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Thread: Go to college vs. learn a trade?

  1. #31
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    My granddaughter was set to go to a local state university where tuition was reasonable, but at the last minute for unknown reasons decided Arizona State would be a better fit. Tuition was double. Fortunately we (actually my wife who was in education) had planned for the three grandkids college and built up a generous 529 FBO account for each, so debt for them would not be an issue, depending on tuition. Well, she decided college wasn't for her after a year and chose instead to go to cosmetology school. Yea, that is a "gentle" trade, unlike her dad who is an ironworker putting in 60 hour weeks at locations as much a 2 hours drive in all sorts of weather. So the college debt issue is sometimes a matter of choice, local state university or a prestigious out of state school. I say go to college at an affordable school if you like academics, it gives you more choices once you are ready to settle down.

    One more issue with the construction trades: Generally you don't get paid vacation, it is up to you to take time off without pay. Tough to do.
    Last edited by Ole Anderson; 10-05-2019 at 10:37 AM.
    NOW you tell me...

  2. #32
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    Lots of interesting thoughts and comments, such as;

    'Do what you love'

    'Do what you are good at'

    'Life is more than money'

    For me, it took a few years to figure out what I really loved doing. It took me getting a four year degree, time in the Navy, then going to work for my father. Based on what I have learned over the past 59 years, I would still go to school but for a business degree focusing on entrepreneurship. Not sure they even existed when I was in school.

    A friend's nephew went to a trade school in the late '90s for diesel mechanic. When he graduated he had a job waiting making close to $100,000 per year. If he was willing to work on the North Slopes in Alaska, he could have made close to $150,000 a year working about 8 months. However, my son went to school and graduated as a software engineer. He worked for the school's physics department doing networking, computer set up, etc. He graduated with no debt, and a bunch of money in the bank. All because he spent his high school years working with computers at my work, then two more years after that before heading to college.

    My daughter got her BS in animal sciences, worked on a dairy for two years, than was offered a position at Montana State to get her masters under a full ride program that also paid her as a TA. She is back doing what she loves on a dairy with a masters and is in the top 5 for schooling at the dairy. Yet she doesn't make near what she should based on her masters, but is working with cows, which she loves.

    The decision for trade v college is more about the person than anything else. You can make both work well, if you make good choices once on your path and work hard.

    My father graduated high school only because the local principal made him an offer he couldn't pass up. Dad went into the Navy at 17, dropping out of school, in 1944. When he returned home in '46, the principal told him that if he would come back to school for his final year he would make sure he received his diploma and all he had to do was keep my Dad's younger brother in line. Tough job but someone had to do it. Dad worked hard his whole life, started a company at 56 and when he died was well off and did what he loved doing.

    Brains will only take you so far, just as hard work will only do so much. Marry brains, passion and hard work with a dusting of luck and you end up like Buffet, Gates and others.
    I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love.... It seems to me that Montana is a great splash of grandeur....the mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were ever put on my agenda. Montana seems to me to be what a small boy would think Texas is like from hearing Texans. Montana has a spell on me. It is grandeur and warmth. Of all the states it is my favorite and my love.

    John Steinbeck


  3. #33
    I agree with several others - you need to train in something that will let you feed yourself and a family. IMO, its not right to slough off and live with your parents just because you're lazy. Whether you get that training at college business school, or through a trade scnool is a matter of your personal druthers, aptitude, etc.

    If you go to college and study "something you love" that isnt very employable (art, music, philosophy, poetry, french literature, etc), you need to accept up front that you'll have to work in another field in order to move out of mom's basement. In fairness, some jobs only require a degree - they don't care what it's in. I know a highly paid salesmen who has an art degree and another with a philosophy degree.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  4. #34
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    I chose a trade. Electrical. I don't regret it.

    I have (3) sons that also chose the electrical trade and I'd say they don't regret it either.

    I'd say we've been compensated well compared with the work we do.

    There is room for advancement in the trades. Progress into supervision, management, estimating.

    I hope more people choose a trade. I think the industry needs the people.

