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High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up for University (npr.org)
341 points by duck 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 420 comments



Trade skills are a great field to get into, with caveats.

First, construction in general is a pretty up and down industry. Construction booms don't last forever, and in general you need to 'follow the work'. This is great if you are young, single, and willing to chase the high paying jobs. Not so great if you have a strong desire to stay in one spot.

Second, trade jobs are usually pretty tough on the body. After a couple decades of work your body begins to break down, assuming there are no workplace injuries to put you out of commission sooner.

Third, workplace conditions are on average undesirable. Outdoors in the heat/cold, or indoors in tight spaces or high places. It's tough sell over companies that glorify bean bag chairs, nap pods, and free beer on hand.

Fourth, there's a social stigma around trade skill jobs. Blue collar jobs have gained a reputation of being jobs held by slackers or the less fortunate. Unfortunately, wearing workboots carries a stigma that wearing a shirt and tie/'startup' attire doesn't.

Fifth, and this one may seem like a silly reason to most, the drug testing (for marijuana specifically) is a huge barrier of entry. From a safety perspective, it makes sense. But for better or worse, marijuana use is becoming more socially accepted while work places (and in particular trade jobs) are lagging behind the times. Removing a marijuana screen from standard workplace testing would help revitalize the employee pool.

Sixth, and this is arguably the biggest one, four year degrees are seen as a status symbol and are being sold to use as such. They are Big Education, and are pulling on all the right strings to keep the tuition/student debt machine running. Advocating for trade jobs is in direct competition. They have enough players in their pockets (donors, alumnus, politicians) to keep the money flowing in the right direction. Selling someone on trade school/work is hard when it is seen as the less optimal path towards 'life success'.

All of these observations are based off my fathers experience as union based pipe fitter/welder for >30 years.


> Second, trade jobs are usually pretty tough on the body. After a couple decades of work your body begins to break down, assuming there are no workplace injuries to put you out of commission sooner.

the electrician i hire is in better shape than i'll ever be in, despite being about 50. pretty sure he makes about what i do, too.

> Third, workplace conditions are on average undesirable. Outdoors in the heat/cold, or indoors in tight spaces or high places.

ignoring high rises and installing solar panels, i feel like it isn't much worse than the stuff a lot of folks do on a regular basis to get exercise to make up for all the sitting they do all day, or just recreationally.


I've done roofing and it is really hard on your body regardless of the good condition it puts you in. Sure you can lift 200lbs of shingles up a ladder on your shoulders but your ankles ache 100% of the time and your knees start to click. I only did it for a couple of years at 18 and I regret it to this day. I didn't go and work on big projects it was mostly housing but it wasn't safe at all. Also it isn't anywhere similar to going out for a 30 min run in the park. If it is -10 and you have to get a job done because it is technically not raining or snowing you go out and do it for 8 hours. If it is 140 on the roof of a house and you have to walk up and down it with a pick ripping the roof off you do it for 8 hours. Those conditions happened all the time.


I only did it for a couple of years at 18 and I regret it to this day.

Curious, have you ever talked to a physical therapist? I've learned a lot of the maladies people live with are correctable, even sometimes things that seem permanent. Many running overuse injuries, for example, boil down to muscle weakness, muscle imbalance, or bad posture.


Specifically, look into myofascial release therapy or muscle activation therapy.

Without seeing a therapist, try doing this every day or every few days to elongate your 'posterior chain' and help your posture reset (which will help your knees, ankles, elbows operate under less duress): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BOTvaRaDjI


Have you noticed healthcare costs in US?

Why would you blow all your salary? On something that is uncertain to work?


Physical therapists are not expensive, and most times prescribe a set of exercises to do at home. If your condition is really bad, you might go in for a visit once a month for six months. So you might be out $500, if you have a high deductible plan.


I would also like to point out that if you are over 30, you got something that needs to be fixed that a Physical Therapist can fix. Don't go your whole life in pain or even annoyance.


Roofing (and drywall as well) are not really what I would call "trades." They are basically grunt work jobs that require a minimum of skill and training. Most of the guys I've met who do that work are either very young, illegal, or so screwed up on alcohol or drugs that they can't do much else.


A relative has been a roofer for most of his working life (maybe all), which is very long now. There's a talent to it -- a skilled roofer will provide a roof that never leaks, never sags, never loses a shingle to the wind. This relative is such a roofer. It's awful work and he's had multiple serious injuries, but it's still possible to be really good at it.


There's a bit of an art to finishing off drywall and mudding it in to make everything smooth and nice-looking. The difference between somebody who is good at it and amateur work is significant.


This.

As a DIYer for 8 years 'ish, mudding drywall is an art. Where it might take me 4 or 5 (or 6) to get a good finish on joints or corners, it might take a pro 1 or 2 coats and very minimal if not none sanding in between. Primer and 2 coats of paint won't fill in imperfections greater then an 1/16th in diameter so if you have a lot of imperfections, you'll see it in the finished product.

Let's not even discuss mudding ceilings. The amount of upper body strength needed is amazing, let alone good balance on a ladder.


Yup, just because something can be done by a "grunt" does not mean that there isn't skill required to do it well. My girlfriend just moved into a house that can be best described as "the victim of a flip" and you can immediately see the difference between work was done by a pro and someone who is just banging on the keys.


When my dad & I built a house together. We outsourced the drywall and indoor paint job. Drywall is serious detail work, takes too long to get it right if you haven't done it a bunch.


The "trades" covers a lot of ground. Some of it is going to be hard on your body. But electrical is probably less bad in general. I also have a friend who is (or at least was) in the steelworker's union; she got into HVAC after Ringling Brothers clown college didn't land a permanent gig. She mostly does design work. Not everything is roofing, which as a peer wrote is probably fairly tough in general.


Sounds like she's got an office job that is not much different from what programmers do. I once spent 3 minutes in the attic while HVAC guys were replacing my unit. They were hauling/removing through a tiny opening in the ceiling and installing heavy stuff for several hours. And July in the South is not a 'recreational' season.


My point was that the trades don't automatically mean "hauling/removing through a tiny opening in the ceiling and installing heavy stuff for several hours" although they can. She does have to spend a fair bit of time onsite.


That might be survivorship bias, plus in the end it's just anecdotes.

What do life/health/disability insurance companies think? They might charge higher prices to people in more dangerous professions, and they have big incentives to get it right.


They do. I used to work on that, and while I don't have access to the list right now, I remember there were differences (not that big though).


You're literally replying to a trend by stating your one exception. Back pain from sitting is nowhere near the level of debilitation one can get from having a workplace injury. Moreover, a workplace injury can threaten your very ability to do your work, while a hurting back won't ruin your ability to code or do paper shuffling.


> ignoring high rises and installing solar panels, i feel like it isn't much worse than the stuff a lot of folks do on a regular basis to get exercise to make up for all the sitting they do all day, or just recreationally.

So true, also earning is relational, if you are in a group of high paid folks, you tend to feel you earn less, not matter how much you earn more than average income.

On a relational note to the exercise portion, the max a high earning person often dream (and afford) about is spending a week in a beach 'hut' on a 'remote' island while there are several penniless people who just live on a beach hut for 365 days often without experiencing half the stress.


its hard to ignore high rises when you start out. as a journeyman you have to carry all the tools up the stairs before the elevators are wired up, and thats when your knees go.


There's a distinction between physical conditioning and functional wellbeing. Look at any elite athlete whose joints and ligaments are betraying them.


>Fifth, and this one may seem like a silly reason to most, the drug testing (for marijuana specifically) is a huge barrier of entry. From a safety perspective, it makes sense. But for better or worse, marijuana use is becoming more socially accepted while work places (and in particular trade jobs) are lagging behind the times. Removing a marijuana screen from standard workplace testing would help revitalize the employee pool.

Perhaps (and I'm granting some leeway here) we don't yet have the tools or the data to understand well enough how something like THC affects motor skills like we do with alcohol, but someday I expect we will. Work places (particularly those with high safety concerns) shouldn't make any sacrifices just because something is socially acceptable. You can't show up drunk, and alcohol is more socially accepted than marijuana.


We don't have accurate ways to test if you're high though. We can only test if you've done it in the past few days/weeks.

Fire someone for showing up to work drunk, sure. But would you fire them for a bottle of wine on a Saturday night?


>Fire someone for showing up to work drunk, sure. But would you fire them for a bottle of wine on a Saturday night?

If alcohol was like THC (that is, it's impossible to determine whether you drank in the last hour or the last week), I sure as hell don't want people who test positive driving.


This is inaccurate. Oral tests are effective around 8-12 hours from use.


Still too broad a range, smoking some weed at 7pm doesn't necessarily make you unsafe at 7am. Zero tolerance is unrealistic and unnecessary for most jobs that drug test.


There's not another viable test though that can act on a shorter window than that. Companies aren't out of line for not wanting their employees to be working while under the influence of marijuana - the problem isn't that they're being too strict ('zero tolerance'), it's that they don't have a granular test that would suffice.

That, plus marijuana is still illegal in most states. Whatever your personal conviction may be, businesses aren't in the business to turn the blind eye to illegal substance use. They're on the hook for liability.


> plus marijuana is still illegal in most states

NPR recently pointed out that if you include medical marijuana this is no where close to true with it being legal in 29 states: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_U.S....


Oral tests are very inaccurate and the false positive rate is huge (can be more that 50% for some manufacturers, you're better off flipping a coin). To my best knowledge, oral tests are usually confirmed with urine and/or blood samples (at least that's the procedure if you test positive while driving here).

So as far as I know, there isn't a reliable and accurate way of testing.


Using DUIs as an example, these cover things besides alcohol, can be prescription drugs, probably other things that impair motor function (IANAL).

Roadside DUI test is a general test for motor impairment. BAC tests are a nice proxy for that in the case of alcohol, and a legally convenient one as they are precise and objective, but the police care (morally speaking) about your motor impairment not your BAC.

tl;dr, we can already answer the question "is this person too stoned to drive?", roadside DUI test.


