Is Trade School Right For Me?

In recent years, the value of education has become highlighted to a point where master's and doctorate degrees have become commonplace. While multiple postsecondary degrees can produce an economic benefit for students, classic alternative options have also continued to rise in value. For an individual weighing options on how to advance their career, exploring the practical skills that trade school offers can open a multitude of opportunities.

Trade schools prepare students for careers in-demand fields such as technology, manufacturing, health care, and more. In general, these schools provide training for hands-on careers requiring a foundational-level certification or a certain number of supervised on-the-job hours to enter. Examples of careers include auto mechanics, electricians, carpenters, and medical assistants.

In contrast to four-year schools, trade schools are characterized by classes designed to develop practical skillsets. Graduation from these programs typically result in a certification that opens immediate job opportunities and qualifies graduates for entry-level jobs based on their skills and passage of an exam.

Trade school offers an affordable option for students who either are set on a specific career or looking for a job in an in-demand field. Trade school institutions are crucial to the United States and can be a practical option in contrast to taking out massive amounts of student debt. Read more to learn about the benefits that trade schools offer.

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Trade School

  • Cost

On average, a four-year college program in the United States cost $127,000. In contrast, trade school program cost $33,000 on average during that same time period. Unbeknown to many people, trade schools are similar to four-year programs in that they offer scholarships, grants, and are eligible for student loans.

  • Admissions

Entrance into four-year college programs have become an industry in itself. Millions of dollars are spent for high school graduates looking to ace their test scores, enhancing their personal essays, drafting their resumes, etc. In recent years, facts have come to light showing celebrities paying college coaches enhance their children’s chances of getting in for athletic scholarships. Entrance into trade school is much more straightforward and, in some ways, arguably less arbitrary than the competitiveness of four-year programs.

  • Time

Students in liberal arts colleges or universities are committed to four-year programs and can even extend their stay for a longer period of time. In contrast, trade schools are focused in developing practical skillsets for their students so they can begin getting hands-on-experience and earning a real salary right away. Because these schools are focused on the essential skills, they often can be wrapped up in 1 to 2 years.

  • Credentials

At the end of a four-year program, graduates are awarded a bachelor’s degree. While some degrees may be prerequisites for specific jobs, many will still require a resume with experience and well-crafted wording to prove to an employer why a graduate is qualified. In contrast, trade school graduates are typically rewarded with a certificate that has a direct application to a specific occupation. Some trade schools may have their curriculum specifically designed to train their graduates to pass a qualifying entrance or licensing exam.

Other Alternative Education Options

  • Tech School

A technical school is typically defined as an institution that provides associates degrees and specific certifications required to enter technical job fields. Unlike four-year colleges and universities, these programs are frequently completed in 1-2 years and for half the tuition amount.

In contrast to four-year programs, students do not spend the first half of their program learning broad "core curriculum" knowledge. Instead, they immediately begin acquiring applied knowledge and skills that are directly applicable to their chosen career field.

Students who attend technical schools may still need to complete a training program, apprentice program, or entry level position before they can work in careers that allow them to use the full range of skills they learned.

  • Vocational School

A "vocational school" is a catch-all term for either a trade or technical schools. Many institutions refer to the outcome of either program as a specialized trade certification or a "vocational degree." Vocational school programs prepare students for immediate entry into their field or for a stepping-stone position that allows them to enter that field within a year or two.

Some four-year undergraduate institutions offer vocational degree programs, such as becoming a paralegal, but some programs, such as cosmetology, may only be taught in vocational school programs.

The United States Department of Education provides robust vocational training programs to public high school students who want to enter a career quickly after graduation rather than a four-year postsecondary academic institution.

Consider the Benefits of Trade Schools Today

As the cost of education continues to increase without necessarily guaranteeing a job, interest in trade, tech, and vocational programs have become increasingly popular as new high school graduates are interested in obtaining a certification fast and getting a job. These schools allow for programs that are designed to fit around students’ busy schedules, with small class sizes, hands-on instruction, and programs tailored to their ideal career path.

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