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While the United States has often been touted as the land of opportunity and prosperity, there’s no question it’s not easy to “make it.” The U.S. certainly has more opportunity and social mobility than many places around the world, but the climb from poverty to comfort is not without its challenges. For those finishing high school, you are most likely wondering what’s next. Many young adults choose to further their education, taking college courses with the goal of maximizing their skills and job prospects. Others go into trade school or become an apprentice of a trade directly out of high school. Whatever the decision, the most important thing is to know what’s right for you and what career path will be most beneficial overall.
College or Trade School?
For people who want to further their knowledge in a field, school is a great option. Choosing between trade school and college, however, is dependent on several factors. The largest of these is cost. While the cost of universities can be significantly lowered through scholarships, internships, work, and geographic location, these things don’t always line up. Students who didn’t do as well in high school or aren’t involved in athletics won’t have as many scholarship opportunities, if any. Other students might not have the time or means to get involved in an internship or job on campus, and many students choose to leave their home state for their education.
On average, a bachelor’s degree can cost as much as $127,000. This cost can be much lower or higher, of course, but compared with the average cost of $33,000 for a trade school degree, the difference in cost is significant and clear. Additionally, those with trade school degrees can make just as much, if not more, than those with bachelor degrees. People with a skilled trade also tend to have better job security, since there is always a need for certain trades, and many trades are unionized.
Aside from the financial component of this decision, there is also a personal component. What makes you happy? Some people prefer intellectual pursuit while others would rather work with their hands. These aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but when thinking of a career choice there are difference outcomes from a college degree and a trade school degree. As an example, we’ll take a look at the outcomes of someone going to air conditioner school.
Air Conditioner School
In the summer, just about everyone is clamoring for some kind of air conditioning system. Likewise, in the winter, central heating is a must. This is why heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are always in demand. For those interested in a secure job that pays well, they might attend an air conditioner school to learn the ropes. Learning the skills of an HVAC technician requires discipline and several hours of education and work. For instance, an air conditioner school might require about 450 hours of learning divided into things like electrical, refrigeration, pressure boilers, and OSHA (occupational safety and health administration) courses.
What do HVAC Technicians Do (and Make)?
HVAC technicians do everything from installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems. More specifically, they will go to work sites, follow blueprints, connect pipes to central systems, test components and systems, install electrical wiring, inspect existing HVAC systems, and more. Starting out, an HVAC technician’s average salary is about $48,000. A decent salary to begin with, this can grow much larger depending on how long you work in the industry, the profile of the jobs you work, how knowledgable you are, etc. And the industry is only growing. It’s estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the HVAC industry with grow by 21% by the year 2022. A job that’s high in demand is secure and worthwhile.
Of course, technical school isn’t for everyone, and neither is becoming an HVAC technician. But there are opportunities out there. It’s important to keep an eye open for the industries that are high in demand and on a path to grow. These are jobs that, if nothing else, can provide you with a comfortable lifestyle if you’re willing to put in the work. Whether you decide to learn a trade or further your intellectual pursuits in college, opportunity is there if you look and work hard enough.