What to Know When Considering a Career in the Trades

Man in a yellow shirt welding inside a large metal pipe

Many people are taught that the “correct” way to enter the workforce is to first go to college, and potentially even pursue a postgraduate program. Earning a college degree is a perfectly fine goal to have, but this line of thinking makes people forget that a career in the trades is even a possibility. This general perception is also one of the reasons why there is a labor shortage in industrial construction, manufacturing, and other trade industries. 

Furthermore, many people associate college education with higher pay, which isn’t true at all. In fact, a study published by Georgetown University found that 16% of high school graduates “earn more than half of workers with a bachelor’s degree.” 

The truth is that you don’t have to earn a college degree to make a living. If you’re interested in a career in the trades, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pursue it. There are plenty of job opportunities available in the trade industry, and many of them pay well. And, the industry itself continues to grow, which means better job security.

Projected Industry Growth

The economy is slowly beginning to bounce back after the production-busting effects of the pandemic. As per the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the federal government allocated $1.2 trillion for upgrading the transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, power infrastructure, broadband Internet infrastructure, and various other national-level projects.

This means that heavy industrial construction companies are planning for major ongoing contractors and looking for qualified applicants for all types of positions including: 

  • Welders
  • Plumbers
  • Engineers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Steelworkers
  • Stonemasons
  • Waterproofers
  • HVAC Specialists
  • Heavy Rigging Specialists

Additionally, according to Research and Markets, the construction industry in the U.S. is expected to steadily grow for years to come. Gross revenue in the construction industry is projected to grow by at least 8.8%, up to $1.35 trillion by the end of 2022. That metric is expected to increase to $1.65 trillion by the end of 2026.

Joining the Industry

So, what does it take to land a well-paying, stable position in the industrial construction industry?

It’s not as difficult as you might think. Of course, you will need a skill set. Industrial construction specialists build the nation’s roadways, airports, bridges, skyscrapers, and so much more. But, you may also need some form of education, depending on the job. You could earn that education from a standard four-year university, or you could attend a trade school. Let’s dive into some of the differences between the two.

Trade School Versus College

If you can complete education requirements from a trade school, it’s recommended that you pursue that path. Very few, if any, positions in the trade industry will require a four-year college degree. And, having a college degree won’t necessarily earn you a high-paying career in the trades industry. Typically, experience is preferred, so once you earn your first position in the industry, you’ll have opportunities to move up. 

The primary benefit of graduating from a trade school is that it’s significantly less expensive than tuition for a four-year college. Indeed even asserts that you might pay as little as $5,000 to attend and graduate from a trade school while attending and graduating from college can cost up to $50,000 annually just for tuition. Vocational programs are also much faster to complete than a standard university education. Some programs can be completed in as little as six weeks. 

Lastly, vocational training offers hands-on learning opportunities to help students understand how work is performed in the real world.