Author Topic: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?  (Read 4775 times)

Imma

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2859
  • Location: Europe
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #100 on: May 02, 2021, 07:10:42 AM »
I was the person who said that you could learn a lot of things through dedicated independent studying later in life. Not necessarily replace a whole degree but gain a lot of the knowledge. Not just liberal arts, probably also in STEM - I did liberal arts / law, I know nothing about STEM. In fact I tried this out for myself and it worked. Due to health issues I was unable to attend university for some time after graduating highschool and I learned a lot from independent study. When I finally was able to attend, I was ahead of my peers. Honestly, even though I went to a good university, especially in the first years there was very little instruction, just "read the book and make the quizzes" and I'm pretty sure I would have managed to do that without any kind of instruction at all. I still watch all kinds of classes on Youtube frequently, none of the classes I ever attended in person were that good.

Sorry to be unclear, I was actually responding to Bloop Bloop's comment that liberal arts stuff is "Easily accessible elsewhere," whereas (by implication) other stuff isn't.  I'm a big believer in reading and learning all you can, regardless of degree.  But to presume that just reading Huckleberry Finn on your own teaches you as much as reading and discussing and researching and writing about it in a class with an experienced professor?  That's like thinking I can teach myself chemical engineering by buying the college textbooks.

I don't know what teaching was like at the institution you went to, but at my (well ranked) school we weren't 'discussing and researching and writing with an experienced professor' like they do in the movies. Our classes were more like 'student teacher a year older than me reading the answers to the quizzes in the textbook from the teacher's manual'. It was extremely uninspirational.

@nereo maybe I was one of those exceptions then, I missed quite a few classes because I was working and doing college on the side.

Part of the point of college is to have a theoretically unbiased third party sign off that “yes this person does know this thing.” 

If your goal is to “be educated” great, go read some books and do some research, but if you want anyone else, namely a potential employer, to believe that you know said thing you need the parchment to back it up.

This is true, and I noticed it was difficult getting ahead in my workplace, which is why I finished my degree and even went back for a Master's. But it does still feel a bit pointless - I put in so much work to complete that degree and not a single employer has ever even requested a transcript. No one knows what I did there except I went and gained a degree. And so did all the people in my class who were absolute idiots but somehow still managed to pass.

ToTheMoon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 652
  • Location: BC
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #101 on: May 02, 2021, 07:16:38 AM »
Grit is important but so is intelligence. You're not going to get very far as a surgeon, management consultant, software engineer, trial lawyer etc without a modicum of intelligence. Someone with a 100IQ shouldn't be going to university.

What the hell?  Someone with a 100IQ is considered perfectly average, and even people who score in the high 80s are considered of normal intelligence.
I’m certain one would not have to look very far to find a person with average intelligence who did well at University and now has a profitable and prestigious career.

As another poster clarified, your IQ score is just one of several measures to judge a person’s mental capacity.

I don't think university is designed for people of average reasoning ability. Unless you count a TAFE (polytechnic college? Not sure what they are called in the States) institution as a university.

I am sure there are outliers, but when considering the EV (expected value) and the opportunity cost of going to university, someone with an 100 IQ is better off doing something like a skilled trade.

I really dislike this attitude. I know many people with prestigious jobs and the more I get to know them, the more I realize it is definitely NOT IQ that got them there. Also, we and many of our best friends are tradespeople and let me assure you that you do not want an entire workforce of tradespeople only coming out of the bottom half of the IQ scale.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #102 on: May 02, 2021, 07:36:20 AM »
I was the person who said that you could learn a lot of things through dedicated independent studying later in life. Not necessarily replace a whole degree but gain a lot of the knowledge. Not just liberal arts, probably also in STEM - I did liberal arts / law, I know nothing about STEM. In fact I tried this out for myself and it worked. Due to health issues I was unable to attend university for some time after graduating highschool and I learned a lot from independent study. When I finally was able to attend, I was ahead of my peers. Honestly, even though I went to a good university, especially in the first years there was very little instruction, just "read the book and make the quizzes" and I'm pretty sure I would have managed to do that without any kind of instruction at all. I still watch all kinds of classes on Youtube frequently, none of the classes I ever attended in person were that good.

Sorry to be unclear, I was actually responding to Bloop Bloop's comment that liberal arts stuff is "Easily accessible elsewhere," whereas (by implication) other stuff isn't.  I'm a big believer in reading and learning all you can, regardless of degree.  But to presume that just reading Huckleberry Finn on your own teaches you as much as reading and discussing and researching and writing about it in a class with an experienced professor?  That's like thinking I can teach myself chemical engineering by buying the college textbooks.

I don't know what teaching was like at the institution you went to, but at my (well ranked) school we weren't 'discussing and researching and writing with an experienced professor' like they do in the movies. Our classes were more like 'student teacher a year older than me reading the answers to the quizzes in the textbook from the teacher's manual'. It was extremely uninspirational.

@nereo maybe I was one of those exceptions then, I missed quite a few classes because I was working and doing college on the side.

Part of the point of college is to have a theoretically unbiased third party sign off that “yes this person does know this thing.” 

If your goal is to “be educated” great, go read some books and do some research, but if you want anyone else, namely a potential employer, to believe that you know said thing you need the parchment to back it up.

This is true, and I noticed it was difficult getting ahead in my workplace, which is why I finished my degree and even went back for a Master's. But it does still feel a bit pointless - I put in so much work to complete that degree and not a single employer has ever even requested a transcript. No one knows what I did there except I went and gained a degree. And so did all the people in my class who were absolute idiots but somehow still managed to pass.

Lame. My university experience for both degrees at two very different schools was basically exactly like you see in movies. Other than first year classes, my courses were almost all taught by full faculty, and sometimes PhDs. There was a lot of class discussion and I received a ton of direct mentorship from faculty.

Sure, there were some classes where is was just dry and the students rarely participated, but that wasn't the norm.

Sucks for you that school was so dry. I loved school. Well, I hated a lot of my doctorate, but that's because the faculty was rampantly abusive. The actual coursework was great.

ToTheMoon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 652
  • Location: BC
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #103 on: May 02, 2021, 07:40:47 AM »
Skilled trades are awesome for lots of reasons, but ones that I have not seen mentioned on here thus far are the flexibility of the work schedules and being able to jump in and out without it affecting your earning rate.

We and many of our dear friends are successful tradespeople. They are some of the most intelligent and interesting people that you will ever have a conversation with. Many of us have university and did white-collar jobs in our 20's then decided to try something different. What I have seen is that we all live very balanced lives. We run our own businesses and thus are able to pick and choose when and where we work. Our family has been able to take many 6-8 week holidays, and we frequently take many months off between jobs whenever we so choose. The real beauty of the trades is that once you have completed your training you have a lot of freedom. When we take time off, we can jump back in at the same wages as before (if not better) so we do not get stuck with OMY syndrome. We know we can always go back and earn more money at our regular wages.

The downside is that it can certainly be cyclical with how much work is out there, but with a large portion of the trades workforce continuing to retire en-masse I think it is still a very safe bet that there will be work to be done.

Like @use2betrix has mentioned, especially IF you are willing to be flexible with WHERE you are working, there is big money to be made in many trades.

Bloop Bloop Reloaded

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 613
  • Location: Australia
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #104 on: May 02, 2021, 08:00:29 AM »
Grit is important but so is intelligence. You're not going to get very far as a surgeon, management consultant, software engineer, trial lawyer etc without a modicum of intelligence. Someone with a 100IQ shouldn't be going to university.

What the hell?  Someone with a 100IQ is considered perfectly average, and even people who score in the high 80s are considered of normal intelligence.
I’m certain one would not have to look very far to find a person with average intelligence who did well at University and now has a profitable and prestigious career.

As another poster clarified, your IQ score is just one of several measures to judge a person’s mental capacity.

I don't think university is designed for people of average reasoning ability. Unless you count a TAFE (polytechnic college? Not sure what they are called in the States) institution as a university.

I am sure there are outliers, but when considering the EV (expected value) and the opportunity cost of going to university, someone with an 100 IQ is better off doing something like a skilled trade.

Well suffice to say I strongly disagree. There was a time just a few generations ago when completing High School was viewed as something only intelligent and affluent people did. At the time our workforce was largely dominated by agriculture and manual labor. As the workforce evolved and became more complex, so did the educational needs, which is why HS (or a GED equivalent) is required today.  As I don’t particularly think it’s wise to limit a 16/17 year old’s career path, nor do I think a HS level education is sufficient for most jobs, I believe most of our workforce should attend college.

Regardless of your opinion that half the population is unfit to go to University, it doesn’t reflect our modern workforce; there are simply not enough jobs in the ‘skilled trades’ to absorb half the workforce.

Look at the stats.

Australia - 48% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree (2014).

United States - 46% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree.

Note that these figures include non-university degrees, i.e. diplomas (I think in the US these are called associates' degrees?) and post-secondary vocational qualifications. None of those things qualify as university degrees so they are beyond the scope of my assertion. But even on those figures, less than half the population has any tertiary qualification.

So for your assertion to be right (that more than half the population ought to be studying at university), the inference must also be that right now too few students are going to university.

Yet look at the college debt thread and see how many people are saying that students (as it is) are ill equipped for university. You want more people at the bottom end of the talent pool to be entering university?

How many university courses that accept say a 500/500/500 SAT student would really be feasible?

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #105 on: May 02, 2021, 08:18:39 AM »
Grit is important but so is intelligence. You're not going to get very far as a surgeon, management consultant, software engineer, trial lawyer etc without a modicum of intelligence. Someone with a 100IQ shouldn't be going to university.

What the hell?  Someone with a 100IQ is considered perfectly average, and even people who score in the high 80s are considered of normal intelligence.
I’m certain one would not have to look very far to find a person with average intelligence who did well at University and now has a profitable and prestigious career.

As another poster clarified, your IQ score is just one of several measures to judge a person’s mental capacity.

I don't think university is designed for people of average reasoning ability. Unless you count a TAFE (polytechnic college? Not sure what they are called in the States) institution as a university.

I am sure there are outliers, but when considering the EV (expected value) and the opportunity cost of going to university, someone with an 100 IQ is better off doing something like a skilled trade.

Well suffice to say I strongly disagree. There was a time just a few generations ago when completing High School was viewed as something only intelligent and affluent people did. At the time our workforce was largely dominated by agriculture and manual labor. As the workforce evolved and became more complex, so did the educational needs, which is why HS (or a GED equivalent) is required today.  As I don’t particularly think it’s wise to limit a 16/17 year old’s career path, nor do I think a HS level education is sufficient for most jobs, I believe most of our workforce should attend college.

Regardless of your opinion that half the population is unfit to go to University, it doesn’t reflect our modern workforce; there are simply not enough jobs in the ‘skilled trades’ to absorb half the workforce.

Look at the stats.

Australia - 48% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree (2014).

United States - 46% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree.

Note that these figures include non-university degrees, i.e. diplomas (I think in the US these are called associates' degrees?) and post-secondary vocational qualifications. None of those things qualify as university degrees so they are beyond the scope of my assertion. But even on those figures, less than half the population has any tertiary qualification.

So for your assertion to be right (that more than half the population ought to be studying at university), the inference must also be that right now too few students are going to university.

Yet look at the college debt thread and see how many people are saying that students (as it is) are ill equipped for university. You want more people at the bottom end of the talent pool to be entering university?

How many university courses that accept say a 500/500/500 SAT student would really be feasible?

Remember though that college in the US is a confusing creature.

I believe that the Australian university system is more similar to the Canadian system. Where universities are a specific type of rigorous academic institution, heavily subsidized and governed by the state, where at the undergrad level, all universities are reaching at the same level, courses and degrees, by mandate have to be equivalent across schools.

Meanwhile, in the US, I've had friends doing top level scientific research at a college that has programs that would never be found at a university here, like hospitality or dental hygiene.

We have a separate vocational college system for those programs, where some of their programs have to meet strict mandated guidelines and some don't.

So it's all a little more mixed up in the US system, which makes it much harder to generalize about what level of IQ one might need for "college" because that refers to such a wide range of education.

use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2232
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #106 on: May 02, 2021, 08:34:06 AM »
@Malcat - lots of great examples regarding to how children are raised. I definitely don’t disagree with any of those.

For every single example I give, you can absolutely find a sector of people where it doesn’t apply to. Yet there are still millions and millions of people who could be FAR more successful if they got off their ass and worked extra hours, exercised more, ate better, and spent considerable time outside of work bettering themselves. Heck, no matter what background you grew up in, if you start throwing in an extra 10-20 hrs a week, there’s a good chance you will advance faster than your peers whether you’ve actively asked for the next promotion or not.

As someone who hires and manages people making $200k-$300k+, I notice their work ethic and that’s what gets them hired on jobs when I’ve worked with them on previous jobs, and also keeps them around longer.

Right now I’ve got a very clear list of who is getting laid off first (we’re contractors), and who is getting laid off last, when the project starts slowing down in around 18 months. That is 100% due to their work ethic.. They all have to walk by my office when they head out to the job site, so I see who is walking out and when, who has a harness over their shoulder, and who is sitting at their desk watching YouTube videos..

There’s 1 exception to the above I can think of (who I have recently hired from my last job), and we have honestly had some pretty big riff’s, and I wouldn’t consider him an ass-buster from a work aspect either. But he is “that smart” compared to others that I keep him on board and happy to hire him. I’ve learned that he just has to be supervised differently and I need to make sure to keep him busy.

@spartana - also some good points. There’s still lots of single people out there. Also, while my wife typically hasn’t worked and traveled with me... Is there a difference between her not working and someone being FIRE’d with a working spouse? Something here that nearly all people here aspire to achieve?

Again, you’re right, marriage can certainly throw a different dynamic into the “moving” aspect...

Well... moving locations... what I still said about moving (exercising) and diets can apply to nearly everyone... especially in a country where 2/3 of people are overweight with 1/3 being obese..

Of course, you can give the examples of people who are quadriplegics and those with some medical condition requiring them to eat an insane amount of calories so they just also have to be overweight.

spartana

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2187
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #107 on: May 02, 2021, 08:40:57 AM »
Grit is important but so is intelligence. You're not going to get very far as a surgeon, management consultant, software engineer, trial lawyer etc without a modicum of intelligence. Someone with a 100IQ shouldn't be going to university.

What the hell?  Someone with a 100IQ is considered perfectly average, and even people who score in the high 80s are considered of normal intelligence.
I’m certain one would not have to look very far to find a person with average intelligence who did well at University and now has a profitable and prestigious career.

As another poster clarified, your IQ score is just one of several measures to judge a person’s mental capacity.
WTH indeed! I'm exceedingly "average" and excelled in college (while working full time and taking a heavy course load) as well as my blue collar career. Many average people do. To lump them into some caste system of the filty unwashed who are only fit to toil in the muck and mud is beyond elitist. Who chooses to go to college and who doesn't isn't always about intellect and ability but personal choice or opportunity. Stats rarely reflect that if ever.

Bloop Bloop Reloaded

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 613
  • Location: Australia
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #108 on: May 02, 2021, 08:49:08 AM »
Grit is important but so is intelligence. You're not going to get very far as a surgeon, management consultant, software engineer, trial lawyer etc without a modicum of intelligence. Someone with a 100IQ shouldn't be going to university.

What the hell?  Someone with a 100IQ is considered perfectly average, and even people who score in the high 80s are considered of normal intelligence.
I’m certain one would not have to look very far to find a person with average intelligence who did well at University and now has a profitable and prestigious career.

As another poster clarified, your IQ score is just one of several measures to judge a person’s mental capacity.

I don't think university is designed for people of average reasoning ability. Unless you count a TAFE (polytechnic college? Not sure what they are called in the States) institution as a university.

I am sure there are outliers, but when considering the EV (expected value) and the opportunity cost of going to university, someone with an 100 IQ is better off doing something like a skilled trade.

Well suffice to say I strongly disagree. There was a time just a few generations ago when completing High School was viewed as something only intelligent and affluent people did. At the time our workforce was largely dominated by agriculture and manual labor. As the workforce evolved and became more complex, so did the educational needs, which is why HS (or a GED equivalent) is required today.  As I don’t particularly think it’s wise to limit a 16/17 year old’s career path, nor do I think a HS level education is sufficient for most jobs, I believe most of our workforce should attend college.

