OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — College graduates in Oklahoma, on average, are carrying nearly $26,000 in student loan debt and recent research shows those young employees may be making less money than some high school graduates, who take blue collar jobs.
When the time comes for young students to decide their fate knowing which move to make can feel like a shot in the dark.
For generations, the push to take the college path has become stronger. But should it be?
"I think probably, coming out of the great recession a few years ago, the common view was, the only people who end up going to trade school are those that have no other options." says Bettye Taylor with Express Employment Professionals, "Either financially for a college degree, or maybe they couldn't hold down a job for whatever reason, and that's just not the case anymore."
Job market experts are saying college may not be the best choice, anymore.
In fact, jobs that require a skilled trade are not only becoming more available... They're becoming more desirable. And they're said to be the foundation of our local economy.
While national studies still show that more education means more pay, Taylor says that might not necessarily be the case in Oklahoma, where most of the job force is fueled by careers that don't require a degree.
"Our current completion rate and positive placement of those students for our state is currently at ninety four percent." said Taylor.
Through career tech programs, high school students can graduate with certifications for jobs in computer science, automotive services, construction, and even the healthcare field. Often times at little or no cost to the student. Many times, those students leave school with a job already lined up.
"By the time you're getting out of a four year degree, those people who went to a trade school for a year, maybe a two year certification, they're making double, many times, what a brand new graduate would be coming out of college." Taylor said.
Dr. Marcie Mack, with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education explains how the job market shapes the way they help students and in turn new businesses that might come to Oklahoma.
Career experts advise keeping an open mind to all career path options.
"Find your passion. There's no shame in taking a year, taking six months, taking three months and doing your research and try and find your passion so you really know what you want to do for the rest of your life. If you're happy in what you're doing and it's your passion, you're going to be successful." said Mack
New research by Express Employment Professionals shows more than 90% of blue collar workers are proud of their jobs and 80% say their jobs provide a good living.