Trade School vs. College at a Traditional University

Today, you can find about 1,200 technical schools in 41 states! Since you have options, you might be curious if a trade school vs college is right for you.

Besides pricing and majors, what are the other differences you might wonder? This list will provide an overview of both and what to expect. Read this guide on a comparison between the two to make the right decision for your future today!

Understanding Trade School Programs

If you’re not interested in heading to a traditional college, a trade school program might be for you. There’s this other guide that breaks down the reasons to join a trade school.

Instead of thinking about years ahead, trade schools are thinking about you working in the immediate future (once you graduate). Skilled professions, crafts, trades, and more can be trade school careers.

Within these specialty schools, you have trade, technical, and vocational schools. Some careers could include accounting, medical billing and coding, aviation, plumbing, and more.

The Benefits of Trade School Programs

One of the top benefits is the fact that you can get a certification in months or a year. You’ll receive hands-on training to prepare you for the career. Job placement at many trade schools is higher than those from colleges.

Less Expensive

Another benefit is the cost. Since you’re going to school for a shorter period of time, you could save thousands of dollars by enrolling in a trade school.

Smaller Classrooms

Trade schools also tend to have smaller classroom sizes compared to colleges. This means that you can have more of your questions answered and build a strong relationship with others and your teacher.

The Cons of Trade Schools

One of the main cons of trade schools is that there might be a limitation in career growth. If you’re interested in climbing up the ladder, you could require a degree.

Limitations on Industry Switches

Also, if you’d like to go into a different industry, you’d need to go to college or head back to trade school. There’s also the fact that there aren’t as many trade schools to choose from compared to colleges. Relocation might be a necessary task.

Heavy Competition

You and the other students will graduate at the same time looking for a career in the same thing. This means heavy competition between each other as you try to find a job.

College Benefits

Colleges have their own benefits such as encouraging critical thinking. You’ll learn about a variety of topics and have the option to study abroad.

Since you take various courses, you’re more likely to be hired for broad careers. Whereas with trade schools, it’s a very specific degree/certification.

College Cons

The interest rate on student loans can wrack up fast, and many graduates feel like they’re drowning in debt. It’s important to think about the career that you’ll be going into, how many openings there are, and the average salary.

Many students who enter college have every plan on graduating, but drop out. As time goes on, the courses become higher and more difficult. Plus, there’s the potential of graduating with a degree that you can’t even use.

The Admission Process

You can head off to college at any age, although teens start thinking about college in high school. They head to check out the campus and decide if it’s right for them.

You’ll need to have strong SAT/ACT scores (depending on your location), a good GPA, and volunteer work looks great as well. Any clubs that you’re a part of in high school could look positive.

The admission process for a tech school is much easier! All you’ll usually need is a GED or high school diploma.

Job Security

Many positions when you graduate from a trade school can’t be outsourced. This is due to many of the positions requiring manual labor. Meanwhile, for positions that require college degrees, they could be outsourced.

Even during a recession, trade positions will still be around. People will still need plumbers, AC, and heating, etc.


College graduates could see a higher average than trade schools. This depends on the position itself.

If you go to college to become a preschool teacher, that might be less than a dental hygienist. Some of the highest-paying technical careers include construction managers, radiation therapists, and more.

Engineers (depending on the field) can make good money with a college degree. Jobs such as software engineering that used to not require a college degree, are starting to expect this as a minimum.

Which Is Best?

This depends on you and what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to get started working right away and want a more affordable option, then a trade school could be the right choice.

For more options and a broader range of categories, consider a college. Think about your dream job and what the requirements are. If you’re not sure about the career that you’d like, speak with a career counselor at a trade school or college.

A Comparison Between Trade School vs College

After exploring this comparison between a trade school vs college, we hope that you have a better idea of the right option for you. Take your time thinking about your dream job, the average salary, and how much school will cost.

Be realistic about your grades, strengths, and weaknesses. If you’re not sure which avenue to go into, a general degree at a college could help.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our other articles today!