Disagree. Motor impairment is one issue, yes, but so is mental impairment. People under the influence of drugs can have poor decision making, even if their motor skills are fine. Driving on meth is still driving under the influence, and those people would generally not have any trouble with a roadside gymnastics demonstration.


Who's talking about meth?


Sounds to me like you're trying to find a rational answer when it's likely just politics.

There's tons of (acceptable) prescription drugs that have a worse effect on performance than THC being in your system from the weekend before. Someone's glucose level being outside the norm would have a larger effect.

> Work places (particularly those with high safety concerns) shouldn't make any sacrifices just because something is socially acceptable.

Should it be illegal to be on the job while sick? Good luck getting that legislated.


>we don't yet have the tools or the data to understand well enough how something like THC affects motor skills like we do with alcohol, but someday I expect we will.

We do have some understanding and data: very slightly, the most consistently measurable affect being minimally impared depth perception. Treating marijuana intoxication as a high risk imparment to motor function is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Relating the equation of motor function impairment caused by marijuana to that of alcohol or for that matter many other intoxicants (including a multitude of very commonly used pharmaceuticals and stimulants) sure seems a bit ignorant or uninformed to me. I'm not advocating marijuana use, especially when performing potentially dangerous actions that require attention and possibly urgent corrective action (driving, operating dangerous equiptment, performing surgery, etc.). But do consider there's plenty of professional athletes who have preformed some of the highest level coordination, precision and reaction time dependant functions of humanity while being under the influence of THC. Sorry to rant, but I think it's important to remember that people using alcohol cause an awful lot of harmful, deadly, and easily avoidable accidents. DUI's and similar restrictions are a direct result of that fact. I've looked for but have never seen evidence that shows an even remotely similar risk from THC consumption. If anyone is aware of data indicating otherwise, please share.


The point is not that you should be allowed to show up high. It's that drug tests unfairly discriminate against people who use MJ responsibly.


Precisely, and made even worse by the fact that you can take a bump or few on Friday and likely be fine by Monday, but smoke a joint and you're fucked.


> You can't show up drunk, and alcohol is more socially accepted than marijuana.

I think you misunderstood the MJ testing. MJ stays in the blood stream, and you can be caught by a random drug test on Tuesday for that joint you had on Saturday.

OP was not, I think, arguing for working 'high'


Isn't much of workplace drug-testing related to lower insurance premiums? Or is that an overstated myth? I've heard this repeatedly, but haven't read anything definitive.


[Comment ignores hairsplitting over whether aviation is a profession or a trade. The point is there are many career options that do not require a college degree.]

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is rolling out a high-school STEM curriculum[0] for aviation. There are lots of options for aviation careers such as dispatcher, air traffic control, airframe & powerplant mechanic, and of course pilot.

A pilot who wants to make captain at one of the major U.S. airlines will want to add a four-year degree somewhere along the way, e.g., as a military officer or as a civilian climbing the ratings ladder. Part 121 is only one segment of the aviation market.

The FAA recently changed the required equipment for the commercial-pilot and certificated flight instructor (CFI) checkrides. Candidates for either rating until recently had to provide a complex airplane (retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable-pitch propeller). These take more time to train in and hence more expense.

[0]: https://youcanfly.aopa.org/high-school/high-school-curriculu...


There are lots of options for aviation careers such as dispatcher

A bit of first hand here, I'm currently pivoting over to this-there is absolutely demand for flight dispatchers right now. There's two kickers though I learned along this course that was not immediately apparent:

1) While you can take the first phase of your ADX training online, virtually every school that offers this program requires a portion of in-class instruction, which for some is a deal breaker...mostly due to

2) The number of available schools is not that great; the majority are on either coast, with only a dotting of schools to choose from in the interior US.

3) It's not the cheapest professional license one could obtain, but there are others that are far more expensive (welding for example, excluding training and licensing and simply purchasing durable and quality work gear can be a heft cost)

Still, that said...I have a friend who also decided to go out and become an ADX. She took the FAA exam, passed and was employed in under a month (this required relocation on her part).


My younger older brother wanted to be an opera singer and majored in vocal performance, doing a variety of jobs like landscaping, manual labor, selling insurance, directing church choirs (doesn't pay well at all but was tied with his sense of mission), etc. I think he was a great singer, perhaps even professional opera quality -- but in that world you need to be the top 2% of the top 2%, maybe, to make a living at it, and to be in the right place at the right time.

So with a wife and two kids and in his late 20's, he decided one day he was going to be a pilot. Already in precarious financial circumstances, he took out some huge loans to go to flight school. We all were concerned it might not turn out so well. He worked up to a pilot license, twin-engine license, flight instructor license, commercial license. He got a series of cargo jobs ... and >> they pay extremely low wages and require lots of odd hours and time waiting around away from home. << It wasn't easy, pay was low, for many many years. These outfits all make money by squeezing employee pay and by skimping on maintenance -- and he had a couple of emergency landings in the Arizona desert amongst the cacti and boulders.

He eventually got some jobs flying real people around for >> minor airlines <<, and bounced between those and other cargo jobs. Pay was still low. He also spent a stint in the Central African Republic helping a real nice Sudanese gentleman start an airline. There are lots of mining companies that need to fly around equipment and engineers even in a poverty-striken country, and lots of rich Portuguese folks wanting a real African dense-jungle hunting experience. The biggest risks for a while were precarious landing strips and corrupt government officials (they managed to pay zero bribes by just saying "no" to solicitations, holding out, and working their way up the hierarchy). A revolution came along to destroy the airline dream, and he was lucky the French military managed to pick him and other expats up from his neighborhood before the worst came along.

In his last "podunk" air cargo job, the airplane he was operating malfunctioned due to poor maintenance. The company wanted to pin the damage on him and his lack of procedure (he's very conscientious) and tried their best to break him on an unreasonable simulator test -- he managed to come out of that unscathed. Fortunately he'd just interviewed with America West and got the word the next day he was hired to fly 757's.

So it took my brother about 15 years to work from his first commercial job to becoming a full-fledged airline pilot in the majors ... and he had to work many marginal jobs for low pay in the interim. It's worked out well for him. He's flown 757's for various years on many routes, but most commonly now does Phoenix <--> Hawaii. There have been more challenges stemming from America West's acquisition pseudo-mergers with first the bankrupt US Airways, then the bankrupt American Airlines ... labor and seniority issues in the airlines are never easy, especially during mergers.

He's had time to get a Comp-Sci degree in the mean time while working "reserve" and started a decent-sized Salesforce consultancy and recruited some other family to work in that. (That consultancy kind of blew up ... working with family is hard, but that's a different story.) He flies and does Salesforce consulting now and is reasonably happy.


Does he still pursue hobbies associated with opera singing?


Yes ... he participates in a classical choral group, and has sung in and/or led church choirs until they inevitably get cut from the priorities and budget as "worship bands" become the sole musical style in middle America protestant churches.


> Indy Center, Superswell 1337, level fife thousaaaaaaand!


Wow, your brother is an inspiration. Such hard work! I'm glad to hear he's in a solid place now.


Please try to take a more cynical view of someone having to work hard enough to be an "inspiration" and nearly die twice just to reach "reasonably happy"!


I just don't see much chance that tannhausee23 changes his opinion on this. ;)


Wow, I think there is a Robert Frost verse about the path less taken making all the difference. Perhaps optioning a screenplay will be the financial windfall.


I think there is a Robert Frost verse about the path less taken making all the difference.

There is, but it might not mean what you're thinking it means.


How well does being a pilot pay, eg. entry level and at the 2, 5 and 10 year marks?


It's pretty bad. Yes, once you get the brass ring of 777 captain at a major airline, it's $300k. You need 1500 hours even to be in the right seat at a regional airline now though. Since everyone needs those hours, it's hard to get them without paying for them. You can instruct, but there are only so many students, so you spend a lot of time sitting around or doing unpaid work for the flight school. People tend to get creative like going overseas, working for almost nothing for marginal cargo operators, etc. Ultimately, you're probably going to pay about $70 per hour of flight time, whether it's cash or opportunity cost. Ultimately, IMO the best way to hit the magic number is to buy a very fuel efficient trainer and spend a year or two flying around a whole lot.

The number of years it takes to go from regional FO to major Captain is extremely dependent on the economy. Since everything is based on seniority, if there is a downturn, airlines fly less flights and need less pilots, so basically your career goes on hold because no one is getting promoted. When things are good, you move quickly up the ranks.

To your direct question, once you have all of your ratings and your 1500 hours, plus a 4 year college degree (required at major airlines) (figure 6 years and $200-250k in debt), at 2 years you are probably FO at a regional, $50k/yr. At 5 years, captain at a regional, 80k/yr, 10 years, FO at a major, $150k/yr.

If the economy tanks, you stall and might be laid off or furloughed. If your airline goes bankrupt, you scramble to find another job and start at the bottom of the FO totem pole again. If you have almost any health problem or require most any medication, you lose your medical and find another line of work. If further automation leads to a single pilot cockpit (fairly likely IMO in the next 20 years), you either lose your job or take a big pay cut.


Thanks for the detailed reply.


Enormously depends. Captain at a major airline will earn you a nice 6 figure salary. Copilot at a regional airline is pretty much at the poverty line. Unfortunately that's where you need to start, often.


Captains at majors can make upwards of $200k or $300k.

First officer salaries at regional airlines have come up to start in the skilled trade range, $60k plus. Regional captains make $80k and up. (It used to be awful, $20-30k.) Getting to that point in the Part 121 world takes a lot of training and expense. Candidates for the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate must have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours.

Other commercial flying such as hauling cargo, air taxi, or private charter may require a commercial single or commercial multi certificate with instrument rating. These pay about like the skilled trades too.


