Author Topic: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE  (Read 4854 times)

StartingEarly

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I went to tech school and was able to, with the help of some tax breaks and only a summer job, graduate with no debt. I was able to go to school for only two and a half years (would have been two, but I started on the wrong semester for some of the classes). I was working full time in a job making more than $40k before many of my peers would have graduated and found a job. My jobs are hourly instead of salaried, so I have the opportunity to work overtime to get ahead even faster. There is very high demand in the trades since a lot of people don't even consider going into them and the work has become much cleaner and safer than in years past.

Had I gone the traditional route I would likely still be paying off debt or just getting it paid off and I now have almost 100k while it isn't my 26th birthday yet. I am not saying it is the route for everyone, but if you're a young Moustachian or have a child that might be interested in the trades don't use old anecdotes to steer you away. Many people in my field have base wages equal to or greater than 60k a year and with overtime can earn near the 100k mark, some really talented people make closer to the 200k mark depending on what they do. The schedules are also becoming more desireable. While shift work is common some shift work allows you to have anywhere from 3 to 8 day weekends monthly.

OmahaSteph

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2016, 10:06:00 AM »
Yep, my ex went to school for civil engineering (traditional route that took FOREVER and cost s fortune) and we had many conversations about how if our son doesn't want to go the traditional route, we'd be okay with him going to a trade school. Just as long as he does SOMETHING marketable and in demand. College has become such a norm that skilled trades are becoming lost arts and good help is harder to find. Throw in some work ethic and clean drug tests and BAM! You're practically indispensable.

StartingEarly

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2016, 10:15:19 AM »
Yeah, a lot of the really in demand jobs now I see going by the wayside at some point not too far out. A lot of programming and tech support will be outsourced. What's the difference when you have people that are second generation trained to do tech support and there's a hologram of them with you verses a real person?

onlykelsey

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2016, 10:19:25 AM »
I went to tech school and was able to, with the help of some tax breaks and only a summer job, graduate with no debt. I was able to go to school for only two and a half years (would have been two, but I started on the wrong semester for some of the classes). I was working full time in a job making more than $40k before many of my peers would have graduated and found a job. My jobs are hourly instead of salaried, so I have the opportunity to work overtime to get ahead even faster. There is very high demand in the trades since a lot of people don't even consider going into them and the work has become much cleaner and safer than in years past.

Had I gone the traditional route I would likely still be paying off debt or just getting it paid off and I now have almost 100k while it isn't my 26th birthday yet. I am not saying it is the route for everyone, but if you're a young Moustachian or have a child that might be interested in the trades don't use old anecdotes to steer you away. Many people in my field have base wages equal to or greater than 60k a year and with overtime can earn near the 100k mark, some really talented people make closer to the 200k mark depending on what they do. The schedules are also becoming more desireable. While shift work is common some shift work allows you to have anywhere from 3 to 8 day weekends monthly.

Agree 100%.  My best friend's boyfriend is a tradesman, and he did technical schooling through his apprenticeship.  He's 29 and earning well over 100K in rural PA with no college debt, plus he has a pension, etc. 

Of course there's no right answer for everyone, and I'm 29 worth ~330K because I went to college, and four years of graduate school, but it should definitely be considered.

J Boogie

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2016, 10:22:31 AM »
I think you're probably right. 

I'm all for increased respect and enthusiasm for the trades.  I'm a big Matthew Crawford guy and I'm guilty of enjoying Mike Rowe's ramblings as well.

The only drawback in my opinion is that those golden years of getting your first taste of life on your own are hard to come by outside of the university experience.  For some, they're wasted on overdoing it with the alcohol/parties/promiscuity, and but for me the ages of 18 - 20 felt like I had wind in my sails for the first time.