    I do have all the respect in the world though for people with college degrees. Takes a smart and industrious person to accomplish that.

    PHM

  5. #35
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    Too often we, as a society IMO, put too much pressure on our children to got to college when IMO not everyone is capable or has the drive to get a college degree. As pointed out some college degrees provide a realistic career path and income potential. I have 3 children, 2 have college degrees and one with some college. Of the two with degrees, one uses his doctorate and the other will retire from a profession totally unrelated to her degree. The one child with some college will soon retire from a local sheriff's department.

    Too often in our society IMO we fail to pay proper respect for the trades and technical fields. In discussions with young people concerning careers I have often asked "Where do you picture yourself in the future? Where do you want to live? If you are going to raise a family where do want to do that?" Often when they say they'd like to live in little towns like Grangeville, ID or Riggins, ID, I recommend that instead of pursuing an electrical engineering degree, become an electrician because an electrician can find a job or start a business in those small towns. An electrical engineer will find it difficult to make a living in those same communities.
    Ken

  6. #36
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    My brother in law chose a trade it was concrete and after about 15 years his knees and back gave out so he went to cosmetology school and became a hair stylist he then went on to get his owners license now he owns a shop with 20 stylists nail salon and tanning booths My sister does the books. At one time she was the top sales person for a large printing company.

  7. #37
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    My mornings are usually watching new programs recorded on the previous day. My wife doesn't like to listen to the news most of the time. On one the host recounted a freshman counselor advising students who were required to declare a major before their sophomore year. The basic message was after college for the rest of their lives they would view the world through the lens of the educational path the chose.

    Artists view life through artistic influence.

    Philosophers see the world philosophically.

    Accountants might see everything as a spreadsheet.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #38
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    I was advised to go into the Navy to be a Machinery Repairman, because my fellow workers saw I was good at measuring precisely with micrometers and spring calipers.
    Working in the fleet machine shop, on a submarine tender, on lathes, mills,tool and cutter, cylindrical, and surface grinders, vertical and horizontal boring mills, honing machines, radial drill press, and other machines not seen in alot of places, I learned how to make just about any type of part needed for the support of fast attack nuclear submarines.
    It was comparable to a formal apprenticeship and was an excellent oppertunity to learn a good trade.
    The navy and the air force have good apprenticeship programs, if one is not wealthy enough to go to college. And you have the oppertunity to save some money for college while being enlisted.
    If you try to learn as much as possible, and do good work you can advance quickly and come out of the service with a good background in whatever trade.
    There are many more then just Machinery Repair.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael langman View Post
    I was advised to go into the Navy to be a Machinery Repairman, because my fellow workers saw I was good at measuring precisely with micrometers and spring calipers.
    Working in the fleet machine shop, on a submarine tender, on lathes, mills,tool and cutter, cylindrical, and surface grinders, vertical and horizontal boring mills, honing machines, radial drill press, and other machines not seen in alot of places, I learned how to make just about any type of part needed for the support of fast attack nuclear submarines.
    It was comparable to a formal apprenticeship and was an excellent oppertunity to learn a good trade.
    The navy and the air force have good apprenticeship programs, if one is not wealthy enough to go to college. And you have the oppertunity to save some money for college while being enlisted.
    If you try to learn as much as possible, and do good work you can advance quickly and come out of the service with a good background in whatever trade.
    There are many more then just Machinery Repair.
    Michael, the last 8 months of my 8 years in the Navy, I was stationed on a sub-tender, the USS Orion, AS-18. I lived aboard as I left my family in Illinois so the 3 kids wouldn't have to change schools twice in one year. In the evenings I would go down to the machine shops and watch the machine repairmen mill metal parts for the subs. I enjoyed watching them a lot!
    Last edited by Ken Fitzgerald; 10-06-2019 at 2:05 PM.
    Ken

  10. #40
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    Ken, Yes, the Machine shop on a tender is quite a shop. The lathes and mills were some of the best, made in our country. The diversity of work was what made the apprenticeship so interesting and challenging.
    The rest of the tender was just as interesting. Everything from an optical, gauge shop to rubber and plastics. And as you may know, the food was outstanding.

