A college degree is a great thing to have and can help you onto a successful career path, but it isn’t the only way to make a good living. The problem is many American’s have forgotten what it means to get their hands dirty.
I had a chance to talk to Leo Bissonette who is a Local Union 420 Steamfitter. He’s been in the trade since 2003. Before then he was taking classes at Penn State Brandywine until he tore his ACL, ending his soccer season and helping lose his interest in school. Once his mom told him he couldn’t just sit on the couch, he decided to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a steamfitter.
Since this time he has been leading a successful career in the trade, working 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. everyday. While the economy of the past few years held some back Bissonette has made out well for himself. Just at the young age of 25 he was able to purchase his first home. Something he could do years before many of his college graduate friends were able to.
And just since the time he left college to pursue stream-fitting the cost of one year’s tuition for public four year institutions have risen by $4,559 and private by $3991 (as of 2012).
“I’m way ahead of all of them financially,” was all Bissonette had to say when asked how he compared to friends who had completed a bachelor’s degree or further. “My one buddy has like three college degrees, but… you gotta pay for all them… All my schooling was free.”
His job require him to participate in a five-year apprenticeship to become a fully educated in his craft, which may sound like a worse option to a four-year university, but the thing is once you’re accepted into the apprenticeship you’re courses are covered and the work you do is paid. After hearing that, taking out loans for tuition each year and applying for unpaid internships doesn’t sound as appealing.
If you feel college is right for you then it is something you should go for, but it’s good to understand that the average student graduates with nearly $30 thousand in student loan debt. Unless you can graduate with a great job paying this off will take most people a long time. On the other hand, with a paid apprenticeship you will graduate with money in your pocket, ready to begin your career.
So while college and a degree can really help a person start a rewarding career, for others it can still mean a unsatisfying job and a hefty amount of debt to pay off. Leo is very happy with the work that he does, and has a lot to show for it. He’s just one of the people that isn’t afraid to put his back into his work.