Friday, March 16, 2018

Interesting comparison between an automotive technician and a Ph.D. organic chemist

From friend of the blog James Ashenhurst, a very interesting letter to the editor from the Wall Street Journal about the trades:
We have one son who graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry after a total of nine years of college. We have another son who graduated from WyoTech with degrees in Automotive Technology and Management after a two-year program right after high school. After five years at their respective jobs, which both thoroughly employ their respective educations, guess which one makes more money? Trade school wins. 
Bronwyn Clear
Proud parents, I bet.

(I suspect the income lines will cross at the 10 year or 20 year mark, but there's no guarantee, I suspect. Also, it depends on whether the MIT son became an academic.)  


  1. 1) The MIT grad is going to have to get a huge bump in earnings to catch up to the WyoTech grad.

    2) By the time they do, the WyoTech grad may be spending more of their day thinking and testing hypotheses, while the MIT grad spends the day trying to not fall asleep in meetings.

  2. Like most things, this is meaningless without details, but cute for an anecdote.

    I have a PhD in organic. At my company that would put the mechanic at 110-120k. Not bad. There are many paths to high earnings for a mechanic and for chemist. Also some paths with modest income.

    Hopefully both enjoy their work, as that is more important than compensation.

  3. All income distribution curves have areas of overlap...funny nonetheless

  4. After 10 years of education, I am just starting to catch up earnings-wise to my friends who are plumbers, electricians, etc. Maybe less important than sheer earning power is the fact that they have been paying down a mortgage for years, earning retirement savings, building equity/assets. And I am just now starting all those things.

    1. And you have to be sure you stay employed. Unemployment is a double whammy--no money going in, and expenses still to pay off. Other jobs are better simply because you can manage to stay employed. With a PhD in the sciences, long periods of unemployment is a strong possibility.

  5. Either the automotive technician is in the top 5% for salary for their profession or the MIT Ph.D. is being vastly underpaid

  6. the one who graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. should invest overseas to currently developing markets with caution. Be aware that long time unemployment is a danger, you are overqualified without any experience in the eye of the industry, once you are out there are not many job for you. You are old without any industrial skills. Because you achieved PhD degree which does not need any experience accumulation.

  7. One thing that gets overlooked in the comparison between blue and white collar jobs is that a person who is capable of earning a PhD in chemistry and chooses to become an auto mechanic, carpenter, etc will probably be smart enough to become a successful small business owner. It's very likely that a guy with his own auto garage, high-end kitchen renovation business, etc will make more money than most PhD scientists. Vocational education has become a dumping ground for bad kids instead of a serious alternative to college, and consequently, there's a shortage of people in these fields who have the ability to run a small business successfully.