University graduates are viewed as the high-class members of society – the ones who get to wear expensive watches, pinstriped suits and attend regal tea parties with the Queen. Tradies, on the other hand, are a lower class breed – the ones who wear dirty old clothes and speed-dealer sunnies un-ironically.

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These tired old clichés might have been vaguely accurate in days gone by, but things have changed considerably for Gen Y and Z. Now, tradespeople are establishing themselves as a well paid and well respected faction of society, often earning more cash than university graduates.

In May this year, PayScale released data claiming that plumbers and electricians can earn double the wage of lawyers, with hourly rates of over $70. And there are many other graduate professions at which people struggle to earn as much as tradespeople. Teaching, nursing, public service, media and public relations are all examples of these kinds of roles.

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But it’s not just the money that makes trades attractive, it’s also the amount of jobs that are available. Australia is currently facing a massive skills shortage when it comes to trades, so there is plenty of work to go ‘round, especially in construction-related industries. In fact, the data suggests that tradespeople will be even more in demand into the future. Compare this to university degrees, where, in recent times only 68 percent of graduates have found full-time employment upon completion of their degrees.

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Another factor is the cost of a university degree, which accumulates in the form of a HECS debt and must be paid back later on. Working a trade, on the other hand, allows you to earn while you learn, so tradies can end up more than $100,000 better off than university students once they’re qualified.

Table of apprenticeship wages vs University fees

While those numbers are pretty staggering, we’re not simply telling you to flush your academic dreams down the toilet and become a plumber. Sometimes a degree can be even more beneficial to your trade, allowing you to climb the ranks in a trade industry and earn even more of that sweet dosh.

Nothing works for everyone, and ultimately, the decision is up to you. But if you’re good with practical stuff and you’ve been considering getting yourself a trade, it’s clearly a pretty bloody decent option… Hit up our mates over at Master Builders Association NSW if you’re keen to get started – they’ve got opportunities no matter your age or experience level!

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