I think you're glossing over the point,] that's been made by others in this thread, that while you're building up that 1500 hrs. of flying time you're getting paid not much more than minimum wage. i.e. the salary at 2 years is quite low.


since I am not in the know, how well does that compare to the internships many in the medical field must take on?


For those who may not be familiar with FAA regulations, there are many routes to being a professional pilot other than being an airline transport pilot (ATP) flying Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 121. As with all things FAR, it’s complicated, so a detailed treatment from the very first comment would quickly become boring and overwhelming.

Reaching ATP minimum required 1,500 flight hours has multiple routes to it. Unfortunately for people who work their way up through the ratings as civilians, they are competing against retired military pilots who did not go into debt for their training and who are receiving pension payments. (Military aviators certainly paid for their training in a different way, and I am making no comparison of their respective costs.) Retired military pilots are frequently hired directly to major airlines whereas Billy and Susie Civilian start off at regional airlines.

Even with ATP certificate in hand, it’s not yet fat city. Airline pilots have to work their way up through the seniority ranks, beginning with crummy ready reserve where they sit around hoping for a ride. Other flavors are short call and long call, the difference being how quickly the pilot must report for duty after receiving the call. Moving up to more desirable bases and aircraft goes through a complicated bid process[0].

[0]: https://www.reddit.com/r/flying/comments/8eaupt/moronic_mond...

Yes, compensation relative to the training expense used to be horrible for first officers and even captains at regional airlines, starting in the $20k range annual compensation. Again recall that military retirees have their mailbox money coming in. Because of the pilot shortage, first officers at regionals now start around $60k annually.

Two common civilian paths to ATP minimums are becoming a certificated flight instructor (CFI) or flying aerial survey, photography, air tours, private carriage, diver driver (i.e., flying skydivers) and so on. In reality, there may be some blend because all of the aforementioned tasks require a commercial pilot certificate. Because the airlines are a training environment, there is at least some degree of preference for CFIs rather than someone who schlepped around for a thousand hours towing a banner over the beach in a 152. These are not minimum-wage jobs. Someone with a wet commercial ticket might make twenty bucks an hour. Here again, the would-be ATP is competing against fellow time builders trying to get to 1,500 hours. More advanced instructors (e.g., CFI-Instrument, commercial instruction, or complex instruction) command a higher hourly rate, and instructors get paid for both flight time and for ground instruction. It’s not great money, but they aren’t starving either: starting in the $30k range up to the $50s — a lot like apprentices in the skilled trades.

Candidates for the commercial pilot checkride must have at least 250 flight hours. The commercial airplane ticket comes in four flavors along two axes: single- or multi-engine and land or sea. The least expensive is airplane single-engine land (ASEL). To reach that point, trainers in this class rent between $100 and $200 per flight hour “wet,” inclusive of fuel. Include instruction, test fees, gear, and the cost of an instrument rating (which I am glossing over) will total to around $30k. Some flight schools and operators of multi-engine aircraft will foot the bill for the multi rating and MEI in exchange for some number of flight hours on the back end with a clawback if the pilot leaves for another opportunity.


Air traffic control specialists make a lot of money and quickly. This line of work does not require a college degree, and once someone certifies, she’s making six figures in less than seven years — maybe sooner.


I think you keep overlooking the path taken to get to the point of making those six figures.

I would love if someone in the industry could shed some light here. I have two friends early in an ATC career and it sounded like getting to where they are now was hell (and they definitely aren't at the 6 figure mark yet). The most reductive way I've had it explained is it's years of training, with shit pay and relocation, and the possibility of washing out along the way being relatively high.


Yes, ATC specialists who are living the good life are definitely survivors. It is a specialized aptitude that not everyone has controlled by a federal bureaucracy and a union. People wait for months and years for OTS (off the street) bids, take a battery of tests, receive a TOL (tentative offer letter), and wait months for a slot at the ATC academy at Oklahoma City.

Assuming our hero passes the academy, she is then assigned to an Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC or just Center), an air traffic control tower (ATCT), or an “up-down” facility with both a control tower and TRACON, terminal radar approach control. Certifying in just one sector may take a year or two. Trainees make upwards of $30k annually. Someone who washes out may look at transferring to a less demanding facility. People also request hardship transfers to be closer to family and so on, but ATC is chronically understaffed, and obtaining those transfers takes time.

As with pilots (see another reply in this thread[0]), military ATC experience is often a more expedient route. FAA controllers tend to discount the skill and decision making of former Army controllers who mostly deal with low-flying slow movers under VFR rather than jets under positive control.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16941169

Oh by the way, our hero must get in (I believe be admitted to the academy) before her 31st birthday. The clock is ticking.

Yes, there is survivorship bias in the success stories. People wash out of other careers too. Seeing actual data on rates would be fascinating. For balance, read the “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?” chapter of Freakonomics.


Blue collar jobs have gained a reputation of being jobs held by slackers or the less fortunate.

Ironic given that plenty of blue collar professionals can make a lot more than your average worker in many degreed professions. (That's not to say the average blue collar wage is higher)

I feel like referencing welding is pretty cliche, but for example:

http://profoundlydisconnected.com/welding-is-a-100000-job/


> Ironic given that plenty of blue collar professionals can make a lot more than your average worker in many degreed professions.

No they don't, this is a myth that has become perpetuated in recent years.

Mike Rowe might mean well by writing articles like this, but the content is a lie. The median salary of a welder in the US is $40,240 a year according to the BLS. People are essentially selling an entire generation a load of BS in order to flood the market with cheap labor instead of paying them more.

There are some welders who make $100k a year, but they are several standard deviations above the mean. Those $100k/welders are like the $5MM/yr programmers. Yeah, they exist, but only in the top 1% of workers.

I don't want my kids to be tradespeople. I watched 2008 destroy the careers of every tradesperson friend I had, along with nearly wiping out my family's (second-generation) construction business. I had talented friends in their early 20s that were forced to move back in with family after having their work hours cut to 2-3/hr a week (but they had to report to work everyday). The ones with family safety nets went to college, those without joined the military.


A half-way decent welder can generally make $20/hr, and live in low cost of living areas. That's a good living for many people.

If you're willing to accept the boom-or-bust nature of construction projects, or remote (as in, go to where work is in demand) work, you can make considerably more. Then there's overtime, which your salaried white-collar worker doesn't get at all.


Then again, the white collar worker spends evening with his familly. Travelling worker does not and it makes relationship with both kids and wife harder. You have to factor that in too. There is reason why remote work pays more.


Most white collar ( real workers ) spend their evenings doing house shores and their brain is already in half a coma.


At least in Canada common rate is about $40+ for a decent welder


They do in locations such as California.


Sure, but $20 an hour isn't really "more" than what people are making in degreed professions.

> Then there's overtime, which your salaried white-collar worker doesn't get at all.

Not true across the board - in fact, many mid-paying office jobs are hourly and do pay overtime. I know a bunch of people that worked at AT&T as "salaried" workers, but they still needed to log their hours toward projects, and received 1.5x pay when they worked more than 40/wk, which was most weeks.


Can make a lot more means nothing if you don't look at the distribution. According to Payscale[1] more than 90% of welders make less than $26/hour. I'm sure that there exists some welders that make 6 figures but 9/10 out of them don't come within a mile of that.

1. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Welder/Hourly_Rate


The downside being, of course, that your vision only lasts so long as a welder.


Why is that? If you wear your PPE (helmet with appropriate shade while welding, face shield while grinding), I would think you would be protected.


You largely are, but incremental damage does happen through error largely.

Examples:

Difficult to see work becomes root cause if phase error between protection in place and start of arc.

Ever glance over and see the bright arc? Hard to not do that.

Use of marginal protection happens for a ton of reasons.

Each flash exposure adds up.


Yeah, and my experience with welders (used to supervise shipyard jobs on drilling rigs) is that a lot of them are pretty bad with eye protection while using cutting torches as well.


Oh good call. Those are well above safe limits. I see this all the time myself.


Yep - this largely what I've been told. Incidental flashes and cumulative exposure.


Less so your vision and more your lungs.


The salary distribution function has a much different shape, trades vs. college. The expectation value of Total lifetime earnings does too.


All points agreed with - and I'll add to the sixth.

>"Parents want success for their kids," said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. "They get stuck on [four-year bachelor's degrees],

What parents want is to be able to brag on their kids. Which is to say, they want to be able to boast that their kid went to a presigious university and now holds a prestigious job. And the Education-Industrial Complex (tm) has milked that for everything it's worth. Which is trillions of USD.

Seventh, the people who work in the trades have a rep as rabidly anti-intellectual, for whom Playboy magazine is "too snooty."


> the people who work in the trades have a rep as rabidly anti-intellectual, for whom Playboy magazine is "too snooty."

This is an odd example; Playboy's whole thing was that it featured high-class literary content, so you could read it "for the articles". It was intentionally snooty as a branding choice helping it contrast with, say, Hustler.


You expounded my point brilliantly. I was thinking of Playboy / Hustler when I made that statement.


This one could be avoided with better norms.

"See that awesome building with the cool lights? My kid wired the whole thing, passed code inspection the first time."

Frankly, accomplishments like that are worth talking up. We play, live, build, do as we do in relative comfort and safety because of the hard, quality work trades people do.

It's like the old saw, "nobody values the plumber, until they do." When they do, they really do.

All of us could be messaging to this in basic, affirmative ways. I think it would help.

Meta: what is the post limit? I can't seem to interact reasonably. Nothing out of the ordinary, but too fast... ?


Brilliant analysis, and accurate. I worked as a builder for a few years, and the social stigma really bothered me. Baby boomers were the worst offenders.


On the other hand, there's a stigma to being a programmer:

https://www.damemagazine.com/2014/05/23/amazon-killing-my-se...


there is no stigma, there is a stereotype, and it is individual's choice whether to live up to it. I don't know a single guy in tech who had trouble getting dates or socializing with people through the fault of anything but their own. There is no stigma against people in tech, there is a stigma against a certain type of person that is easily found in (but not limited to) tech.