Regardless of your opinion that half the population is unfit to go to University, it doesn’t reflect our modern workforce; there are simply not enough jobs in the ‘skilled trades’ to absorb half the workforce.

Look at the stats.

Australia - 48% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree (2014).

United States - 46% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree.

Note that these figures include non-university degrees, i.e. diplomas (I think in the US these are called associates' degrees?) and post-secondary vocational qualifications. None of those things qualify as university degrees so they are beyond the scope of my assertion. But even on those figures, less than half the population has any tertiary qualification.

So for your assertion to be right (that more than half the population ought to be studying at university), the inference must also be that right now too few students are going to university.

Yet look at the college debt thread and see how many people are saying that students (as it is) are ill equipped for university. You want more people at the bottom end of the talent pool to be entering university?

How many university courses that accept say a 500/500/500 SAT student would really be feasible?

Remember though that college in the US is a confusing creature.

I believe that the Australian university system is more similar to the Canadian system. Where universities are a specific type of rigorous academic institution, heavily subsidized and governed by the state, where at the undergrad level, all universities are reaching at the same level, courses and degrees, by mandate have to be equivalent across schools.

Meanwhile, in the US, I've had friends doing top level scientific research at a college that has programs that would never be found at a university here, like hospitality or dental hygiene.

We have a separate vocational college system for those programs, where some of their programs have to meet strict mandated guidelines and some don't.

So it's all a little more mixed up in the US system, which makes it much harder to generalize about what level of IQ one might need for "college" because that refers to such a wide range of education.

Yeah, your description of the Australian university system is mostly right. For vocations like hospitality, they would be covered through our TAFE courses (though dental hygiene is covered by a university degree - Bachelor of Oral Health - and some disciplines like nursing have either degree or vocational qualifications depending on the grade). I did specifically refer to university in my original post, and I think even in the US the term 'university' implies an institution that hands out a Bachelor's level or higher academic degree.

spartana

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2187
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #109 on: May 02, 2021, 09:00:17 AM »

@spartana - also some good points. There’s still lots of single people out there. Also, while my wife typically hasn’t worked and traveled with me... Is there a difference between her not working and someone being FIRE’d with a working spouse? Something here that nearly all people here aspire to achieve?

Again, you’re right, marriage can certainly throw a different dynamic into the “moving” aspect...

Well... moving locations... what I still said about moving (exercising) and diets can apply to nearly everyone... especially in a country where 2/3 of people are overweight with 1/3 being obese..

Of course, you can give the examples of people who are quadriplegics and those with some medical condition requiring them to eat an insane amount of calories so they just also have to be overweight.
I think there is a huge difference. Most negative.  Being permanently financially dependent on someone for most of their lives (you guys married in your early 20 if I'm correct and your DW stopped working then). Never achieving your own independence or experiencing your own career opportunities and much of the personal growth, accolades, and self-realizations and pride that come from that. Etc... If someone is fulfilled by being a lifelong home maker or has unpaid hobbies and activities that fulfill those needs then that's great! But many people who have never had their own personal achievements (and failures) while young often feel dissatisfied with their lives once older whether reaching FI (via a spouses income) or not.

ETA: A lot of people don't consider one spouse FIREd if their spouse is still working and both are still dependent on that job. Or if, in the event of divorce, disability, lay off, or death of the working spouse,  the other must go to work for financial reasons.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2021, 09:13:09 AM by spartana »

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #110 on: May 02, 2021, 09:12:27 AM »
@Malcat - lots of great examples regarding to how children are raised. I definitely don’t disagree with any of those.

For every single example I give, you can absolutely find a sector of people where it doesn’t apply to. Yet there are still millions and millions of people who could be FAR more successful if they got off their ass and worked extra hours, exercised more, ate better, and spent considerable time outside of work bettering themselves. Heck, no matter what background you grew up in, if you start throwing in an extra 10-20 hrs a week, there’s a good chance you will advance faster than your peers whether you’ve actively asked for the next promotion or not.

As someone who hires and manages people making $200k-$300k+, I notice their work ethic and that’s what gets them hired on jobs when I’ve worked with them on previous jobs, and also keeps them around longer.

Right now I’ve got a very clear list of who is getting laid off first (we’re contractors), and who is getting laid off last, when the project starts slowing down in around 18 months. That is 100% due to their work ethic.. They all have to walk by my office when they head out to the job site, so I see who is walking out and when, who has a harness over their shoulder, and who is sitting at their desk watching YouTube videos..

There’s 1 exception to the above I can think of (who I have recently hired from my last job), and we have honestly had some pretty big riff’s, and I wouldn’t consider him an ass-buster from a work aspect either. But he is “that smart” compared to others that I keep him on board and happy to hire him. I’ve learned that he just has to be supervised differently and I need to make sure to keep him busy.

@spartana - also some good points. There’s still lots of single people out there. Also, while my wife typically hasn’t worked and traveled with me... Is there a difference between her not working and someone being FIRE’d with a working spouse? Something here that nearly all people here aspire to achieve?

Again, you’re right, marriage can certainly throw a different dynamic into the “moving” aspect...

Well... moving locations... what I still said about moving (exercising) and diets can apply to nearly everyone... especially in a country where 2/3 of people are overweight with 1/3 being obese..

Of course, you can give the examples of people who are quadriplegics and those with some medical condition requiring them to eat an insane amount of calories so they just also have to be overweight.

I will clarify one more time and then I'll let it go.

I have never said that people can't or that they shouldn't try to overcome their socioeconomic backgrounds.

I'm just saying that they generally don't, and when large populations of people don't do something that seems common sense, I believe that being judgemental about it doesn't help the problem, that better understanding from a default position of compassion is more productive.

Imma

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2859
  • Location: Europe
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #111 on: May 02, 2021, 11:06:54 AM »
Grit is important but so is intelligence. You're not going to get very far as a surgeon, management consultant, software engineer, trial lawyer etc without a modicum of intelligence. Someone with a 100IQ shouldn't be going to university.

What the hell?  Someone with a 100IQ is considered perfectly average, and even people who score in the high 80s are considered of normal intelligence.
I’m certain one would not have to look very far to find a person with average intelligence who did well at University and now has a profitable and prestigious career.

As another poster clarified, your IQ score is just one of several measures to judge a person’s mental capacity.

I don't think university is designed for people of average reasoning ability. Unless you count a TAFE (polytechnic college? Not sure what they are called in the States) institution as a university.

I am sure there are outliers, but when considering the EV (expected value) and the opportunity cost of going to university, someone with an 100 IQ is better off doing something like a skilled trade.

Well suffice to say I strongly disagree. There was a time just a few generations ago when completing High School was viewed as something only intelligent and affluent people did. At the time our workforce was largely dominated by agriculture and manual labor. As the workforce evolved and became more complex, so did the educational needs, which is why HS (or a GED equivalent) is required today.  As I don’t particularly think it’s wise to limit a 16/17 year old’s career path, nor do I think a HS level education is sufficient for most jobs, I believe most of our workforce should attend college.

Regardless of your opinion that half the population is unfit to go to University, it doesn’t reflect our modern workforce; there are simply not enough jobs in the ‘skilled trades’ to absorb half the workforce.

Look at the stats.

Australia - 48% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree (2014).

United States - 46% of the population aged 25-34 has a tertiary degree.

Note that these figures include non-university degrees, i.e. diplomas (I think in the US these are called associates' degrees?) and post-secondary vocational qualifications. None of those things qualify as university degrees so they are beyond the scope of my assertion. But even on those figures, less than half the population has any tertiary qualification.

So for your assertion to be right (that more than half the population ought to be studying at university), the inference must also be that right now too few students are going to university.

Yet look at the college debt thread and see how many people are saying that students (as it is) are ill equipped for university. You want more people at the bottom end of the talent pool to be entering university?

How many university courses that accept say a 500/500/500 SAT student would really be feasible?

Remember though that college in the US is a confusing creature.

I believe that the Australian university system is more similar to the Canadian system. Where universities are a specific type of rigorous academic institution, heavily subsidized and governed by the state, where at the undergrad level, all universities are reaching at the same level, courses and degrees, by mandate have to be equivalent across schools.

Meanwhile, in the US, I've had friends doing top level scientific research at a college that has programs that would never be found at a university here, like hospitality or dental hygiene.

We have a separate vocational college system for those programs, where some of their programs have to meet strict mandated guidelines and some don't.

So it's all a little more mixed up in the US system, which makes it much harder to generalize about what level of IQ one might need for "college" because that refers to such a wide range of education.

Yeah, your description of the Australian university system is mostly right. For vocations like hospitality, they would be covered through our TAFE courses (though dental hygiene is covered by a university degree - Bachelor of Oral Health - and some disciplines like nursing have either degree or vocational qualifications depending on the grade). I did specifically refer to university in my original post, and I think even in the US the term 'university' implies an institution that hands out a Bachelor's level or higher academic degree.

In my country, 100% of young people in tertiary education is the goal. But we have universities, universities of applied science and vocational schools. If you choose the vocational route, you'll be around 20 when you graduate and you'll have finished several long internships and the classes are mostly practical skills, but also some languages, IT and maths. My grandfather only did elementary school and then apprenticed until he was a fully qualified carpenter at the age of 20, but in the 21st century some theoretical subjects have become more important. You're still fully qualified at the same age but with a little bit more theoretical knowledge than in the 1940s.

It's certainly not necessary that everyone has a university degree, but I do think tertiary (job-specific) education is important, as opposed to secondary (general) education. You can learn lots of things on the job but tertiary education provides young people with a solid foundation of knowledge and practical skills in their future job.

Bloop Bloop Reloaded

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 613
  • Location: Australia
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #112 on: May 02, 2021, 06:21:35 PM »
I agree with that. Where possible, some sort of vocational qualification is important.

Wolfpack Mustachian

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 988
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #113 on: May 03, 2021, 05:23:40 AM »
I'm not a big fan of liberal arts degrees for several reasons:

1. Low signalling ability. A law degree, medicine degree, engineering degree etc is a good signifier of achievement if only because it shows that you survived a tough degree with a competitive cohort. At least here in Australia - not sure if so in the US - the liberal arts cohorts are much weaker because the top students study law, medicine, engineering etc. If the cohort is weak then the degree has weak signalling ability. This says nothing about the intrinsic merits of the degree - but it does say something about the degree's ability to get you a job.

In the US, you study medicine or law after you get your BA/BS.  Sure, you can be "premed" or "prelaw," but that is not required, and indeed is disfavored in many places.  Here, if you want to signal your "top student" status, you'd focus more on the school attended and the GPA attained.

I would also encourage everyone not to assume that a STEM degree is a path to a guaranteed decent salary.  A bio degree will get you an entry-level lab job or a Ph.D program.  Many STEM fields now require advanced education to get started or move up (I understand that physical therapy now fundamentally requires a Ph.D to make good money).  In addition, the pendulum always swings; what's new and hot today is passe or outsourced tomorrow.  Imagine if you were a computer science major who learned programming via punchcards.  No matter what path you follow, the most important skill is being able to teach yourself the next thing to come along so you can stay current with job demands.

My advice to my own kids has been to do what you enjoy* and are good at -- and to be aware of the potential salaries/lifestyles that go along with each.  If you're academically-minded, college is probably a good fit; if you're hands-on, then either a trade or engineering seems best (with the choice based on interest and academic ability); if you're entrepreneurial and cannot fathom working for someone else, go start your own business and take some community college classes to learn what you need about business, accounting, managing your IT, etc.  Even if you follow the academic path, the same holds true:  generally, people who are "born" engineers (I married one) would suck as English majors,** whereas more theoretical, big-picture people like me would make for horrible engineers.  Better to focus on what you're good at and give yourself the best chance to stand out in your field, whatever that may be, to give yourself the best opportunities.

Oh:  and if it really is possible to learn everything you need to know for a liberal arts degree by reading books, then I could learn everything I need to know about any STEM subject I choose the same way.  I mean, after all, there are books and websites that teach all that, right?  The problem isn't access to information; it's learning how to put it all together and figure out how/when/where to apply it.

Finally, if you really think STEM is the way to go for the best salaries, just take a look at who runs all of the major corporations (not to mention Congress).  It's business majors, marketing majors, finance majors, communications majors, lawyers, and accountants.  And you will see many more Poli Sci/MBA or English major/JD than STEM.  My DH has pretty much maxed out at his company, because he chose the Ph.D path instead of the MBA path.  So if you really want stability, go into accounting/finance; if you want to maximize your upside opportunities, get an MBA.


*And by "enjoy," I don't mean "follow your passion," I mean "like better than the other stuff I do."

**One of my favorite rants from DD in HS English was all about "why does it have to MEAN something that the door is red?  Maybe that's the only color paint they had!"  Yeah, she's an engineering major now.  ;-)

Agreed! As a bio degree graduate, I felt my degree was basically a prerequisite to graduate school of one type or another. Fortunately that was always my plan, but it would have been unfortunate if I had wanted to stop after undergrad.

I think it's pretty simple why skilled trades are highly recommended... You have earning potential similar to a college graduate depending on your trade. You get to work with your hands which many people enjoy and create something of value while at work. Several friends who went that route are arguably more "successful" than many of my friends who went to college. College students have a habit of going through the process of college without a feasible plan of what to do afterward with their degree

I think this is one of the most accurate points of the whole thread. The reason why I would be inclined to push my kids towards trades slightly over college in a general all things being equal kind of way is this reason. If you make a mistake and go to college without a plan, coming out without a plan, you come out with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no plan - potentially tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no degree worst case because you couldn't/didn't cut it. Really bad possible scenario. From a trades standpoint, you've invested much less time, much less money. A failure is not nearly as bad.

Also, it seems like college students often do just pick a degree that sounds like something they'd like and try it. This seems like, totally anecdotally, that it happens a lot more often in liberal arts degrees than, say, aerospace engineering or whatnot. It seems to be part of the reason liberal arts degrees get picked on. Additionally, tying back to picking a college and major without a feasible plan afterwards, it seems, again anecdotally, that it happens in liberal arts degrees more than STEM. My wife went to a small private college, and it was a sound financial decision despite the cost due to the particular circumstances and her major. I remember going to graduation, though, and seeing so, so many people in liberal arts degrees who I knew put in 70-80k into the four year degree without the specific major that was the only reason why this school made any sense financially. It seems that a lot of these kinds of private schools cater to liberal arts degrees. STEM degrees seem to come more at a public university, already giving it a notch for more financial responsibility.

I don't think liberal arts degrees are inherently bad. They can certainly be a road to success. It just seems that people go into them without a plan more often than is true of STEM degrees, and it seems that the financial impact is often even worse than STEM degrees, but that's totally anecdotal. Overall, though, the general point that so many people go into college without a plan seems to be a big point in favor of trades over college, especially with no plan.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #114 on: May 03, 2021, 06:44:20 AM »
I'm not a big fan of liberal arts degrees for several reasons:

1. Low signalling ability. A law degree, medicine degree, engineering degree etc is a good signifier of achievement if only because it shows that you survived a tough degree with a competitive cohort. At least here in Australia - not sure if so in the US - the liberal arts cohorts are much weaker because the top students study law, medicine, engineering etc. If the cohort is weak then the degree has weak signalling ability. This says nothing about the intrinsic merits of the degree - but it does say something about the degree's ability to get you a job.

In the US, you study medicine or law after you get your BA/BS.  Sure, you can be "premed" or "prelaw," but that is not required, and indeed is disfavored in many places.  Here, if you want to signal your "top student" status, you'd focus more on the school attended and the GPA attained.

I would also encourage everyone not to assume that a STEM degree is a path to a guaranteed decent salary.  A bio degree will get you an entry-level lab job or a Ph.D program.  Many STEM fields now require advanced education to get started or move up (I understand that physical therapy now fundamentally requires a Ph.D to make good money).  In addition, the pendulum always swings; what's new and hot today is passe or outsourced tomorrow.  Imagine if you were a computer science major who learned programming via punchcards.  No matter what path you follow, the most important skill is being able to teach yourself the next thing to come along so you can stay current with job demands.

