What if I told you that you would be able to make a great living by the time you were out of high school? Would you believe me? I know that most of us believe, including myself, that in order for us to do something besides flipping burgers at the corner burger joint, we need to go to college, get a degree and then apply for that job where we would be able to enter the workforce. Of course, that job is not a “good job” where we would actually want to stay, because it would not pay well, but the sole purpose of that job would be to give the experience we need to move up to a bigger, better position. It doesn’t have to be that way. With your permission, allow me to shift your train of thought a bit for just a couple minutes while you read this post.
FACT: The average college student graduates with $30,000 dollars in student loan debt. (USA Today)
I graduated with $34,000 and among most of my friends, I was fortunate. My friends over atPenny Bros graduated with $40,000 (brother #1) and $95,000 (brother #2 and wife). The fact is, a good share of jobs actually don’t need a college degree to do. If you aspire to be a doctor, dentist, or lawyer, what is your motivation? If you want to help people, then please go that route. If you main motivation is money, I would suggest trying something different. Here are some statistics:
According to theAmerican Student Dental Association, the average debt for graduating dental students is $287,331 (2017). That is a pretty big debt hill to climb. Yes, the average dentist makes $162,435, however there are many costs not accounted for such as malpractice insurance and buying a practice, not to mention the years of life that were spent with your nose in a book and putting relationships on hold as well as the sleepless nights studying.
Choosing to be a doctor is actually even more expensive. Yes, doctors make on average about $25,000 more than dentists do, however they spend closer to twenty grand on malpractice insurance and they have to do a three year residency program. If you ever wonder what the big deal is about residency, then just talk to any doctor about theirs. I could talk about lawyers, however I think I have made my point clear, there are easier ways to make money and actually get exercise and fresh air while doing it.
Now we can talk about an alternative, an apprenticeship program. I will be talking in the context of the electrical trade, however there are many different trades that have apprenticeship programs as well. With the electrical apprenticeship, there are different payscales depending on how many hours you are into the program. Theoretically, you will be learning more and improving the skills that you are learning, so you will be thus increasing your value to the company. The electrical apprenticeship program is 8000 hours long. That may seem like a lot, however it equates to about 4 years. Do the math, even if you take two weeks off, you can work 40 hours per week and still have worked 2000 hours.
40 (hours) X 50 (weeks) = 2000 (hours worked)
Here is the craziest thing about being in the apprenticeship. There is something called prevailing wage, which just means that an apprentice or journeyman (licenced) electrician has to get paid at least the prevailing wage on certain jobs and the payscale is significant! Prevailing wage is not necessarily your take home pay though. Employers supply benefits (health insurance, incentives, bonuses) that meet or exceed prevailing wage in combination with your hourly wage. In the apprenticeship program, you get a pay raise every 6 months, which is extremely aggressive. If you want to check it out, go to theL&I website. Long story short, you are able to make really good money while going to “school” learning to be an electrician.
It isn’t just about the money though. As an electrician you get to be moving, which is unlike most modern well-paying jobs. There are so many health benefits, I can’t list them here, however if you are interested in learning more, just google some of statistics about sitting verses moving most of the day.
In another post I can talk about how the apprenticeship program speaks to all learning styles, so whether you are a auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, learning will happen in your preferred method in different ways.
Maybe you just do not like being outside. Have you considered engineering? There are options for that path as well. Engineers usually get a degree and then become an E.I.T or engineer in training or they just take the test and become a P.E. or professional engineer. Does the college debt not appeal to you? Never fear, because there are other jobs in the trades field that will speak to you. There are office jobs like being an estimator, project manager, or service coordinator. There are drafters that work with engineers and those that keep the books in order. The sky is the limit and with all of the positions I just mentioned, they only need a high school diploma or GED, with the exception of an engineer.
Knowing all of this, the trades might not be right for you. We need dentists, doctors and lawyers that are passionate about what they do. The workplace can sometimes have foul language, winters can be pretty chilly and the trades start work early and end early. There are economic factors that come into play so when the economy does well, so do electricians. When the economy has trouble, so does the work. All said, as an electrician, you gain an honest trade in which you can have a great career.
To answer my question, there is no secret to making a good living by 22. All you have to do is be willing to put in good hard work and be willing to learn. There are some links to check out below. The economy is good and the demand is high. Lots of tradesmen/tradeswomen are almost to retirement age, so the world is at your fingertips! All you have to do is take that first step!
Mike is a PNW native that enjoys to share new information with people. When he isn't working for Frontier Electric, he enjoys photography, cinematography, hiking and learning how to optimize his health.