A lot of people live up to the stereotype though, and that's where the author of the article is coming from. To repeat a saying I heard a lot during my undergrad at a Stem-heavy school that had male-dominated ratio - "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."


> there is no stigma

I think there is a stigma.

When single I remember the intense look of an interested girl, that switched off at hearing what my job was.

However, I also think that is offset by some positive bias towards looking for wrll paid professional partners.

The stigma exists. I do think it is fairly easy to avoid its effects (don't be the "undesirable" stereotype). I also think most jobs have a stigma, with negative reactions from some people.

If someone only sees you as your job, that is their problem!


> When single I remember the intense look of an interested girl, that switched off at hearing what my job was.

Maybe try telling her you’re a plumber and seeing what the reaction is as a comparison.


The plumbers I know all have pretty hot wives. Not sophisticated, for the most part, but quite attractive by mainstream American standards


Yeah I've been in tech for 30 years and have worked with hundreds of people and I can't recall a single one who wasn't a nerd or geek in some way.


> there is no stigma, there is a stereotype

For this thread, there is no difference.


He was good-looking enough, but I wasn’t going to be able to get it up for a boring tech dude. And my city, Seattle, like San Francisco is lousy with them.

Poor her. She should move to a city with less intelligent and successful men, I suppose.


There must be chemistry. Compatible minds, attraction, love/lust, ... luck, whatever chemistry really is. If feelings aren't mutual, then I don't see the point of it.

Luck is a great factor. He might have dodged a bullet, she might have made the wrong choice. Frankly I don't give a damn about them. I've turned down worthy people, I've been turned down by less-worthy ones, and reverse. It doesn't matter. I don't have any regrets.

Programmers, like all people, can be good looking, physically fit, not socially awkward(?:, successful, financially stable/rich, confident, healthy, faithful, non-promiscuous, happy, etc., etc.)? and good in bed. The exact opposite can also happen. Most times it's a variable combination and that's just the way it is. That is how nature works.

Tastes and opinions (not only prejudices) can change and people can find themselves compromising as they grow older. This is what matters to me, I don't want to see myself regretting choices related to my love life.


Meh. Feminists bloggers have a notorious axe to grind with developers (this is Dame magazine after all). In my experience, regular people don’t try to project this stereotype on tech employees. Most people will not know what a “brogrammer” is.


obviously most people in seattle and SF are going to know what a brogrammer is, they make up a huge part of the city’s biggest industry


Incorrect. Most people outside of the blogging bubble have not heard of this term. Also incorrect that a “huge part of the city’s industry” is “brogrammers”. The vast majority of programmers are just that, programmers.

I’ve been in the industry my entire adult life and have never met one of these mythical creatures. After all, the term started off as a joke developers themselves would use then got co-opted by anti-tech people and used literally.


I have serious doubts the same stigma exists for employees of other tech companies.


Maybe this will help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuIOGazSmHg

(It's from the 90's.)


I dunno, but in my experience generally speaking the folks at top companies are well adjusted and have lots of interesting hobbies, at least the ones I know of at FB and a few startups. My guess is it's a consequence of graduating from elite institutions.


Engineers are pretty much never the heroes in Hollywood productions, they're usually portrayed as sidekicks at best, and usually pathetic objects of scorn. The Big Bang Theory is just the most obvious example.


Hollywood is full of negative stereotypes of all sorts, especially of women (an entire gender); and well actually men too. it’s not a good barometer of this.


Counter-example: Ironman.

Though, I guess he's also a rich playboy who happens to build robots powered by advanced AI.


Adding onto/tying together the second and third of your points:

Some trades will take you to awful places to live and work. For example, if your job takes you into the oil fields, there's a good chance you're going to Bakken, and North Dakota/eastern Montana is just a fundamentally terrible place to be, winter or summer, and the usual boomtown criminality and lack of resources only makes it worse.

That's tough on your family, too: Those places don't have good schools. The after-school activities consist of drugs, drinking, and driving under the influence of one or both to get to and from the places you do both or either. There's a reason there's a meth/opioid epidemic in those regions, and it isn't because they have a vibrant social scene with plenty of gathering places you can walk to most of the year.

I lived in Havre for ten years, including my high school years, and I have, if anything, understated the problems because Havre isn't nearly as bad as the Bakken region.


>Fifth, and this one may seem like a silly reason to most, the drug testing (for marijuana specifically) is a huge barrier of entry. From a safety perspective, it makes sense. But for better or worse, marijuana use is becoming more socially accepted while work places (and in particular trade jobs) are lagging behind the times. Removing a marijuana screen from standard workplace testing would help revitalize the employee pool.

Marijuana and heavy machinery don't mix well... I can't speak to how long you have to be clean to pass a test, so it's possible that these tests select for people who _never_ use, versus people who got high 30 minutes ago. Even if it's the latter, one could argue that any use means someone could be high at the wrong time. I don't really have enough information on drug use patterns to comment here; perhaps someone else does?


Nor does alcohol mix well with heavy machinery, but just because someone may drink alcohol at some point in the future doesn't mean they will before they operate deadly machinery. The same would apply to marijuana. A stable considerate employee wouldn't use either substance while performing their duties, so maybe we should be screening for something like mental stability, aptitude for identifying/avoiding high-risk behavior etc. instead of trying to run a catch-all for potential drug users.


Marijuana can be detected in a urine test for 3 days after use for a non-user.

If you're a frequent smoker, it can last be detected over a month after your last use. Even longer in hair tests.

Obviously being high at work isn't a good thing, but neither is being drunk at work. But you don't get fired for having a few beers on the weekend.


I believe it's on the order of weeks. I don't buy that someone who smoked two weeks ago is liable to get high on the job. If someone drinks on the weekend, should we automatically worry they're liable to operate machinery drunk?


>I can't speak to how long you have to be clean to pass a test

Several days at least. Weekend smokers are out.


You missed the advertised by media doom of those jobs by automation and artificial intelligence.


There will be plumbers and hairdressers long after the last lawyer and accountant have been replaced by AI.


How do you automate HVAC, plumbing, land scaping, etc. Gonna send a robot into my home and fix things?


I don't think anyone can guarantee what will or will not be automated in 10 years, let alone the 40+ year span that the average high school graduate can expect their career to last. That said, past trends hint at it being more likely that manual labor positions will be decreasingly lucrative as time goes on.


Well my dad's construction company is doing a lot more prefab in warehouses which is not only more efficient but removes hazard pay (elevation related). This would not be possible if not for the advances in BIM software.


Prefab, and technologies that reduce labor. It won't eliminate labor completely, but will reduce demand.

My house is full of copper plumbing, all cut and soldered together by hand. The wiring is all in hard conduit. Today, conduit is gone, and plumbers assemble things using flexible tubing and fittings that get squeezed onto the ends (for lack of the correct terminology).

I doubt that fixing things will ever provide as much work as construction.


Gonna send in the nanotechnology ;)


It’s more like you have a smart home with dozens of sensors and IoT devices that will have some self-healing capabilities. Don’t forget the always-on listening device and screen so you can be brainwashed daily.


Of all the jobs to automate, I see the building trades being replaced last.


There's a startup building prefabricated house using robots and cheap labor in a factory, with very little professional work on site.

But on the other hand, yesterday we had an article here about visual coding, and according to some it can build very complex application with much higher productivity(and maybe the work becomes accessible to business analysts and domain experts, maybe).

So it's hard to tell these days.


>There's a startup building prefabricated house using robots and cheap labor in a factory,

Not my area but various companies have been trying to do this sort of thing forever. I can remember reading stories about partially pre-manufactured modular homes decades ago and it's never panned out. It seems to be one of those ideas that makes a lot of sense on paper but people don't want it.


I grew up in a Sears & Roebuck home, as were a good portion of those on my block. The Wikipedia article on the subject says that there were 70,000 of them built[1]. So I see this as more of something that has come and gone, probably a few times, and we are back on the up-swing.

The Sears & Roebuck were partially assembled (think wall by wall), and then those parts were hoisted off the freight trains and nailed together. There was still a lot of work that needed to be done (often by professionals), but it really cut down on the (especially local) costs.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_Catalog_Home


Katerra?

They recently raised $865m lead by SoftBank's vision fund [0].

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/business/dealbook/katerra...


I think “the last mile” of this process is going to be the hardest to automate.


I see early childhood and primary school teaching going later.


Quick! someone write a short story about AIs who hire a professional human.


You don't automate, you make things more efficient. The building industry is very good at bringing to market products that increase productivity by double or more.

So people will have to build more houses for the same money.


In many cases, you'll end up making something that works using simple relays way more complex, so you'll still need some kind of technician to troubleshoot the equipment when it fails. The "advances" in equipment technology is mostly for sales brochures but in many cases the increased complexity creates more failure points and simply requires a different type of technician to troubleshoot.


I'm talking about things like PEX, which drastically simplify and reduce the time needed to plumb a house. The construction industry as a whole seems to be making a huge investment in time-saving innovations.


If you are a young person who doesn't come from wealth, it is a good idea to get a skilled trade certificate right out of high school. In many cases you can do it in a year, and have a good job right away.

You can do that job to pay (at least partially) your way through university, and if your preferred career is interrupted by economic conditions or some weird life event, you always have something solid to fall back on.


I like your points.

> Removing a marijuana screen from standard workplace testing would help revitalize the employee pool.

To me, trade jobs seem to be the most willing to offer a "second chance" to workers willing to work. More so than some white-collar jobs that have a no tolerance drug/crime policy.


Yes, failing a drug test for weed is not usually a black mark for trade workers.

