Continuing your education after graduating from high school is a serious, personal, and complicated decision. You might automatically think college is the way to go, but then you calculate the time and money a college education requires and your sure thing doesn’t seem so sure. Trade or vocational schools offer certification and training in a variety of fields, offering a quicker path to employment and independence. But, you worry you won’t find satisfaction in one of their programs, or feel like you missed out on a more comprehensive, traditional-school education. Here is a closer look at the differences between college and trade school:
You are ready to get to work
Earning a bachelor’s degree at a traditional college or university typically takes four or five years, depending on the area of study. Earning a certification, diploma, or degree from a trade school typically takes half that time. The shorter program requirements at trade schools mean you will be a member of the workforce sooner compared to college graduates. In addition, you will feel well prepared for your first job. During your education at a trade school, you will not only learn in the classroom, but you will also have opportunities in the real world. Apprenticeships and practical courses are available at some trade schools.
Your passion aligns with college
Colleges offer a long list of majors, much more diverse than the programs available at trade schools. This means you have more choice for your academic pursuits. And, if you are unsure about what you want to study or what major to declare at first, college allots time to take electives and introductory courses designed to expose you to different worlds. You might find your passion is computer science even if you have never studied it before. On the other side, you may go into college with a solid plan only to discover your chosen major is a bust. If you want the opportunity to earn advanced degrees like a masters that will propel your career or help you get your dream job, you will need to first earn your undergraduate degree at an accredited college or university.
You want to save money
The expense of a four-year college or university education is staggering. There is no denying the cost of tuition, housing, and books are major deterrents for students. By comparison, the cost of study at a trade school is much less than what you would spend on a college education. Even if you needed to finance your trade school education with a loan, most likely it would be much less than one needed for a college or university. A lower loan means less interest and less time paying it off, too.
“If you’re pursuing a trade certification or occupational associate’s degree, look to public colleges for the best deals. Public two-year schools, such as community colleges, had the lowest annual tuition and fees at $3,600 as of 2017-2018. Public colleges with programs shorter than two years have the second-lowest costs, averaging $7,437 per year,” according to The Balance writer Elyssa Kirkham.
Whether you choose to attend college or enroll at a trade school, be sure to do your homework. Research the school, the program, and the costs to determine what option serves your educational goals, finances, and interests.