Quantcast

He found good work without a college degree

How perseverance pays off

Dan Holly Urban News Service | 8/2/2018, midnight

When Earnest Parker Jr. wanted to go to college, his parents did not have the money. Now he is earning more money than many college graduates—by owning and driving trucks.

After five years of steady work and savings, Parker had amassed enough money in his 401(k) retirement plan – with the help of his employer, who matched his contributions – to buy his first truck. He put down $3,000 on a W900 Kenworth for $110,000.

Parker bought a second truck, a Freightliner Century, for $30,000 in November 2017. With unmistakable pride, he jokes that his fleet “grew by 100 percent.”

Working near Statesville, N.C., just north of Charlotte, Parker does not believe his lack of a degree has held him back. “For the money that I’m making, I probably wouldn’t be doing too much better even if I did go to college,” he said.

After paying all expenses, Parker takes home about $750 per week (roughly $39,000 per year). “I’m pretty happy,” he said. “Everybody always feels they could get a little more, but I look at what I can provide for my family and I’m really not in need.”

Parker can provide hope to the growing number of Americans who cannot afford to attend college, but do have smarts, drive and ambition. He is playing his cards right, said Dr. Michael Walden, a professor of economics at North Carolina University.

While many young people stress out about college debt and struggle to find jobs, many industries – like trucking – have good-paying jobs and are begging for workers. There are some 50,000 open positions for truck drivers, according to the American Trucking Association. It projects the driver shortage to grow to more than 174,000 unfilled jobs by 2026.

Not every young person needs to go to college, Walden said.

“Skilled craft jobs -- particularly in construction, as well as jobs in transportation – are expected to increase by 600,000 to 700,000 positions in the next decade,” Walden told the Urban News Service. “On top of that, many of the current [job] holders are older and will be retiring. Many of these jobs can pay a ‘middle class salary’ – $40,000 and over – and require two-year community college training or on-the-job training.”

The average truck driver in the U.S. earns $79,565, according to Indeed.com. Its salary estimates, the website said,  “are based on 1,113,184 salaries, submitted anonymously to Indeed by truck driver employees, users, and collected from past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.”

By contrast, recent college graduates who major in education earn $34,981 and those who studied communications earn $47,047, according to a recent study by National Association of Colleges and Employers.  Those who studied engineering earned the most right out of college: $64,981—still almost $15,000 less than truck drivers. Over time, college graduates eventually out earn non-graduates, studies show. Still, those studies measure gross pre-tax income and, generally, do not adjust for repayment of college and graduate-school debt.

Walden, who examined the future job market in his book, “North Carolina Beyond the Connected Age: The Tar Heel State in 2050,” pointed out that even those who start college don’t always finish. “One-third of entering college students never graduate, some because they are not interested in college work,” he said. “The skilled craft jobs are an excellent alternative.”