But a majority of trade workers get bounced around job sites, and are usually required to pass a screen before each one. If you get sent to a job with little notice (can happen within a week), you need to pass a screen. If you fail, you simply don't get hired and have to enter the queue and wait for the next opportunity. Fail enough times and you either get dropped by your union local, or black listed entirely.

So messing up a drug screen once or twice doesn't mean you will lose all job opportunities, but it could mean you go without work for 1 week to over a year. And if you are represented by a trade union, you don't have the luxury to apply freely to open positions like you would in the white collar market.


As an adult you need to choose between a immature desire to smoke weed or abuse alcohol and your work where the health and safety of others is at risk.

If you’re lucky enough to get into the union, I doubt you care much about the luxury of making less money.


> immature desire to smoke weed or abuse alcohol

I find it interesting you equate even light use of marijuana with the abuse of alcohol.


Alcohol leaves the body in a few hours. If an employer screening is picking up alchohol, that’s by definition abuse.

With respect to marijuana, it’s well known that it is detectable for some period of time. If you’re smoking with full knowledge that you can be randomly screened, you’re demonstrating poor judgment and risk tolerance.

I don’t want someone dumb enough to do these things in a position where my health and safety is at risk.


>First, construction in general is a pretty up and down industry. Construction booms don't last forever, and in general you need to 'follow the work'. This is great if you are young, single, and willing to chase the high paying jobs. Not so great if you have a strong desire to stay in one spot.

This is worse in software engineering. You are probably in the bay area or some other tech city, but for all the people who live outside of those areas, they have to either move to them or get paid a ridiculously low wage relative to their work.

Here in Australia, only those people who want to work in the mines have to go anywhere. All the other trades can not only live wherever they want, they don't have to live near the city. Programmers have to live close to the city and pay the extra in housing because all of the jobs are in the city.

>Second, trade jobs are usually pretty tough on the body. After a couple decades of work your body begins to break down, assuming there are no workplace injuries to put you out of commission sooner.

Sitting is worse for your body than most trades. Some trades may be really tough, but the majority are not. Programmers generally look completely out of shape. You talk about "after a few decades", well, I wonder if you have met any older office workers? I work with people in their late 30s and early 40s who have done nothing but office work. Just the other day, we were walking up a large group of stairs to go to a conference and they were all going on about their knees and groaning on pain. I suspect you are confusing people just getting old who don't really look after their body, with a specific effect of a type of job.

>Third, workplace conditions are on average undesirable. Outdoors in the heat/cold, or indoors in tight spaces or high places. It's tough sell over companies that glorify bean bag chairs, nap pods, and free beer on hand.

This sounds like someone who just hates the outdoors. I have worked in both types of jobs and I absolutely hate being in an air-conditioned office. I hate unnatural air and the lack of sunlight. I also hate beer, and bean bag chairs are terrible for your body. Nap pods, jesus.

>Fourth, there's a social stigma around trade skill jobs. This does seem kind of true, but I see people in trades with much prettier girlfriends than most programmers due to the better shape they are in both mentally and physically, and the fact that money is all that counts. Trades outside of tech cities get paid the same or more as programmers.

>All of these observations are based off my fathers experience as union based pipe fitter/welder for >30 years. Exactly.


>Fifth, and this one may seem like a silly reason to most, the drug testing (for marijuana specifically) is a huge barrier of entry.

If I remember correctly, the NSA had to drop the marijuana prohibition on hires recently, simply because they were not getting enough applicants.


There are other skilled trades. Plumbers and electricians aren't going away until our society devolves to the point of not having indoor plumbing or electricity.


yes its ironic they show iron workers tying rebar..i did that for a summer in college and i can tell you my forearms have never recovered...:)


The trick is getting in a good union, like local 6 in San Francisco.

You won't run out of job opportunities if your book 1 union.

Yes--construction is not a great job. Out if of all the Trades; Electrical is a bit better than the rest. It's less physically taxing.

Union Elevator Mechanic might be the best trade?

So much depends on your attitude. If you like going to work, sweating, getting dirty, and going home without much worry--in a good union you are making over $100/hr. Listening to some of the guys takes patience, but you will never hear, "It sounds like you have a case of the mondays, or have to listen to some jack arse pontificating in a meeting.

Non-union is just aweful. You are better off in retail. If very motivated, use the non-union shop to gain experience, and then get a C-10 contractor's licence.

That said, there's only a few cities I would consider working in.

Mike Rowe (the t.v. guy who's made himself the ambassador of "working hard". I personally think he is exploiting a bad situation.). goes around as the prince of the Trades. He always yacking about these jobs that go unfilled. Most of these jobs are non-union, in the middle of the rust belt, and are temporary. There's a reason these jobs go unfilled.

So if you don't mind getting dirty, ex king up early, being around sweaty guys all day long; keep an eye out for the union admittance test. Some unions have over 1000 people taking the test for a few spots.

It's an easy test, but get every question right. The oral interview counts for half.

(I was in the union a year. I got a better opportunity, so I left. Looking back--I probally should have finished the apprenticeship, but did not want to turn into my father. I literally saw myself turning into him. Oh yea, watch the drinking. It's ok to come in with a hangover, but heavens forbid marijuana.

In all honestly, a lot of guys smoked pot. It's only the bigger job sites that required a drug test. Even then, when I worked at Pacbell park, guys would stop smoking a few weeks before showing up for to the job site, and within a few days they were back to smoking.

There was one statistic about working construction that always bothered me. Too many guys were waiting for retirement to really live their lives. They would collect a few retirement checks, and die. A lot of that was probally the wrong diet, and too much drinking?

Good luck!


Just looked up the wages for IBEW Local 6, $70/hr for a journeyman electrician sounds incredible even compared to SWE salaries.

How long would it take to get to that level from zero trade experience, and how hard is it to get into the union?


Electricians typically have a five year apprenticeship and apprentice pay is a percentage of the journeyman rate, for example I think a fifth year makes 80%. I think getting in unions can be hard, some more then others. NYC's Local #3 for example is notoriously difficult to get in.


Keep in mind that that is your average journeyman's pay. You'll have additional incentives depending on your workplace, role, and experience. For example a utility company substation technician will make journeyman's pay + extra substation pay, a substation foreman will also get additional pay, a licensed master electrician will earn even more, etc...there are definitely high paying "blue collar" jobs in the utilities industry.


>>Second, trade jobs are usually pretty tough on the body.

Tougher than sitting in an office chair for 10 hours a day ?

But yeah, personally, I'd push my own child to get a degree, as insurance. Life can be quite long and you never know.


As someone who has worked as a shipyard welder and a mechanic... Good lord, yes, working most trades are going to be much harder on your body than sitting around. It is not a close comparison.


It depends, as a technician I was active, mobile, exercised my muscles daily, and was in very good shape. After I got my CS degree, I spent the next year sitting in front of a desk staring at an editor and couldn't stand it. I moved back into the trades and it seemed like the healthier (and better paying) option.


Not to mention white collar workers have to the luxury of being able to request standing desks, mats, anything for ergonomics.

Ask for something like that at a job site and you'd probably get laughed off.


> Fourth, there's a social stigma around trade skill jobs. Blue collar jobs have gained a reputation of being jobs held by slackers or the less fortunate. Unfortunately, wearing workboots carries a stigma that wearing a shirt and tie/'startup' attire doesn't.

Tech jobs aren’t free from this anymore. For people in the industry, if all you do is stuff like front end JavaScript work (basically what any boot camp grad does), you’re basically the tech equivalent of a construction worker. Except now, others outside the industry are catching on to this too. The people in tech who get all the prestige are those who are solving real problems or work in more esoteric domains, at least by those who aren’t also blue collar workers themselves.

Nothing wrong with it, it’s just the way it is. Prestige won’t last forever.


  The people in tech who get all the prestige
  are those who are solving real problems or
  work in more esoteric domains
I'm not sure my girlfriend's parents appreciate the difference between me inventing my own Byzantine fault tolerance algorithm and me importing Apache ZooKeeper.


As someone that grew up poor with blue collar parents, and who's extended family is mostly in the trades business, I figure I'd chime in some of their perspectives:

- I would have disappointed them if I did not earn a 4-year degree. I'm one of the first, and very few people in my family with a degree.

- As others have stated, trades are very hard on the body, and things get dicy once it is going downhill. The pay is alright, but it cost a lot of knees, shoulders, and backs.

- The only way for my dad to continue in the trades business at his age was to start his own company and hire people himself. Not everyone is able to do this, and I continue to help a lot to build his online presence and non-labor side of the business. Hiring good people is insanely hard like the article states, and is actually capping growth.

- I'm currently way more successful working in tech than I could have ever been in the trades business, and to my family, this was the expected result. Their stance is that they worked way too hard to allow me to get an education for me to end up in the same place they did.

I'd like to add that I'm not discouraging anyone from skilled trades, nor do I think they're inferior to white collar jobs. I'm just pointing out different perspectives, and that it is much more nuanced than what is in this article.


I have a similar up bringing, but I didn't finish college. I learned coding from a young age and learned "proper software engineering" on the job. I worked with many recent college grads at a top tech company and watched them learn the ropes on the job as well (with the distinct advantage of having stronger foundations than I started with).

To me, I've always thought software engineering is better suited as a trade anyways. Save university for researchers. Software engineers could have a program like IBEW and flourish.

IBEW's program is 5 years of paid apprenticeship (6 months class room, 6 months job site, repeat). Back when I looked at it (10+ years ago) they started at $15/hr and got about $1 raise a year until they hit journeyman. At that point they jump up over $100k. I've always believed this system would work perfectly for software.


>IBEW's program is 5 years of paid apprenticeship (6 months class room, 6 months job site, repeat). Back when I looked at it (10+ years ago) they started at $15/hr and got about $1 raise a year until they hit journeyman. At that point they jump up over $100k. I've always believed this system would work perfectly for software.

that's how I became a sysadmin. actually, I think that's pretty common. If you are willing to do computer gigs and show some enthusiasm, there are a lot of $15/hr gigs about, I think.

