Should I allow my child to go to trade school?

4 years of college is not for everyone. Even high school is not for every kid. Going to college needs to be your child’s choice and if they have an alternative in mind then you should explore that.

If your teen has a keen interest in a trade then they should go to trade school… There are many benefits to a trade over a college degree. Earning a salary sooner and huge job availability.

Many parents shiver at the thought of their child picking a trade. What will the family say? What will the neighbors say? But the reality is there is no shame in choosing a trade.

Working with their hands

You know your child better than anyone. From early on your child may have shown an interest in craft, electronics, or tinkering with motors or cars. But you probably never imagined that they would want to go on to make a career from it. But it has to be ultimately their choice. When discussing options for after high school graduation all aspects of career choice should be taken into account.

You may also be interested in reading my post What if I don’t want to go to college?

Books and 4-year degrees as I say are not for everyone. Do you want to spend the next four years (if they even make it past freshman year) fighting with them because they are not working on assignments or not going to class? About 30% of freshmen drop out.

If this is already your situation, I hate my college course may be a good read.

Research, along with your child, the possibility of learning a trade. There are so many choices, it’s not all about traditional trades anymore. Careers, you may not have considered being a trade are available, such as Chefs, Coding, Cosmetology, and Barber.

Usually, when we think of a trade, we think of construction – electrician, or plumber, which are all worthy careers. But before you put the brakes on your child’s dreams, discuss in depth what they have in mind.

Being good with your hands is not a skill everyone has. Some kids just don’t have the motor skills to be able to fix a circuit board or apply makeup for that matter. If your child has this skill and is interested in pursuing a career this way, it definitely should be encouraged.

Less Student Loan Debt

In an ideal world, your child’s education should never be decided by the factor of money. But unfortunately, many kids don’t go to college purely because they (or their parents) can’t afford it.
The cost of attending a four-year degree course is going to set you back approximately $130k+. This is an enormous amount of money. It leaves many students burdened with debt for years. In some cases, your child may only be finished paying their college loan when their own children are ready to go to college.

In terms of the finance required for college, my post Accepted to college but can’t afford it goes through some options that may help.

A trade school offers tuition at a much lower rate. The average cost is $7k for a public school over a two-year timeline. This includes books and any supplies they might need.

Double Room Floor Plan

Your child also has the option of applying for financial aid through FAFSA as long as the chosen school is accredited.

Through their two-year program, there will be opportunities to gain paid work experience. This is a great way to offset some of their fees or to help with day-to-day living costs.

The cost of the course is quite dependent on the college or institution chosen. Trade schools tend to be less expensive than community colleges and the skill is acquired in less time.

Guaranteed Work with Good Pay

We all want the best for our children and most of us aspire to them having a string of letters before and after their name. But at the end of the day, we want them to end up with a good salary and a steady job.

A trade job will guarantee this. There will never be a shortage of work for either a plumber, chef, or barber.

I know what you’re thinking. If my child becomes a doctor they also will always have a job, that is absolutely correct.

However, it’s going to take your child 13 years to become a doctor and two years to become a plumber. A plumber earns ( $60k per year. Multiply that by the 11 years out in the workforce while the other student is still learning to become a doctor.

That is $660k. That’s an eye-opener. Of course, a qualified doctor their salary is much more but think about how much living the plumber will have done in those 11 years.

Trade jobs are always available. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics. There can never be enough of them. They are in high demand due to the snobbery attached to 4-year degrees. For a long time, no one was considering a trade career and now we have the problem of an aging trade workforce with many approaching retirement.

Companies are crying out for boots on the ground and willing to pay good salaries, with overtime and benefits to willing young people.

What are the path options?

There are usually 2-3 path options to get employment in a trade. We’ll look at two different types of jobs to show examples on how best to get there:

A Plumber

There are three routes available on the path to becoming a plumber.

Certificate Program

These courses are offered at trade schools or vocational colleges. They take less than a year to complete and will teach basic plumbing skills. You can then apply for an apprenticeship position, working alongside a qualified plumber.

Associate Degree Program

These classes are taken in a Community College. They can take up to two years to complete. Not all are full-time courses and so give the opportunity to have a part-time job. There are more classes available alongside your chosen course of plumbing that you can also take, such as math.


This is the most popular route. Learning alongside a qualified plumber. Boots on the ground, so to speak. The best part of this route is that you get paid a wage. You attend classes, usually one day a week and you are fully trained after four years.

A Barber

More and more men’s grooming is becoming more popular. I don’t think we are going to return to the long locks of the ’70s any time soon. Barbering is a great trade to become certified in. It is a very versatile career as you can travel anywhere.

Trade School / Barber School
Most trade schools offer barbering as one of their courses. It is usually listed alongside cosmetology. To become a barber you must be granted a state license. This is only granted after up to 1500 hours have been clocked in both practical and theory and you have passed the state exam.


The alternate route is apprenticeship. Not all states offer this. The clocked hours required can be more than double in some states. Although you are being paid, because you are not qualified this may be as low as $10 per hour. To me, it makes more sense to pay the enrollment fee for school and earn $20 per hour as a starting wage.

Each trade is different. These are just two examples but the key thing to remember is the time spent learning in school is much less. Your child will join the workforce much quicker than those doing a standard 4-year degree.

Independent Sooner

What does this all mean for your child in the long run? Ultimately we cannot live our children’s lives. They need to make their own decisions. Especially when it comes to their lifelong career. And if that means they choose a trade career then we have to let them follow their dreams.

They will be out in the workforce much sooner than if they choose a four-year degree. They will be earning their own money and adulting possibly within a year of graduating high school.

The demand for trade employees is so great there will be no need to move away – unless they choose to travel. So as a parent you will have the best of both worlds. Your child will be employed, independent, and happy and you will be pretty much debt free.

Don’t be afraid of the trade route. All types of people make the world go around. If we were all the same it would be pretty boring. Your child’s happiness is the ultimate goal.

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

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