My advice to my own kids has been to do what you enjoy* and are good at -- and to be aware of the potential salaries/lifestyles that go along with each.  If you're academically-minded, college is probably a good fit; if you're hands-on, then either a trade or engineering seems best (with the choice based on interest and academic ability); if you're entrepreneurial and cannot fathom working for someone else, go start your own business and take some community college classes to learn what you need about business, accounting, managing your IT, etc.  Even if you follow the academic path, the same holds true:  generally, people who are "born" engineers (I married one) would suck as English majors,** whereas more theoretical, big-picture people like me would make for horrible engineers.  Better to focus on what you're good at and give yourself the best chance to stand out in your field, whatever that may be, to give yourself the best opportunities.

Oh:  and if it really is possible to learn everything you need to know for a liberal arts degree by reading books, then I could learn everything I need to know about any STEM subject I choose the same way.  I mean, after all, there are books and websites that teach all that, right?  The problem isn't access to information; it's learning how to put it all together and figure out how/when/where to apply it.

Finally, if you really think STEM is the way to go for the best salaries, just take a look at who runs all of the major corporations (not to mention Congress).  It's business majors, marketing majors, finance majors, communications majors, lawyers, and accountants.  And you will see many more Poli Sci/MBA or English major/JD than STEM.  My DH has pretty much maxed out at his company, because he chose the Ph.D path instead of the MBA path.  So if you really want stability, go into accounting/finance; if you want to maximize your upside opportunities, get an MBA.


*And by "enjoy," I don't mean "follow your passion," I mean "like better than the other stuff I do."

**One of my favorite rants from DD in HS English was all about "why does it have to MEAN something that the door is red?  Maybe that's the only color paint they had!"  Yeah, she's an engineering major now.  ;-)

Agreed! As a bio degree graduate, I felt my degree was basically a prerequisite to graduate school of one type or another. Fortunately that was always my plan, but it would have been unfortunate if I had wanted to stop after undergrad.

I think it's pretty simple why skilled trades are highly recommended... You have earning potential similar to a college graduate depending on your trade. You get to work with your hands which many people enjoy and create something of value while at work. Several friends who went that route are arguably more "successful" than many of my friends who went to college. College students have a habit of going through the process of college without a feasible plan of what to do afterward with their degree

I think this is one of the most accurate points of the whole thread. The reason why I would be inclined to push my kids towards trades slightly over college in a general all things being equal kind of way is this reason. If you make a mistake and go to college without a plan, coming out without a plan, you come out with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no plan - potentially tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no degree worst case because you couldn't/didn't cut it. Really bad possible scenario. From a trades standpoint, you've invested much less time, much less money. A failure is not nearly as bad.

Also, it seems like college students often do just pick a degree that sounds like something they'd like and try it. This seems like, totally anecdotally, that it happens a lot more often in liberal arts degrees than, say, aerospace engineering or whatnot. It seems to be part of the reason liberal arts degrees get picked on. Additionally, tying back to picking a college and major without a feasible plan afterwards, it seems, again anecdotally, that it happens in liberal arts degrees more than STEM. My wife went to a small private college, and it was a sound financial decision despite the cost due to the particular circumstances and her major. I remember going to graduation, though, and seeing so, so many people in liberal arts degrees who I knew put in 70-80k into the four year degree without the specific major that was the only reason why this school made any sense financially. It seems that a lot of these kinds of private schools cater to liberal arts degrees. STEM degrees seem to come more at a public university, already giving it a notch for more financial responsibility.

I don't think liberal arts degrees are inherently bad. They can certainly be a road to success. It just seems that people go into them without a plan more often than is true of STEM degrees, and it seems that the financial impact is often even worse than STEM degrees, but that's totally anecdotal. Overall, though, the general point that so many people go into college without a plan seems to be a big point in favor of trades over college, especially with no plan.

The things is, whether it be trades or careers that follow university degrees, or the enormous range of other careers that don't require a degree that everyone seems to forget about, the same skills are required for success.

Parents spend so much time hand wringing about basically trying to choose a career path for their kid's, when really, what their kids would benefit from is an understanding of how careers are built, how business works, how markets work, because all employers are businesses within the shared market.

Giving young people the resources to learn how to understand these things.

Parents are CONSTANTLY asking me to talk to their teens because they want me to convince them to follow a path like I did: get a high end professional degree and be set for life. It's a fucking joke, and I won't promote that shit. But I do help kids understand why certain jobs pay more, high barrier to entry vs low barrier to entry. What networking is and why they need to learn how and do it all through university because that's the main professional benefit of university.

I treat it the exact same way I would treat someone asking me how to retire early. I have a succinct explanation of what they need to learn, and I point them towards resources so they can learn themselves.

Most importantly, I explain what I've said many times already DEGREES DO NOT PROVIDE CAREERS OR SUCCESS.

Any education provides just that, education. Some education provides specific skills and experience that open specific doors, like law, medicine, trade school, engineering, etc. However, they only open those specific doors, and the more specific, the more doors they leave closed.

Other education confers broader knowledge, like studying liberal arts, business, and yes, a lot of STEM degrees. I supervised and mentored many science students. An undergrad degree in biology or math doesn't lead to any specific lucrative job that I know of...

Those with broader skills may not be immediately ushered through specific job doors, but those skills become a valuable component of their general experience.

And that's what really matters. Whether you went to dental school, studied philosophy, or chemistry, or did a 6 week "business admin" certificate at the local night school. What really matters is your overall experience and what you do with it.

Part and parcel of experience are critical things like: interview skills, networking skills, knowledge of appropriate conduct within your particular business, cultural awareness and ability to interact with different walks of life, understanding how management works, understanding how to get promoted, what executives care about, or what small business owners care about, etc, etc, etc.

That's why some dentists are stuck working 6 days a week barely making 6 figures and some jump out of school into making a quarter million never working evenings or weekends. That's why one plumber struggles to get by and another quickly ends up a successful owner. That's why one liberal arts major ends up working as a babysitter and the other ends up making 6 figures doing writing for the oil industry. Why one highschool dropout working retail is making minimum wage and the other is making 6 figures.

Why? Because it's what they DON'T teach in school that determines succes.

jlcnuke

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 918
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #115 on: May 03, 2021, 07:42:19 AM »
Lots of jobs fall into the "trades" category and they're not all created equal, just as lots of college degree programs exist and they're not all equally valuable.

My BIL owns his own finish carpentry business and does custom homes. He lives a modest, mustachian lifestyle, but his income is high. The guys on his crew though make $10-15/hr on a 1099. No benefits. There are a bunch of trades jobs like that, where the business owner does well, but the general labor won't even come close to the earnings of a STEM grad.

On the other hand, my family members with more traditional union-backed trades jobs (welders, plumbers, electricians, etc) all live very well, and typically retire in their early to mid 50s with comfortable pensions. They make $80-100k/yr in a LCOL area. They've got nice homes, reliable vehicles, lake houses, boats, pools, fund their kids' college, and usually end up with skills and equipment to have a ready made side-gig in their retirement if they want it. These guys are the ones whose earnings and lifestyle are often comparable to a typical STEM grad in my experience.

This right here summarizes things for me. You can get into the "trades" and be a non-skilled labor worker in XYZ industry and have a low income. You can be a highly skilled tradesman and work in the same industry and make a very good income. You can go to college and get a degree that starts you out with a great salary or get a degree that earns you far less than you spent per year in tuition at some schools while saddled with student loan debt.

In my opinion, there are 2 major factors that everyone choosing a career path need to consider:
1. How much will getting the skills/education/experience to have the career I want cost me relative to the income that career is likely to provide, AND
2. What will I enjoy doing the most.

$200k in student loans to make $30k/year at a job you really like is probably a terrible financial idea for just about anyone and will almost certainly cause a significant amount of negativity in your life (stress over money, regret, etc.), but there could be a person out there that feels it's worth it. Similarly, making $60k/year without loans in a job that you can hardly convince yourself to get out of bed and go do because it makes you miserable is also unlikely to result in long-term positivity in your life but you could find someone who thinks it's worth it as well..

Find the balance that works for you. Don't discount higher education as an option but don't discount other avenues either.

mizzourah2006

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 710
  • Location: NWA
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #116 on: May 03, 2021, 07:57:34 AM »
I was the person who said that you could learn a lot of things through dedicated independent studying later in life. Not necessarily replace a whole degree but gain a lot of the knowledge. Not just liberal arts, probably also in STEM - I did liberal arts / law, I know nothing about STEM. In fact I tried this out for myself and it worked. Due to health issues I was unable to attend university for some time after graduating highschool and I learned a lot from independent study. When I finally was able to attend, I was ahead of my peers. Honestly, even though I went to a good university, especially in the first years there was very little instruction, just "read the book and make the quizzes" and I'm pretty sure I would have managed to do that without any kind of instruction at all. I still watch all kinds of classes on Youtube frequently, none of the classes I ever attended in person were that good.

Sorry to be unclear, I was actually responding to Bloop Bloop's comment that liberal arts stuff is "Easily accessible elsewhere," whereas (by implication) other stuff isn't.  I'm a big believer in reading and learning all you can, regardless of degree.  But to presume that just reading Huckleberry Finn on your own teaches you as much as reading and discussing and researching and writing about it in a class with an experienced professor?  That's like thinking I can teach myself chemical engineering by buying the college textbooks.

I don't know what teaching was like at the institution you went to, but at my (well ranked) school we weren't 'discussing and researching and writing with an experienced professor' like they do in the movies. Our classes were more like 'student teacher a year older than me reading the answers to the quizzes in the textbook from the teacher's manual'. It was extremely uninspirational.

@nereo maybe I was one of those exceptions then, I missed quite a few classes because I was working and doing college on the side.

Part of the point of college is to have a theoretically unbiased third party sign off that “yes this person does know this thing.” 

If your goal is to “be educated” great, go read some books and do some research, but if you want anyone else, namely a potential employer, to believe that you know said thing you need the parchment to back it up.

This is true, and I noticed it was difficult getting ahead in my workplace, which is why I finished my degree and even went back for a Master's. But it does still feel a bit pointless - I put in so much work to complete that degree and not a single employer has ever even requested a transcript. No one knows what I did there except I went and gained a degree. And so did all the people in my class who were absolute idiots but somehow still managed to pass.

Lame. My university experience for both degrees at two very different schools was basically exactly like you see in movies. Other than first year classes, my courses were almost all taught by full faculty, and sometimes PhDs. There was a lot of class discussion and I received a ton of direct mentorship from faculty.

Sure, there were some classes where is was just dry and the students rarely participated, but that wasn't the norm.

Sucks for you that school was so dry. I loved school. Well, I hated a lot of my doctorate, but that's because the faculty was rampantly abusive. The actual coursework was great.

What they described above was similar to my experience at a large state university and similar to the experience I saw as a grad student for undergrads at another large state university for my PhD.

I'm curious when people went to school. It seems to me that from what I've heard this shift started in the late 90s to early 2000s of having grad students and "lecturers" teach the courses and tenured and tenure track faculty were teaching grad students and the occasional high level undergrad course.

As an undergrad I'd say about half my courses were taught by lecturers and grad students, the other half were taught by actively researching faculty. When I was in my PhD program I can only speak for the faculty directly involved in my program, but none of them taught any undergrads outside of one tenure track professor who taught one honors seminar each year for senior level undergrads. We had 6 tenure track and/or tenured faculty in my specific program (7 if you count the fact that overall department chair during most of my tenure) while I was there and combined they taught one undergrad course per year. Some of them bought out of their teaching assignments all together and the others taught either master's level students or just PhD students.

The undergrad courses were all taught by us as the grad students, or paid "lecturers" that weren't tenure track faculty at the university, but most did have PhDs. My experience was undergrad from 2002-2006 and PhD from 2007-2012 at two large state universities.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2021, 07:59:54 AM by mizzourah2006 »

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #117 on: May 03, 2021, 08:38:30 AM »
Lots of jobs fall into the "trades" category and they're not all created equal, just as lots of college degree programs exist and they're not all equally valuable.

My BIL owns his own finish carpentry business and does custom homes. He lives a modest, mustachian lifestyle, but his income is high. The guys on his crew though make $10-15/hr on a 1099. No benefits. There are a bunch of trades jobs like that, where the business owner does well, but the general labor won't even come close to the earnings of a STEM grad.

On the other hand, my family members with more traditional union-backed trades jobs (welders, plumbers, electricians, etc) all live very well, and typically retire in their early to mid 50s with comfortable pensions. They make $80-100k/yr in a LCOL area. They've got nice homes, reliable vehicles, lake houses, boats, pools, fund their kids' college, and usually end up with skills and equipment to have a ready made side-gig in their retirement if they want it. These guys are the ones whose earnings and lifestyle are often comparable to a typical STEM grad in my experience.

This right here summarizes things for me. You can get into the "trades" and be a non-skilled labor worker in XYZ industry and have a low income. You can be a highly skilled tradesman and work in the same industry and make a very good income. You can go to college and get a degree that starts you out with a great salary or get a degree that earns you far less than you spent per year in tuition at some schools while saddled with student loan debt.

In my opinion, there are 2 major factors that everyone choosing a career path need to consider:
1. How much will getting the skills/education/experience to have the career I want cost me relative to the income that career is likely to provide, AND
2. What will I enjoy doing the most.

$200k in student loans to make $30k/year at a job you really like is probably a terrible financial idea for just about anyone and will almost certainly cause a significant amount of negativity in your life (stress over money, regret, etc.), but there could be a person out there that feels it's worth it. Similarly, making $60k/year without loans in a job that you can hardly convince yourself to get out of bed and go do because it makes you miserable is also unlikely to result in long-term positivity in your life but you could find someone who thinks it's worth it as well..

Find the balance that works for you. Don't discount higher education as an option but don't discount other avenues either.

The error in your thinking is the same one that everyone else is making, that a degree leads to a career.

Only certain degrees open doors to certain types of careers, and even then, success within any industry is determined by factors that have little to do with education.

So it's not so much "if I'm going to pay 200K for school, it better lead to a high paying job" it's more like "if I'm going to pay 200K for school, I had better be willing to learn and do what it takes to make that investment pay off in the long run".

So yeah, if someone is determined to be a social worker or a teacher or work for a non profit, then it makes no sense to do a liberal arts degree at an insanely expensive school. They can make that career happen by choosing an affordable school.

If someone has huge ambition and drive and is willing and able to go the extra mile, then an elite school may end up paying off, because they might have already spent their highschool years learning how to network through extensive volunteer work. They may then network the fuck out of the connections they make in school, and translate that to the kind of opportunities that most new grads NEVER get.

A kid looking at an expensive degree needs to be taught that the expensive degree will buy them very little. The more they pay for school, the more they have to do extra hustle to make it worthwhile.

No one, and I mean NO ONE gets handed a lucrative career *just* because they got a certain degree at a certain school. There are always additional factors that influence success. Usually who they know, and if they don't know anyone through their external life, "who you know" is actually a learnable skill, that's what networking is.

Most kids aren't taught to network, or even that it's important, so most kids graduate behind the 8 ball and only start networking once they get a job, and even then, don't do it proactively.

By the age of 24, before I had even finished my undergrad (started late) I had more access to the owners and executives of successful companies than most MBAs do. Why? Because my parents taught me to network. Especially my highschool dropout mom who became an executive management consultant.

So I was not only taught, but also modeled the skills and priorities that generate opportunities and success.

Imma

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2859
  • Location: Europe
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #118 on: May 03, 2021, 09:59:38 AM »
@mizzourah2006 I started university in 2008, so your observation could be right. There were some courses where a few lectures were given by the tenured professors, usually in the large lecture hall, often when they invited well-known alumni, but the rest of the classes were taught by students working towards a Master's or PhD. They would show off their "stars" just about often enough to make us feel like we weren't ripped off, but other than that, honestly, I think most classes I attended were of lower quality than the average high school class. Highschool teachers have degrees in education as well as in their subject, the people that taught me at university were usually less than 5 years older than me, knew about the subject matter but usually had very little teaching skills.

@Wolfpack Mustachian I think it's true that many people go to college without a specific plan, but I don't think that's bad. Most kids go to college when they're 18. They don't have the faintest clue what kind of jobs exist and which kind of skills they have or could develop. That's something you find out while at college and working in your first jobs after college. That's part of developing from a teenager to a young adult. You can't know everything when you're 18.

