Trade school versus college

In the past century, college has been glorified in the eyes of people. Many parents think that their children cannot have a comfortable and respectable life without a college degree. College degrees, and even post-graduate degrees, are a must. This is why there are so many commercialized colleges and universities in the US nowadays—the old colleges and universities can no longer accommodate the number of students going to college. But as educators know, not every student is fit for the typical jobs offered by a college degree, and that is why there are trade schools. 

The next step after high school will be a turning point for every child. They will either invest thousands of dollars and 2 or 4 years of their lives in a college or spend a year or so in a trade school. Before you make any decision, it is best to consider all your options thoroughly.

Trade school versus college

Here are the differences between a trade school and a college:

  1. Cost and length
    Trade school: Certificate programs take significantly shorter time to complete, and so they also cost a lot less. Trade schools can take less than a year up to 2 years. The tuition range between $1,000 and $30,000, depending on the type of institution. The good thing is that trade school students are also eligible for student loan.
    College: It is no secret that students rack up thousands of dollars in debt in the four or so years they study in a college or university. An average bachelor’s degree costs $127,000. However, since students typically take out loans, this price can go up to $50,000 more. Naturally, the longer one stays in school, the higher the cost is. This is a heavy burden for most college graduates, that the US is now experiencing a student loan crisis. This does not take into account the cost of dorms, food, and other living expenses that come hand-in-hand with studying.
  2. Chosen career path
    Trade school: Trade schools are focused on skill development rather than theories. These are designed to train students into master craftsmen in a short amount of time. So, trade schools are more suitable for students who are interested in blue collar jobs and who want to be in the workforce shortly after college.
    College: Colleges provide traditional higher education, which is more focused on knowledge. Practical application takes a back seat until the latter part of the education. This is a serious investment, especially since the courses are becoming more specific. Nevertheless, college is the perfect choice for those who envision working in fields like education, healthcare, and sciences.
  3. Learning environment
    Trade school: As mentioned earlier, trade schools are focused more on skills, so classes are more practical and hands-on. Students are encouraged to try their hands on the activity rather than listen and take down notes. The learning environment at trade schools is definitely better for students who learn by doing, and who simply want to learn practical skills.
    College: College works for students who excel in traditional classroom settings. Those willing to spend an extra two or more years to listen to a professor before applying their knowledge to the real world will greatly benefit from a college or even a university education. Students who need more time to figure out the career they want to pursue for the rest of their life might also want to opt for a college education. Since it takes longer than vocational education, students can shift between courses for the first few years of college.
  4. Return on Investment
    Trade school: The path towards mastering a trade is quite straightforward: finish a program to get a certificate or diploma, take a licensing exam or work as an apprentice, then proceed working in your field. Since, as discussed earlier, trade schools are cheaper, it is easier to pay off one’s student debts. Likewise, there is a surplus of job opportunities in various fields, most of which pay generously.
    College: College is a little tricky when it comes to ROI calculations. Depending on how much you loaned and how lucrative the student’s chosen course is, a college degree may or may not turn out to be a good investment. However, students should remember that a college degree can lead to a job with career progression.

Which is good for you?

There is no formula that guarantees success. Your choice should be tailored to your own needs, interests, and goals. Ultimately, success depends on how well the person fares in the real world, and that is not predicated on a diploma. Students nowadays have more options and freedom than in the past. Although each one has responsibilities and aspirations, it is important to look into oneself and consider what will be the best option for you. Expectations be damned!

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