The Trade vs The Degree

(3 votes)

With the mining employment climate as unpredictable as the weather it is no coincidence that new entrants are more conflicted than ever. Faced with an uncertain job market and no convincing answers, school leavers and job seekers are being forced to take a punt on their future. So does one veer right for a University Degree or head left for a Trade?

While the university degree once offered significant value to potential employers, highlighting hard work and achievement, today’s perception of the internship as ‘a foot in the door’ and small business as an alternative to working for someone else, has reduced post-secondary study from a beacon of shining light to a dim afterglow on a questionable CV. And with student debt rising by almost 30 per cent since 2007, learning a trade has never looked quite so appealing. 

It’s little wonder than that so many high school students are signing up for resource sector traineeships and apprenticeships, these placements allowing successful applicants to learn and train on the job. By joining an industry whose prosperity is heavily contributing to the economic stature of Australia, workers salaries can range from $40,000 to $260,000+ depending on experience. To put it into context, a year 12 graduate that commits could be sitting on more than half a million in assets by their late 20s. Providing they are good with their capital and investment savvy, this isn’t such an unlikely scenario. Compare this hypothetical to that of a tertiary graduate of the same age, and you find a well-educated adult faced with unemployment and deficit.


Where ‘job security’ was once the number one priority, now the millennial job seeker looks for ‘job availability’. It’s a heady ask to put to the youth of Australia: Should you invest in a 3-4, or more, year course at $30,000, or more, a pop only to be thrown into a jobless market-place? It certainly makes the ‘degree’ direction a dubious one, and the statistics don’t lie.

A July report from Universities Australia found that most students, pre and post-grad, are experiencing far greater levels of financial distress than ever before, with more than two-thirds reporting financial woes.

So as many flock to the flourishing resources sector, the almost manic interest combined with augmented levels of job-loss, and jobless, anxiety make for some very high expectations. Interested parties are urged to approach the hands-on job prospect with caution; talk to any miner and a tale of long hours, uncomfortable conditions and prolonged periods away from family and friends will quickly burst your dream bubble. 

Put aside the plush pay-package and consider the opportunities: are you looking for consulting or contracting work? Will you be happy to live onsite in a mining town? If you have a partner will they be relocating to be closer to you and finally does the company culture seem like a good fit for you?

Ill-informed workers are quickly leading to a rise in the number of drop-outs, compelling companies to introduce ‘starter wages’ in order to deter those dollar sign devotees. Without an element of interest in the mining industry – you’ll crack faster than a drill to igneous rock.

But is giving up the university, ‘find-yourself’, experience only to jump directly into ‘9-5 adulthood’ preferential? In an ironic turn of events it seems mining maverick, and consequential billionaire, Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest has donated a whooping $65 million to the University of Western Australia. The single largest sum of its kind was spurred on by Forrest’s desire to attract some of the globe’s intellectual elite to West Australian universities. The huge donation comes after a bumper period of donations to Australian universities from philanthropy industry figures. 


Offering a plethora of jobs in drilling, engineering, electrical, geo-science and of course mining, each, and more like them, are considered highly covetable, and add significantly to Australia and its history. So if the pros outweigh the cons, then there really is no better time to invest in a growing industry, especially with the growing trend in outsourcing grad jobs, something that is not possible in the resources sector.

This news has been a big blow for university students that subscribe to an institution preparing them for a future, which is no longer theirs. It’s certainly a scary vista and as a job prospect it offers very little promise. In this shifting workforce, the one great thing about perusing a trade is, even in a tough economy you are still in demand.

Knowledge is invaluable but whether gained in the lecture room or on the job site neither is incorrect; it is ultimately down to personal preference, which will lead to a prosperous career is anyone’s guess. The best you can do is follow your instinct and be smart about it. If mining is on the cards ensure you do your research and take care to avoid the dodgy companies flogging off ‘quick training’ only to leave you high and dry when it comes to actually getting in.

That being said, if you’re looking for flexibility, and more time to think about it, a degree may hold you in good stead. The possibilities are endless so don’t sell yourself short and remember: though money is important, ‘exciting’, ‘rewarding’ and ‘challenging’ should always factor into the equation.

What are your opinions on getting a trade vs getting a degree? Maybe you don't need either to have success in the mining game?

Let us know about your experiences in our forum:


Written By:



o BHP A$31.91 ▼0.24 (-0.75%)
o Rio Tinto A$58.55 ▼0.65 (-1.10%)
o Fortescue A$2.02 ▼0.12 (-5.61%)
o Newcrest A$12.42 ▼0.23 (-1.82%)


Company ID [ASX:BHP] Last trade:A$31.91 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.24 (-0.75%)

Rio Tinto

Company ID [ASX:RIO] Last trade:A$58.55 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.65 (-1.10%)


Company ID [ASX:FMG] Last trade:A$2.02 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.12 (-5.61%)


Company ID [ASX:NCM] Last trade:A$12.42 Trade time:4:10PM GMT+11 Value change:▼0.23 (-1.82%)


Minetalk Poll

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

No, it's just media hype.
Yes as a result of lower demand.
Still plenty of resources.
There will be a second boom.
1 Votes left

HomeNewsHave Your SayVideosPhotosDirectoryForumHelpLegalPrivacy PolicyContact Us |  © 2014 SM Media