“Go to college”. This is a mantra that’s continuously told to children as they’re growing up. It’s almost a demand of society. If you don’t go to college, then you’re stupid, or lazy, or you’ve given up and don’t deserve happiness or success.
Few people go out of their way to promote the alternative to colleges: trade schools.
What Is A Trade School, Exactly?
Trade schools are educational institutes that train you to work with your hands. You know, manual labor instead of fancy office jobs where you sit at a computer all day. Trade schools will teach you how to build things, how to fix things, and perhaps most importantly, how to achieve a surprising degree of job security. More on that below.
Many trade school programs can be completed in less than a year, though some of them will take up to four years. The longest programs tend to involve paid, on-the-job education, so you’ll be earning more money than you’re paying to learn things.
Trade schools are also known as career centers, vocational schools, and technical colleges.
What Makes Trade Schools So Valuable?
Many trade schools teach high-paying, in-demand skills that are largely safe from outsourcing. You can delegate telephone support to a call center in Asia, but if you need someone to rewire the electrical lines in your house, you need an electrician to show up in person.
In effect, trade schools focus on the kinds of jobs that are always needed by society. You may have spent years learning a programming language, but if a ‘better’ language comes along, your talents are worthless if companies stop using it. In contrast, there’s always a need for collision repair, HVAC servicing, welding, and working with power generators.
However, thanks in part to the relentless mantra of “go to college”, there aren’t as many people working in skilled trades as the country needs. That means jobs in skilled trades are available and the lack of competition drives prices higher. In many cases, a one-year technical degree provides the foundation for lifetime earnings that significantly exceed what you can expect from an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.
As for finding jobs? As explained in the link above, companies often call trade schools because they’re so desperate to find workers. There are places where schools receive calls quite literally every day, with businesses looking for graduates who have the skills to get jobs done.
How Can I Get My Degree?
That depends on the degree you’re going for. If you’re working with electricity or metal, you’ll need to get hands-on training in a shop, and that usually happens at a school. On the other hand, if you go to a technical school for graphic design, you may be able to get away with studying from home.
One of the most important parts of trade schools is how student-friendly many of their programs are.
Notably, courses tend to be offered on weekends or during the evening, allowing you to work full-time while preparing to switch careers. Campuses also tend to be much smaller, so vocational schools are often located close to communities, while the much smaller class sizes allow for personalized, individual attention from the teachers.
Trade schools tend to be aggressive about emulating real-world needs, and their programs cut out unnecessary information in favor of focusing on the skills employers and customers are looking for. As if that wasn’t enough help, many vocational institutes have externships with employers and can help you get a job in the field.
Compare this to other schools, where you may be ignored after graduation in favor of focusing on the newest crop of students. In short, when you go to a trade school, you can earn a degree with minimal effort and avoid having to search for months to enter the field once you’re ready. Make sure your school actually does these things, though, because it’s not guaranteed.
What Kinds Of Programs Are Available?
Now that you know a little more about what trade schools are let’s take a look at some of the programs offered. Note that not every trade school offers every program – in fact, some trade schools only offer one or two types of classes. Don’t be afraid to look around to find a school that fits you. This isn’t even remotely close to a comprehensive list, but it will help you understand the sheer variety of options.
Administrative assistants work to keep offices running in a smooth, effective manner. In many cases, this involves extensive use of the Microsoft Office suite, which you’ll use for topics like corresponding with other businesses, making reports, giving presentations, and creating spreadsheets that others in the companies will use.
As an assistant, you can expect to train employees, do research, and schedule appointments for busy bosses. Ultimately, administrative assistants are the heart of many companies – and they know it. You won’t be making most of the decisions, but you will serve as an invaluable member of the team.
Do you love working on classic cars? If so, automobile restoration may be the best field for you. In this position, you’ll learn how to take damaged vehicles and restore them to an exhibit-worthy condition. This is a mechanics-heavy career that involves everything from welding and metalworking to tinkering with engines, painting parts, and creatively substituting modern parts in when there’s no other choice.
As a bonus, most automobile restoration courses are fairly short. Employers want a minimal amount of schooling – the rest you can learn on the job. Since you’ll probably go straight to work, you won’t have to learn how to manage the business or find customers. All you need to do is show up each day and put your passion into restoring vehicles to their original beauty.
As much as we’d like to make a joke about fixing commercials when they break on television, that’s not what this field is about. Instead, Commercial and Industrial Maintenance focuses on fixing the machines that businesses use as part of their daily operations. This covers everything from ovens and stoves to large assembly lines.
Most companies are willing to pay top dollar for commercial maintenance, and the reason is simple: If they’re shut down, they’re losing money every hour instead of making it. Quite simply, it’s more affordable to have your own repairman, especially if you’re running a large business and things break down on a regular basis.
Kidney problems aren’t going away anytime soon, and neither is the need for trained professionals who can help people connect to dialysis machines. As a technician, you’ll be responsible for helping patients get treated in a fast, safe manner. Dialysis is a very people-oriented trade. In many cases, you’re the face of your business, and you’ll be able to talk with a wide variety of patients.
If you enjoy meeting (and helping) new people, it’s worth giving some serious thought to becoming a dialysis technician.
Have you ever wanted to be the worst nightmare of criminal enterprises? No, not Batman – but that’s close. Forensic accounts are experts who can review the financial records of a company to uncover signs of criminal activity. You’ll also be called upon to help interpret contracts and provide support in litigation, and many forensic accountants spend a surprisingly large amount of time as experts in a courtroom.
Forensic accounting is particularly detail-oriented, so it takes specialized training and skills. The job is always in demand, though, especially as more companies have been found committing high-profile financial crimes. In fact, some estimates suggest that businesses lose as much as 5% of their profit every year to financial crimes, and many businesses are willing to pay extremely well to recover that money.
One of the most-overlooked opportunities in trade schools is that of religious studies. It’s estimated that there are more than 350,000 worship centers in the United States, and many of these have one or more people working full-time to support the church. That’s not even counting the less-obvious jobs, such as producing texts or conducting research for the church.
Matters of faith aside, religious institutions have practical needs like filling out tax information, ensuring decisions are in accordance with doctrine and getting help with providing community services. Education from an associated religious school, complete with religious studies, may be a prerequisite to getting hired for these jobs.
Renewable energy is becoming an increasingly popular choice for businesses, especially as companies become aware of their effects on the environment. Using renewable energy can take a wide variety of forms, from installing solar panel systems to designing buildings in a way that captures energy for later use.
This field is growing explosively, and like the more-common electrician, the jobs aren’t going away anytime soon. If you’d like to feel good about your impact on the planet and enjoy traveling to new places, consider a career in renewable energy.