I'm in my early 30s now and I'm working in a job that I didn't even know existed until a few years ago. I discovered I had the necessary skills for this particular job while working in my previous job, where it was a small part of my job and the part of the job I performed best at. I did a liberal arts degree that resulted in LLB/LLM titles. No one has ever asked me for a transcript, so no one has any idea what particular knowledge I gained. But my degrees show persistance, critical thinking and writing skills and that's all they needed to know. My coworkers have all sorts of degrees and we all do the same exact job; we have people with degrees ranging from forensic science, accountancy, to political science and Spanish. The very particular knowledge we need to do this job is not taught at university, so my employer teaches it to it's new employees. They just want to hire people that can show they can learn this.

I do agree that no one should go 6 figures in debt for a degree without thinking long and hard about it. In my country, all higher education costs exactly the same, and I know in the US talented students can get scholarships. I started my working life with less than 10k in student loans. I have had to work for a living since the age of 18 so by the time I finished my degree I already had a resume and earned a good wage for my age, nevertheless, when I started to work my first "proper" job at the level I went to school for, I earned the whole cost of my degree back in less than 6 months.

jlcnuke

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 918
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #119 on: May 03, 2021, 11:35:02 AM »
Lots of jobs fall into the "trades" category and they're not all created equal, just as lots of college degree programs exist and they're not all equally valuable.

My BIL owns his own finish carpentry business and does custom homes. He lives a modest, mustachian lifestyle, but his income is high. The guys on his crew though make $10-15/hr on a 1099. No benefits. There are a bunch of trades jobs like that, where the business owner does well, but the general labor won't even come close to the earnings of a STEM grad.

On the other hand, my family members with more traditional union-backed trades jobs (welders, plumbers, electricians, etc) all live very well, and typically retire in their early to mid 50s with comfortable pensions. They make $80-100k/yr in a LCOL area. They've got nice homes, reliable vehicles, lake houses, boats, pools, fund their kids' college, and usually end up with skills and equipment to have a ready made side-gig in their retirement if they want it. These guys are the ones whose earnings and lifestyle are often comparable to a typical STEM grad in my experience.

This right here summarizes things for me. You can get into the "trades" and be a non-skilled labor worker in XYZ industry and have a low income. You can be a highly skilled tradesman and work in the same industry and make a very good income. You can go to college and get a degree that starts you out with a great salary or get a degree that earns you far less than you spent per year in tuition at some schools while saddled with student loan debt.

In my opinion, there are 2 major factors that everyone choosing a career path need to consider:
1. How much will getting the skills/education/experience to have the career I want cost me relative to the income that career is likely to provide, AND
2. What will I enjoy doing the most.

$200k in student loans to make $30k/year at a job you really like is probably a terrible financial idea for just about anyone and will almost certainly cause a significant amount of negativity in your life (stress over money, regret, etc.), but there could be a person out there that feels it's worth it. Similarly, making $60k/year without loans in a job that you can hardly convince yourself to get out of bed and go do because it makes you miserable is also unlikely to result in long-term positivity in your life but you could find someone who thinks it's worth it as well..

Find the balance that works for you. Don't discount higher education as an option but don't discount other avenues either.

The error in your thinking is the same one that everyone else is making, that a degree leads to a career.

Only certain degrees open doors to certain types of careers, and even then, success within any industry is determined by factors that have little to do with education.

So it's not so much "if I'm going to pay 200K for school, it better lead to a high paying job" it's more like "if I'm going to pay 200K for school, I had better be willing to learn and do what it takes to make that investment pay off in the long run".

So yeah, if someone is determined to be a social worker or a teacher or work for a non profit, then it makes no sense to do a liberal arts degree at an insanely expensive school. They can make that career happen by choosing an affordable school.

If someone has huge ambition and drive and is willing and able to go the extra mile, then an elite school may end up paying off, because they might have already spent their highschool years learning how to network through extensive volunteer work. They may then network the fuck out of the connections they make in school, and translate that to the kind of opportunities that most new grads NEVER get.

A kid looking at an expensive degree needs to be taught that the expensive degree will buy them very little. The more they pay for school, the more they have to do extra hustle to make it worthwhile.

No one, and I mean NO ONE gets handed a lucrative career *just* because they got a certain degree at a certain school. There are always additional factors that influence success. Usually who they know, and if they don't know anyone through their external life, "who you know" is actually a learnable skill, that's what networking is.

Most kids aren't taught to network, or even that it's important, so most kids graduate behind the 8 ball and only start networking once they get a job, and even then, don't do it proactively.

By the age of 24, before I had even finished my undergrad (started late) I had more access to the owners and executives of successful companies than most MBAs do. Why? Because my parents taught me to network. Especially my highschool dropout mom who became an executive management consultant.

So I was not only taught, but also modeled the skills and priorities that generate opportunities and success.
Not sure what any of your post had to do with anything I said, but yeah, networking is good... However, if I don't have a law degree I'm probably not getting offered the positions at the top law firms over the guys who graduated from Harvard Law school..

Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk


Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #120 on: May 03, 2021, 01:01:44 PM »
Lots of jobs fall into the "trades" category and they're not all created equal, just as lots of college degree programs exist and they're not all equally valuable.

My BIL owns his own finish carpentry business and does custom homes. He lives a modest, mustachian lifestyle, but his income is high. The guys on his crew though make $10-15/hr on a 1099. No benefits. There are a bunch of trades jobs like that, where the business owner does well, but the general labor won't even come close to the earnings of a STEM grad.

On the other hand, my family members with more traditional union-backed trades jobs (welders, plumbers, electricians, etc) all live very well, and typically retire in their early to mid 50s with comfortable pensions. They make $80-100k/yr in a LCOL area. They've got nice homes, reliable vehicles, lake houses, boats, pools, fund their kids' college, and usually end up with skills and equipment to have a ready made side-gig in their retirement if they want it. These guys are the ones whose earnings and lifestyle are often comparable to a typical STEM grad in my experience.

This right here summarizes things for me. You can get into the "trades" and be a non-skilled labor worker in XYZ industry and have a low income. You can be a highly skilled tradesman and work in the same industry and make a very good income. You can go to college and get a degree that starts you out with a great salary or get a degree that earns you far less than you spent per year in tuition at some schools while saddled with student loan debt.

In my opinion, there are 2 major factors that everyone choosing a career path need to consider:
1. How much will getting the skills/education/experience to have the career I want cost me relative to the income that career is likely to provide, AND
2. What will I enjoy doing the most.

$200k in student loans to make $30k/year at a job you really like is probably a terrible financial idea for just about anyone and will almost certainly cause a significant amount of negativity in your life (stress over money, regret, etc.), but there could be a person out there that feels it's worth it. Similarly, making $60k/year without loans in a job that you can hardly convince yourself to get out of bed and go do because it makes you miserable is also unlikely to result in long-term positivity in your life but you could find someone who thinks it's worth it as well..

Find the balance that works for you. Don't discount higher education as an option but don't discount other avenues either.

The error in your thinking is the same one that everyone else is making, that a degree leads to a career.

Only certain degrees open doors to certain types of careers, and even then, success within any industry is determined by factors that have little to do with education.

So it's not so much "if I'm going to pay 200K for school, it better lead to a high paying job" it's more like "if I'm going to pay 200K for school, I had better be willing to learn and do what it takes to make that investment pay off in the long run".

So yeah, if someone is determined to be a social worker or a teacher or work for a non profit, then it makes no sense to do a liberal arts degree at an insanely expensive school. They can make that career happen by choosing an affordable school.

If someone has huge ambition and drive and is willing and able to go the extra mile, then an elite school may end up paying off, because they might have already spent their highschool years learning how to network through extensive volunteer work. They may then network the fuck out of the connections they make in school, and translate that to the kind of opportunities that most new grads NEVER get.

A kid looking at an expensive degree needs to be taught that the expensive degree will buy them very little. The more they pay for school, the more they have to do extra hustle to make it worthwhile.

No one, and I mean NO ONE gets handed a lucrative career *just* because they got a certain degree at a certain school. There are always additional factors that influence success. Usually who they know, and if they don't know anyone through their external life, "who you know" is actually a learnable skill, that's what networking is.

Most kids aren't taught to network, or even that it's important, so most kids graduate behind the 8 ball and only start networking once they get a job, and even then, don't do it proactively.

By the age of 24, before I had even finished my undergrad (started late) I had more access to the owners and executives of successful companies than most MBAs do. Why? Because my parents taught me to network. Especially my highschool dropout mom who became an executive management consultant.

So I was not only taught, but also modeled the skills and priorities that generate opportunities and success.
Not sure what any of your post had to do with anything I said, but yeah, networking is good... However, if I don't have a law degree I'm probably not getting offered the positions at the top law firms over the guys who graduated from Harvard Law school..

Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk

You mentioned the concept of an expensive degree not leading to a lucrative job. My point was that the degree doesn't determine the financial success of the person's career. That's a common logical error.

Also, yes, I specifically acknowledged that something like a law degree will open the specific door of law, but if we're talking about incomes, in no way does not having a law degree preclude you from earning as much as a lawyer.

Also, financial success as a lawyer depends on a lot of the same business savvy skills as any other career, so someone who will succeed financially as a lawyer is likely to financially at an enormous range of careers.

Also, I was quoting you just for one specific point, but my response was more for the general thread. I didn't write all of that just in response to you specifically.

I have a bad habit of doing that. Something someone says in a post makes me think of an idea, but my post is more about the idea than the post I'm replying to. You're not the first person to wonder why the hell I've written a huge reply to them specifically.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8875
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #121 on: May 03, 2021, 04:48:20 PM »
I wish "college vs skilled trades" looked at the outcome for people from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and intelligence.

The question is normally framed as, "do people who go to college do better than those who don't?" which isn't the question that applies to anyone individually. The question which matters to everyone individually is, "based on who I am, my strengths, abilities, skills, and aptitudes, will I be better off going to college or not?"

I suspect on average, someone who was going to excel in STEM would excel in the trades, too.
Not necessarily. The scientist who uses some kind of equipment to do testing probably has little interest, knowledge or skill on how it was manufactured by a factory worker and maintained by a grubby tech or mechanic. Even the engineer who designs a product may not really have the skills to actually maintain the equipment day to day. I was a ship's engineer (mechanic/machinery tech - and yes I'm a woman) on huge and small ships and had to learn A LOT of different skill sets to keep ALL the things running on the ship while at sea,  and I can tell you there were very few marine design engineers or or STEM types who would be interested (or skilled) in doing the day to day dirty dangerous job on land or at sea.

However I do agree there is a correlation in that tech types - whether blue collar mechanics or people designing something on a computer to be built by someone else - will likely have the same interest in how things are designed, built and run than many white collar office people do.
I'm a female engineer, married to an engineer, and I work with a lot of engineers.

Some of them are REALLY good with their hands and fixing equipment and figuring things out.  Some of them are most certainly NOT.  As in, TERRIBLE at it.  (I'm in the middle.  I can muddle along...)

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14485
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #122 on: May 03, 2021, 06:03:59 PM »
I wish "college vs skilled trades" looked at the outcome for people from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and intelligence.

The question is normally framed as, "do people who go to college do better than those who don't?" which isn't the question that applies to anyone individually. The question which matters to everyone individually is, "based on who I am, my strengths, abilities, skills, and aptitudes, will I be better off going to college or not?"

I suspect on average, someone who was going to excel in STEM would excel in the trades, too.
Not necessarily. The scientist who uses some kind of equipment to do testing probably has little interest, knowledge or skill on how it was manufactured by a factory worker and maintained by a grubby tech or mechanic. Even the engineer who designs a product may not really have the skills to actually maintain the equipment day to day. I was a ship's engineer (mechanic/machinery tech - and yes I'm a woman) on huge and small ships and had to learn A LOT of different skill sets to keep ALL the things running on the ship while at sea,  and I can tell you there were very few marine design engineers or or STEM types who would be interested (or skilled) in doing the day to day dirty dangerous job on land or at sea.

However I do agree there is a correlation in that tech types - whether blue collar mechanics or people designing something on a computer to be built by someone else - will likely have the same interest in how things are designed, built and run than many white collar office people do.
I'm a female engineer, married to an engineer, and I work with a lot of engineers.

Some of them are REALLY good with their hands and fixing equipment and figuring things out.  Some of them are most certainly NOT.  As in, TERRIBLE at it.  (I'm in the middle.  I can muddle along...)

I hope your spouse is one of the ones that is good with their hands.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #123 on: May 03, 2021, 06:44:23 PM »
I wish "college vs skilled trades" looked at the outcome for people from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and intelligence.

The question is normally framed as, "do people who go to college do better than those who don't?" which isn't the question that applies to anyone individually. The question which matters to everyone individually is, "based on who I am, my strengths, abilities, skills, and aptitudes, will I be better off going to college or not?"

I suspect on average, someone who was going to excel in STEM would excel in the trades, too.
Not necessarily. The scientist who uses some kind of equipment to do testing probably has little interest, knowledge or skill on how it was manufactured by a factory worker and maintained by a grubby tech or mechanic. Even the engineer who designs a product may not really have the skills to actually maintain the equipment day to day. I was a ship's engineer (mechanic/machinery tech - and yes I'm a woman) on huge and small ships and had to learn A LOT of different skill sets to keep ALL the things running on the ship while at sea,  and I can tell you there were very few marine design engineers or or STEM types who would be interested (or skilled) in doing the day to day dirty dangerous job on land or at sea.

However I do agree there is a correlation in that tech types - whether blue collar mechanics or people designing something on a computer to be built by someone else - will likely have the same interest in how things are designed, built and run than many white collar office people do.
I'm a female engineer, married to an engineer, and I work with a lot of engineers.

Some of them are REALLY good with their hands and fixing equipment and figuring things out.  Some of them are most certainly NOT.  As in, TERRIBLE at it.  (I'm in the middle.  I can muddle along...)

I don't think that was the point though. Not all trades involve complex manual labour, an example of pest control was given for example.

I think the point is that if you are smart, hard working, able to interview well, good at creating and/or seizing on professional opportunities, learning new skills, working with others, having good rapport with your boss, and generally being the kind of person who is successful in the professional engineering world, then those same skills and traits would serve you well in a trade.

I was a medical professional, but I used to call it a trade because it was a work with my hands, dirty job. It was brutal manual labour. However, my manual skills were a small part of my success, my ability to lead a team and my sales skills were why I was successful. I had colleagues who were as good as I was at the manual work, but fucking useless at building their career because no one liked or trusted them.

Wolfpack Mustachian

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 988
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #124 on: May 03, 2021, 06:54:16 PM »

The things is, whether it be trades or careers that follow university degrees, or the enormous range of other careers that don't require a degree that everyone seems to forget about, the same skills are required for success.

Parents spend so much time hand wringing about basically trying to choose a career path for their kid's, when really, what their kids would benefit from is an understanding of how careers are built, how business works, how markets work, because all employers are businesses within the shared market.

Giving young people the resources to learn how to understand these things.

Parents are CONSTANTLY asking me to talk to their teens because they want me to convince them to follow a path like I did: get a high end professional degree and be set for life. It's a fucking joke, and I won't promote that shit. But I do help kids understand why certain jobs pay more, high barrier to entry vs low barrier to entry. What networking is and why they need to learn how and do it all through university because that's the main professional benefit of university.

I treat it the exact same way I would treat someone asking me how to retire early. I have a succinct explanation of what they need to learn, and I point them towards resources so they can learn themselves.

Most importantly, I explain what I've said many times already DEGREES DO NOT PROVIDE CAREERS OR SUCCESS.

Any education provides just that, education. Some education provides specific skills and experience that open specific doors, like law, medicine, trade school, engineering, etc. However, they only open those specific doors, and the more specific, the more doors they leave closed.

Other education confers broader knowledge, like studying liberal arts, business, and yes, a lot of STEM degrees. I supervised and mentored many science students. An undergrad degree in biology or math doesn't lead to any specific lucrative job that I know of...

Those with broader skills may not be immediately ushered through specific job doors, but those skills become a valuable component of their general experience.

And that's what really matters. Whether you went to dental school, studied philosophy, or chemistry, or did a 6 week "business admin" certificate at the local night school. What really matters is your overall experience and what you do with it.

Part and parcel of experience are critical things like: interview skills, networking skills, knowledge of appropriate conduct within your particular business, cultural awareness and ability to interact with different walks of life, understanding how management works, understanding how to get promoted, what executives care about, or what small business owners care about, etc, etc, etc.