I think I started closer to $4/hr (in 1994-1995 or so) fixing computers for a shop run out of a suburban living room. It took me more than 5 years to get to $100K, but in '94 I had 3 or 4 more years of highschool to go, so five years of full time work isn't too far off.

The secret, of course, is that my dad worked in IT, and this is true of most of my colleagues who don't have an education. Of course, I think that's also pretty common in the trades... and for that matter, my dad was midway through his IT career when he got his degree, so that doesn't really demolish the idea that you can do it without a degree... it's just like everything else, knowing people helps a lot, and having a good mentor helps a lot, and a parent makes a hell of a mentor, if they are knowledgable about the path you are taking.

Would a structured program be better? For some people, sure. This way worked well for me.

I've had a few jobs where I was called a programer or a 'toolmaker' or a 'production engineer' - but I'm really a sysadmin, and really still have some ways to go to make 'software engineer' - but I get paid better than an electrician, and I don't have to wake up early.


... software engineering is better suited as a trade anyways. ... Software engineers could have a program like IBEW and flourish.

With a union, yes. Building web sites and much of IT are trade school skills.


This is almost exactly my background as well. I have massive respect for tradespeople and family members in that space. That being said these type of articles leave a lot to be desired in terms of expressing the whole picture and why lots of blue collar families push for thier children not to go into their trade/field. Imho


Do people do anything to prevent, or delay, the knees, shoulder, or back issues?


Yes, but prolonged wear and tear will eventually rear some issues. There's not much you can do if you need to be on a ladder for 6 hours a day, for example.


I'd guess some would be preventable with proper "maintenance" (having good posture, stretches, taking care of your limits, good nutrition, etc)

But even sports figures have issues and retire early, so I don't think that is so clear cut and that doing things the right way solves everything


Yeah, my dad was a carpenter, and I grew up working on job sites with him during the summers. His strategy was to never bend over if he could help it. Simple things like setting things down on something waist height instead of on the floor whenever possible.


I've started this exact process a couple days ago while moving all my life to the bay this past week; I don't feel nearly as worn out at the end of the day because of it.


Who considers 55-60k "high paying" especially when the job contains potential life threatening risks and other health issues.

I wouldn't do much of that dangerous and exhausting work for double that pay range and I would still make less money than I do sitting at a desk now. I can put in <35 hrs a week, run errands during the day, work from home in my underwear, meet friends for long lunches.

I do think there are downsides to the office life though. The politics and games of course. There are also the issues of needing to make sure you take time for your physical fitness. Its easy to forget or slack off on that one.

I think the reality here is that those jobs are still majorly underpaid for the work involved when there are alternatives around every corner.


>Who considers 55-60k "high paying" especially when the job contains potential life threatening risks and other health issues.

These interviews are with apprentices! They're still in training and they're make $55k+ with benefits.

Depending on the trade, an apprenticeship usually lasts 3-5 years, with pay increasing along the way. By the end you'll be a journeyman, earning probably 50% more per hour. If you're a specialist or a leader (foreman), you'll get more pay on top of that. Call it an average 4 years, that's a six-figure advantage over someone who went to college, assuming they invest nothing and the college student pays in cash.

Being union and hourly also means they will get overtime when the crunch comes. And it will. An executive somewhere will always change their mind and decide they want Y instead of X.

>I wouldn't do much of that dangerous and exhausting work for double that pay range and I would still make less money than I do sitting at a desk now.

Industrial construction work in particular can be hard, but I wouldn't call it exhausting. You get less of a workout than you would in the gym—you need to be able to do it 40 hours a week, after all.

>I can put in <35 hrs a week, run errands during the day, work from home in my underwear, meet friends for long lunches.

Back when I was in an industrial trade, I could show up to work, do my job and that was it. I'd go home with a nice gloss of sweat on me, take a shower, and feel good. I took zero stress home with me. I looked damn good.

Most importantly to me, though, at the end of the job, when I was talking to someone or just reflecting on my own work, I could point to a hotel, an office tower, a bridge, a federal building, and so on, and say, "We built that. I built that." And I did. And it felt good.


Median (personal) income in the US is $31,000:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEPAINUSA672N

So approximately everybody should consider twice that "high paying".

(fixed the number, was $32,000)


Using national numbers isn't really useful. The case study of the $50k ironworker in Seattle is well below the median for that city which has a median income of $80k.


And the 50k worker in the story is 20 years old. I'm sure he has a lot of potential salary growth.


Or a chance at destroying their body by the age of 35.


That $80k is household income.


Keep in mind the median full-time income is about $52,000 for a 40 hour per week job. The median full-time income for average hours (which is lower than 40), is about $45,000.

That $31,000 median figure includes all the people working part-time. It substantially disorts what your expectations should be for full-time labor in the US.


But presumably some of these are bright kids who could make that rate on their sophomore year engineering internship. It'd be silly not to attend university and instead do the $60k trade route for most of the HN audience.


The type of kid that can make $30k in a sophomore internship is the same type of kid that will end up running their own $TRADE company making a 6 or 7 figure annual income.


What makes you think the skills required for both of those are the same?


At a certain level of abstraction, intelligent and sociable people who can get things done have the capacity to rise to the top in any occupation they choose to enter.

Without debating the specific skill sets needed in each (of course they vary based on field of choice, this is obvious), all of the “blue collar” multimillionaire business owners I know have the three traits I listed above. Ditto for the “white collar” multimillionaires.

It’s also interesting that they have similar problems (again in abstraction) — hiring, training, and retention. The nitty gritty details differ, but the problems sound awfully similar to me.

There are probably a few more characteristics and problems that I could list, but these were the ones that came off the top of my head.


At a certain level of abstraction, everything is an idea and therefore the same.


Are we from the same planet? I've met more than a few people that went to top 10 CS schools and couldn't get a girl's number to save their life. Barring disfigurement, if you can't manage something as basic as getting a girl's number, you simply don't have the requisite social skills needed toget survive in that type of business world.

Being smart at one thing doesn't mean you can be smart at anything you apply your mind to; there are cultural and biochemical reasons that can be preventing you from being good at something. Because I dont have the time right now, I'll leave an excerpt that might help to elucidate what I'm saying:

When the animals decided to establish schools they selected a school board consisting of Mr. Elephant, Mr. Kangaroo and Mr. Monkey, and these fellows held a meeting to agree upon their plans. “What shall the animals’ children be taught in the animal school? That is the question,” declared Mr. Monkey. “Yes, that is the question,” exclaimed Mr. Kangaroo and Mr. Elephant together.

“They should be taught to climb trees,” said the monkey, positively. “All my relatives will serve as teachers.” “No, indeed!” shouted the other two, in chorus. “That would never do.” “They should he taught to jump,” cried the kangaroo, with emphasis. “All of my relatives will be glad to teach them.” “No, indeed!” yelled the other two, in unison. “That would never do.” “They should be taught to look wise,” said the elephant. “And all of my relatives will act as teachers.” “No, indeed!” howled the other two together. “That will never do.”

“Well, what will do?” they asked, as they looked at each other in perplexity. “Teach them to climb,” said Mr. Monkey. “Teach them to jump,” said Mr. Kangaroo. “Teach them to look wise,” said Mr. Elephant.


“intelligent and sociable people who can get things done”


i think he’s more taking issue with the fact that you said anyone pulling that internship could start a business. i’ve met a lot of laughably socially inept people with Big N gigs


Exactly


$30k in 4 months is practically a 6 figure income already, and not uncommon for CS sophomores working at larger tech companies. I think you're really overestimating the skill needed to get that level of pay.


I think if you rule out CS majors at top 20 (ish) schools/progams, I think that you will find the number of CS major sophomores getting these types of summer internships rounds to zero, and the exceptions exist largely due to pre-existing personal contacts.

I would suggest that most CS majors at top 20 schools/programs grossly underestimate how hard it is to do what they have done.

I know plenty of Cal State CS majors who only dream of jobs like this. These relatively lucrative jobs aren’t really that common for mediocre students at mediocre programs.


Selection bias. You're also assuming that those people are even interested in engineering.


That includes people who don't work at all and people who only work part-time. When looking at a full-time job, it would be better to compare only to other full-time workers. Last quarter the median weekly wage for full-time workers was $873[1]. That's a bit over $45k/year. I would not consider 20-30% above average particularly high-paying for a job that is difficult and physically dangerous.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/wkyeng.t01.htm


But where are those high paying trade jobs located? For high paying construction trades, it's going to be in the big cities where the high rises are being built. $55,000 may be way above the median for the country but it's barely getting by in places like SF, NYC, LA, Seattle, etc.


You know that in all those cities there are people living on minimum wage right?


Those people living on minimum wage in big cities tend to have a lifestyle we don't even want to talk about. They tend to be immigrants who cram themselves with a large group into tiny apartments where everybody sleeps in the same room.

If you don't want to do that you're going to end up paying way more, hence barely getting by with $55k.


Median household income for NYC is $50k https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nabes/


The problem is that there has been a long ongoing systematic suppression of wages and professional salaries. I make less today as a senior engineer than my first job out of school with no experience after adjusting for inflation and COL. Remember, $65,000 today was only $45,000 in Y2K dollars which was middling to low-ball for entry level engineering work at the time. Would that be considered high paying for a doctor or lawyer?


It’s probably above average for an entry-level American lawyer, once you cut out the tiny number of graduates who make it into the big law firms with fixed starting salaries of $160,000: https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/the-toppling-o...


Some of these people are farmers living in Bumblefuck, IO, though, where $31,000 can mean you live like a king.


Not everything is available to the rich. I work at an infinitely rich tech company (as many do) and we still can't find people to fill positions, 'cause they don't exist.

Similarly, a poor person and rich person in middle of nowhere Iowa can get the same amount of Iowa (though whoever's less time-poor wins) but neither of them can buy living in NYC.


