According to Credible:
High school graduates make about $39,000 per year, while those with a Bachelor’s degree earn $73,000.
Average student loan debt on graduation, though, runs a bit over $37,000, with a typical annual payment on that debt is more than $4,700.
Here are the annual incomes from some of the skilled trades, according to my arithmetic and data from Indeed. Based on 50-week years (because some vacation matters, even if it’s not paid):
- Journeyman Electrician (an entry level): $48,500
- Journeyman Plumber: $45,040
- Welder: $44,020
- Carpenter: $42,720
- Pipefitter: $51,270
- Ironworker: $48,640
Tradesmen, also, have none of that $37,000 of student debt coming out of their training.
Keep in mind, too, that doctors, lawyers, philosophers, teachers, and on and on, have no place to apply their skills (and no place to live or play in their off hours) without the trades to build those facilities, or without the trades to build the communications, power distribution, and transportation infrastructures to connect them and to provide the means by which to get to and from them.
The financial value of a degree might seem greater than the value of a certification in a trade, but its greater value depends on the prior existence of those trades.