That's why some dentists are stuck working 6 days a week barely making 6 figures and some jump out of school into making a quarter million never working evenings or weekends. That's why one plumber struggles to get by and another quickly ends up a successful owner. That's why one liberal arts major ends up working as a babysitter and the other ends up making 6 figures doing writing for the oil industry. Why one highschool dropout working retail is making minimum wage and the other is making 6 figures.

Why? Because it's what they DON'T teach in school that determines succes.

Would you agree with my general premise, then, that college is often poorly utilized and a waste of money? Not that it can't be worthwhile, just that for many it's not, and unless you're a fairly select kind of individual or pursuing a specific degree that leads to a specific field, it's throwing money into something that often won't yield results?

You mention networking potential of college and comment in another post about how you were able to network with a tremendous amount of people. That's amazing. I can see how if you're a networker, college could work well with you. However, again as you say, I was taught nothing about networking in college. I networked once I worked full time, and that has helped me a lot, but I don't attribute that to college. I also feel like you were able to do that, as you said, in large part due to your home environment, parental modeling, and if I might be bold as to hypothesize, probably part of your innate personality. I know that I would not be able to do that now, even as a mature, fairly extraverted, person with years of work experience and some success at networking. While college provided people a plethora of opportunities to network, I don't feel it educates you on how to do it, and I don't feel the average person, even if they were educated intellectually, would be able to do serious networking at that age and level of maturity.

Beyond that, all of the other things you mention can be gleaned from the college environment or not. Some things like improved cultural awareness are helped in college because of the likelihood of more diversity than many people have seen, but I don't know if people would seize on it or not.

I guess, in summary, you mention that it's what they don't teach in school that determines success. I agree with this a great deal. I don't see, though, why that means that for the average person that college in a generic sense is worth the expense when very few people seem to take advantage of the things you mention, many of the things you mention could be gleaned from other sources, many people don't seem mature enough or ready enough to gain the things you're talking about from college, and as you said, the things that determine success make people who don't go to college (like the hypothetical highschool dropout you mention) make six figures whereas other college graduates, even if they are "successful" in landing a job tied to their career somewhat, often spend 50-100k landing a job that gives them 40k a year salary.

Blackeagle

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 182
  • Location: Wichita, KS
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #125 on: May 03, 2021, 07:06:36 PM »
@mizzourah2006 I started university in 2008, so your observation could be right. There were some courses where a few lectures were given by the tenured professors, usually in the large lecture hall, often when they invited well-known alumni, but the rest of the classes were taught by students working towards a Master's or PhD. They would show off their "stars" just about often enough to make us feel like we weren't ripped off, but other than that, honestly, I think most classes I attended were of lower quality than the average high school class. Highschool teachers have degrees in education as well as in their subject, the people that taught me at university were usually less than 5 years older than me, knew about the subject matter but usually had very little teaching skills.

Speaking as a recovering academic (spent four years as a tenure track prof at a R1 state university in a STEM field), whether they’re tenured, tenure track, adjuncts, or graduate teaching assistants, hardly anyone teaching at the university level has had any formal training in how to teach.  Professors have the advantage of more experience, but that’s about it.  Some of them have learned from that experience in ways that benefit their students, some haven’t.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #126 on: May 03, 2021, 08:16:52 PM »

The things is, whether it be trades or careers that follow university degrees, or the enormous range of other careers that don't require a degree that everyone seems to forget about, the same skills are required for success.

Parents spend so much time hand wringing about basically trying to choose a career path for their kid's, when really, what their kids would benefit from is an understanding of how careers are built, how business works, how markets work, because all employers are businesses within the shared market.

Giving young people the resources to learn how to understand these things.

Parents are CONSTANTLY asking me to talk to their teens because they want me to convince them to follow a path like I did: get a high end professional degree and be set for life. It's a fucking joke, and I won't promote that shit. But I do help kids understand why certain jobs pay more, high barrier to entry vs low barrier to entry. What networking is and why they need to learn how and do it all through university because that's the main professional benefit of university.

I treat it the exact same way I would treat someone asking me how to retire early. I have a succinct explanation of what they need to learn, and I point them towards resources so they can learn themselves.

Most importantly, I explain what I've said many times already DEGREES DO NOT PROVIDE CAREERS OR SUCCESS.

Any education provides just that, education. Some education provides specific skills and experience that open specific doors, like law, medicine, trade school, engineering, etc. However, they only open those specific doors, and the more specific, the more doors they leave closed.

Other education confers broader knowledge, like studying liberal arts, business, and yes, a lot of STEM degrees. I supervised and mentored many science students. An undergrad degree in biology or math doesn't lead to any specific lucrative job that I know of...

Those with broader skills may not be immediately ushered through specific job doors, but those skills become a valuable component of their general experience.

And that's what really matters. Whether you went to dental school, studied philosophy, or chemistry, or did a 6 week "business admin" certificate at the local night school. What really matters is your overall experience and what you do with it.

Part and parcel of experience are critical things like: interview skills, networking skills, knowledge of appropriate conduct within your particular business, cultural awareness and ability to interact with different walks of life, understanding how management works, understanding how to get promoted, what executives care about, or what small business owners care about, etc, etc, etc.

That's why some dentists are stuck working 6 days a week barely making 6 figures and some jump out of school into making a quarter million never working evenings or weekends. That's why one plumber struggles to get by and another quickly ends up a successful owner. That's why one liberal arts major ends up working as a babysitter and the other ends up making 6 figures doing writing for the oil industry. Why one highschool dropout working retail is making minimum wage and the other is making 6 figures.

Why? Because it's what they DON'T teach in school that determines succes.

Would you agree with my general premise, then, that college is often poorly utilized and a waste of money? Not that it can't be worthwhile, just that for many it's not, and unless you're a fairly select kind of individual or pursuing a specific degree that leads to a specific field, it's throwing money into something that often won't yield results?

You mention networking potential of college and comment in another post about how you were able to network with a tremendous amount of people. That's amazing. I can see how if you're a networker, college could work well with you. However, again as you say, I was taught nothing about networking in college. I networked once I worked full time, and that has helped me a lot, but I don't attribute that to college. I also feel like you were able to do that, as you said, in large part due to your home environment, parental modeling, and if I might be bold as to hypothesize, probably part of your innate personality. I know that I would not be able to do that now, even as a mature, fairly extraverted, person with years of work experience and some success at networking. While college provided people a plethora of opportunities to network, I don't feel it educates you on how to do it, and I don't feel the average person, even if they were educated intellectually, would be able to do serious networking at that age and level of maturity.

Beyond that, all of the other things you mention can be gleaned from the college environment or not. Some things like improved cultural awareness are helped in college because of the likelihood of more diversity than many people have seen, but I don't know if people would seize on it or not.

I guess, in summary, you mention that it's what they don't teach in school that determines success. I agree with this a great deal. I don't see, though, why that means that for the average person that college in a generic sense is worth the expense when very few people seem to take advantage of the things you mention, many of the things you mention could be gleaned from other sources, many people don't seem mature enough or ready enough to gain the things you're talking about from college, and as you said, the things that determine success make people who don't go to college (like the hypothetical highschool dropout you mention) make six figures whereas other college graduates, even if they are "successful" in landing a job tied to their career somewhat, often spend 50-100k landing a job that gives them 40k a year salary.

I never said college was worth it.

I said that the best advice a parent can give their kid is not whether or not they should go to college, or what to study in college, it's to help them understand what college teaches and what it doesn't.

I specifically said that the more a kid spends to go to college, the more they should be prepared to hustle.

My example of my networking success in school was not to say that all kids can do that, but to say that that *can* be done, and is the kind of thing you need to learn how to do in order to make a very expensive, non professional degree worthwhile.

If I were a parent of a kid who wanted to go to an Ivy League school to study journalism for 50K/year, I would having a deep conversation with them about what they would need to be able to get from that school, and help them assess if they're up to the task.

If you've got a kid who is hungry for opportunity and eager to learn how to make it happen, maybe sign them up for a networking course (because yes, it's a skill that can easily be taught). If a kid isn't even willing to do an online skills course, they're not the kind of kid who is going to make the most of an expensive degree. However, if your kid is all bright eyed and gung ho about it, and comes back and says "what else do I need to know about being successful?" then maybe you've got a kid on your hands who can handle the demands of making their crazy expensive degree work for them.

Now, that same kid has the capacity to be wildly successful without a degree as well. The degree just helps them open the kind of doors they want to open. The degree isn't what will make them successful, it will just help determine the flavour of their success.

So is a college worth it? I don't know, it depends on what the person wants to get out of it.

Is a 100K degree worth it for a 40K job?
That depends, why are they only making 40K? That's not an unusual starting salary, so if it's 40K on the path to making a lot more, then sure. Again, the kid who chooses the 100K school needs to be prepared to fucking hustle.

Or is the kid wanting a career that has a low income? Is that 40K close to their earning ceiling?
As I already said before. If they want to be a social worker, then paying 100K for school has no benefit. They should obviously pick a cheaper school, because no matter how good they are at the job or at networking, being a social worker will never pay very much.

My point is not whether or not school is worth it, it's not whether expensive school is worth it, it's not whether certain degrees are worth it. My point is to help kids understand what it takes to *make* education worth it, and decide for themselves if that's a challenge they want to take on. Not prescribe for them what we think is worth it.

Is college generally poorly utilized? Yes
Is it a waste of money? If it's poorly utilized, yeah

The problem is that few people are teaching kids how to utilize school effectively.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14485
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #127 on: May 04, 2021, 04:53:07 AM »
@mizzourah2006 I started university in 2008, so your observation could be right. There were some courses where a few lectures were given by the tenured professors, usually in the large lecture hall, often when they invited well-known alumni, but the rest of the classes were taught by students working towards a Master's or PhD. They would show off their "stars" just about often enough to make us feel like we weren't ripped off, but other than that, honestly, I think most classes I attended were of lower quality than the average high school class. Highschool teachers have degrees in education as well as in their subject, the people that taught me at university were usually less than 5 years older than me, knew about the subject matter but usually had very little teaching skills.

Speaking as a recovering academic (spent four years as a tenure track prof at a R1 state university in a STEM field), whether they’re tenured, tenure track, adjuncts, or graduate teaching assistants, hardly anyone teaching at the university level has had any formal training in how to teach.  Professors have the advantage of more experience, but that’s about it.  Some of them have learned from that experience in ways that benefit their students, some haven’t.

Adding to this - frankly it’s the post-docs and early track professors that often give the best courses, precisely because a big part of their job depends on their teaching performance (evaluations, student metrics, courses taught).  ‘Big-Name’ research faculty aren’t hired (or evaluated) for their teaching AT ALL.  They are there to get big grants, and to published high-impact papers, and to run impactful labs. A few are also good at teaching, but many are frankly lousy at teaching.  Departments intentionally shuffle teaching requirements away from these big-name professors and onto early career academics.

...and none of that is a BAD thing. 
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 05:17:32 AM by nereo »

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14485
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #128 on: May 04, 2021, 05:16:16 AM »

Would you agree with my general premise, then, that college is often poorly utilized and a waste of money? Not that it can't be worthwhile, just that for many it's not, and unless you're a fairly select kind of individual or pursuing a specific degree that leads to a specific field, it's throwing money into something that often won't yield results?


I strongly disagree with this general premise.  Yes, some students failed to complete a degree, and more struggled, but at the university systems I have most recently been a part of the overwhelming majority graduated with a degree in a timely fashion; a slightly majority finished in four years, though that number jumped to almost 80% within 5.5 years.  We kept fairly detailed data on our student alumni, and those that graduated had much lower unemployment and higher starting salaries than their cohort at large. They debt their incurred was more than offset by their improved earnings within the first decade (even factoring in interest). There was as you’d expect quite a difference between various degrees and future earnings, with some fields (particularly CompSci) out-earning others by a substantial margin. Also of interest is the general sentiment of students and alum about the value of their education. Those that graduated within 4.5 years (again, the majority of our students) overwhelmingly thought the experience was worth it, even factoring int he cost.  Critically, it was the minority of students who did NOT finish that did not share these feelings. Perhaps not surprisingly, these “non-degree” students had much lower salaries and higher unemployment (but still higher than their cohort who had not attended any college, and about on par with those who went to a 2-year community college). 

Of course some of this is no doubt a factor of the students themselves; we had competitive admissions (nothing like the Ivy’s, but at around 50% acceptance our student body overall was well suited for academia).


Wolfpack Mustachian

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 988
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #129 on: May 04, 2021, 05:24:30 AM »
@mizzourah2006 I started university in 2008, so your observation could be right. There were some courses where a few lectures were given by the tenured professors, usually in the large lecture hall, often when they invited well-known alumni, but the rest of the classes were taught by students working towards a Master's or PhD. They would show off their "stars" just about often enough to make us feel like we weren't ripped off, but other than that, honestly, I think most classes I attended were of lower quality than the average high school class. Highschool teachers have degrees in education as well as in their subject, the people that taught me at university were usually less than 5 years older than me, knew about the subject matter but usually had very little teaching skills.

@Wolfpack Mustachian I think it's true that many people go to college without a specific plan, but I don't think that's bad. Most kids go to college when they're 18. They don't have the faintest clue what kind of jobs exist and which kind of skills they have or could develop. That's something you find out while at college and working in your first jobs after college. That's part of developing from a teenager to a young adult. You can't know everything when you're 18.

I'm in my early 30s now and I'm working in a job that I didn't even know existed until a few years ago. I discovered I had the necessary skills for this particular job while working in my previous job, where it was a small part of my job and the part of the job I performed best at. I did a liberal arts degree that resulted in LLB/LLM titles. No one has ever asked me for a transcript, so no one has any idea what particular knowledge I gained. But my degrees show persistance, critical thinking and writing skills and that's all they needed to know. My coworkers have all sorts of degrees and we all do the same exact job; we have people with degrees ranging from forensic science, accountancy, to political science and Spanish. The very particular knowledge we need to do this job is not taught at university, so my employer teaches it to it's new employees. They just want to hire people that can show they can learn this.

I do agree that no one should go 6 figures in debt for a degree without thinking long and hard about it. In my country, all higher education costs exactly the same, and I know in the US talented students can get scholarships. I started my working life with less than 10k in student loans. I have had to work for a living since the age of 18 so by the time I finished my degree I already had a resume and earned a good wage for my age, nevertheless, when I started to work my first "proper" job at the level I went to school for, I earned the whole cost of my degree back in less than 6 months.

I agree that many 18 year olds don't have the wherewithal to pick out a specific idea of what to do from a college degree, but that's my point. They don't have that drive, motivation, solid knowledge of themselves, etc. to pick out a career, and 4-year college is an extraordinarily expensive place to learn that. I know that many people in college won't do what they thought they would and will change their major or career trajectory. I'm not speaking against that. What I am saying is, if you're not mature enough to think, I want a biology degree because I feel like I want to go into the medical field in general, or I want a business degree, concentration in this because I want to work for this kind of company doing roughly this thing, then you're not mature enough to go to college - again, not when it's so stinking expensive. You can use it to show an employer that you know how to learn and all that (and it might work out, sure), but you haven't shown me that you are even going to do that and have the drive to use your "learning how to learn" at all if you have no idea and are not willing to do the research ahead of time to have something picked out that you'll do. If you're just going into college with a whim of, hmm, I liked the Count of Monte Cristo, so I think I'll major in French literature or business sounds fun, I like money, and that's all you're willing to do with no plan, then you really don't need to go to college right then. Maybe later, but not then.

Blackeagle

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 182
  • Location: Wichita, KS
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #130 on: May 04, 2021, 07:00:58 AM »
The problem is that few people are teaching kids how to utilize school effectively.

I agree, but I think it starts even earlier in the process than that.  Lots of parents and prospective students look at the data saying that on average college graduates earn more than those with only a high school education and think that therefore college must be the ticket to a high-paying job.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t actually think about the individual paths that actually lead to these higher paying jobs.  To put it another way, their mental model seems to be something like:

1. Get college degree.
2. ???
3. Profit!

This often leads to some poor decisions about where to go to college, what to study, and how much to pay that leave students with lots of debt and without the earning potential to pay it off.

To the extent that they think about how a degree translates into greater earning potential, it’s usually something like, “I will go to college, learn useful skills, and get a job that uses those skills.”  There are fields that work like this, but they’re in the minority.  Examples of these “vocational” degrees include engineering and some STEM fields (though definitely not all). 

