Trade School Vs. Traditional College: Which is right for you?

Trade School Vs. Traditional College: Which is right for you?

Choosing the right school is crucial for your academic success, career development, and pocket. Trade school and traditional colleges have many differences, but both encourage and support students’ career paths.

This article hopes to define and compare trade schools and traditional colleges.

What is a Trade School?

Trade School, often referred to as the vocational and technical school, is a post-secondary institution designed to give students the skills and education needed to prepare for a specific occupation. Trade school is an excellent option for anyone looking for the necessary training to secure a good job quickly. 

Trade schools can be public and private institutions, although many are for-profit. The length of programs vary but typically program range from eight months to two years.

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Unlike a traditional school, once you graduate from trade school, you’ll receive a diploma, apprenticeship, and/or certificate instead of a bachelor’s degree. Depending on your field of study, you may be able to earn an associate’s degree from a trade school. An associate’s degree is the degree you would get from a two-year college.

You can get a job directly related to the field you studied in your vocational school program. For instance, if you enroll in a nursing program, you can get a nursing job as soon as you complete it.

A degree from a trade school can help you land one of the following jobs:

  • Aircraft Mechanic 
  • Culinary Arts (Chef)
  • Computer technician 
  • Cosmetologist 
  • Dental Hygienist 
  • Electrician
  • Graphic Designer 
  • Massage Therapist
  • Plumber 
  • Paralegal 
  • Physical Therapist

Most of these jobs lead to a successful career. The Bureau of Labor projects that electrician jobs will grow by about 10% from 2018 to 2028.

What is a Traditional College?

Traditional college is a term used to describe a college where most students attend with a full-time attendance – at least 12 credit hours per semester – as well as part-time attendance. Community colleges, universities, and graduate schools make up the different types of schooling offered under the “Traditional College” umbrella. 

Traditional colleges are known for having stricter application requirements, such as grades and test scores.  

Differences between trade schools and traditional colleges

Trade School

  • Earn a certificate, diploma or apprenticeship
  • Lower cost of attendance 
  • Length of study is typically less than two years
  • Specific curriculum about one occupation 
  • No extracurricular involvement or on-campus culture at trade schools
  • More hands-on experiences directly related to your particular area of study
  • Less strict application requirement 
  • No time or money need for the rigorous application process
  • Limited program options 
  • Students attend classes and obtain professional training 
  • Admission is typically open enrollment (Year-round)

Traditional College 

  • Earn an associate’s, bachelors or graduate degree
  • Higher cost of attendance 
  • Based on your career, you may be in school for at least 2-4 years
  • Broad curriculum – Students take courses indirectly related to their majors
  • Higher student campus involvement, More social participation through sports teams, clubs, and on-campus residents  
  • Active campus life
  • More career/professions options
  • Strict application process. The vast majority is non-profit will have to go through the traditional college application process
  • More well-rounded education
  • More job flexibility with a traditional college degree 
  • On average, college graduates have a higher salary than trade school graduates
  • No SAT/ACT required

Similarities between trade schools and traditional colleges

Trade schools and traditional colleges share many things in common: Offering their services in the public and private sectors. Below is a list of some similarities between both methods of learning:

  • Program Completion: Both forms of schooling award students with diplomas, associate’s degrees, and certificates once they complete the program. 
  • Accreditation: Based on which school you choose, you’ll have the option to enroll in accredited programs. 
  • Class Schedule Flexibility: Every student has the option to earn in school as part-time or full-time students. There’s also course flexibility, as students have the opportunity to choose their class schedules.
  • Hands-on Experience: Although trade school is often known as a hands-on schooling method, traditional schools often offer the same hands-on experience depending on your area of study.
  • Financial aid: Students are eligible for scholarships and other forms of financial assistance. It’s a matter of reaching out to your school and asking about the types of financial aid available. To save yourself thousands of dollars, we recommend you go to the school that best suits your financial situation. 

A traditional school setting is not for everyone. The same applies to trade school. Hopefully, this article gives you a clear idea of which schooling way may be best for you.