It's a long ways off, but I plan to support my son's decision to go away to a 4 year school if he's really excited about it, and I'll support his decision to pursue education in the trades even if he's not that excited about it.  At 18 you might not really be that excited about anything, but you gotta find a way to make more than minimum wage.


kanga1622

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2016, 10:40:29 AM »
DH and I have discussed encouraging our boys to go to trade school first and use that to help pay their way through a 4 year degree if they so choose. I think the best part of trade school other than the specific job training is that the problem solving skills learned can be a HUGE benefit when you have your own home/vehicle/etc. My dad was a trade school grad and worked as a mechanic his entire life. He also taught himself computers in his late 40s and could give me pointers and shortcuts even when he was in his 70s.

coppertop

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2016, 10:46:58 AM »
My daughter did not attend trade school, but she was trained in her late teens by a local dentist chairside to be a dental assistant.  The pay and hours were great, and when her boss discovered how intelligent she is, he encouraged her to go to college.  She was able to pay most of her college expenses (after getting some grants and such) from her wages working part-time for the dentist.  On breaks from grad school, she was able to get all the work she could handle doing temp work for an agency as a dental assistant.  She flirted briefly with being an EFDA but decided to get the four-year and then the graduate degree instead.  The dental assistant gig was great for her and is something she could fall back on if it were ever necessary. 

Chris22

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2016, 10:51:08 AM »
How does that opinion hold if you remove the student loan debt aspect?  We will pay my daughter's way through school, so she will have no debt upon graduation.  Given that, it would seem to me the higher earnings potential from a traditional college degree would hold more potential. 

Not necessarily applicable to everyone, but a consideration.

Daleth

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2016, 11:09:36 AM »
This is totally true. A decade ago my husband was considering going to trade school to be an aviation mechanic, a two-year degree that cost a grand total of like $18k. At the orientation we attended, a 21-year-old recent grad talked about how he had several offers all over the country before he even graduated, picked the one in the area he wanted to live, and was earning $40k right after he turned 20. One of the prospective students was a girl who, according to her proud father, was a straight-A student at a local high school. She decided to sign up for the aviation mechanic degree instead of going to college. Smart girl.

Who here has read "Shop Class as Soulcraft"? Excellent book on this exact topic, written by a man who got a PhD and worked in a think tank before quitting to become a motorcycle mechanic.

http://www.amazon.com/Shop-Class-Soulcraft-Inquiry-Value/dp/1501265296

onlykelsey

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2016, 11:22:31 AM »
How does that opinion hold if you remove the student loan debt aspect?  We will pay my daughter's way through school, so she will have no debt upon graduation.  Given that, it would seem to me the higher earnings potential from a traditional college degree would hold more potential. 

Not necessarily applicable to everyone, but a consideration.

It's definitely a consideration.  If both college and trade school were free, it seems like the pros and cons would be:

College
Pros:
Meeting other powerful people (and/or their children.  I did not realize this at 17 but it has turned out to be very true.)
Broadening your horizons automatically (you'll meet people from different countries, etc.  I agree you can do this on your own without college, but it's sort of automatic for college)
Higher income potential
More options (if she wants to become a doctor or professor or lawyer or other graduate degree-holding person)
In my experience (as a daughter, granddaughter and friend of people in the trades), it's a nicer place to be a woman

Trade School
Pros:
Less lost income, as you spend less time in school before working and start your way up the salary scale earlier in life
No need for further graduate education to set you on a path for peak earnings
Pensions, health insurance, etc
Guaranteed (above average, if not astronomical) salary

seattlecyclone

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2016, 11:23:08 AM »
How does that opinion hold if you remove the student loan debt aspect?  We will pay my daughter's way through school, so she will have no debt upon graduation.  Given that, it would seem to me the higher earnings potential from a traditional college degree would hold more potential. 

Not necessarily applicable to everyone, but a consideration.

Removing student loan debt from the equation changes the math a bit, but maybe not as much as you think. If you're working until 65, even small differences in salary can make a big difference in lifetime earnings and saving potential. If you're aiming to FIRE by 30, an extra two years in the workforce can make up for a decent difference in starting salary.

Also it's wrong to assume that college will automatically lead to higher salaries. Skilled tradespeople can earn surprising amounts of money, especially once they get some experience and start working for themselves. You still might do better as a college graduate if you go into engineering or certain business disciplines, but it's not a slam dunk.