In contrast, most undergraduate degrees don’t usually lead to employment related to the subject matter.  People get degrees, then get white collar jobs in an unrelated area.  On the face of it, this does not make sense.  Why spend four years and a ton of money getting a degree and then not actually make use of it?  Because employers use college degrees as a sorting mechanism.  They slip a degree requirement in the job ad and throw out any applicants that don’t have a bachelors.  They assume that even if the subject matter is unrelated, getting a four-year degree implies the applicant has some level of intelligence and perseverance.  This is a lousy assumption (I know plenty of people without degrees who are diligent and smart and lots with degrees who are unmotivated idiots) but a very common one.  However, because a college degree is a weak signal at best, the additional income premium for a degree like this is not that high.

The far more upper crust version of this comes with degrees from elite institutions like the Ivy League.  Here, employers seeking the best of the best are essentially outsourcing their hiring decisions to admissions officers at elite schools.  Might students at an elite university have learned more that someone who went to a state school?  Perhaps, but for the most part they still aren’t using the subject matter of their degree on the job. (With some exceptions (Stanford, MIT) these elite institutions are actually not great places to go for the more “vocational” fields.). There’s also a networking component to this; you’re going to meet a lot more powerful people in the course of getting an Ivy League degree and your peers will go on to positions where they can help you advance in a highly paid or high-prestige career.  And even in this day and age these degrees are also still class signifiers: only the well off can afford not just the degree, but also all of the college prep it takes for a good shot at getting into these kinds of selective institutions.

Finally, there are undergraduate degrees whose main purpose is as a ticket to a graduate program.  The classics here are law, medicine, and academia.  However, many “vocational” fields have been migrating into this category as a Master’s becomes a de-facto requirement for employment in the field.

The tricky bit is that for each of these paths, success requires very different decisions about where to go to school and how much it makes sense to pay.  Getting an expensive degree from a small liberal arts school that’s just going to get you past an employer’s “does this person have a bachelors?” screen is unlikely to pay off.  Since the degree and the university don’t matter much, look for the lowest cost option possible (perhaps a combination of community college and a lower-tier state school).

For “vocational” degrees, the reputation of the particular department (not the university as a whole) and their pipeline to employers where you want to work tends to be most important.  Want to be a civil engineer?  Look at the engineering firms in the region you want to work and see where people working there went to school.

If the goal is to get into a graduate program, the best course varies quite a bit by field.  The paths into law school and med school are pretty well documented.  If you’re aiming for academia, the best way to select an undergraduate institution is probably to pay attention to where the professors teaching there did their PhDs.  Other fields may vary.

WhiteTrashCash

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1829
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #131 on: May 04, 2021, 07:03:35 AM »
Nearly all college degrees provide people with more lifetime earnings that skilled trades. The push for skilled trades is basically code for "Poor people shut your mouths." At least, that's my opinion

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14485
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #132 on: May 04, 2021, 07:17:52 AM »
@mizzourah2006 I started university in 2008, so your observation could be right. There were some courses where a few lectures were given by the tenured professors, usually in the large lecture hall, often when they invited well-known alumni, but the rest of the classes were taught by students working towards a Master's or PhD. They would show off their "stars" just about often enough to make us feel like we weren't ripped off, but other than that, honestly, I think most classes I attended were of lower quality than the average high school class. Highschool teachers have degrees in education as well as in their subject, the people that taught me at university were usually less than 5 years older than me, knew about the subject matter but usually had very little teaching skills.

@Wolfpack Mustachian I think it's true that many people go to college without a specific plan, but I don't think that's bad. Most kids go to college when they're 18. They don't have the faintest clue what kind of jobs exist and which kind of skills they have or could develop. That's something you find out while at college and working in your first jobs after college. That's part of developing from a teenager to a young adult. You can't know everything when you're 18.

I'm in my early 30s now and I'm working in a job that I didn't even know existed until a few years ago. I discovered I had the necessary skills for this particular job while working in my previous job, where it was a small part of my job and the part of the job I performed best at. I did a liberal arts degree that resulted in LLB/LLM titles. No one has ever asked me for a transcript, so no one has any idea what particular knowledge I gained. But my degrees show persistance, critical thinking and writing skills and that's all they needed to know. My coworkers have all sorts of degrees and we all do the same exact job; we have people with degrees ranging from forensic science, accountancy, to political science and Spanish. The very particular knowledge we need to do this job is not taught at university, so my employer teaches it to it's new employees. They just want to hire people that can show they can learn this.

I do agree that no one should go 6 figures in debt for a degree without thinking long and hard about it. In my country, all higher education costs exactly the same, and I know in the US talented students can get scholarships. I started my working life with less than 10k in student loans. I have had to work for a living since the age of 18 so by the time I finished my degree I already had a resume and earned a good wage for my age, nevertheless, when I started to work my first "proper" job at the level I went to school for, I earned the whole cost of my degree back in less than 6 months.

I agree that many 18 year olds don't have the wherewithal to pick out a specific idea of what to do from a college degree, but that's my point. They don't have that drive, motivation, solid knowledge of themselves, etc. to pick out a career, and 4-year college is an extraordinarily expensive place to learn that. I know that many people in college won't do what they thought they would and will change their major or career trajectory. I'm not speaking against that. What I am saying is, if you're not mature enough to think, I want a biology degree because I feel like I want to go into the medical field in general, or I want a business degree, concentration in this because I want to work for this kind of company doing roughly this thing, then you're not mature enough to go to college - again, not when it's so stinking expensive. You can use it to show an employer that you know how to learn and all that (and it might work out, sure), but you haven't shown me that you are even going to do that and have the drive to use your "learning how to learn" at all if you have no idea and are not willing to do the research ahead of time to have something picked out that you'll do. If you're just going into college with a whim of, hmm, I liked the Count of Monte Cristo, so I think I'll major in French literature or business sounds fun, I like money, and that's all you're willing to do with no plan, then you really don't need to go to college right then. Maybe later, but not then.

I'd say there's two misconceptions here.  The first is that a attending a four year college has to be "extraordinarily expensive".  Of course we can quibble about what "extraordinarily expensive" really means here, but the headline tuition number is something very few actually pay, and there are many, many places a person can attend a good school for under $20k/year. It's certainly not nothing, but it's not the eye-popping "Tuition is $45k per year!!" that you see all over the place.
The second is this concept that a student should know what s/he wants to study upon entry as an 18 or 19 year old.  Colleges know this, and their curriculums are specifically designed to accommodate the fact that students often change or don't declare their major in the first two years.  That's a key reason why there are Gen Eds (that, and the idea philosophy that all students ought to have exposure to multiple disciplines) and electives. It's why our system actively discouraged first-years from declaring a major at all.
\
It's also IMO one of the strengths of a broad university over a specialized technic or trade school. There are paths towards many of the specialized trades within most major universities, but it's hard to go from a trade school into a four-year without starting over from the beginning. I taught in the biology department, and each semester a few students decided their path was to become an RN or ADN (Nursing); their biology load helped them with on that path. Those that came into university after going into a specialized trade they decided not to pursue were essentially starting from the beginning.

Critically, it's not the individuals who compete a four-year degree in a timely fashion that drive student debt load and student loan default numbers (which are the majority of students).  It's those that start and never finish, and the numbers are much worse among for-profit colleges (which, IMO, often operate like parasitic vultures on young students).  And we spent a lot of time trying to determine how to minimize those failures within our system, as it harmed everyone.

jfer_rose

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Urban Dweller
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #133 on: May 04, 2021, 07:26:37 AM »

I'm a female engineer, married to an engineer, and I work with a lot of engineers.

Some of them are REALLY good with their hands and fixing equipment and figuring things out.  Some of them are most certainly NOT.  As in, TERRIBLE at it.  (I'm in the middle.  I can muddle along...)

Working with your hands and fixing equipment/figuring things out are skills that can be taught/learned, they are not ingrained, fixed qualities. One of my biggest fears going into my trade program was that I didn't have good enough hand/eye coordination to succeed. I mentioned it to the head of the program during a tour before applying for the program. He reassured me that it just came down to practice and that I would be fine. I'm so glad I did not limit myself based on these fears about my limitations! We were expected to build things to within 1/32" accuracy (or in some cases to a fraction of a millimeter) and this huge fear turned out to be a complete non-issue for me.

Likewise, I was not exposed to taking apart machines and putting them back together before starting the trade program. But I was taught how to do so in my classes. While I'm still not where I want to be, I'm astounded at how many fixes I've been able to figure out/make on my own. I can very much see that with practice and experience, I will eventually get to where I want to be.

Read up on fixed vs. growth mindset and you will learn that so much of what we think of as innate abilities are actually learned/practiced.

Zette

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 187
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #134 on: May 04, 2021, 07:31:06 AM »

I agree that many 18 year olds don't have the wherewithal to pick out a specific idea of what to do from a college degree, but that's my point. They don't have that drive, motivation, solid knowledge of themselves, etc. to pick out a career, and 4-year college is an extraordinarily expensive place to learn that. I know that many people in college won't do what they thought they would and will change their major or career trajectory. I'm not speaking against that. What I am saying is, if you're not mature enough to think, I want a biology degree because I feel like I want to go into the medical field in general, or I want a business degree, concentration in this because I want to work for this kind of company doing roughly this thing, then you're not mature enough to go to college - again, not when it's so stinking expensive. You can use it to show an employer that you know how to learn and all that (and it might work out, sure), but you haven't shown me that you are even going to do that and have the drive to use your "learning how to learn" at all if you have no idea and are not willing to do the research ahead of time to have something picked out that you'll do. If you're just going into college with a whim of, hmm, I liked the Count of Monte Cristo, so I think I'll major in French literature or business sounds fun, I like money, and that's all you're willing to do with no plan, then you really don't need to go to college right then. Maybe later, but not then.

So what should an 18 yo in this position do?  Work retail?  What is a realistic option that will lead to figuring out what they want to do.

bloodaxe

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 138
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #135 on: May 04, 2021, 07:34:31 AM »

@spartana - also some good points. There’s still lots of single people out there. Also, while my wife typically hasn’t worked and traveled with me... Is there a difference between her not working and someone being FIRE’d with a working spouse? Something here that nearly all people here aspire to achieve?

Again, you’re right, marriage can certainly throw a different dynamic into the “moving” aspect...

Well... moving locations... what I still said about moving (exercising) and diets can apply to nearly everyone... especially in a country where 2/3 of people are overweight with 1/3 being obese..

Of course, you can give the examples of people who are quadriplegics and those with some medical condition requiring them to eat an insane amount of calories so they just also have to be overweight.
I think there is a huge difference. Most negative.  Being permanently financially dependent on someone for most of their lives (you guys married in your early 20 if I'm correct and your DW stopped working then). Never achieving your own independence or experiencing your own career opportunities and much of the personal growth, accolades, and self-realizations and pride that come from that. Etc... If someone is fulfilled by being a lifelong home maker or has unpaid hobbies and activities that fulfill those needs then that's great! But many people who have never had their own personal achievements (and failures) while young often feel dissatisfied with their lives once older whether reaching FI (via a spouses income) or not.

Indeed, this is addressed in the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Many women (and probably men) think satisfaction will come from being a good stay at home spouse or parent. But this is usually not the case.

ender

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6135
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #136 on: May 04, 2021, 07:59:47 AM »
I agree, but I think it starts even earlier in the process than that.  Lots of parents and prospective students look at the data saying that on average college graduates earn more than those with only a high school education and think that therefore college must be the ticket to a high-paying job.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t actually think about the individual paths that actually lead to these higher paying jobs.  To put it another way, their mental model seems to be something like:

1. Get college degree.
2. ???
3. Profit!

This often leads to some poor decisions about where to go to college, what to study, and how much to pay that leave students with lots of debt and without the earning potential to pay it off.

To the extent that they think about how a degree translates into greater earning potential, it’s usually something like, “I will go to college, learn useful skills, and get a job that uses those skills.”  There are fields that work like this, but they’re in the minority.  Examples of these “vocational” degrees include engineering and some STEM fields (though definitely not all). 

https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/schooled2lose/ has some fascinating research on this type of thing. For folks interested, the actual study is fascinating.

The tldr of that study is, by the time the "college yes or no?" decision is happening, socioeconomic status (SES) has already dramatically impacted the ability of folks to even attend let alone graduate college.

Effectively, this college vs trades impact on socioeconomic mobility conversation is a red herring consequence of a much larger and systemic issue, namely that the most effective way to end up successful is to be born into a successful family.

Their recommendations (pdf page 46 in the linked study) are pretty obvious on this front. The first three all focus on pre-K-12 education to help provide similar opportunities to those in low SES as those in higher SES receive. The fourth is still focused on high school education but more from a career exploration/prep approach, which at least relates to this topic.

They recommend these because even when people start out in kindergarten with similar academic performance, those in low SES tend to drop relative to high SES throughout K-12. By the time the "college vs trades" conversation comes up, that person in a low SES is already disadvantaged

Going to college isn't going to save someone who grew up in a low SES. The study talks about how much lower odds it is someone from low SES to complete a degree even with the same academic performance as someone from high SES to complete.

There's a lot of research out there on topics like this. The topic of "how to be successful" unfortunately is largely "be born into a successful family" and as long as society continues to focus on the downstream results such as trades vs college, rather than the upstream effects such as opportunities throughout K-12 and even before, it's going to stay that way.

spartana

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2187
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #137 on: May 04, 2021, 08:04:12 AM »

@spartana - also some good points. There’s still lots of single people out there. Also, while my wife typically hasn’t worked and traveled with me... Is there a difference between her not working and someone being FIRE’d with a working spouse? Something here that nearly all people here aspire to achieve?

Again, you’re right, marriage can certainly throw a different dynamic into the “moving” aspect...

Well... moving locations... what I still said about moving (exercising) and diets can apply to nearly everyone... especially in a country where 2/3 of people are overweight with 1/3 being obese..

Of course, you can give the examples of people who are quadriplegics and those with some medical condition requiring them to eat an insane amount of calories so they just also have to be overweight.
I think there is a huge difference. Most negative.  Being permanently financially dependent on someone for most of their lives (you guys married in your early 20 if I'm correct and your DW stopped working then). Never achieving your own independence or experiencing your own career opportunities and much of the personal growth, accolades, and self-realizations and pride that come from that. Etc... If someone is fulfilled by being a lifelong home maker or has unpaid hobbies and activities that fulfill those needs then that's great! But many people who have never had their own personal achievements (and failures) while young often feel dissatisfied with their lives once older whether reaching FI (via a spouses income) or not.

Indeed, this is addressed in the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Many women (and probably men) think satisfaction will come from being a good stay at home spouse or parent. But this is usually not the case.
I think it probably can be very satisfying for many people. But if you are a very young person who has almost literally gone from your parents as primary support to a spouse's as a dependent home maker without some time to "find yourself" and live as an independent adult person and follow some career goals it might leave you dissatisfied years later. Most here who seek FI as a couple with one spouse working and the other not, seem to do it years after the non-working spouse's has had the opportunity to have many independent job and life experiences.

In any case I won't derail the Ops thread about college vs. trades with my little side musings any longer.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14485
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #138 on: May 04, 2021, 08:14:21 AM »
I agree, but I think it starts even earlier in the process than that.  Lots of parents and prospective students look at the data saying that on average college graduates earn more than those with only a high school education and think that therefore college must be the ticket to a high-paying job.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t actually think about the individual paths that actually lead to these higher paying jobs.  To put it another way, their mental model seems to be something like:

1. Get college degree.
2. ???
3. Profit!

This often leads to some poor decisions about where to go to college, what to study, and how much to pay that leave students with lots of debt and without the earning potential to pay it off.

To the extent that they think about how a degree translates into greater earning potential, it’s usually something like, “I will go to college, learn useful skills, and get a job that uses those skills.”  There are fields that work like this, but they’re in the minority.  Examples of these “vocational” degrees include engineering and some STEM fields (though definitely not all). 

https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/schooled2lose/ has some fascinating research on this type of thing. For folks interested, the actual study is fascinating.

The tldr of that study is, by the time the "college yes or no?" decision is happening, socioeconomic status (SES) has already dramatically impacted the ability of folks to even attend let alone graduate college.

