Apprenticeship – Your Blue Collar Path to the American Dream?

Today’s society pushes for higher education, but how important is the degree you’re debating on tirelessly studying and testing for? We often have this fear that you can only make enough money to live comfortably if you amass yourself in immense debt for higher education. Many live in fear worrying that companies won’t even open their gates of opportunity to you until you have that shiny multi-thousand dollar piece of paper. What If I told you I know a way you can make $100K+ a year with no more than a high school diploma? It’s no secret that the world is full of open positions in every career field imaginable. Why must we think that higher education is the only solution for obtaining a successful career? We’ll evaluate the cost comparison for each program, as well as the stability and growth in each choice.

Let’s look over some facts:

In most cases, the average apprenticeship costs the participant very little. Sometimes all it costs is a few tools and learning materials. More often than not those costs are even covered by prospective employers in an attempt to gain the trust and loyalty of the apprentice. Not many employers, with the exception of the military, will pay 100 percent of your college education while they pay you to work. Compare that to the cost of a college degree. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average American college student graduates with a little over $35K in debt. From the gate as a college graduate you are already playing catch up. You are introduced to a new bill that you are almost immediately responsible for, whereas with an apprenticeship you are provided on-the-job training and paid for it. Advantage – Apprenticeship!

Let’s talk about job security. According to, the rise in degree-required fields being outsourced to other countries are further on the rise. Work than can be done via office environments is cheaper to outsource to countries that have the same resources to complete the work. We see this often in telecommunication career fields and the computer software industry. Companies can now get away with offering substantially lower wages to workers who have an absurdly lower cost of living. This spells trouble for educated U.S. workers looking for stable, decent paying work. On the other hand, trades are next to impossible to outsource because the work they complete is within their respective communities. Electricians, plumbers, construction workers, HVAC, and auto mechanics are a few of these trades. These trades are hands on and often do not require travel except within the immediate area. If you need to have work done on your car, you can’t outsource that to China. What would that cost? Advantage again – Apprenticeship!

The final puzzle piece to be discussed is growth within your chosen career path. There are virtually unlimited growth opportunities for both sides. Apprentices can move on to Journeyman and ultimately to a Master of their crafts. It’s not uncommon that Journeyman with a handful of years of experience can easily acquire a position paying $100K+ a year. But at some point they can also peak with only adding more hours to their work week as the remedy for making more money. Yeah, it’s great to be financially free, but is the cost of 60+ hours a week worth it? Degree required positions always have the opportunity to move up within a company with almost a limitless list of titles to follow: supervisor, manager, superintendent, general manager, CEO, the list goes on. With a degree-required position there is always the opportunity for more education, which almost certainly yields more wages and attractiveness to employers. You don’t have to stop at a bachelor’s degree. Why not work toward a master’s degree and perhaps even a PhD? The sky is the limit with education as you can even earn other degrees in closely related fields. The tables have turned this time. Advantage – Degree.

Ultimately, one can see the benefits of apprenticeships vs. college education. Both paths provide you the tools and education needed to become the master of your universe. No path is necessarily better than the next depending on your style of learning and approach to better yourself. While I have a bachelor’s degree, I am not necessarily partial to college education. In the staffing profession I see trade skills as a seemingly lost art, while skilled workers are constantly in high demand. No matter your choice, take a step in either direction and you cannot go wrong!

David-Franks-150x150David Franks
David joined AurStaff in September 2014 and works as an Account Manager. He enjoys helping candidates find careers that define their lives. When he’s not spending time with his fiancée, Chrystal, and his three step sons, he’s watching Pittsburgh Steeler football and enjoying fall weather with family and friends.

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