  11. Originally Posted by Keith OuttenSome college grads are so deep in debt they will never pay back their loans. At the same time they my never own a home because of their educational debt. If your going to borrow money you had better be in a field that can provide a serious salary with growth potential. I have two daughters and personal knowledge concerning their college loans.


    Being happy in your job is of little consequence if you cannot pay your bills and your future looks pretty bleak.


    A young friend of mine went into the trades long enough to get his masters license to write my essay in multiple disciplines and then started his own business. He has done extremely well over the years and at 40 years old has a new home that is paid for and savings beyond imagination. He is now able to work a reduced schedule and living on easy street. Demand for his services is at an all time high.
    Hello Keith,

    I know that you mean. My elder grandson is now finishing his third year at The University of New Orleans. He applied for the Homer Hitt scholarship, but didn't pass the exam, so he was left with the tuition debt which I partially covered (thanks to my military pension). However, it's the only positive moment for him and me now.


    Terry

  12. #42
    I went to college. I regret it. If I had it to do over again I would learn a trade, probably electrical or metal fabricating. I came here as an immigrant in my teenage years and at the time did not necessarily plan on staying. I wanted to go to college and go home. Well, that was 20 years ago and I now happily call America home. I just wish I spent my days doing something more interesting that project management at a technology company.

    That said, USA could stand to learn quite a bit from the old continent, especially Germany, about producing skilled tradespeople, and the old continent could learn quite a bit from North America about giving young people choices.

  13. #43
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    A lot of the excessive debt load for college grads is about choices. Going to a cool prestigious school with $50 k per year tuition and housing vs a very good state university at half of the cost. Applying for as many scholarships as possible vs just signing on for a student loan. Relying on your credit card for day to day expenses and taking plenty of time to party vs having a part time job to cover those expenses.
    NOW you tell me...

  14. #44
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    I went to college for 4+ years (changed major 1/2 way thru) but back when it was much more affordable. Having recently retired from an IT career (software development), I can say that there is less emphasis on a 4 yr degree in an IT curriculum vs being able to demonstrate skills. Technnical certifications can be as valuable as a undergrad degree. Find certifications for data scientist, Amazon web services, Java programming and that is a very hire-able skill set. Throw in a few lessor certifications in networking, service-based architecture, etc and that would be gold. However, an undergrad degree does become very helpful to teach critical thinking and decision making. It also provides a broader based education that was beneficial at various times in my career. It gives the student some exposure to other fields which can provide inspiration in various ways.
    Last edited by Brian Tymchak; 12-10-2019 at 5:41 PM.
    Brian

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complicated...it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  15. #45
    I went to the North Avenue Trade School, an epithet for Georgia Tech intended to be disparaging by some University [sic] of Georgia student. The fine young men on the Plains embraced the name and printed tee-shirts.

    Some majors are more like trade school than others. The engineering majors are tailor-made to put on a resume for a specific kind of job, almost like a trade. I personally maxed out on degrees at Tech and had a nice career effectively doing other people's math homework for good money. It suited me well and paid the bills. My advanced degrees were paid for by fellowships and research assistantships. I had no debt. I liked going to school and I got to do some fun research while in school. I got to truly beat two subjects to death in a master's thesis and a PhD dissertation. Looking back it was fun. At the time, I thought I was going to die.

    ...Let me just add that the math skills I needed for the job I did are really only available at the college level. I am self-taught on many, many subjects, including woodworking, but the math I needed was really deep. Georgia Tech is a school built on and devoted to homework, and then research which is homework without answers in the back of the book. Guidance and textbooks are the only way to get to the level where you are able solve engineering problems that have never been solved before. ...

    What you might say is a PhD in engineering good for? Well, I might not be able to fix your car but I can come with at least three good theories of what might be wrong.

    TW
    Last edited by Thomas Wilson; 12-17-2019 at 7:52 PM.

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