Effectively, this college vs trades impact on socioeconomic mobility conversation is a red herring consequence of a much larger and systemic issue, namely that the most effective way to end up successful is to be born into a successful family.

Their recommendations (pdf page 46 in the linked study) are pretty obvious on this front. The first three all focus on pre-K-12 education to help provide similar opportunities to those in low SES as those in higher SES receive. The fourth is still focused on high school education but more from a career exploration/prep approach, which at least relates to this topic.

They recommend these because even when people start out in kindergarten with similar academic performance, those in low SES tend to drop relative to high SES throughout K-12. By the time the "college vs trades" conversation comes up, that person in a low SES is already disadvantaged

Going to college isn't going to save someone who grew up in a low SES. The study talks about how much lower odds it is someone from low SES to complete a degree even with the same academic performance as someone from high SES to complete.

There's a lot of research out there on topics like this. The topic of "how to be successful" unfortunately is largely "be born into a successful family" and as long as society continues to focus on the downstream results such as trades vs college, rather than the upstream effects such as opportunities throughout K-12 and even before, it's going to stay that way.

I'm glad you brought this up @ender.  One of the best predictors of whether a student would graduate within four years is whether his/her/their parents had an advanced degree.  Family economic status was another strong predictor.  It unfortunately runs contrary to the stories we love to tell about a person being the "first in their family to attend college, and start a successful career".  Those certainly happen but on average those students took longer and had the higher non-completion rates.

Investing in pre-K remains one of the most effective ways of improving a child's educational success through college, particularly those from lower SES.
But apparently that's socialism [or so I'm being told almost daily].

spartana

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2187
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #139 on: May 04, 2021, 08:27:57 AM »
Has anyone mentioned CLEP (College Level Exam Program) yet? Independent study of various subjects followed by an exam to earn college credits to meet many of the Gen Ed requirement for a 4 year degree. It's a common route to attaining part of a degree for full time employed people or those in the military who can't attend formal college. Mine was free while in the service but I'm sure the cost per course is minimal compared to attending school.

 https://clep.collegeboard.org/exams
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 08:30:16 AM by spartana »

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #140 on: May 04, 2021, 08:29:08 AM »
The problem is that few people are teaching kids how to utilize school effectively.

I agree, but I think it starts even earlier in the process than that.  Lots of parents and prospective students look at the data saying that on average college graduates earn more than those with only a high school education and think that therefore college must be the ticket to a high-paying job.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t actually think about the individual paths that actually lead to these higher paying jobs.  To put it another way, their mental model seems to be something like:

1. Get college degree.
2. ???
3. Profit!

This often leads to some poor decisions about where to go to college, what to study, and how much to pay that leave students with lots of debt and without the earning potential to pay it off.

To the extent that they think about how a degree translates into greater earning potential, it’s usually something like, “I will go to college, learn useful skills, and get a job that uses those skills.”  There are fields that work like this, but they’re in the minority.  Examples of these “vocational” degrees include engineering and some STEM fields (though definitely not all). 

In contrast, most undergraduate degrees don’t usually lead to employment related to the subject matter.  People get degrees, then get white collar jobs in an unrelated area.  On the face of it, this does not make sense.  Why spend four years and a ton of money getting a degree and then not actually make use of it?  Because employers use college degrees as a sorting mechanism.  They slip a degree requirement in the job ad and throw out any applicants that don’t have a bachelors.  They assume that even if the subject matter is unrelated, getting a four-year degree implies the applicant has some level of intelligence and perseverance.  This is a lousy assumption (I know plenty of people without degrees who are diligent and smart and lots with degrees who are unmotivated idiots) but a very common one.  However, because a college degree is a weak signal at best, the additional income premium for a degree like this is not that high.

The far more upper crust version of this comes with degrees from elite institutions like the Ivy League.  Here, employers seeking the best of the best are essentially outsourcing their hiring decisions to admissions officers at elite schools.  Might students at an elite university have learned more that someone who went to a state school?  Perhaps, but for the most part they still aren’t using the subject matter of their degree on the job. (With some exceptions (Stanford, MIT) these elite institutions are actually not great places to go for the more “vocational” fields.). There’s also a networking component to this; you’re going to meet a lot more powerful people in the course of getting an Ivy League degree and your peers will go on to positions where they can help you advance in a highly paid or high-prestige career.  And even in this day and age these degrees are also still class signifiers: only the well off can afford not just the degree, but also all of the college prep it takes for a good shot at getting into these kinds of selective institutions.

Finally, there are undergraduate degrees whose main purpose is as a ticket to a graduate program.  The classics here are law, medicine, and academia.  However, many “vocational” fields have been migrating into this category as a Master’s becomes a de-facto requirement for employment in the field.

The tricky bit is that for each of these paths, success requires very different decisions about where to go to school and how much it makes sense to pay.  Getting an expensive degree from a small liberal arts school that’s just going to get you past an employer’s “does this person have a bachelors?” screen is unlikely to pay off.  Since the degree and the university don’t matter much, look for the lowest cost option possible (perhaps a combination of community college and a lower-tier state school).

For “vocational” degrees, the reputation of the particular department (not the university as a whole) and their pipeline to employers where you want to work tends to be most important.  Want to be a civil engineer?  Look at the engineering firms in the region you want to work and see where people working there went to school.

If the goal is to get into a graduate program, the best course varies quite a bit by field.  The paths into law school and med school are pretty well documented.  If you’re aiming for academia, the best way to select an undergraduate institution is probably to pay attention to where the professors teaching there did their PhDs.  Other fields may vary.

As someone who worked in staffing, I see you are making the same mistake that a lot of people make, which is to look at the *first* job that people get out of school and determine that that's the limit of the professional value of their degree.

I was a very technical professional, but my first degree was a liberal arts double major, and it contributed hugely to my success.

A degree shouldn't be treated like a stamped piece of paper that lets you get a job. It provide a set of skills that last a lifetime.

That's why I don't worry too much about kids making the "right" decision. School is what you make of it. I emphasize helping kids understand how to make the most of it, and to be self reflective of how much capacity they have to do that.

From there, they can determine how much they're willing to invest in school.

Some 18 year olds have enormous drive and capacity and some don't. I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do when I got into university, so I was definitely one of those people who was "finding myself" in the process, but I was HIGHLY driven and maximized every opportunity.

Some 18 year olds don't have that capacity and should be steered away from over spending on school.

It's more about capacity than figuring out the magic combination of school and program for success. It's more about what the student ends up making of the experience and how they make it work for them.

If they want to study liberal arts, that's a huge range of topics, and a huge range of skills to learn. They could spend that time really figuring out what their strengths are, and then from there work on networking towards a career where those strengths would be most valuable.

I've often cited a friend who studied something like feminism in literature and film (I can't remember exactly), and she learned through school that her strongest skill is writing. She got an entry level job like most liberal arts grads, but she aggressively chased opportunities where writing skills are valued and ended up a director of communications at an energy firm.

Her efficient, professional level writing skills are what allowed her career to climb rapidly, and her extensive experience with professional level heated debating in school made her resilient in the face of the aggressive sector she ended up in, and her background in feminism helped her lean-in as the only woman.

Her liberal arts degree didn't get her hired at a high paying job, the skills it gave her got her promoted to an executive level job.

University skills are just very difficult to quantify and separate from other non university skills. Was she an assertive and excellent debater just because of university? No, she went in assertive and keen on debating. But university refined her skills to a professional and marketable level.

So another young woman might do the exact same degree and come out with a completely different skill set.

As I said, education is what the person makes of it. The key is to learn how to make something of it. That's what really matters.

ender

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6135
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #141 on: May 04, 2021, 08:42:35 AM »
I'm glad you brought this up @ender.  One of the best predictors of whether a student would graduate within four years is whether his/her/their parents had an advanced degree.  Family economic status was another strong predictor.  It unfortunately runs contrary to the stories we love to tell about a person being the "first in their family to attend college, and start a successful career".  Those certainly happen but on average those students took longer and had the higher non-completion rates.

Investing in pre-K remains one of the most effective ways of improving a child's educational success through college, particularly those from lower SES.
But apparently that's socialism [or so I'm being told almost daily].

I think stuff like this is why it's frustrating for me to read this whole thread.

The question around trades vs college is to the best of my knowledge never "for someone in a given socioeconomic group, is college better than the trades?" but rather "are those that work in the trades or who have college degrees better off?"

The second conversation is pointless.  You can't take conclusions from that group of people and ignore the much larger pool of context impacting the "better off" aspect. Nor does it lead to any actual useful decision making process for someone considering college or the trades.

Blackeagle

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 182
  • Location: Wichita, KS
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #142 on: May 04, 2021, 08:46:13 AM »
As someone who worked in staffing, I see you are making the same mistake that a lot of people make, which is to look at the *first* job that people get out of school and determine that that's the limit of the professional value of their degree.

I was a very technical professional, but my first degree was a liberal arts double major, and it contributed hugely to my success.

A degree shouldn't be treated like a stamped piece of paper that lets you get a job. It provide a set of skills that last a lifetime.

I don’t exactly disagree, but I would put a somewhat different spin on it and separate out the value of the degree from the value of the things someone learns in the process getting the degree.  The degree itself is just a stamped piece of paper.  It’s important to getting the first job, but over time the value of on-the-job accomplishments is going to almost totally eclipse it.

The stuff someone learns in the course of getting the degree can be a big contributor to those on-the-job accomplishments, but so are the things they come into the process with, the stuff they learn outside the classroom, and the things they learn on the job.  The importance of each of these is going to vary considerably from person to person.

Personally I had a bit of an odd career path, but I’d say that stuff I learned as part of formal education during my undergrad is probably 4th or 5th down the list, beneath stuff I learned before going to college, stuff I learned in grad school, stuff I learned on the job, and stuff I learned volunteering as an unpaid RA during my undergrad.  The degree was more valuable in the opportunities it provided for me rather than the course of study it provided.

Malcat

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5802
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #143 on: May 04, 2021, 08:58:14 AM »
As someone who worked in staffing, I see you are making the same mistake that a lot of people make, which is to look at the *first* job that people get out of school and determine that that's the limit of the professional value of their degree.

I was a very technical professional, but my first degree was a liberal arts double major, and it contributed hugely to my success.

A degree shouldn't be treated like a stamped piece of paper that lets you get a job. It provide a set of skills that last a lifetime.

I don’t exactly disagree, but I would put a somewhat different spin on it and separate out the value of the degree from the value of the things someone learns in the process getting the degree.  The degree itself is just a stamped piece of paper.  It’s important to getting the first job, but over time the value of on-the-job accomplishments is going to almost totally eclipse it.

The stuff someone learns in the course of getting the degree can be a big contributor to those on-the-job accomplishments, but so are the things they come into the process with, the stuff they learn outside the classroom, and the things they learn on the job.  The importance of each of these is going to vary considerably from person to person.

Personally I had a bit of an odd career path, but I’d say that stuff I learned as part of formal education during my undergrad is probably 4th or 5th down the list, beneath stuff I learned before going to college, stuff I learned in grad school, stuff I learned on the job, and stuff I learned volunteering as an unpaid RA during my undergrad.  The degree was more valuable in the opportunities it provided for me rather than the course of study it provided.

Yes. That would be exactly what I've said in multiple other posts.

That success is based on a huge range of skills, many of which are not learned in their programs.

However a lot of valuable skills *are* learned in programs, and through the process of going to university.

I'm trying to say that people simultaneously over value education and under value education with respect to professional outcomes.

People look at populational data and over value things like STEM degrees. But they also look at the same data and undervalue other degrees.

The truth is that success is a very multi faceted process that depends on a lot of factors, primarily socioeconomic family of origin. How school plays into that is very dynamic, and can't be reduced to "a degree is just a piece of paper" or "as long as you do STEM you'll be fine".

That's so reductive it's ridiculous.

Kids are rich, complex, dynamic, talented, skilled people with huge ranges of capacity and talent. Giving them pat, generalized advice like "don't bother with an expensive school" or "a liberal arts degree is useless" or "just do STEM" or "just go into trades" is such a disservice to young people.

I see SO MANY kids making bad school decisions because of terrible advice from their own parents.

clarkfan1979

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2310
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Pueblo West, CO
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #144 on: May 04, 2021, 01:09:57 PM »
I absolutely love this thread. I haven't read all the comments yet, but I will in the next 12 hours. I couldn't wait to post. My dad and dad's side of the family is union construction workers out of Chicagoland area.

1. I feel like I personally benefitted from going to college. I found a passion (Social Psychology) and I ended up getting a Ph.D. However, I would never force all kids into college.

2. Yes, college can sometimes get expensive. However, sometimes trade school can be equally as expensive. I personally paid $12/unit at a community college in San Diego from 1999-2000. I then transferred to San Diego State University (2000-2002) and tuition was $900/semester.

3. My dad worked in the union age 20 to 62. When construction jobs get slow, the people with less experience are the first one's to get temporarily cut. When he was 25 years old, he would work 8 months a year. When he was 35 years old, he would work 10 months a year. Once he got to age 45, he pretty much worked 12 months a year. When he hit age 50 his body couldn't keep up with the physical demand and he started to really hate his job. It's unfortunate the when he was younger he didn't have the opportunity to work the long hours. He was given the opportunity for the long hours when he was older, but didn't want to do it.

4. My father never earned any paid-time-off. He never took a vacation more than 2 days (Sat & Sun) unless he was temporarily unemployed. He would cancel a weekend vacation if offered overtime.

5. Many of my cousins make 100K/year in the trades in the Chicagoland area. They work 50 hours/week and have nothing to show for it other than a house with a mortgage and a pension. Their employer does not provide any sort of match. The pension is fully funded from their own money. They tend to make less than optimal decisions with money and always seem to struggle paying the bills, even though they have a high income.

6. A plumber that is self-employed might charge $150/hour. However, after you calculate all their expenses, they actually make $50/hour.

7. Among my circle of friends, people with liberal arts degrees make really good money. One of my really good friends is an art major. He works in advertising. One of his accounts is McDonalds. He also flipped houses when he was younger. He is really good with design.

8. I really like the the idea of combining the trades with college. I have a Ph.D. and teach at a community college. However, I also have a few rentals. I like to buy ugly houses, fix them up and rent them out. One of my friends does the same thing. He has a BA in English and is a self-employer carpenter/plumber. He focuses on his own rentals first. When he gets slow, he might do work for someone else.   


mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8875
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #145 on: May 04, 2021, 02:08:46 PM »

Quote
I hope your spouse is one of the ones that is good with their hands.

He is, yes.  But I have a neighbor with a PhD in engineering, and his wife fixes everything.


I'm a female engineer, married to an engineer, and I work with a lot of engineers.

Some of them are REALLY good with their hands and fixing equipment and figuring things out.  Some of them are most certainly NOT.  As in, TERRIBLE at it.  (I'm in the middle.  I can muddle along...)

Working with your hands and fixing equipment/figuring things out are skills that can be taught/learned, they are not ingrained, fixed qualities. One of my biggest fears going into my trade program was that I didn't have good enough hand/eye coordination to succeed. I mentioned it to the head of the program during a tour before applying for the program. He reassured me that it just came down to practice and that I would be fine. I'm so glad I did not limit myself based on these fears about my limitations! We were expected to build things to within 1/32" accuracy (or in some cases to a fraction of a millimeter) and this huge fear turned out to be a complete non-issue for me.

Likewise, I was not exposed to taking apart machines and putting them back together before starting the trade program. But I was taught how to do so in my classes. While I'm still not where I want to be, I'm astounded at how many fixes I've been able to figure out/make on my own. I can very much see that with practice and experience, I will eventually get to where I want to be.

Read up on fixed vs. growth mindset and you will learn that so much of what we think of as innate abilities are actually learned/practiced.

This is the kind of engineer that I am.  I think, because I work with a lot of PhD's, there are different expectations.  I interviewed for another job years ago, run by PhD's, and I find that many of them are looking for innate ability, or specific technical knowledge to be "always available" in your head.  I'm more of a "learn as I go" kind of person.  Just...some of the times you have to pick and choose - and at work, there's too much work.  (My own coworkers at various times in the past have made the same mistakes when interviewing others.)

I tend to be a big fat generalist for that reason, and my biggest contribution at work (in my opinion), is my massive amounts of institutional and technical knowledge that has come from working in many different groups, from design to fab to product engineering.  I have a passable amount of knowledge in device physics, and product testing.  All of this I learned on the job.

