Are you thinking about finding a way to hone your skills and advance your education – but you know you don’t want to commit to a college program?
If you know that going to college is not the right choice for you, you might want to think about attending a trade school. Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, are great options for people who want to get the training they need to secure a job but know that studying things like philosophy or earth science aren’t for them.
At a trade school, you’ll learn the hands-on skills necessary to enter directly into the workforce. So, what is a trade school exactly? Here’s everything you need to know about this unique educational option.
What Is A Trade School?
A trade school, often referred to as a technical school, vocational college, or vocational school, is a secondary or post-secondary institution that is meant to provide students with the technical skills they need to work in a specific occupation.
Trade schools, traditionally, can either be privately or publicly funded, but often, they are for-profit entities. Program lengths at most trade schools vary, but you can expect to be in school for anywhere from eight months to two years (or sometimes even slightly longer).
You won’t walk away from trade school with a four-year bachelor’s degree, but you will receive some sort of credential, diploma, or certificate that will indicate that you successfully completed the program. There are many that allow you to earn an associate degree.
What Do You Learn At A Trade School?
You can find just about any kind of trade at a trade school. After finishing your program of study, you’ll be able to enter directly into the workforce, as you’ll have been provided with the skills you need to start work right away.
Some common trade school programs include:
- Dental hygiene
- Graphic design
- Computer technician
- Automotive repair
- Vet tech
- Massage therapy
Types Of Trade Schools
All trade schools offer highly-specific training programs that are geared toward specific careers. Each trade school will differ in its offerings. One might offer numerous types of training programs, while one might offer just one specific program (like HVAC).
Some are highly specialized with different variations of training in just one field. If you attend an automotive technical school, for example, all the programs therein will be focused on car mechanics but there might be different specializations (such as auto detailing).
Benefits Of Trade Schools
There are numerous benefits associated with attending trade schools. For starters, these programs require very little seat time. Most of the time, you’ll be able to finish your studies in just two years so that you can get more direct job experience and move forward more quickly in your career.
That often translates to more money saved – you won’t have to go into debt with thousands of dollars’ worth of student loans in order to attend.
You’ll also receive a more hands-on education for a specific kind of job. You won’t have any problem finding a job that’s related directly to your skills because you’ll be trained in a unique area – an area that most of the other job seekers aren’t likely trained in.
Trade schools tend to offer training in highly lucrative fields, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists earn, on average, more than $76,000 per year. Considering you don’t have to attend college in order to earn such a salary, that’s quite a return on investment!
You also don’t need to worry about the application process. While most colleges have strict admissions requirements that will necessitate taking the SAT or ACT and having high grades, trade schools tend to be less strict with who they accept. Many even enroll high school students at the junior and senior level so that they can get a jumpstart on their vocational training.
Another benefit of attending a trade school is that you’ll enjoy greater flexibility in your class schedules. There are usually career services on hand to help you make the transition into your career and you usually need to have no experience in order to apply.
Disadvantages Of Trade Schools
As with anything, there are a few disadvantages to consider when applying to trade school, too.
Although trade school graduates tend to earn higher salaries when they first embark on their careers – after all, no “entry-level” training is needed – college graduates do earn more money over the course of their careers than do trade school graduates. Even after you have adjusted the math for additional time and money spent in school, college graduates still end up slightly on top.
While there is often some financial aid set aside for trade school enrollees, more financial aid (particularly at the governmental level) tends to be offered to students attending college programs.
Plus, let’s not forget the fact that, at a trade school, you won’t have access to the “traditional” college experience. You won’t be able to join clubs, live in dorms, or attend campus parties. While you might make lasting friendships with the other students in your program, you aren’t going to be able to “live it up” quite like you might at a traditional college. You also won’t be taking broader courses, such as those in the humanities, that you will in a regular college program.
Finally, don’t forget about the fact that a trade school certificate will provide far less flexibility than a college diploma. Of course, that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. The downside to having such a set-in-stone certificate is that you can’t change careers easily if you decide, for example, that being a massage therapist isn’t right for you.
Is Trade School Expensive?
Trade school tends to be much more affordable than a traditional college diploma. College is quite expensive, while the average bachelor’s degree costs more than $127,000 (and that’s not even counting students who go on to earn graduate degrees!) a trade school education usually only costs around $33,000 total – from beginning to end.
Not only that, but many trade schools feature programs that allow high school students to enroll as part of their daily secondary school curriculum. In these cases, they are often able to attend tuition-free.
Many schools also offer scholarships, loans, and grants to offset the costs associated with technical training. This can make trade school a very inexpensive option for many students.
The Difference Between Trade School And College
Wondering whether trade school or college is right for you? There are a few major differences between the two types of programs.
Trade schools tend to be much shorter than college programs. They generally last only a few months or up to two years, at most, and provide students with hands-on experience. While a college program will mostly consist of courses inside the classroom, a trade school program will have you spending most of your time in a workplace setting.
The educational experience is different, too. At a trade school, you usually don’t have access to things like extracurriculars. You’ll just attend your classes, get your training, and move on.
How To Apply To Trade School
Ready to apply to trade school? Each program is unique, but most require a high school diploma or GED. If you don’t have a high school diploma, it may take you a bit longer to be admitted as you’ll need extra time to study for and pass the GED.
Another benefit of applying to trade school is that you will not need to complete essays or extracurriculars in order to do so. Although there is usually a minimum age requirement (16 tends to be the norm, although there are some that require you to be even older – 17 or 18), you won’t need to jump through many hoops in order to get there.
Is Trade School Right For You?
Wondering if trade school is the right path for you? Chances are, if you’re interested in working in one of the trades (like as an electrician, a cosmetologist, or a dental hygienist), it’s a smart choice.
Not only will you be able to pursue training that will lead to the job of your dreams, but you can do so without having to spend a fortune or tons of time in school.
Before you enroll, make sure you’re signing up for a program that will meet your needs and goals. Look for schools that offer the programs in which you are most interested as well as specialized tracks that can help you meet your career goals. Research the competitiveness of a program to find out whether it will help you pursue a successful career.
And finally, take some time to visit the school and chat with admissions representatives, guidance counselors, and most importantly, the teachers who instruct the courses you plan to take. This is often the very best way to find out if a trade school is right for you.
Make plans to take this new step in your career. Going to trade school is the right choice for many – and it’s a smart decision to make if you want to be practically guaranteed a lucrative, rewarding career.