Are you in the midst of a school search but hesitant of a 4-year commitment? Then you might consider a trade school. And in that case, it’s worth exploring what exactly is a Trade School vs College.
It’s a question more and more people are pondering as the daunting realities of student debt are becoming all too real for many students.
It’s wise to look at the difference between these two tracks since they have many differences. Either one can be successful for many people, but once you understand some of the things that separate them, you can make a more informed decision.
At a very high level, you will find trade schools to be more focused. You’ll study in one specific area with a very clear set of jobs in mind when you graduate.
On the other hand, with a 4-year university, you will likely start out with a broad curriculum. Over time you will be asked to hone in on an area of study and graduate with a specific degree. That degree may be more flexible in the job market.
You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons for yourself, but don’t be pushed into the 4-year route just because it’s what you’re “suppose” to do.
While 4-year college has great benefits, it also has its pitfalls if you aren’t committed to completing a degree. Trade and Career schools can offer great career opportunities with less risk.
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1. It Takes Less Time
One of the biggest commitments to get any kind of degree or certificate is the time it takes in school.
We all know some people who loved school, and others who can’t stand it. If you are one of the latter, then there is no question you should consider a trade school vs college.
Most trade schools are going to take close to 2-years to complete, especially those with the highest demand. Some might only take you 1-year to as a little as a few weeks. But keep in mind those shorter programs aren’t going to leave you with the same earnings potential.
Still, even some of the shorter trade school jobs can kickstart your move into high growth industries like medical and technology.
2. It Costs Less Money
When it comes down to it, the cost of a trade school compared to college is about one-third. That’s significant when you consider the average student loan debt is over $32,000 for college. On the other hand, that debt drops to around $10,000 for a trade school.
The overall Return on Investment is very dependent on how much you earn after graduation. While the average income out of college is still higher, it’s also more variable.
Job opportunities and earnings potential are more have greater certainty coming out of trade school programs.
This is why we see many college graduates struggling. They did not understand the job market compared to the cost of the degree.
3. You Know What You Want
One of the best arguments for a traditional college is a broader curriculum. It gives someone whose uncertain about their path a chance to explore different things before deciding on a path.
But if you don’t have that uncertainty, then you should try to find a trade school that offers what you are looking for.
It’s hard to find someone who went to college who won’t scratch their head about a few of their freshman and sophomore year requirements. And whether you see the value or not, those classes aren’t free.
Trade schools aren’t going to spend your time and money on these courses. You will get down to business learning about that specific trade and what it takes to succeed.
For someone who’s already certain what they want to be, you can save both time and money by going the trade school route.
4. Making a Mid-life Career Change
This isn’t to say you should choose a trade school just because of your age. If you’re making a career change you should consider all options to makes sure it leads to the most fulfilling career.
That said, many people might not be thrilled at the idea of 4 years in college in mid-life. That’s where trade schools can offer major advantages.
The risk of going back to school at this age just to find out you don’t like the choice can be scary.
The focused training programs should give you a better feel in a short period of time for the industry. That combined with the lower cost, equals lower risks for someone to make a change later in life.
5. Stay Close to Home
Many colleges are not local to the students who want to attend. In fact, that’s probably the reason many make the decision to go to a certain school. To get out and experience the world away from home.
But if you find yourself swinging in the opposite direction, trade schools can keep you closer to home. Not only are trade schools are often tucked into local communities, but you will also find many of these programs at community colleges.
That leaves you a lot of options to get training without the added burden of moving to a college campus. And it also has the obvious benefit of eliminating the housing costs for young students who may still live at home.
6. Hands-on Learning
Most trade schools are going to be more hands-on than a traditional college. Much of that is just the nature of the work and what you need to learn.
Becoming a nurse for instance requires time in a clinical setting, whereas a business degree may not.
That’s not to say that one is better than the other. But when you consider a trade school vs college, you also have to think about how you learn best.
Just like with people who prefer a multiple-choice over a written exam, some people thrive in a hands-on world.
7. Low Unemployment Rate
The skilled trades industries in general have had supply and demand problems since the ’80s and ’90s. As more students felt the pressure to enter college, it left a noticeable shortage in the trades.
With industries like manufacturing, infrastructure, and transportation on the rise there is a growing need for these degrees. And because of the continued misperception of trade schools as a less valuable degree, it leaves great opportunities for graduates.
Not only is there job opportunity, but the salaries can compete with an oftentimes beat that of some common bachelor degree programs.
8. Many Career Options
As we mentioned above, there are entire industries that a primed to need more trade school graduates. That goes across medical, technology, manufacturing, construction, energy, and many others.
The word trade school has often been thought of as just skilled trades like carpentry and electricians. But when we talk about it today we’re looking at any school that trains you for a particular profession in 2 years or less.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics tracks more than 300 jobs considered to be in the technical and trades categories. Not only is there a large variety, but average salaries can be in the six figures depending on the career.
9. Follow Your Passion
Choosing a trade school vs college can be a tough decision. There is often immense pressure to go the traditional college route from family.
But breaking with the norm if it helps you follow your passion can lead to longer-term happiness. Do some searching and you will find many stories of people who were expected to go to college when it wasn’t in their heart.
Unfortunately, many of these stories end with people wasting one, two, or even more years in college before dropping out and pursuing a trade.
That’s a lot of wasted time and money because we feel pressured to conform.
The Bottom Line
The list of factors we must consider when deciding on a school is long. Figuring out what type of school to attend that aligns passion and opportunity with cost and time is one of the most difficult.
The good news is there is likely more than one fit for most people. Both the trade school and college route have positives and negatives to consider.
But be sure to consider all of your options as they take you down considerably different paths. While not yet the norm, trade schools offer some advantages you shouldn’t overlook.
Take the time to understand the job opportunities vs the cost of the degree you are pursuing. In the end, you should look at your education as an investment. Getting a good return on your money can mean more satisfaction down the road.