Some of the best hands-on engineers were, well, hands-on.  Their FIRST instinct is to try and figure it out, read the manual, google, take things apart (safely), and really keep going at it until they figure it out.  Less successful engineers are ones that just wanted to call the vendor to come in and fix it (which is sometimes the right call).

Similarly, I find the distinction between fluid and crystallized intelligence to be interesting.  As I continue the age, especially, crystallized intelligence is where I am shining.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8875
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #146 on: May 04, 2021, 02:17:59 PM »
Nearly all college degrees provide people with more lifetime earnings that skilled trades. The push for skilled trades is basically code for "Poor people shut your mouths." At least, that's my opinion
Well, many (most?) of my family members are in the skilled trades.  My father was an auto mechanic, as was a brother in law (with his own shop, until he retired).  My nephew is a large equipment mechanic.  He went to school for diesel truck mechanics, and was good at it, and got hired away from it.  He's 28 and owns a home.  My sister was apologetic that he didn't go to "real college" (neither did she), and I just think "you can't outsource fixing things".  Plus, he ALWAYS was into mechanics and fixing things.  There aren't a lot of (good paying) jobs in my home town for people with degrees.

My BIL is a plumber with his own business, and he's REALLY good at business. 

It could be because of my upbringing, but I really don't see any problem with people going into the trades, and encouraging it for anyone who has the interest.

Quote
Indeed, this is addressed in the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Many women (and probably men) think satisfaction will come from being a good stay at home spouse or parent. But this is usually not the case.

Gosh, I remember my mother telling me once (in her drunken stupor) how unhappy she was and she "only ever wanted to be a wife and mother.  I loved it."


Which...TBH, she and I lived together for 2 years in a drafty, rickety trailer during the divorce while she worked long hours at a bank and we ate whatever we could afford.  I have NEVER seen her happier.  For her, being a wife and mother (with both marriages) came with a lot of BAGGAGE and push and pull over money and power (even if unintentional).  I don't think she realized how miserable she really was then.

Laura33

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2906
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #147 on: May 04, 2021, 04:07:59 PM »
I was the person who said that you could learn a lot of things through dedicated independent studying later in life. Not necessarily replace a whole degree but gain a lot of the knowledge. Not just liberal arts, probably also in STEM - I did liberal arts / law, I know nothing about STEM. In fact I tried this out for myself and it worked. Due to health issues I was unable to attend university for some time after graduating highschool and I learned a lot from independent study. When I finally was able to attend, I was ahead of my peers. Honestly, even though I went to a good university, especially in the first years there was very little instruction, just "read the book and make the quizzes" and I'm pretty sure I would have managed to do that without any kind of instruction at all. I still watch all kinds of classes on Youtube frequently, none of the classes I ever attended in person were that good.

Sorry to be unclear, I was actually responding to Bloop Bloop's comment that liberal arts stuff is "Easily accessible elsewhere," whereas (by implication) other stuff isn't.  I'm a big believer in reading and learning all you can, regardless of degree.  But to presume that just reading Huckleberry Finn on your own teaches you as much as reading and discussing and researching and writing about it in a class with an experienced professor?  That's like thinking I can teach myself chemical engineering by buying the college textbooks.

I don't know what teaching was like at the institution you went to, but at my (well ranked) school we weren't 'discussing and researching and writing with an experienced professor' like they do in the movies. Our classes were more like 'student teacher a year older than me reading the answers to the quizzes in the textbook from the teacher's manual'. It was extremely uninspirational.

@nereo maybe I was one of those exceptions then, I missed quite a few classes because I was working and doing college on the side.

Part of the point of college is to have a theoretically unbiased third party sign off that “yes this person does know this thing.” 

If your goal is to “be educated” great, go read some books and do some research, but if you want anyone else, namely a potential employer, to believe that you know said thing you need the parchment to back it up.

This is true, and I noticed it was difficult getting ahead in my workplace, which is why I finished my degree and even went back for a Master's. But it does still feel a bit pointless - I put in so much work to complete that degree and not a single employer has ever even requested a transcript. No one knows what I did there except I went and gained a degree. And so did all the people in my class who were absolute idiots but somehow still managed to pass.

Lame. My university experience for both degrees at two very different schools was basically exactly like you see in movies. Other than first year classes, my courses were almost all taught by full faculty, and sometimes PhDs. There was a lot of class discussion and I received a ton of direct mentorship from faculty.

Sure, there were some classes where is was just dry and the students rarely participated, but that wasn't the norm.

Sucks for you that school was so dry. I loved school. Well, I hated a lot of my doctorate, but that's because the faculty was rampantly abusive. The actual coursework was great.

What they described above was similar to my experience at a large state university and similar to the experience I saw as a grad student for undergrads at another large state university for my PhD.

I'm curious when people went to school. It seems to me that from what I've heard this shift started in the late 90s to early 2000s of having grad students and "lecturers" teach the courses and tenured and tenure track faculty were teaching grad students and the occasional high level undergrad course.

As an undergrad I'd say about half my courses were taught by lecturers and grad students, the other half were taught by actively researching faculty. When I was in my PhD program I can only speak for the faculty directly involved in my program, but none of them taught any undergrads outside of one tenure track professor who taught one honors seminar each year for senior level undergrads. We had 6 tenure track and/or tenured faculty in my specific program (7 if you count the fact that overall department chair during most of my tenure) while I was there and combined they taught one undergrad course per year. Some of them bought out of their teaching assignments all together and the others taught either master's level students or just PhD students.

The undergrad courses were all taught by us as the grad students, or paid "lecturers" that weren't tenure track faculty at the university, but most did have PhDs. My experience was undergrad from 2002-2006 and PhD from 2007-2012 at two large state universities.

Small liberal arts colleges FTW!  Yes, my experience is dated, but my DD is currently at a different such school, and she by and large is having the same experience.

Beyond that:  I want to agree with everything @Malkat has said here.  IMO, if you want a white-collar career, a college degree is necessary but not sufficient, and your success or failure in that career will depend on many other intangibles.  If you do not want a career that requires a college degree as the cost of entry, you can do equally well financially through those same other intangibles. 

I also think people have a weird view of "networking."  The reality is that any time you are interacting with another human, you are potentially networking -- particularly when you are interacting in a work setting.  My DD lucked into working with a professor her freshman year (she was in a class when the professor popped in to say she needed research assistants for a grant that had just come in).  Because DD made a good first impression, she was invited to continue that this year, and by the time she's a Senior could be running the lab if she wants.  And by working closely with professors in a number of areas like that, she is also developing a network of people who she can ask about future job options or ask for a reference.  That's an opportunity her small school has given her, and she can really put herself in a good position by taking full advantage of it.  And then she also has an internship this summer at home, and that will give her the same opportunity to make a good impression and build relationships with potential mentors and references.  All without ever attending a single "networking" social.

Neither my DH nor I can "network" to save our lives.  But every time he got caught in a layoff or shutdown, he put out the word to people he had previously worked with, and every time, he got not just a new job, but also a raise and a promotion, because people remembered how good he was.  As for me, the very first client I brought in was someone I had previously worked with ONCE at another job; I didn't remember him at all, but he remembered my work, and when he had an issue come up in my area, I'm the one he called.  Work hard and focus your efforts on solving someone else's problems and making their life easier, and they'll tend to remember you fondly and look out for you in the future. 

use2betrix

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2232
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #148 on: May 04, 2021, 05:26:15 PM »

@spartana - also some good points. There’s still lots of single people out there. Also, while my wife typically hasn’t worked and traveled with me... Is there a difference between her not working and someone being FIRE’d with a working spouse? Something here that nearly all people here aspire to achieve?

Again, you’re right, marriage can certainly throw a different dynamic into the “moving” aspect...

Well... moving locations... what I still said about moving (exercising) and diets can apply to nearly everyone... especially in a country where 2/3 of people are overweight with 1/3 being obese..

Of course, you can give the examples of people who are quadriplegics and those with some medical condition requiring them to eat an insane amount of calories so they just also have to be overweight.
I think there is a huge difference. Most negative.  Being permanently financially dependent on someone for most of their lives (you guys married in your early 20 if I'm correct and your DW stopped working then). Never achieving your own independence or experiencing your own career opportunities and much of the personal growth, accolades, and self-realizations and pride that come from that. Etc... If someone is fulfilled by being a lifelong home maker or has unpaid hobbies and activities that fulfill those needs then that's great! But many people who have never had their own personal achievements (and failures) while young often feel dissatisfied with their lives once older whether reaching FI (via a spouses income) or not.

Indeed, this is addressed in the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Many women (and probably men) think satisfaction will come from being a good stay at home spouse or parent. But this is usually not the case.
I think it probably can be very satisfying for many people. But if you are a very young person who has almost literally gone from your parents as primary support to a spouse's as a dependent home maker without some time to "find yourself" and live as an independent adult person and follow some career goals it might leave you dissatisfied years later. Most here who seek FI as a couple with one spouse working and the other not, seem to do it years after the non-working spouse's has had the opportunity to have many independent job and life experiences.

In any case I won't derail the Ops thread about college vs. trades with my little side musings any longer.

Good thing only that first sentence applies to my marriage/spouse.

Wolfpack Mustachian

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 988
Re: College vs skilled trades. What's your take?
« Reply #149 on: May 04, 2021, 07:06:24 PM »

Would you agree with my general premise, then, that college is often poorly utilized and a waste of money? Not that it can't be worthwhile, just that for many it's not, and unless you're a fairly select kind of individual or pursuing a specific degree that leads to a specific field, it's throwing money into something that often won't yield results?


I strongly disagree with this general premise.  Yes, some students failed to complete a degree, and more struggled, but at the university systems I have most recently been a part of the overwhelming majority graduated with a degree in a timely fashion; a slightly majority finished in four years, though that number jumped to almost 80% within 5.5 years.  We kept fairly detailed data on our student alumni, and those that graduated had much lower unemployment and higher starting salaries than their cohort at large. They debt their incurred was more than offset by their improved earnings within the first decade (even factoring in interest). There was as you’d expect quite a difference between various degrees and future earnings, with some fields (particularly CompSci) out-earning others by a substantial margin. Also of interest is the general sentiment of students and alum about the value of their education. Those that graduated within 4.5 years (again, the majority of our students) overwhelmingly thought the experience was worth it, even factoring int he cost.  Critically, it was the minority of students who did NOT finish that did not share these feelings. Perhaps not surprisingly, these “non-degree” students had much lower salaries and higher unemployment (but still higher than their cohort who had not attended any college, and about on par with those who went to a 2-year community college). 

Of course some of this is no doubt a factor of the students themselves; we had competitive admissions (nothing like the Ivy’s, but at around 50% acceptance our student body overall was well suited for academia).

I would say that people's perception of whether it was "worth it" can be skewed on quite a few factors. Most people look back on college with fondness (I know I sure do), and most people don't have a good handle on financial implications of things on their lives (I think all of us on this site can agree to that :-) ). In terms of people's debt being being offset by improved earnings, I think your caveats prove that to not necessarily be that meaningful. Some high earning fields probably made up for other fields that had graduates with much lower earnings. Also, for the other part of people who graduated college having lower unemployment and higher starting salaries overall - socioeconomic advantages are not factored into that, and as others have said, it makes a huge impact. I would need a lot more data to feel that alone refutes my overall thoughts.


I'd say there's two misconceptions here.  The first is that a attending a four year college has to be "extraordinarily expensive".  Of course we can quibble about what "extraordinarily expensive" really means here, but the headline tuition number is something very few actually pay, and there are many, many places a person can attend a good school for under $20k/year. It's certainly not nothing, but it's not the eye-popping "Tuition is $45k per year!!" that you see all over the place.
The second is this concept that a student should know what s/he wants to study upon entry as an 18 or 19 year old.  Colleges know this, and their curriculums are specifically designed to accommodate the fact that students often change or don't declare their major in the first two years.  That's a key reason why there are Gen Eds (that, and the idea philosophy that all students ought to have exposure to multiple disciplines) and electives. It's why our system actively discouraged first-years from declaring a major at all.
\
It's also IMO one of the strengths of a broad university over a specialized technic or trade school. There are paths towards many of the specialized trades within most major universities, but it's hard to go from a trade school into a four-year without starting over from the beginning. I taught in the biology department, and each semester a few students decided their path was to become an RN or ADN (Nursing); their biology load helped them with on that path. Those that came into university after going into a specialized trade they decided not to pursue were essentially starting from the beginning.

Critically, it's not the individuals who compete a four-year degree in a timely fashion that drive student debt load and student loan default numbers (which are the majority of students).  It's those that start and never finish, and the numbers are much worse among for-profit colleges (which, IMO, often operate like parasitic vultures on young students).  And we spent a lot of time trying to determine how to minimize those failures within our system, as it harmed everyone.

I think it's a pretty bold statement to say the phrase extraordinarily expensive is a misconception on my part. Do you really think that incurring 80 thousand dollars in debt (your 20k/year for 4 years, assuming they actually do complete it in 4 years and not longer) is really not extraordinarily expensive? It's a debt burden that would be face punched galore around here for anything outside of a house if it wasn't for college.

I think there are certainly benefits to being able to have some flexibility in switching majors of course. I have no doubt that colleges are completely fine with people not declaring majors. I have not been on faculty at a college, but if they're like 90% of other organizations I've dealt with, they're at least in some part in it for themselves. So, their willingness and even desire to not have people declare majors early is not really making me think it's a good thing in and of itself.

I agree that people not finishing are the biggest part of the problem. I can't help but thinking, though, that people who go in aimlessly probably make up a greater percentage of people who don't graduate than people who come in with a plan.


So what should an 18 yo in this position do?  Work retail?  What is a realistic option that will lead to figuring out what they want to do.

This would depend entirely on their life situation. I'll throw out several, and I'm sure people can pick them apart and talk about how this specific person or that specific person could not do that, but off the top of my head:

  • The military
  • Work in a factory/warehouse/etc. - decent pay easily can get 2nd or 3rd shift to explore different things on "normal business ours" beyond the job they're at
  • Apprentice with someone in a trade
  • Go to a community college for some general education courses while you're trying to figure things out

And sure, retail is an option too.

I mean, I am really confused by the responses I'm getting. This site is all about taking responsibility for yourselves, about being deliberate with our choices, evaluating ourselves, and so on.

What I'm saying is, there's a very strong argument that someone coming out of high school who does not have or is not willing to take the time to figure out something they might want to do and look at how can I go about getting there through a college degree is probably not at the point where they need to be spending money on college. College right now is the biggest single expense outside of a mortgage for most people, and yet it's being treated as if it's something you should just do to do and see what comes out in the wash (or at least that's how it seems to me).

People have commented on how education plays a role but there are many other factors as well in success. My point is this - being able to figure out, hey I probably want to do something like this and spending a few hours researching to see, what school would help me achieve this, what are the backgrounds of people in this field, and how could I best get there is a pretty low bar. If we can't at least have some sort of goal, even if the goal posts move multiple times, I think you're going to have likely, at the least, to not have been as efficient as you could have been to, at the worst, making a huge financial mistake.

In addition, you can go to college after 18. If you don't know what's going on - don't have your life figured out enough to have a target at all - you don't have to start throwing 20k a year out and about while not even knowing if college is what you want at all. You can do some of the things I mentioned above, get life experiences, figure out more what you want, and then go to school with a focus in mind.

I guess this is more controversial than I am thinking it is. I just can't see myself counseling my child to go to college if they have no idea what they want to do and want to start in general education to figure things out or a random degree because it sounds nice with no idea as to how it could get a job.

If you (universal you) had a child in that situation, would you really push them to go to start immediately at a 4-year university and "figure it out?" I'm genuinely curious - polling the audience at large :-).

ETA: I feel like I've moved the goal post a little on this because I'm responding to a few different questions. My main point is that it's a lot of money, I certainly wouldn't recommend it to people who have no idea what they want to do, and that it can definitely be a waste of money (although overall, college graduates certainly make more than non-college graduates - there are mitigating factors for this and some degrees that skew the averages) - and that waste of money is exacerbated by people who go to school to be going to school without a plan, thinking that's what they're supposed to do/have no other options.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 07:23:42 PM by Wolfpack Mustachian »