My point still stands. A dollar isn't worth the same anywhere you go. Looking at national median income isn't really useful.


You have to realize, only a third of American have bachelor's degrees. Many of them from schools you've never heard of, not MIT, not Penn State. If you and everyone you know are college-educated professionals, you're in a bubble.


It's projected to be half sometime soon.


As a society, we should probably be targeting more like 10% for 4-year degrees and higher.

Many jobs that are requiring or preferring 4-year degrees need at best a 2-year degree, and more likely no degree (maybe a 1-4 month focused training course).

The college degree requirement typically serves as either a vanity requirement or a filter to reduce the number of applications.


> As a society, we should probably be targeting more like 10% for 4-year degrees and higher.

You may correct regarding education and how it relates to marketable skills. However, a good tertiary education is so much more than that. It also teaches (ideally) the ability to think critically that is the foundation of an advanced society - especially a democracy.

That said, higher education costs spiraling out of control have corrupted the entire system. There is a solution though, I'm certain of it.


I mostly agree with that, but I would change it to “a good tertiary education has the potential to teach people to think critically.

If you look at the bottom half (or more) of the students at most good schools, and maybe the bottom 80% or so of the students at most not-so-good schools, you will find that the desire to learn does not extend much beyond “what do I need to do to get $GRADE?” Often the desired grade is merely a passing grade. If the answer is some variation of “learn to think critically”, expect extremely poor evaluations at the end of the term and low enrollment in future semesters.

The problem as I see it is that many people do not learn the value of critical thinking skills until later in life — typically after they have actually had to use them (and noticed that they were lacking) in critical life situations. In my experience, this is why vets (as one simple example) tend to outperform non-vets with similar entrance stats (e.g., grades, SATs, etc.) at highly competitive schools.

I would prefer to see our society have a reasonable means for people to engage in proper tertiary (and actually secondary) education on a continuing basis rather than just before he age of 22.


Do we really want to keep people in classrooms all their life up until 21, as if that's needed to give them critical thinking? Doesn't that make teaching sound inefficient?

Some people are ready to function in society younger than that, but they can't build savings for the rest of their life, do anything productive, or even have fun if you're making them spend another few years doing homework problems fulltime.


Unfortunately that isn't what higher education is today, because it's become so much a business/customer relationship from being tied to employment.

I think we could see a lot of benefit from separating an institute for higher academic pursuits from the employment and status market entirely, though I don't really have a good idea for how to go about doing that.


Does the education system only exist to train future workers? Should it?


That seems to be a non sequitur — I suggested no such thing.

In abstraction, I will say that there always is an education system of some sort that trains workers, but that system may be formal, may be informal, may be public, may be private, etc. acknowledging what role the citizens want a formal education to serve is an important discussion, imho. This is a discussion we are not really having in the US right now — at least not in a frank way.

That said, I think education should exist to train future members of society. Work training is a part of that, but there are other elements as well (social skills, communication skills, life skills, etc.).


Can a question be a non sequitur? Asking a question does not imply an accusation, not sure why you read it as such.

I completely agree with your last statement, I have been troubled by America's recent move towards viewing education simply as training future workers.

An example from Wisconsin [1]:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/...


> Who considers 55-60k "high paying"

Wow - HN at its best, folks.

Just because it's not high where you are (Somewhere probably really nice, honestly) doesn't mean that's not a good living in 90% of the rest of the country.


Well this is place where $400K worth of salary and perks at Google are brushed of as 'Oh, but bay area is so expensive'. 55-60K for them would be like kids' private schooling.


> Who considers 55-60k "high paying"

the state's average annual wage of $54,000.

That accounts for all cost of living adjustments, since it is the same state. I wouldn't consider 2%-10% above average "high paying"


Just because they're trade jobs doesn't mean they're located in "90% of the rest of the country." All the good paying construction trades are going to be in places where they're building lots of high rises; places where rent is high enough to warrant such construction. If you're living in San Francisco as an ironworker then $55,000 means you're barely getting by. Construction jobs tend to start really early in the morning so long commutes are pretty much off the table, too.


You've got a very myopic view of the US if youthink construction is only happening in expensive coastal cities. Also, 'trade jobs' are not limited to construction.


Everywhere I look land is cheap and lifestyles are good. They can’t build SFR houses fast enough.

And I’m ignoring downtown Renaissances happening all across the Midwest.


Back home in the rust belt, you can get a 2,000+ sq. ft. home for like $100k (no, really), so $60k/yr there is actually a pretty sweet gig. Doubly so if your spouse also earns that much.



pssh, that's nothing:

2208 sq. ft., $14,900 -- https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/353-E-24th-St-Erie-PA-165...

What I meant was that you can get a big gorgeous home on a nice lot in a great neighborhood for $100k.


I've never managed more than 28000 in my life and that was a year that I was working 60hrs a week between two jobs for half of it.

For 30k plus benefits I'd strangle puppies.


I hope no one is offering that job.


I've asked around, no one has responded yet.


You can get that with some packing jobs in some places. You might have to start off as a temp.


What do you do?


Well at the time I was working as a stock boy at Target on the weekends (with a couple shifts during the week during Christmas when we moved to a 2am start time) and warehousing (later junior locksmith) at a door company (Hull Supply in Austin).

Currently just a stock boy while I add a second BS onto my useless resume.


What was your first BS? What prevented you from getting a better degree or going to a better university?


Physics, minor in math from New Mexico Tech.

Money, youthful ignorance (and a desire to get the fuck out of Florida) and an inability to fill out an application probably due to my truck load of self esteem issues (though there is always the possibility that I fail not because I think I'm garbage but because I actually am).


Hey, I just read through all your replies and I just wanted to say that I sincerely hope you find a way to overcome your obstacles and realize your full potential some time.


Have you tried applying to engineering jobs? I have a degree in physics (minor in math), and that's what I did (as well as many of my friends). Or tutoring? That can pay pretty well and give you flexible hours. This type of movement is extremely common for physicists.

Grad school is also an option, and you don't have to go for physics (which is fairly competitive). I got into a CS program, have a friend doing EE, and know of plenty of people doing ME, AE, CE, etc. People will read "Physics degree" as "smart" or "worked hard".

> not because I think I'm garbage but because I actually am

Sounds like imposter syndrome. It is extremely common, though I know it is extremely difficult to deal with (coming from personal experience).


"inability to fill out an application"

No really the last time I filled out an application it took me two months from start to finish and I considered it progress because I wasn't crying by the end of it. January 2017 ish a Prof offered me several research projects, after not responding to him for two weeks I am now hiding from him for the rest of my life.

I am absolutely aware that I am on paper qualified for all sorts of shit.

That doesn't change the reality that I am emotionally incapable of doing anything with it.

Which goes back to my coworkers who are all absolutely capable of better paying jobs but at some point you just stop believing that something else is possible. Then what?


> January 2017 ish a Prof offered me several research projects, after not responding to him for two weeks I am now hiding from him for the rest of my life.

Sounds like you might want to message them. Small progress is still progress. Some days you make leaps and bounds, but most days we barely make a step. And that is okay.

> I am absolutely aware that I am on paper qualified for all sorts of shit.

>> For 30k plus benefits I'd strangle puppies.

Anxiety and writing an email sounds better than strangling puppies for a (low wage) living.

> That doesn't change the reality that I am emotionally incapable of doing anything with it.

Get a therapist.

> at some point you just stop believing that something else is possible. Then what?

GET A THERAPIST

Seriously, if you are at the point where emailing someone is causing you so much anxiety that you are literally sabotaging yourself to work jobs that you are way over qualified for (and thus make you clearly miserable), you need to see someone professional. Because you said it yourself:

> I am qualified for all sorts of shit.


a) I'm not in a place where even if I emailed them and they did understand I would be any more likely to actually follow through the second they stopped looking over my shoulder.

b) 30 grand and benefits in Albuquerque isn't a low wage it's god damned pinkies out upper class.

c) I am not over qualified to be a stock boy (though I am damned good at it) I am orthogonally qualified for other jobs.

d) yeah I am aware that a therapist would help but that self sabatoge came after 6 months of counseling and antidepressants... More effective therapy is either non existent or out of my price range.


Being active and yet totally incapable of doing anything that makes you feel bad might be depression but actually sounds like an ADHD symptom people don't talk about.

https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-ho...

Unfortunately I've never heard about therapy for this - there's just a different medication than antidepressants - but maybe reading that would help you.


I have absolutely been there. (Especially the "now in hiding for the rest of my life because I forgot to respond to someone for a week" part and the "two months to fill out an application" part and the "emotionally incapable of doing anything, stopped believing anything else is possible" part... so, well, all of the parts actually.)

For me, what worked was getting another human being (my parents, in this case) to help me through getting the applications done, and following up with people I'm being avoidant about, and generally reminding me that I was being ridiculous. Also, it helped to find out that these were all really common manifestations of certain kinds of Brain Problems(tm) (anxiety in particular), which made me feel like less of a lazy worthless piece of shit and more like just a dude with a problem, and also directed me to various kinds of therapy & medication which have been helpful at fixing the issue.


My reflexive... Muy Thai is often referred to as the art of eight limbs because it uses everything to fight...

Everything against everything, is me. If someone even just super passively tries to support me in an endeavor I am 1000% more likely to not do it. If they try to push me to do it I absolutely will not out of spite.

I harbor no illusions that I am particularly unique so I'm willing to bet you, or some one reading this, was exactly the same, until they weren't; unfortunately for me I am me until I'm not.


Also to push this away from me personally: not only is the % of people with depression increasing but also the mean age at which it affects people is creeping down. When I was a kid it was like 30 now it's like 20.

A shit ton of theoretically attainable jobs seem out of reach to even the emotionally healthy. When your 20 and you just want to go to sleep and never wake up: every job seems out of reach and that number is going up.

