If you’re considering attending a trade school, you probably have many questions. What is a trade school? What kind of programs do they offer? How much does it cost? And will I be able to find a job after I graduate? Here’s everything you need to know about trade schools to help you make the best decision for your future.

What is a trade school?

A trade school, also called a vocational or technical school, is a type of educational institution that provides training in a specific trade, craft, or profession.

Trade schools offer short-term and long-term programs that can lead to either a certificate or an Associate’s degree. This education aims to train students in hard skills for specific occupations.

The curriculum also includes simplified courses and learning methods that allow students to learn specific trades in real-time. So a student will get ready for work more quickly and effectively.

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Many students obtain degrees from colleges or universities, while others prefer vocational training.

Trade schools give career-oriented education in an in-demand field, which can be an effective choice in other careers.

Additionally, the trade schools provide shorter completion periods and affordable tuition at an affordable rate.

Students must determine whether trade school or college will suit them best depending on their career path.

What are the different trade school programs?

The nature of colleges and schools is unique but fundamentally different in their approach to teaching the classes and the curriculum.

Schools concentrate on academic studies and trade schools on vocational courses. In other words, their program options are varied.

The program at trade schools revolves around particular professions. Generally speaking, programs provide information science, medical, emergency, and health care services.

A university tailors a program for a broad field of study. In other words, it’s not uncommon for a college student to find a degree program covering many areas of study.

Trade School Automotive Program

Trade schools offer various programs, from accounting and automotive repair to cosmetology and welding. No matter your interests or career goals, there’s likely a trade school program that’s a good fit for you.

These programs usually take two or less to complete and often include internships or fieldwork to give students practical experience.

For example, dental hygienists build their skills through clinical hours, while veterinary technicians take labs and intern at animal hospitals.

If you’re interested in a specific career, research the programs offered at trade schools to see if they are a good fit.

Trade school programs can lead to careers in healthcare, technology, legal services, and professional trades like plumbing and welding.

Many of these careers offer substantial salaries and growth potential, making trade school a good investment for many students.

How much does trade school cost?

For several years, counseling staff told young people college was only one way toward success for them. But in recent years, college tuition has become more expensive.

The average American student loan debt is around $36,000. It’s a reality that is forcing people into seeing trade schools differently.

The latest survey found that over 53 percent of people are considering careers in a vocational field.

Although attitudes about vocational schools are changing, many families are still curious to see how the earnings of vocational students compare with the salaries of students in a four-year school and whether it is worth attending a trade school over a traditional four-year college.

The cost of attending trade school can vary enormously depending on where you live, what program you take, and what type of institution you attend. Trade schools can be either private or public, but most are private businesses. Here’s a breakdown of average costs.


Trade school costs vary depending on the length and complexity of the trade school education program. Tuition fees can range from around $2,000 to more than $30,000.

The cost of programs at private trade schools is often higher than at public institutions because private schools tend to offer programs that take less time to complete.

Trade School Costs

For example, a one-year program at a private trade school might cost $17,000, while a two-year program at a public trade school might cost only $12,000.

In addition to tuition, students also need to budget for books, supplies, and other fees. These costs can add up quickly, so it’s essential to do your research before enrolling in any program.

Is a trade school better than college?

The benefits of attending vocational schools are undoubtedly great, but to say it is better than college will depend entirely on your circumstances. In other words, the value of a specific school varies significantly from their preferred school.

In 2027 70% of job openings require some form of post-secondary education (Carneval & Cheah, 2018). In addition, vocational college can help develop your analytical skills, while trade school can help your technical skills.

How Long is Trade School?

Trade schools are generally cheaper and have less time required for students. Nearly all trade schools are completed within two years. Typically the average course takes two years to complete.

A short education will help you gain more work experience in a faster career. A traditional 4-year college degree typically takes four years to complete. Many require ten to fifteen years of studies for a degree to be awarded.

Requirements for Trade Schools

Unlike traditional colleges, the application process of trade schools is relatively simple. Most trade schools do not require an admissions test. So you do not have to submit your SAT or ACT scores to be considered for vocational programs.

Unlike a traditional college, most schools are not incredibly selective, so most applicants gain admission. Most trade schools require that applicants have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent to enroll.

Trade schools focus on benefiting the student as quickly as possible and placing the student on career paths that support the highest paying jobs. Labor statistics of trade school graduates demonstrate the number of skilled workers coming from a vocational school.

Benefits of attending a trade school vs. college

There’s no doubt that a four-year college education has its benefits. But in today’s job market, trade school grads are often just as successful as their four-year counterparts – and sometimes even more so.

  1. Job security

In many industries, job security is more important than ever. And in many cases, trade school can provide the same security as a four-year degree. One of the most significant benefits is the lasting job security that most of these careers have. 

Since many of these programs build internships and apprenticeships into the curriculum, many students leave with a job opportunity in hand and never have to start the job hunt.

Job openings in skilled trades are often not impacted by economic downturns like jobs in other sectors. By focusing on job-specific coursework, trade school graduates apply for a job directly related to program expertise.

Trade School Job Security

Achieving a college education is excellent and is the first step to securing your future. Jobs pay differently depending on your degree attainment and experience. Attending school does not guarantee employers will select you for an open position. Much more is involved in making that decision that is well beyond your control.

