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Trade School vs College: Which Is Better?

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Should you go to trade school and prepare for a specific line of work, or attend college instead? While a college degree may sound attractive, there are pros and cons. A vocational school may offer more advantages. So, which is better?

In the trade school vs college debate, there is a common perception that a bachelor’s degree is a necessary requirement for many jobs and leads to better career opportunities and higher salaries. But perception does not always reflect reality. Often, trade school and vocational programs provide more direct pathways to careers in high demand.

Lets explore the pros and cons of going to trade school vs attending college. We’ll hopefully help you decide which career path is better for you.

Why Trade Schools Are Better Than College

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For individuals seeking to kickstart a career in a specialized industry, a trade school program may be the best route. Education programs at these institutions focus on providing students with unique skills and knowledge that can accelerate their job search compared to traditional college experiences.

Here are 7 informative facts as evidence of why trade school is an excellent choice for launching your professional journey.

1. Specialized, job-ready training

Trade school offers specialized training in specific areas, giving students a competitive edge when they apply for jobs after graduation.

Trade schools are making waves as a viable option for those who want to hone the skills necessary for success in their chosen careers — without investing four years and costly tuition into academia. Trade school students learn specific industry techniques, building relevant knowledge that will make them immediately competitive when they enter the working world.

Plus these choices save time compared to conventional college programs, allowing grads access to more specialized positions sooner than later!

2. Get hired sooner

Graduates from a trade school typically have shorter wait times to be hired than those who go through traditional university education. Vocational programs vary in length, but most take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete. College, on the other hand, typically takes 4 years for a bachelor’s degree.

College isn’t the only way to open job opportunities. Trade school provides an easier, faster route for boosting employability. Trade schools offer valuable hands-on experience and vocational training in a certain field that employers value highly. Their grads stand out from other applicants due to their practical knowledge of their chosen industry.

Many trade school graduates find employment quickly with the right qualifications. For those who don’t feel university is suitable or need a career change without committing long-term, it’s not surprising that so many choose trade education as an alternative.

3. Benefit from job placement services

Many trade schools provide job placement services to help graduates find employment quickly and easily.

Trade school programs offer more than technical training. They also provide a service that gives students an edge when it comes to job placement. Those who find the best trade school jobs are often those who work with their personal network connections, search workshops and access to exclusive job opportunities.

Graduates of trade school programs have the advantage in finding employment after completion. This makes transitioning into the workforce easier and faster for individuals seeking new positions or returning from break periods out of work. An educated decision could be just one visit away!

4. Flexible, part-time study

Flexible course schedules often allow trade school students to work part-time while completing their studies.

Vocational schools are an increasingly sought-after option for individuals looking to specialize in a specific career or master a particular skill. Providing flexible academic timetables making them ideal for working adults and busy teens alike.

These institutions offer part-time classes that permit students to study while maintaining their other commitments. It’s the perfect compromise of obtaining qualifications without sacrificing personal time or hobbies!

5. Be debt-free sooner

Workers with a trade often receive higher salaries than those who go through tertiary education, allowing them to pay off their student loans more quickly and begin saving for retirement earlier in life.

Students often find themselves between a rock and hard place when it comes to college tuition fees. Traditional higher education can be expensive, leading some caregivers – or even students – searching for faster ways of completing their studies with greater financial security as the end goal.

Trade school provides just that. Graduates enter the job market earning more competitive salaries than those from traditional paths, allowing them a head start on repaying any student loans they may have incurred along the way. Additionally, retirement savings appear sooner on this route too!

With such clear benefits available through vocational schooling options, it’s no wonder so many are choosing this path over other forms of learning.

6. Gain practical skills employers value

Since trade schools provide practical training, employers in many industries look favorably upon people with trade qualifications when hiring.

With the increasingly competitive job market, more people are looking to add value to their credentials by doing specialized training. Trade school gives students this opportunity with practical skills that employers look for in potential hires. As a result of being job prepared, applicants with trade school diplomas have an advantage over those without one during recruitment processes.

7. Receive important career guidance

Trade schools offer career services for their graduates, making it easier to find or change jobs after being hired.

Effective career advice gives graduates a crucial edge when it comes to the job hunt. Services range from counseling that helps pinpoint suitable career paths, to providing access to recruitment opportunities and financial assistance with searching for jobs and learning new skills. Such services can be an invaluable asset.

If you’re looking forward towards advancing your professional prospects then make sure that you don’t miss out on everything that trade school resources have in store!

Disadvantages of Trade School

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To balance all the identified benefits of going to trade school, let’s look at the disadvantages as well. Compared to a college education, here are some of the major cons that you may want to consider.

