The Different Types of Trade School Programs

Deciding on the right school is a big decision. It’s critical to look at all your options including the different types of trade school programs.
The Different Types of Trade Schools

As traditional college becomes more expensive and less lucrative after graduation, trade school programs are an option many people are considering. Understanding the different types of trade schools is crucial since they are a more specialized education than most colleges.

The benefit of trade schools is a quicker path to the workforce with less expense. Many of these jobs are high paying and can leave people in a much better financial position than racking up huge debts at a college.

Here we will take a look at the different types of trade schools the specific programs they offer.

Medical Trade Schools

One of the fastest growing industries out there is the medical industry. That’s why it makes sense the medical profession has the most different types of trade school programs.

As we see the Baby Boomers continue to retire by the thousands, the market for medical care will increase dramatically. 10,000 Boomers turn 65 every day, and that number will continue for years to come.

Some of these jobs will require full-fledged college degrees, but many do not. Many of these trade school programs will also have you earning competitive wages right out of school.

  1.  Nursing
  2. Dental Assistant
  3. Dental Hygienist
  4. Emergency Medical Services
  5. Healthcare Administration
  6. Lab Tech
  7. Medical Assistant
  8. Pharmacy Tech
  9. Radiology Tech
  10. Medical Billing
  11. Medical Coding
  12. Social Work
  13. Physical Therapist Assistant
  14. Occupational Therapy Assistant
  15. Veterinary Technology

Manufacturing Trade Schools

Manufacturing is difficult in today’s world when many of those industries are under pressure from lower-cost regions of the world. That’s why it’s necessary to have more training if you intend to pursue this career.

You will find anything from advanced manufacturing and robotics to more traditional skills like welding. All these types of trade school have a place in the future of manufacturing. They also present you with the opportunity to earn a substantial wage after 12-24 months of school.

  1. Automation and Robotics
  2. Advanced Manufacturing
  3. Drafting and Design Engineering
  4. Machinist
  5. Operator
  6. Welding
  7. Electro-Mechanical
  8. Industrial Electricity

Construction Trade Schools

Many of these types of trade school are what people typically think of when we talk about trade programs. Not only do these have good paying jobs waiting for graduates, but many areas of the country also have shortages.

After the housing market collapse in 2008 and the great recession during the same period, many workers in these trades left the field. Unfortunately, our younger generations have not been entering these jobs as quickly, leaving a gap.

You can take advantage of the low supply and high demand as the housing market rebounds by checking out these trade schools.

  1. Electrician
  2. HVAC
  3. Mechanics
  4. Carpentry
  5. Plumbing
  6. Welding
  7. Civil Engineering
  8. Heavy Equipment Operation

Transportation Trade Schools

If you are one of those who likes the fast lane, then maybe a transportation trade school program is for you. There are many options out there from automobile to aviation. In a transportation trade school, you may learn how to fix pieces of the car or plane. These include exterior, interior, and technological parts of these transportation based machines.

  1. Automotive Collision
  2. Automotive Technology
  3. Aviation Maintenance
  4. Fixed Wing Pilot
  5. Aviation Electronics
  6. Diesel Technology
  7. Powersports Technology

Utilities Trade Schools

The utility industry is another classic industry with many different types of trades. There are thousands of utility companies around the country, all needing specialized people to do many jobs.

Many of these jobs come with a high level of responsibility, and excellent pay as a result. If you are interested in power generation, whether electrical or nuclear, this might be a trade for you. Here are some of the most popular programs.

  1. Electric Power Generation
  2. Utility/Lineman Technician
  3. Nuclear Instrumentation
  4. Nuclear Reactor Operations
  5. Nuclear Radiation Protection

Business and Technology Trade Schools

These trade schools are great for getting specialized training in an area of business or technology.  Many traditional colleges will give a much broader education in these areas. But if you know all you want to do is build apps or design web pages, then a trade school program is a much faster path.

You don’t need four or five years of college to learn how to do many of these things. And beyond a year or two of school, much of what you need is learned on the job.

Many of these jobs, such as web development and graphic design, are very well suited for freelance work. Visit sites like Upwork or Fiverr, and you will see the very high demand for these skills. Get yourself situated as a freelancer, and you may be able to earn a good living working from home.