For example, a job applicant with a trade school certificate and an associate degree is more enticing than traditional high school students or high school graduates who lack the critical thinking skills necessary to work unsupervised.

This is not to say that college degrees are necessary for a successful career. However, bachelor’s degrees and associate degrees earned at the local university or community college is a remarkable accomplishment that bears testament to the average salaries those employees tend to receive.

Irrespective of the need for higher education, the number of bachelor’s degrees that one has does not replace the critical skills needed to complete necessary tasks. After all, there will always be a need for plumbers, electricians, and automotive technicians.

  1. Preparing for the Job Market

With so many people vying for jobs these days, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. But if you have a trade school degree, you’ll have the edge over the competition.

Many employers are looking for candidates with various skills, and trade school can give you the skills you need to succeed.

There is no substitute for real-world experience, and most trade school programs require you to complete hands-on training such as an externship or clinical internship before graduating.

Job openings in skilled trades are often not impacted by economic downturns like jobs in other sectors.

  1. Time Efficient

Many prospective students and their families view trade schools as a second-best option compared to four-year colleges. However, in many cases, trade schools can provide a more efficient and quicker path to well-paying jobs.

Four-year colleges often take longer to complete and may not always provide the specific skills employers are looking for.

On the other hand, trade schools offer programs designed to give students the skills they need to succeed in a particular field.

Trade schools graduates

Several factors must be considered when evaluating the trade school vs. college debate. Does the official accreditation authority accredit the trade program within the respective state of operation?

Trade school students need to be aware of the vocational program and determine if attending college programs is worth the degree’s price.

Speak with your respective admissions representative or admissions counselor to see if the credential you will receive is worth forgoing the entrenched degree programs located at local community colleges.

Your admissions counselors will have all the information to answer your questions and can even help determine if you are eligible for financial aid.

So if you’re considering your educational options, evaluate whether specific trade school careers suit you. Don’t discount trade school – it might just be the perfect choice for you.

Disadvantages of Trade Schools vs. Four-Year Colleges

Trade schools are a good fit for certain types of pupils, but if you’re a high schooler, a college student, or a working professional looking to get long-term employment, four-year colleges are the way to go. Here are some of the drawbacks linked with trade schools.

Degree Attainment

Nothing is more beneficial for your job prospect than achieving a four-year college degree. Trade schools do not provide the authority and credibility that a bachelor’s degree does.

As such, students can be limited to entry-level positions in their field or only gain entry-level positions in their field.

There is always the possibility of furthering your education and taking courses to obtain a four-year degree while working, but this is not an option for everyone. It requires a lot of time, effort, and money.

Lack of Diversity

A four-year university provides the opportunity to learn more about a chosen field and other important topics such as literature, science, and math.

A trade school offers specialized training in one area, which can be beneficial if you know exactly what you want to do with your life.

However, if you’re undecided on a career path, a trade school might not be the best option since you’ll need to commit to a specific study area.

Trade schools are particular in the coursework they teach. A four-year college will suit you more if you are looking for a well-rounded education and broad general education curriculum.

In addition, trade schools can be less diverse than four-year universities. If you’re looking for a school where you can meet people from all walks of life and learn about different cultures, a trade school may not be the right fit.

College graduates come from all walks of life, and the college students you interact with are, more often than not, determined to complete the program and enter the workforce.

Some even enter the national center database for schools and apprenticeships to receive help along the way.


Trade school programs are designed to turn over students in two years or less. Some even have programs that are less than a year long.

As such, the number of graduates coming from trade schools is high, and only a certain number of job opportunities are available for your specific trade. This can result in increased competition for jobs.

Additionally, many employers prefer candidates with experience or a bachelor’s degree. While a trade school can give you the skills required for the job, knowing that you may have to start at the bottom and work your way up is essential.

No Job Guaranteed

One of the main drawbacks of trade schools is that they often do not offer students a guaranteed placement in a job. This means that after you graduate, you may have to spend time searching for a good job that fits your skills and experience.

Most schools will tell you that finding a job is the student’s responsibility. That’s not to say that the school won’t help you find a job – they may have career services that can assist you in your job search – but they cannot guarantee you a position.

It’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily in your best interest to take that position even if a school could guarantee a job.

Often, the guaranteed jobs are lower-paying positions with little room for advancement. It’s always better to secure a job on your own that meets your specific needs and interests.

Additionally, if you cannot find a job, you may have to take on debt to support yourself.


Overall, the purpose of this blog post was to provide an all-encompassing view of the trade school format. We evaluated that trade schools are one-two year programs that focus on students learning job-specific skills.

If you are interested in the health sciences, for example, you will have the opportunity to receive on-field experience at a local practice.

Trade schools benefit students who cannot take classes or afford an education at an institution of higher education.

For numerous reasons, a trade school degree can provide benefits quickly as it generally results in being hired soon upon graduating.

However, nothing will replace the money-making power that a bachelor’s degree provides. And in an ever-evolving world where even a bachelor’s degree is not enough in some cases, a vocational program credential could mean even less.

If you need help navigating the California junior college transfer process, I highly suggest reaching out to us through our “Contact Us” page on our website.

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