KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More Americans than ever are going to college these days, at a time when demand for skilled workers is increasing.

The American Welding Society predicts a shortage of about 450,000 welders by 2022. 

Some students are starting to figure out that pursuing a career in skilled work pays more than some jobs requiring a four-year degree--and without the student debt. 

Carson Sanders is a student at Pellissippi State Community College. He started off studying forensic science but decided that wasn't for him. 

"The next semester I enrolled in the welding program," Sanders said. 

Sanders now works at The Iron Studio in West Knox County. The company makes artistic ironwork for your home. 

It turns out the United States may need a lot more people like Sanders. 

The American Welding Society predicts a shortage of about 450,000 welders by 2022.

Industry workers believe one of the reasons is that more and more Americans are seeking four-year college degrees. 

"I think that's a trend throughout this industry right now," said Wayne Grimes, the owner of Metal Supermarkets in West Knox County. The company provides supplies to local workers with metal products. 

"We're very fortunate that we've got a great staff right now. People know what they're doing. But they're hard to come by," Grimes said. 

That's why Samantha Hensel is planning to go back to Pellissippi to learn more about metal work. 

"This is a lot of math, a lot of hands-on experience, it's actually not that hard once you get the hang of it," Hensel said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary for a welder in Knoxville is about $41,000. 

And according to Student Loan Hero, the average college student graduated with $29,800 in debt in 2018. 

To Sanders, it's a no-brainer. 

"When I was in my first year of college, I was looking to the future and I was like, I'm going to be in a lot of debt. I switched, and I only have two years instead of six years now, and it's so nicer," Sanders said.