The new six-figure job? Trade work.
Trade schools are now touting how blue-collar professionals like plumbers, electricians, and mechanics make more money than workers whose roles required bachelor's degrees, Bloomberg reports. While the average pay of some of these occupations totals $52,000, specialized jobs including aircraft mechanics and heavy-equipment technicians can surpass $100,000. Bloomberg reported plumbers in Atlanta earn $90,000 in wages and commissions -- 70% higher than the region's average income.
Though college grads still earn more than their nongraduate peers, avoiding student debt could make trade schools more appealing. Many trade programs are covered in part by employers, and state-sponsored programs in Michigan and Georgia offer trade degrees tuition-free.
In addition to local governments and trade schools, businesses are also acknowledging that four-year degrees may not be necessary to get a high-paying job. Prominent business leaders such as Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton and Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly dismissed the idea that four-year degrees guarantee career-readiness. Cook even said half of Apple's new hires in 2018 did not hold a four-year degree.
The future of work may not require a bachelor's degree to get a good job. Of the 10 occupations that are expected to see the most job growth through 2026, only one, a registered nurse, requires a college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, six of these jobs - personal care aides, restaurant waitstaff, janitors, general laborers, home health aides, and food preparers - do not require even a high school diploma.
In total, at least 64% of jobs in 2026 will require no education beyond high school, compared with 25% of jobs that will likely require a four-year degree
"Our real education 'mismatch' may be of a sort many of us prefer not to consider - that we are educating our citizens for jobs that simply do not and will not exist," Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of The Job: Work and Its Future in a Time of Radical Change, wrote.
While college grads still earn more than $932 the median earning for all workers, the trend against going to school may already be starting. In 2016, wages for those with just a high school degree or less rose faster than any other group, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute. Young workers saddled with student debt are also fed up with the system, as nearly half of indebted millennials recently told INSIDER college was not worth the economic hassle.
"Preparing young minds is a vital exercise, one we must continue to pursue with vigor, creativity, and humility," Shell wrote. "But the insistence that more education on its own necessarily enhances earning prospects is not only wrong, it's cruel, saddling too many of us with unrealistic prospects and crippling debt."