Hedge_87

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2016, 07:16:35 PM »
I know i have talked about my job before on this forum but I did the tech school route and am glad I did. I am an active outdoors type person who enjoys building things. I was really not interested in sitting in a chair for 8 + hours a day for the rest of my life. I chose to go to a one year "electrical distribution" class (lineman). The first year out of school I made a little over 60k and now 8 years later I make a little over 100 in a very low cost of living area. There are people in my field who make a lot more than I do. However, I really like where I am at, it's pretty low stress and most nights I get to walk out the door at 4:30 and not have to even worry about work until 8 the next morning (except during bad weather). I am currently struggling with pursuing a bachelor's degree or not. Part just for the hell of it and part if I ever want to or have to do something different.

StartingEarly

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2016, 05:12:06 AM »
Another thing that is commonly overlooked is that the trades are the home of non traditional schedules. One of the jobs I am interviewing for has 18 stretches of 5.5 days off per year, every weekend off, ten holidays, and you're never working more than three shifts in a row without one day off. The only downside is it's 12 hour days/night, however they run it well and the transition from nights to days only happens with that 5.5 day minimum break.

If your kids can pass a thorough background check and work well under pressure the nuclear field is very lucrative. One of the jobs I am looking at, not the job listed above, starts at over 31 an hour and that's entry level, it requires a two year degree and passing both the POSS and BMST tests, preference is generally given to four year degrees, but if you're a top student at the two year you should have a good shot.

J Boogie

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2016, 08:00:27 AM »
This is totally true. A decade ago my husband was considering going to trade school to be an aviation mechanic, a two-year degree that cost a grand total of like $18k. At the orientation we attended, a 21-year-old recent grad talked about how he had several offers all over the country before he even graduated, picked the one in the area he wanted to live, and was earning $40k right after he turned 20. One of the prospective students was a girl who, according to her proud father, was a straight-A student at a local high school. She decided to sign up for the aviation mechanic degree instead of going to college. Smart girl.

Who here has read "Shop Class as Soulcraft"? Excellent book on this exact topic, written by a man who got a PhD and worked in a think tank before quitting to become a motorcycle mechanic.

http://www.amazon.com/Shop-Class-Soulcraft-Inquiry-Value/dp/1501265296

I have - I referenced Matthew Crawford earlier.  His writings resonate with me quite a bit.

Can't help but think his liberal arts education has helped give him this perspective though.  His new book is great, it's called "The World Beyond Your Head" and it's written in a VERY academic/philosophical way.  Having a liberal arts education leaves quite a mark

And it's true that you can get a liberal arts education on your own in some ways, but I've never met anyone who didn't go to a 4 year school who gave themselves anything close to a liberal arts education. 

There is one exception actually, his name is Jeff and we grew up skateboarding together.  He traveled alone (I think this is important) to Europe and Africa, climbed Kilimanjaro and stuff.  It definitely wasn't JUST travel that helped him avoid the negative aspects/stereotypes of blue collar life, but I'm guessing travel at a younger age can make a big difference in how you see the world.

And while I'm thinking of exceptions, I know PLENTY of 4 year grads who do not have an educated perspective.  Life is what you make it.

use2betrix

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2016, 06:28:11 PM »
I went to traditional college for a few years and then went to a trade school.

Finished trade school at 21, first job was making 55k a year.

After 2.5 years and a few certs I left for a contract job paying 150k.

Left that job for a while for another contract that paid more.

Got a different full time salary job equal to about 150k again, worked there 2 years.

Left that job last June for another contract position making around 220k-250k depending how much I work. Full benefits (they pay 100% of my insurance) matching 401k vested since day 1, etc.

My results are not typical, obviously, but I have several friends who have done a similar route. I'm also pretty good at what I do. I recently got promoted over my 3 coworkers, all of which are about 20 years older than me. I do travel and work all over. I've lived in 7 cities in the last 4 years. It's great while I'm young though! I do lack job security. My contract was supposed to end in December, then it got renewed until August, but if I can keep kicking ass I may be here the next year and a half.

