facts
Before your teen jumps into this next phase of life, it’s crucial that they take the time to thoroughly think through their options. Decisions that they make today can affect the rest of their lives in good ways and bad.
Click here for Part Two of The Pros and Cons of College, Trade School, and Directly Entering the Workforce
Now that you and your student have had the opportunity to check out some of the positives, it’s time for them to examine some of the negatives of each option!