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Alternative Parenting: Why Your Teen Should Consider Trade School vs College


For many years, it has been said that attending a 4-year college or university is the only way to obtain a lucrative and successful career; this has been an ongoing debate. As a parent with a teenager on the brink of graduating high school, you only want what’s best for them, of course, but what if what’s best for them isn’t what you had planned for them?

Well, in your years of raising your child, there has probably been plenty of times that things didn’t go according to plan… planning for their future will be no different. It’s up to you to be open-minded enough to consider what it is they want to do.

Attending a 4-year college is filled with wonderful opportunities after graduating but you can’t dismiss the fact that a career in the trades has just as many, if not more, promising opportunities as well. In fact, an article by the Washington Post reveals that only 27% of college graduates are working jobs related to their college major, while 41% of grads are working jobs that require no degree whatsoever!

Those statistics will make you question the job market and whether or not a college degree is worth it. The thing to do here is to actually see what path your teen wants to take. Is going to college something they even want to do? If it’s not, and even if it is, you don’t necessarily want to bombard them with an array of options, but what you don’t want to do is neglect to let them know that a college or university isn’t their only path to success.

Take a look at some of the top reasons to encourage your teen to think about attending a trade school.

Trade Schools are More Affordable

In the simplest aspect, you’re paying for two years of college vs four. To obtain a bachelor’s degree, tuition can cost you upwards of $50,000 or more. Depending on the school and trade your teen wants to pursue, tuition costs can be as low as $10,000 per year. So, for a total of two years at a trade school, you’re looking at an average of $20,000.

The Education is Focused

With traditional 4-year colleges and universities, students have to take what’s called prerequisite (prereqs) classes for their first year. Most would say that prereqs are “busy” or “filler” classes because they don’t have anything to do with most students’ majors, in most cases.

If you’re a business major, why would you take an art or biology class? With trade schools, there are no unnecessary classes. From the moment you start your trade school career, you’ll be learning about everything related to that trade.

Job Opportunities are Endless

Jobs in the trades include careers like plumbing, HVAC, construction, electrical, etc. These are jobs that are commonly known for being ones that no one wants to do. But, with that theory lies the demand for these positions.

Who needs a plumber from time to time? Everyone. Who needs an electrician to keep their homes powered? Everyone. And who needs an HVAC technician when their AC unit goes out? Everyone. These jobs might be “unfavorable” to some but they’re a necessity to everyone.

Now, with these jobs, in order to work in the field, you’re more than likely going to need to obtain some type of certification or licensing before you can take on major projects. The great news is that there are online resources available that can prepare your teen for their industry-specific exam, when the time comes, of course. Those resources will help them obtain proper licensure for their specialty trade. Once they have that, they can prosper in their field.


At the end of the day, while you only want what’s best for your teen, it will ultimately be up to them to decide what’s best for them. This is all part of allowing them to grow up and become the responsible adult you raised them to be. College or trade school, there’s no right or wrong decision here. As the parents, your job is to encourage them to be great and let them know all of the options available to them so that they don’t feel like they only have one career path to go down, especially if it’s a path they don’t want to take.