  1. Computer Science
  2. Web Development
  3. Coding
  4. Computer App Design
  5. Graphic Design
  6. Networking and Cyber Security

Other types of Trade Schools

Some types of trade schools don’t fit into a broader category, yet deserve to be recognized. The trade schools listed below are some of the more popular out there today.

  1. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
  2. Massage
  3. Culinary
  4. Cosmetology Trade Schools

Advantages of Trade Schools

Time – Every one of these trade school programs we discuss can be completed in two years or less.  This is critical for those who don’t have the time or financial resources for traditional college.  It’s also essential if you are changing your career later in life and don’t want to spend as much time re-tooling.

Many of these schools also combine real-world experience along with the classroom.  This can put money in the student’s pocket while getting an education.

Cost – These trade schools, on average, are much less expensive than a traditional college education. This is a primary driver of why this type of school should be considered after high school. The cost/benefit analysis shouldn’t be taken lightly when deciding to go to a traditional college. Just because the potential earnings may be higher doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision. That’s especially true if you feel more passionate about a trade school skill.

Transfer credits – It’s not true of all trade school programs, but some have agreements with colleges that allow some credits to transfer. So, if you want to get started in a trade school but later decide having an associate or bachelor degree is your end goal, your classwork still has value.

Disadvantages of Trade Schools

Earnings Potential – After graduating from these trade schools, you can earn a competitive wage. But you should be aware that the higher end pay for trade school graduates is typically lower than that of a bachelor degree. Depending on what job you do, that could result in lower overall earnings throughout your life. Do the cost/benefit analysis for each school type, and make sure to factor in your passion for the subject. Make your decision after carefully considering all aspects.

Focused Training – One of the reasons it takes less time for a trade school program is that the area of study is focused. In traditional college, the curriculum is much broader and more well-rounded. This gives a student more flexibility to see what they may like outside of a particular area of study. Therefore, you will often see college students change their major once or twice before graduating. If you are positive about your passion for a specific topic, trade school is a good option. If you want more flexibility, consider a community or traditional college.

Who is the Ideal Candidate for a Trade School

With so many types of trade school out there, there are many optimal candidates. But those often fit into a few higher level groupings.

  • High School Graduate Who Doesn’t Like School – If you are a high school graduate who has never taken well to a classroom, consider a trade school program instead. While this is an educational atmosphere, trade schools are often much more hands-on rather than class oriented. Remember, it is critical to continue education after high school to get job-specific skills. More importantly, remember you have options when it comes to how you get that education.
  • Mid-Life Career Changer – One of the problems many people face today is getting a degree, starting a job in that field, and realizing it’s not for them. Often a person feels trapped because they need the paycheck and can’t afford to go back to school to start a new career. A trade school doesn’t solve all of these problems, but it can get you re-trained and into a new profession more quickly. If you are looking for something new after starting a career in a different field, then this type of school should be considered.
  • Undecided with Financial Restrictions – Many uncertain people, especially recent high school graduates, will by default decide on a traditional college. This can work well for some as college can give you the breadth of curriculum needed to find the right career path. But it also can be a bad decision for those who end up going to school for a couple of years only to drop out. This can leave a student with massive debt, yet no degree or job prospects to help pay that debt back. If you are having doubts about college, consider a trade school that can transfer credits to a college. It’s a much lower risk way of getting your feet wet after graduating.

The Bottom Line

If you are graduating high school or changing careers in midlife, there are many decisions to be made. Regardless of why you are going back to school, it’s crucial to find the things you are passionate about before committing.

It’s also important to understand your bandwidth for education. If you don’t like school, then traditional college might be a challenge for you to complete. This can lead to unnecessary debt with no payback at all if you don’t complete your degree.

Trade school programs offer a great alternative to some of the more traditional routes after graduating high school. With specialized training, you can gain valuable skills and get into the workforce quickly while earning good wages.

In the end, make sure you weigh all the options and understand the cost/benefit of whatever decision you make. But also realize that not everything in life is just about the salary you earn. If you wake up every morning loving what you do while earning an honest living, you will be much happier in the long haul.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Thomas Peterson
2 years ago

You made a good point that trade schools can be catered more to specialized schooling. I’ve been trying to get on a career path that I can be fulfilled with. Maybe I should look into enrolling for something in a trade school.

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