And again I can't stress this enough. Even when healthy many many jobs seem out of reach.

  Fella 'cross town said he's   lookin' for a man
  To move some old cars around
  Maybe me and Marie could find a burned-out
  Van and do a little settlin' down
  Aw, but I'm just dreamin', I ain't got no ride
  And the junkyard's a pretty good ways
  That job's about a half week old besides
  It'd be gone now anyway


Speaking from personal experience, in order to improve one’s life, you need to make incremental improvements. It could be as simple as going to the gym and doing one rep. Then the next day you do two reps, etc.

It requires a paradigm shift in the way you think, which is not easy. The first step is making a commitment to change.


You would think that managing to save up enough money to pay for a second degree in cash and then achieving that degree (well in the fall but 8 credits away), seeing a counselor and getting on antidepressants would count.

Turns out it doesn't and I'm going to spend the next umpteen years saving up again for a third useless degree.

C'est la vie.


Talk with your doctor to ditch the antidepressants ASAP, and make sure your doctor tapers your dosage.

I’d recommend mindful breathing exercises and meditative practices. CBT may also help you. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Hope that helps, and best of luck to you.


2008-2010 I wanted to do nothing. 2010-12 I wanted to hide in a closet. 12-16 I wanted to die.

On medication I don't want to die. It's not great but it's a damn sight better than the decade preceding it.

Went off medication for the summer and fall after 9 months. Failed 4 of 5 classes.

Doing the meditation and breathing and shit too. Turns out that in order to make positive changes in your life you have to be willing to make positive changes in your life. Which I'm not currently.

Like I said: c'est la vie.


From your trainwreck description of existence, I think you'd like the life of a yogi (and the required ability to stomach a bunch of pain while in mayurasana).

Checkout 'inner engineering' on audible.com,

also try a grounding mat


I've got a couple years of yoga as interpreted by basic-AF white ladies under my belt, turns out being in a room with a dozen other people just breathing is in fact my jammy-jam. the Bagavad Gita, the sutras though...

I'm pretty hardcore existential-naturalist (existentialism actually was a reaction against naturalism by I am a born syncretic) and as a result the anarchy of LeGuin's the Dispossessed or Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread present more or less identical praxis but with out the need for faith in anything more than my neighbors.


What I'm about to suggest isn't for everybody, but it might help you out. There are actually 2 ways to be rich: make more money than you need, or need less money than you make. There is an inherent risk with the second (because there are some things where you can't control costs), but it offers some advantages as well.

Making money is a stressful endeavour. Everybody deals with stress differently. Some people like a lot of stress. Other people have a lot of difficulty with it. Often it's hard for people to understand others who are in the opposite condition (Those who have difficulty with stress are seen to be weak or lazy, those who thrive on stress are seen to be manic or even evil). It's great to at least understand yourself, and while it should not stop you from trying to become the person you want to be, it's pretty damaging to ignore who you are now.

Making money is stressful because you have a lack of control. You are either spending your time doing what others want you to do (always hanging that carrot in your face), or you are spending your time doing high risk things in the hope that it will pay off (always flirting with failure). In contrast, not spending money is an exercise in control. Everything comes from you because you do not have enough money to depend on others.

In many ways it's the complete opposite of trying to make money. You need to move to a quiet location where the cost of living is as low as possible. You have to prioritise time working for yourself over working for others. You have to cook, clean, sew, grow your own food, etc, etc for yourself. It's not easy (and not at all for everybody), but for someone who is capable it's a way of simplifying your interfaces and giving you back a sense of control.

I can't really give you specific advice because we are different, but the main thing is to view spending time for yourself as more profitable than working for someone else. For example, spending an hour making dinner for yourself is more valuable than spending an hour working to pay for going out to a restaurant. Spending time growing herbs on the windowsill (or even building a makeshift hydroponics system out of spare parts) is more valuable than buying herbs (or whatever) in the store.

It's easy to get into the mindset that $100 is an hour's work if you are paid $100 per hour. Can you generate $100 in an hour of your own time? But $100/hour is $200K per year and that $100 becomes really devalued. If you are living on $10K per year, the same $100 has a completely different value to you. At $5/hour it makes enormous sense to leverage your own time rather than collecting peanuts from others. In that very strange way, the less you make, the more valuable your time is to you -- because what you do with it becomes much more important.

I don't want to discourage your from finding ways to get past an issue that is obviously causing you a lot of pain. However taking a time out to work for yourself, rather than for others may help you get some breathing room.


I saved 30k in three years while working at Target. I am world class at needing less than I make.

But being able to save money doesn't change the ability to see possibilities as actually possible which is the fundamental reason so many people are not going into "skilled labor" trade jobs.


Congrats! I have a couple of friends that are "professional students". Not a lot of security in that, but is it any worse than "starving artist"? I'm reading what you are writing and I see nothing wrong except that you are unhappy. I don't think you need to fix what isn't broken. I hope that helps a bit, but I'm sure it doesn't :-) Good luck!


In as much I'm not starving it's amazingly better than being a starving artist. In as much as I wake up everyday feeling like I am in exactly the same place as I was yesterday regardless of objective achievements... I'm still counting down the days until I die (17562 days according to wolfram alpha).

I'll wake up tomorrow and take a step. The upside to knowing there is no destination is that while no step takes you forward, no step takes you back either?


The opportunity cost of university getting up there:

  $60k salary x 4 years = +$240k
  vs
  $25k tuition X 4 years = -$100k (state school [1])
  $50k tuition X 4 years = -$200k (private school)
So total opportunity cost is around $340-440k and four years, assuming you can go straight into the $60k/yr job from high school. If you finance school with debt, then you have interest as part of the calculation.

Of course there are other intangibles to be had from working, such as learning personal responsibility at a younger age ;-)

[1] https://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tm...


But if you make more than $60k because of your college degree, then you are in the black in not too long. Let's say you make $80k, then you are break even at 17 years. If you are making more like 100k, then you break even at only 8.5 years. Considering that the retirement age is around 70, this means that even a small increase in salary leaves a good chunk of money on the table by retirement (or allows an earlier retirement).

Of course, there are the other factors that others are discussing. Plus things like interest (on loans and investments).


$25k in tuition, room & board, and fees. You are not making a fair comparison as you need deduct living costs from the former or exclude them for the latter. You also don't consider the average aid package that one is likely to obtain, nor any monies that the latter makes.


There are also risks. Recessions hit trades much harder than anyone else, as they tend to be affected first and recover last from them. Construct unemployment is a leading indicator of recessions.


There are some skilled trades that companies, even during a recession, can't get around...fire alarm/suppression system inspectors/technicians, elevator inspectors/technicians, electricians, electrical code specialists, OSHA compliance specialists, etc...


You can get around those by not building. New construction is a considerable portion of work in these trades. My family owns a construction company and my father is an electrician. They have three times as many employees in installations as they do service.

It's the nature of the business.


> "...three times as many employees in installations as they do service"

This is more in the compliance sector, but I get what you're trying to get at.


Young high-school grads for whom that's a lot of money and for whom the health risks are not quite as bad.


High-school grads are not immune to injuries and don't have savings to pay for healthcare if they get injured. They might be less risk averse on average, but that does not make health risk not relevant.

Also, adults in their life who are older are likely to caution about occupation that is health risk even absent injuries - and although all wont listen, some will.


Did I say somehow that they were immune to injuries? I said the risks are not as bad. For example, they are, overall, statistically less likely to suffer any on-the-job injury attributable to inflexibility of muscles and tendons, obesity, loss of bone density/strength, Alzheimer's, arthritis, or dizziness from diabetes-related blood-sugar problems. Those are all risks that go up with age.

They are also less likely to suffer any injury caused, or made worse, or made more likely, by some past injury they've already had, because they're likely to have had fewer of those.

Also, even given the same exact injury, they will likely heal faster & better than someone even 10 years older.

Black & white thinking doesn't really serve here. There's not some age before which 100% of people have none of the problems and after which 100% of people have all the problems. It's a continuum.


What are they going to do when they age? These risks apply to people choosing profession even as they are in the future. No one is young forever and there is no promotion from these jobs to another job.

Cumulatively, during career, the longer you work there the more likely injuries happen to you. And the more physical work, the more catastrophic consequences (I can code with two broken legs).

All that must be factored in for young people too.


Yes, as you age, the risk/reward balance begins to shift - sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once. There are paths out of the trades though. You can start your own small (plumbing/building/etc.) company, hire people (younger ones) to do the heavy lifting, and essentially "move into management." Or you can take some of the money you earned, go back to school, and change careers. I know someone who injured his back digging trenches, and while recuperating from that injury, started teaching himself computers. Now he works for a state agency and sits in a chair.

Nothing is guaranteed of course, but the question was "Who considers 55-60k 'high paying' especially when the job contains potential life threatening risks and other health issues?" and the answer was "Young high-school grads for whom that's a lot of money and for whom the health risks are not quite as bad." That's a very general answer that deliberately doesn't offer any opinion on whether they are right or wrong in thinking that way. And obviously the less young they are, or the more money they want, or the less risk they tolerate, the less true the statement is.


First of all, 55k isn't the ceiling. My dad is a union carpenter and made about $50/hr ($104k). Electricians make even more, and are paid decently throughout their 5 year apprenticeship (which is half classroom half job site).

Secondly, depending on where you live that is a lot of money. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and my parents home is only worth $250k. It's 4 bedroom, 2 car garage, finished basement, on a 1/2 acre.


I made $7 an hour when I was 20


I made $20ph bartending. My only qualification when I started at 19 was being an alcoholic who liked cocktails.


Except there are not alternatives around every corner :)

That's just hubris on your behalf. Regarding 60k being high paying - for a job at 20, that's A LOT. For a job at 40, that's pretty good.


Commenters are being overly critical. Isn't ~80k when people get to a point of "relaxment". I'd say "high pay" would start there.

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