One student’s thoughts on trade school versus a university degree, and why we should have a choice
Since elementary school, my parents have always told me that in order to be successful, I would need a university degree, and that I would amount to nothing without it. Whenever I failed a math test, I was threatened with the possibility of working at Walmart for the rest of my life––because somehow failing grade 7 math means that the furthest I’ll get in this world is being a cashier in a blue vest.
A university degree is considered the best thing you can have. While it can be, university isn’t for everybody—and that’s okay. We aren’t all built for university life. Some of us prefer to work manual jobs as mechanics or plumbers. Some of us want to use our creativity to become makeup artists and hairdressers. But some of us will be happier spending four years and thousands of dollars in school for our dream job.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing a trade. If we want to spend our lives working a manual job where we’ll inevitably have a bad back then that’s okay—we’ll be happy with our career choice and broken back.
In April 2018, the pressure to attend a four-year college remained so strong in American society that many high-paying jobs in the trade were currently sitting empty, according to NPR. In an article by VICE, Queens Tech principal Melissa Burg said, “I think those [trade] jobs go unfilled because skilled labor is looked down upon, even though those skilled labor people make more money than I do.”
Yes, a university degree is regarded highly in today’s society. Yet, while a degree is important in the eyes of employers, not everyone is built for academic life and no one should be forced into it.
Going to trade school should be encouraged instead of looked down upon. We need electricians, plumbers, hairdressers and makeup artists. It is ridiculous to expect everyone to be happy in academics––and it’s time to realize that and promote pursuing a trade as a valid career path.
While having a university degree may make it easier to get a job, it doesn’t mean that job will be in your field of study. You can have a degree in neuroscience and still be working at McDonald’s because there are no jobs in your field.
VICE’s article also touched upon how people often associate going to college with earning more money—an idea that isn’t necessarily true, since sometimes people waste more money going to college than they get out of it.
That being said, both university and trade school can bring someone amazing opportunities. If you’re studying what you love and what you see yourself doing for the next 40 years of your life, then the essays, tests and hard work put into your degree is worth it. Yet, only one type of schooling is stigmatized, seen as less than the other, and that’s not right.
Society should not be putting so much pressure on young adults to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of paper if they want to pursue a trade. A bachelor’s degree does not equal happiness; you can be successful and happy while pursuing a trade.
Spend money on something you actually like instead of something that will make you miserable. Comedian John Mulaney said in his Netflix comedy show, John Mulaney: Kid Wonder, “I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen and then I didn’t.”
Archive Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth