Should High School Graduates Consider the Trades? Why?

Should High School Graduates Consider the Trades? Why?

Every parent hopes their child will be successful in life; this, of course, includes a job that pays a decent income. For many parents, this equates to sending Jack and Jill off to college so they can become a lawyer, doctor, accountant or even an engineer or a teacher.

But why can’t Jack and Jill become carpenters? Or plumbers, electricians or some other kind of laborer that this country needs? To some, going into these trades is considered a form of failure. “Jack couldn’t hack college, so he became a plumber instead.”


High school students should be given the option to pursue the trades. Mom and dad might not get to live out the “dropping the kid off for the first year of college” scenario, but they will be able to say their kid has a good job that pays well. Sure, there will be people who look at mom and dad (and even the kid) with sad, apologetic eyes when the response to the question, “Where does your kid go to school?” is “____Technical College”, but so what? Return that sad gaze with, “No need to be sad. We took the remainder of his college fund and bought a vacation home.”


We need more young people to enter the trades. Buildings don’t build themselves. Architects don’t swing hammers, wire rooms or install flooring or lighting. Lawyers don’t install plumbing, sinks or toilets. And last we checked, just because a doctor can wield a scalpel, that doesn’t mean he knows his way around a band saw. The offices and hospitals the “professionals” work in were built by those skilled and trained in the trades. They are just as important and therefore those careers should be options in high school just like college prep.

And if you want to talk money, then let’s compare incomes. If this is all about the Benjamins, you might be shocked to learn that a career in the trades can generate more than decent income. Here are some stats below from

• Electrician with 10 years’ experience: $84,000
• Master Plumber with 10 years’ experience: $101,000
• General Contractor with 10 years’ experience: $124,000

To be fair, both doctors and lawyers make much more than someone in the trades. However, they also go to school for 5-7 more years and rack up an extra $200,000 or more in debt. Ten years out of high school, a kid in the trades is making the above. A doctor or lawyer has only been in practice for a couple of years, so they’re are still making the lower end of their possible salaries, plus they’re dealing with staggering student loan payments.

Now, this is not to say that no one should go to law school or medical school or pursue any other white-collar career. This is meant to remind everyone that the trades are important and that they are far from “failure careers.” So, if you have a kid that comes to you and shows an interest in becoming an electrician, plumber or a general contractor, don’t look at it as a failure or a disappointment. You kid wants to be a part of building the things this country needs. It’s a good thing, you should be proud.

And just think how cool that beach house is going to be.

Were you encouraged or discouraged to enter the trades? If your kid wanted to enter the trades would you encourage or discourage them?