Trade schools, tech schools, vocational schools. What are they and what role do they play in society? Are they worth looking into? What are the pros and cons? Is it possible to make a living off of a job you can get from a trade school? What is the difference between a trade school and a college?
In society today, many people feel that overwhelming need to get that college degree in order to qualify for a steady income that will one day lead to the American Dream. A Bachelor’s DegreeBachelor’s Degree from an accredited university is the new high school diploma. In other words, it’s hard to be hired for any kind of decent paying position without one. (Unfortunately, we’re also learning it can be difficult to get a decent paying position even with one). Is there a way around it? Other than becoming an entrepreneur, is it possible to find a steady income without paying thousands of dollars a semester to get a degree?
This is where trade schools are a good option to consider.
Trade School vs. University
To make things just a tad bit easier, let’s clear up a little bit of vocabulary. Trade schools, tech schools, and vocational schools are all essentially the same thing. So what is a vocational school? They are schools that provide training for specific jobs. To give you a better understanding, it’s easier if we compare them to a university.
Trade school offers fewer options at minimal cost
There are often fewer options available when going to a trade school. This may or may not be a problem depending on how determined you are to follow a very specific career path. For example, if one wants to become an air traffic controller, they can do so at minimal cost (when compared to a university), and that is exactly the job they will be doing. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you know that’s exactly what you want to do. In comparison, one can go to a university and get an exercise science degree and enter any number of jobs with that degree (not to mention, many entry-level positions at different companies are willing to hire anyone with a degree regardless of what it’s in). They will simply have more options.
While having more options is always going to be wonderful, it’s not always necessary or wise. If you know exactly what you want to do and it’s available at a trade school, why not spend significantly less time and money to get you into a decent paying job? Even if you do that specific job for a number of years and decide you’re ready for something new, you’ll find yourself in a better position financially to pay for college. While you’d be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys going back to college when they’re older, it’s not the end of the world to go later especially if you’ve found a job that provides for you and your family in the meantime.
Society may push for college degrees and push for people to get them while they’re young. Nonetheless, it’s okay to step back and decide that an untraditional path is exactly what you’re looking for. I promise you do have other options that may work for you.
So what are the price comparisons?
The average cost of acquiring a trade is $33,000 total (which is how much one year of college may be depending on the university you attend). With that kind of savings, it’s at least worth looking into.
There are a couple of other differences to look at when we’re comparing trade schools vs. universities. The content of what you learn in school is different; while four-year universities require general education, trade schools focus on exactly the career you’ll be walking into without the education on the side. Trade schools can take anywhere from a couple of months to two years. Some trade schools even offer Associates Degrees rather than just diplomas or certificates depending on what field you’re going into. Trade schools have smaller class sizes as well as a focus on hands-on training in comparison to lectures. Both of these are great reasons to consider trade schools if you’re ADHD.
Many trade schools offer externships where you essentially do your program for a while and then start job shadowing at an actual company where you’ll be fully integrated into as an employee when your training is complete. Trade schools open opportunities for employment as they often have relationships with companies in the area. And there is a significant amount of job security that gets offered with trade schools. Because of the way they’re set up, trade schools are looking to prepare students for jobs that are high in demand. It’s simply the nature of the industry to prepare students for jobs immediately.
Trade School Jobs
To give you just a couple ideas of well-paying jobs that are made available through trade schools:
- Air Traffic Controller $124,500 annual salary
- Application Software Developer $103,560 annual salary
- Construction Manager (often have degrees, but not always!) $91,370 annual salary
- Marine Engineer/Naval Architect $90,970 annual salary
- Radiation Therapist $80,570 annual salary
- Elevator Mechanic (requires an apprenticeship) $79,480 annual salary
- Dental Hygienist $74,070 annual salary
- Ultrasound Technician $69,650 annual salary
- Electric Power Line Installer $69,380 annual salary
- Landscape Architect $65,760 annual salary
- Cardiovascular Technologist $65,620 annual salary
- Boiler Maker $62,260 annual salary
- Aircraft Mechanic $61,260 annual salary
- Film Editor $61,180 annual salary
- Respiratory Therapist $59,710 annual salary
- Occupational Therapist $59,310 annual salary
A couple of other options include child care, paramedics, massage therapists, phlebotomists, web developers, carpenters, electricians, and truck drivers.
Is Trade School For Me?
There are a couple of good questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a trade school. Because they’re narrow in scope, they apply well to smaller groups of people but can be a very good fit for that smaller group. So what are some of these groups that fit really well into the trade school genre?
Trade schools are a good fit for people who may be intimidated by a four-year university.
These people can look like a myriad of things. They may be adults who have been out of high school for a long time. They may be students with learning disabilities who are afraid of getting lost in the large class sizes and impersonal relationships with those who are “helping” with their education at a four-year university.
Trade schools fit those who have a very specific career path in mind.
If you want to be a nurse, plumber, or chef, these schools can take you there quickly. It’s also nice when you consider that trade schools often take in previous experience and give you credit for it.
You need flexibility.
Trade schools often offer more flexible class schedules for students who are older and have more responsibilities, such as providing for a family with a current job that you cannot quit. You may have family members who need extra care. Trade schools can offer night and weekend classes for those who have previous engagements that can’t be escaped or neglected. Universities tend to be more unforgiving when it comes to other responsibilities.
If you’re changing careers
You need extra training due to a mid-life career change or you’re having a difficult time finding a job in the field of your college degree. It’s a cheap option to attain more education that will put your resume at the top of the list for an open position.
If you don’t like to incur student loan debt
It may be worth considering a trade school if college is simply not financially feasible and incurring debt is something you’re not interested in. Though as a general rule (but not always!), those with four-year degrees are going to make more than those with a trade school certificate, the difference can be negligible in some fields.
Trade schools are not for everyone, but it’s worth looking into if you fit any of the above categories.
How do I choose a trade school?
It is absolutely essential to make sure you trade school is accredited before entering into it. Being “accredited” means that it is formally recognized as an acceptable school with the necessary requirements for training students. In other words, when you list your certificate from you school, employers are going to look to make sure you’ve been legitimately trained by looking into whether your school was accredited. Some specific jobs also require special licensing (like nursing). So make sure your school has that formal requirement if it’s required for the field you’re looking into.
Some less essential but still good considerations include graduation rates, job placement rates, and reviews that you can find with a simple Facebook search.
There are aspects of trade schools that will discourage you to pursue this path. They are important aspects to keep in mind. For example, your certificate is going to limit your options for further education. When you get a Bachelor’s Degree, you can move on to a Master’s Degree and more in a number of new subjects that can further your ability to be hired in a number of different job opportunities. If you desire to further your education after a certificate, you may be able to afford it better but you will need to most likely go back for a Bachelor’s Degree before pursuing more education.
It’s really all going to depend on what field you want to go into, what your desires are regarding income, and what you’re capable of at this point in your life. However, now that you know there are other options, research it! Give it a chance! It may fit you.