Are you better off leaving medical school and becoming a plumber?

Published:  14 January, 2015

Most school leavers are faced with the classic proposition of choosing which path to take, leave the homestead and head off into the big wide world of University or ‘learn a trade’ and get an immediate job. The former is often thought to be the ‘sensible’ choice, with the trade option meant to be one fraught with difficulty, but for all the talk of glass ceilings it seems to be the most pragmatic option, says Matthew Pierce.

Instant benefits

The average plumber makes £25,000 after graduation compared to £22,636 for the equivalently experienced Doctor. While the Doctor will go on to earn a larger salary later on in life but by the time the plumber has graduated he’ll be 18. The average Doctor doesn’t graduate until they are 25 by which time they will have already paid for nine years of expensive education - coupled with the cost of loss of earnings the Doctor will be considerably worse off. 

The cost of education

Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of Economics at Boston University agrees “an expensive education just isn’t worth it”. One year of tuition and fees at Boston totalled $38,800 (£25,500) for 2013-14. That’s enough for a deposit on a small house or a very nice new car.

Indeed people often find themselves feeling ‘pushed’ into university by their parents and peers. However, university is not for everyone. Some people don’t suit academic work or the student lifestyle. Others just want to start working and earning money as soon as possible.

Another route

Another option is to start working in an apprenticeship scheme – where you earn a wage while you are taught key skills and techniques from an accomplished master. The idea is that this will equip you with enough experience to send you directly into a job.

Apprenticeships can lead the way into more conservative, ‘professional’ employment. Recent reports have concluded that the projected boost in numbers of people taking apprenticeships is set to improve Britain’s GDP by £4 billion per year.

More than a job

Working in a more practical industry such as plumbing, carpentry or construction can have more benefits than meets the eye. You’ll get to work in an industry where you actually make a tangible difference and can see first-hand the changes you make to the world.

In this life that is unfortunately a luxury. Why wouldn’t you move out of the office into the actual physical world?

You are also likely to meet some really amazing people. Working as a plumber be it commercial or private you will run into some fascinating characters along your way. Also, if you are lucky, smart and hardworking (or even just one of these things) you may well find yourself with the opportunity to manage and own your own firm. This is an incredible opportunity to further yourself and also increase your financial security. 

It’s up to you

It’s not a secret anymore, the traditional route to employment isn’t actually the safest option. Your future can be improved by taking what might seem the riskiest option at the time.

Matthew Pierce is managing director for independent plumbing merchant, Compass Plumbing.