Daleth

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2016, 08:49:04 AM »
I know i have talked about my job before on this forum but I did the tech school route and am glad I did. I am an active outdoors type person who enjoys building things. I was really not interested in sitting in a chair for 8 + hours a day for the rest of my life. I chose to go to a one year "electrical distribution" class (lineman). The first year out of school I made a little over 60k and now 8 years later I make a little over 100 in a very low cost of living area. There are people in my field who make a lot more than I do. However, I really like where I am at, it's pretty low stress and most nights I get to walk out the door at 4:30 and not have to even worry about work until 8 the next morning (except during bad weather). I am currently struggling with pursuing a bachelor's degree or not. Part just for the hell of it and part if I ever want to or have to do something different.

Look into studying at the Harvard Extension School. You can take almost all your classes online and get a degree for around $20k. A HARVARD degree, I sh!t you not.

Hedge_87

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2016, 05:11:37 AM »
I know i have talked about my job before on this forum but I did the tech school route and am glad I did. I am an active outdoors type person who enjoys building things. I was really not interested in sitting in a chair for 8 + hours a day for the rest of my life. I chose to go to a one year "electrical distribution" class (lineman). The first year out of school I made a little over 60k and now 8 years later I make a little over 100 in a very low cost of living area. There are people in my field who make a lot more than I do. However, I really like where I am at, it's pretty low stress and most nights I get to walk out the door at 4:30 and not have to even worry about work until 8 the next morning (except during bad weather). I am currently struggling with pursuing a bachelor's degree or not. Part just for the hell of it and part if I ever want to or have to do something different.

Look into studying at the Harvard Extension School. You can take almost all your classes online and get a degree for around $20k. A HARVARD degree, I sh!t you not.

Thats pretty interesting. Have you or anybody you've known done this? I would like to know more about this.

HipGnosis

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2016, 08:08:41 AM »
Trade School
Pros:
No need for further graduate education to set you on a path for peak earnings
I can't agree with this.  Perhaps not 'graduate', but virtually all peak earnings are achieved through higher than average education.

HipGnosis

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2016, 08:11:31 AM »
What trades, specifically, do you recommend?

MasterStache

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2016, 11:50:18 AM »
In my previous job I worked with a couple Electrical Engineers who graduated from a 2 year technical college with merely associates degrees. Not technically trade school, but much, much cheaper than the typical state University 4 year degree. In fact if I could do it all over again, I would have completed my first 2 years at the two year school and then transferred credits to the University I ended up graduating from. Would have saved me a boat load of money. 

Daleth

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Re: Tech school may be better than college for those seeking early FIRE
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2016, 07:59:31 PM »
I know i have talked about my job before on this forum but I did the tech school route and am glad I did. I am an active outdoors type person who enjoys building things. I was really not interested in sitting in a chair for 8 + hours a day for the rest of my life. I chose to go to a one year "electrical distribution" class (lineman). The first year out of school I made a little over 60k and now 8 years later I make a little over 100 in a very low cost of living area. There are people in my field who make a lot more than I do. However, I really like where I am at, it's pretty low stress and most nights I get to walk out the door at 4:30 and not have to even worry about work until 8 the next morning (except during bad weather). I am currently struggling with pursuing a bachelor's degree or not. Part just for the hell of it and part if I ever want to or have to do something different.

Look into studying at the Harvard Extension School. You can take almost all your classes online and get a degree for around $20k. A HARVARD degree, I sh!t you not.

Thats pretty interesting. Have you or anybody you've known done this? I would like to know more about this.

I haven't, but a friend of mine is looking into it. You start by taking a class or three online (I think it's three but can't remember), then if your GPA in those classes is B or above you can officially enroll in a degree, and at some point during the process you have to do three or four classes on campus, not online. I believe you could do all those ones in a single semester. When it's time to graduate you can, if you want, fly in and go through that year's commencement ceremony with every other Harvard grad (extension school and regular campus students).

Link:
https://www.extension.harvard.edu/

These are the undergrad options for degrees:
https://www.extension.harvard.edu/academics/undergraduate-degrees/bachelor-liberal-arts-degree/undergraduate-fields-minors

And the graduate options (Master's only, no PhD):
https://www.extension.harvard.edu/academics/graduate-degrees

A 2005 article on it in the NY Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/18/us/harvard-for-less-extension-courses-new-allure.html