1. Limited career options

Trade schools generally prepare students for specific careers, such as electrician, plumbing, or cosmetology, and may not offer the same versatility as a higher education. This means that graduates may not be qualified for as many job opportunities as those with a bachelor’s degree.

Your career options may be limited to your area of expertise. This can be a disadvantage mainly for those who (a) are not sure what career they want to pursue or (b) want to leave the option open for career changes later on in life. While the same is true of many college programs, college degrees are generally seen as more versatile.

2. Narrow skill set

Similar to point 1, trade school training is highly specialized and focuses on developing specific skills related to a particular industry. This narrow focus can limit career growth and advancement opportunities.

Trade school graduates may lack the broad range of skills and knowledge that a university education can provide. This may also make it more difficult to transition to a different career in the future. Furthermore, employers may view people working in trades as having limited potential for advancement and may prefer to hire candidates with a broader skill set.

College students also have more options to continue their education. Even if they decide to leave before finishing their degree, credit earned from a university or college can typically be transferred to another comparable institution whenever the student decides to resume their studies. Graduates also have the option of pursuing advanced degrees to further their education or switch careers.

3. Negative stigma

In some cultures, trade school may not be as highly valued as a four-year college education. In other words, there may be a stigma associated with not having a degree. Where you live may determine how much of an issue this could be.

Negative perceptions can lead to discrimination in the job market. Employers may be more likely to choose a candidate with a college degree over a trade school graduate, even if the trade school graduate has more relevant experience and skills.

This perceived stigma may also lead to feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt. You may feel you’ve not received the same level of education or preparation as college graduates.

Furthermore, the perception of trade school as a lower-status option can also affect the financial value of trade school programs. Employers may be less likely to pay people with trade qualifications as much as they would pay college graduates.

Do Trades Pay Better Than College?

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The salary potential of trade school can be both a pro and a con. While some vocational programs lead to well-paying careers, in general, careers requiring a college degree tend to offer higher salaries.

While the average salaries in careers requiring a degree often surpass those in trade-based careers, some trade school graduates earn higher wages than expected. With job-focused training and experience, particularly in targeted industries, trade workers can increase their earnings.

Many trade careers offer attractive salaries and benefits for those seeking a career without a traditional four-year college degree. Here’s a list of some trades that often pay well, noting that earnings vary based factors such as location, experience, and demand in the industry.

  • Carpenter
  • Commercial Diver
  • Diesel Mechanic
  • Electrician
  • HVAC Technician
  • Plumber
  • Solar Panel Installer
  • Structural Iron and Steel Worker
  • Welder
  • Wind Turbine Technician

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers is among the highest paid trade college jobs. The median annual pay was $97,680 in 2021.

For someone who didn’t perform exceptionally well in high school, trade school education may result in higher earnings. Trades usually require hands-on skills and practical experience, making them more suitable for individuals who don’t necessarily excel in traditional academic settings.

Trade School vs College Similarities

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While we’ve been highlighting the differences, there are also a number of similarities between trade school and college. Students of both types of institutions are investing in their personal development to enhance their career prospects and future well-being.

Both college and trade school:

  • provide education and training to individuals, leading to career advancement
  • offer programs and courses of study, often leading to certifications or degrees
  • require time, effort, and financial investment, with some form of tuition or fees involved
  • require students to pass exams or complete projects to demonstrate their proficiency in a certain subject.

As well, student aid is typically available for both trade school and college. Financial aid options such as grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs can help students pay for their education.

Is it Better to Learn a Trade or Go to College?

The choice between learning a trade or going to college of course depends on your individual interests, abilities, and career goals. Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages.

College students receive a broad education and can build a diverse skill set, while trade school focuses on specialized, hands-on training. College may lead to higher earning potential in the long run, but trade school can offer quicker entry into the workforce and specialized skills.

If you’re looking for job-ready skills to start earning an income, trade school is clearly the better route, especially when you factor in education costs. If, on the other hand, you’re interested pursuing knowledge and leaving career options open, you may do better in a college environment.

You’ll need to weigh the options and consider factors such as personal interests, financial resources, and future career goals before making a decision. You may want to consider exactly what you’re likely to study at trade school versus your potential major at college. How will you be positioned in ten years’ time either way? If you can answer that, you’ll know the best path to pursue.

Follow Writing Team:
This article was written by the team at Lerna Courses. Sometimes we find it most efficient to produce and update articles collectively rather than relying on a single author. Rest assured that this content has been at least double-checked by our capable researchers.

  1. Dan
    | Reply

    Trades like carpentry, electrical work, welding, and boilermaking offer plenty of under-appreciated benefits. There is good job security and pay, as skilled tradespeople are often in high demand. You get to work on diverse projects and create tangible results. There are also opportunities to be self-employed or start a business, meaning you don’t have a boss to report to.

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