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Going to Trade School as an Adult

Going To Trade School as an Adult

If you’re an adult who is considering getting re-trained for a new career in the skilled trades, this article is for you. We’ll consider why some adults may be dis-engaged or dissatisfied with their current work. Some negatives and positives of starting over as an adult are listed, and we’ll also note some good skilled trade programs to consider.

Some Adults are Disengaged

A 2020 Gallup report found that 54% of US workers are disengaged with their jobs. “They are psychologically unattached to their work and company. These employees put time, but not energy or passion, into their work. Not engaged employees typically show up to work and contribute the minimum effort required. They're also on the lookout for better employment opportunities and will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer,” according to the report.

One reason for this may be what Kieran Setiya, a professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, calls the mid-career crisis.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Setiya says, “The reasons for the ‘mid-career crisis’ are not well understood. Why does job satisfaction suffer during midlife? Judging by my own experience, and by conversations with friends, there are multiple factors: the narrowing of options, the inevitability of regret, and the tyranny of projects successively completed and replaced.”

Why Are Some Adults Dissatisfied?

One possible reason for adult’s dissatisfaction with their work is that many were forced into college programs they weren’t interested in or weren’t ready for due to social stigmas against trade schools. In a 2019 story for The Atlantic, Toren Reesman talked about pursuing a long and expensive university career path under pressure from his family even though his dream was to be a woodworker.

“Keep your grades up, get into a good college, get a good degree,” Reesman quoted as his family motto.

In the same Atlantic story, Erin Funk talks about the stigma she and her husband faced when sending their kids to vocational schools even though they both came from blue collar families.

“Vocational schools where we grew up seemed to be reserved for people who weren’t making it in ‘real’ school,” Funk said.

After a decline through the 1980s and 1990s, trade school enrollment is on the upswing again, and the time is perfect for a career change into the trades.

Positives and Negatives of Trade School as an Adult

One big positive of starting a new career in the skilled trades as an adult is happiness. Maybe you’re old enough now to know ‘I should have been a carpenter’ or ‘I should have been a mechanic’. It’s never too late to do what makes you happy.

Other positives about choosing a career in the skilled trades are the higher than average median annual wages and job security these jobs offer. The average annual wage for all construction jobs was $44,130 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some bad news about changing careers as an adult is that you’ll likely have to start at the beginning of your new field, at least for a short time. Your previous work experience and education won’t go to waste, but you’re not likely to start a new job at the top of the profession. Because of this, some of the best trades to switch to are those that offer apprenticeships and/or on the job training.

In these situations, you may start near the bottom of the skilled trade career ladder, but you’ll be working and learning at the same time, helping you beat the learning curve faster. The good news is that apprenticeships are paid. Once you're past the apprenticeship process, you may find that you make as much, or more, than your last job.

Good Trade School Programs for Adults

For some disengaged workers in a mid-career crisis, going back to school is part of the reset process they crave. Whether they want a break from the daily employment grind to clear their heads, or they prefer classroom learning to on-the-job training, vocational and trade schools offer plenty of options. Some trade school programs are fast, only taking one month to one year to finish. Since these programs are so quick to complete, they can be ideal careers for adults to consider.

  • Truck Driver - CDL training programs can take as few as 160 hours of training.
  • Auto Mechanic - Automotive technology programs take 6 months to 1 year to finish, but some schools do offer 2 year programs.
  • Medical Assistant - Medical assistant programs can take as little as 8 weeks to a few months to complete. You could stay in school longer and earn an associate’s degree.
  • Medical Coder - Medical coding programs can be taken online in about eight weeks to a few months. You could also earn an associate’s degree in about 2 years.
  • HVAC Technician - HVAC school programs take about 6 months to 1 year to finish.

Whether you’re destined for a classroom or a job site for your training, going to trade school as an adult could be the right choice for you. If you need help getting started, search our partner schools and get information about training for a new career.