Are you fresh out of school and wondering whether you should go to college or get a skill? If YES, then we will help point out the strong and weak points of each so that you can make a better decision.

We live in a world where only folks who are able to show wealth for their struggles in life are respected. It is therefore no wonder that more and more people are looking to carve a niche for themselves in diverse areas of life. Whilst some choose to be versed in skills, others take the college degree path.

The essence of acquiring a college degree or obtaining a skilled trade certification is to work, earn money, live a comfortable life and be able to measure up with people of same status.

Although there are obvious disparities when it comes to college degree and skilled trade diploma, but the fact remains that they serve different purposes and the amount of money you can earn is not dependent on whether you own a skilled trade diploma or a college degree especially if you choose to work for yourself as against working for an organization.

What is Skilled Trade?

Skilled trade simply put is a job that requires a special skill, knowledge or ability which can be gotten at a college, technical school or through specialized training. Skilled trades provide an alternative to jobs that require four years of college education.

What is College Degree?

A college degree is a degree that is given to students of a higher learning institution suggesting the credit they have obtained in specific areas of study. A college degree can be obtained online or offline or full – time or part – time.

What are the Requirements for Obtaining a Skilled Trade Diploma?

There are different and not too strict requirements for obtaining a skilled trade diploma unlike a college degree. Firstly, you must prove that you are able to read and write in the language you intend taking instruction, and secondly you must be physically fit and of course in a sound frame of mind to be able to undergo the training that will earn you a skilled trade diploma.

Obtaining a skilled diploma means that you will undergo training that will lead to job-specific certification. Instruction may be provided in diverse settings such as the company’s training facility, the workplace, the home or through distance-learning methods. Key areas in this industry include music schools and musical instrument training, cosmetology and barber schools, flight training, apprenticeship and other technical training.

Once you are able to obtain a skilled trade diploma, it shows that you are qualified to work in a certain skilled trade and in the United States of America, you are likely going to earn $20 to $100 in an hour with your skilled trade diploma.

Here are some examples of skilled trade;

  • Rotary Drill Operator for the Oil and Gas Industry
  • Boilermaker
  • Aircraft Mechanic
  • Auto Mechanic
  • Pile Driver Operator
  • Avionics Technicians
  • Plumber (Pipefitter or Steamfitter)
  • General Electrician
  • Crane Operator
  • Wind Turbine Technician
  • Carpenter (Furniture Maker)
  • Brick Mason
  • HVAC Technician
  • Welder
  • Auto Body Repair
  • Locksmith
  • Barber
  • Beauty and cosmetology
  • Commercial or graphic art training
  • Bartending training
  • Fashion Designer (Tailor/Dress Maker)
  • Commercial Truck Driver

What are the Requirements for Obtaining a College Degree?

There are certain requirements that must be satisfied in other to obtain a college degree. These requirements vary from institution to institution and from country to country, but the basic requirement is that a student aspiring to enter college and ultimately graduate to earn a college degree must have first completed high school with credits in specific subjects. Thereafter, the prospective student is expected to write certain qualification exams such as SAT et al before they are granted admission to study for a college degree.

For example, in the United States of America, almost all undergraduate college degrees require that a student completes 120 credit studies, and this amounts to 15 hours of credit for each time for a full-time student.

Studying for a college degree usually takes 3 – 5 years depending on the course of study and the student is expected to pass all the courses prior to graduation before they are awarded a college degree.

If you successfully obtain a college degree, there is no limit to the level you can grow in your career and you are expected to work in your industry or any related industry that you can fit in. The average earnings you are expected to earn with your college degree in the United States of America is about $1,137 weekly.

Here are some examples of a College Degree;

  • Bachelor of Architecture (BArch)
  • Bachelor of Design (BDes)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Sciences (BSc)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng, BSc (Eng), BSE)
  • Bachelor of Technology (BTech)

You can study to obtain a college degree in the following course of studies;

  • Architecture
  • Accountancy
  • Anthropology
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Business Administration
  • Building Technology
  • Computer Science
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Educations
  • Electrical Electronics Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mining Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Food Science Technology
  • Marketing
  • Nursing
  • Fine Arts
  • Pharmacy
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Theater Arts
  • Sociology
  • Zoology

Comparing Skilled Trade with College Degree

It wouldn’t be out of place to compare skilled trade and college degree. When it comes to determining which is the best between skilled trade and a college degree, there are loads of factors that should be considered. But note that from the surface level, and by basic standards assuming all things are equal (if a student has the qualifications to go for either a college degree or a skilled trade diploma), a college degree is far better than skilled trade and here are some reasons why this is so;

A college degree holder will most often than not manage or supervise a skilled trade diploma holder if they happen to work in the same organization

A college degree holder will most often than not earn far more than a skilled trade diploma holder if they work in the same industry and even across different industries.

A college degree holder will always grow faster in the career ladder when compared to someone who only owns a skilled trade diploma irrespective of the industry they work in. For example, a college degree holder is expected to start as a managerial trainee or supervisory trainee but someone with a skilled trade diploma is employed as an operator which may be the least level in the organization’s corporate ladder.

A college degree holder requires less physical effort and more of brain work to carry out his or her JD (Job Description), but it is not so for a skilled trade diploma holder, their job description requires more of physical effort and it can be tiring.

It is easier for a college degree holder to become a professor or earn the highest professional certification in his or her discipline or industry when compared to someone with just a basic trade diploma. For example, a person with a college degree can easily get exemption from some courses in a professional exam, but someone with just skilled trade will start from the beginning and ensure that they pass all the stages before obtaining certain professional certifications.

If it boils down to becoming your own boss, someone with a trade diploma will always be ahead of someone with a college degree. This is because a trade diploma holder is trained with all the required practical experiences and is ready to work, while someone with a college degree might still need to work hard to get field experience. Take for example, someone with a trade diploma in auto mechanic will most likely know how to fix automobiles than someone with just a college degree in mechanical engineering.

It is easier and requires shorter time to acquire a skilled trade diploma when compared to obtaining a college degree. You are likely going to spend between 6 months to 2 years to obtain a skilled trade diploma but it is not so for obtaining a college degree. You are expected to spend between 3 to 5 years to obtain a college degree and it is a rigorous process.

Ajaero Tony Martins