Most US College Grads Say Trade Skills Bring Better Job Security

With electricians, plumbers and other professionals in high demand, many Americans fresh out of university are questioning whether their expensive education was worth it.

(Bloomberg) — With electricians, plumbers and other professionals in high demand, many Americans fresh out of university are questioning whether their expensive education was worth it.

Nine in ten graduates said learning a skilled trade can create a better pathway to financial security than going to college, according to a survey published by Thumbtack, a site that connects home-service local professionals with customers. 

Almost half of respondents in the poll of 1,000 young adults say they’d be interested in pursuing a career in the trades, citing cheaper, shorter education that doesn’t require taking on as much debt as going to college.

A separate survey of professionals who use Thumbtack showed the vast majority are optimistic about their outlook — especially as there’s little chance artificial intelligence will replace them. 

“One really interesting thing that came out of this survey was just how optimistic trade pros were about their future,” said Marco Zappacosta, Thumbtack’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Demand is very strong and there’s also likely to be a lot of resistance to automation.”

In recent years, workers without a college degree have seen stronger wage gains in the US.

“Demand is definitely there,” said Brittney Workman, the co-owner of Trade Pros, a plumbing company in Northern Virginia. 

Workman went to college for nursing but decided it wasn’t the right fit. After working for other home improvement firms, she started her own firm with a colleague.

“We decided to give our best shot at it, and here we are two years later,” she said.

About four in five young adults in the Thumbtack survey cited flexible hours and the ability to be their own boss as advantages of a skilled trade over a desk job. 

“Its not just the the wage aspect, its the flexibility,” said Zappacosta.

But pay matters, too. And it’s about to matter even more with student-loan payments set to resume in October after a freeze of more than three years during the pandemic. 

Recent graduates in the bottom quarter of income levels aren’t earning much more than workers who only have a high school degree, according to data from Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

Still, even as skyrocketing costs of education have eroded the so-called college premium in the country, earning a degree has remained a good investment for most, based on research from the New York Fed. 

Read More: Student Loan Return Slams New Graduates Paying For First Time

Workman says she encouraged her daughter who just graduated from high school to consider trade schools — just like nine out 10 professionals surveyed by Thumbtack.

“To be totally honest, I know plenty of tradesmen that make as much, if not more as other friends of mine with a bachelor’s degree and even some people that I know that have master’s degrees,” she said.

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