Pros and Cons of Trade School

By: Jill Caren / Published: / Updated:

Attending trade school can be a great way to jumpstart your career and gain the skills you need for success in a specific trade career. It is a great option for postsecondary education for high school students and for career changers.

Trade school students graduate with a certification or an associate degree that will allow them to get right to work.

But, like any educational option, there are pros and cons to attending trade school that should be considered before making the decision to attend.

Trade School Pros and Cons

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of attending a trade school or vocational college (sometimes called technical schools too); as well as the possible drawbacks to help you decide what is right for you.

If you are a student in a CTE program, a vocational school may be a no-brainer, but these pros and cons should be considered.

We’ll also briefly cover how to find a trade school and what to consider when choosing one.

By considering all the factors involved, you can decide if attending trade school is a better choice for you than a traditional college education.

Trade School Pros

These are some of the best reasons to attend a trade or vocational school.

Admissions

Getting into a trade school is much easier than college! Most schools will require a GED or high-school diploma for admission. Trade school requirements are much more lax than universities.

Colleges and universities require testing, essays, good grades, and more and you still have no guarantee of admission.

Hands-on Learning Opportunity

Trade schools typically provide hands-on learning experiences that give students a better understanding of the skills and knowledge they need for their chosen career path.

Trade school students will be in the shop working on cars, driving commercial vehicles, or practicing welding so they can perfect their craft and prove their abilities. This kind of vocational training is only offered in a technical school environment and rarely available in a typical four year college.

Specialized Programs

Trade schools focus on teaching a specific set of skills for a specific trade.

Most trade schools offer specialized programs in areas such as welding, plumbing, electrical work, culinary arts, or auto mechanics—areas not commonly offered at traditional four-year colleges.

These programs make it easy for students to graduate with strong technical skills and go directly into the workforce and start earning wages quickly. They will acquire the exact skills needed to be successful in the specific career they want to work in, and not spend time learning irrelevant courses.

For example, four year colleges offer a broader education that include general education courses like English, Languages, and other requirements.

Flexible Schedules

Trade school classes are often available during evening and weekend hours. This makes it perfect for those who may have family responsibilities or full time employment during the day.

Because these programs are typically shorter in length you can expect a rigorous schedule, so do not assume the work will be easy.

Shorter Time Frame To Completion

Compared to a traditional four year college degree, many trade school programs can be completed in two years or less. Some can be done in as little as a few months.

A specific trade school program provides students a way to get into the workforce faster without incurring large debt.

High Demand Careers

Many trades require experienced professionals, so completing a trade program could result in high demand job opportunities right away after graduation!

There are many vocational careers that are experience very large gaps in workers like wind turbine technicians, truckers, and mechanics. The demand is huge for these jobs; and so many more skilled trade jobs.

Smaller Classes

Unlike colleges, the class sizes at trade schools are very small. This means a better opportunity for one-on-one instruction and a more friendly environment.

Now, onto some of the reasons a trade school education may not be a good fit for you.

Trade School Cons

These are often the reasons so many look down on the trades, but they should not prevent you from considering the trades.

Less Career Growth

While trade careers can be a pretty solid option, the lack of future growth can be an issue for those looking to grow.

If you are not interested in obtaining managerial or supervisory jobs, then this should not be a big issue for you. But if climbing the ladder is something you aspire to, then a traditional college may be a better option.

In many careers you can gain an edge with some additional certifications which we highly recommend.

School Locations

There may not be a good selection of trade schools near you for the specific program you are interested in. Relocating to another area might be required to attend a specific program.

Lower Earning Potential

While trade school graduates may enter the workforce faster than those with college degrees, and with good salaries, the growth of the salaries often become slower than their college educated counterparts.

Lack Of Support Services

Many trade schools lack the same level of support services offered by traditional colleges such as tutoring centers or career counseling.

Both are essential components when transitioning into new jobs post-graduation! You can check with the specific school you are interested in attending to see what support they offer. Job placement is one we highly recommend you look for when deciding on a school to attend.

Financial Aid

Not all trade schools offer financial aid programs, so if this is something that is important to you it should be researched heavily.

Student loan debt is common for both trade school and college graduates, but of course minimizing that is highly recommended. So searching for a trade school that does offer financial aid options is a great start.

Competition

When schools graduate a class with 200 welders, there is a lot more competition to go up against, especially if you are doing a class close to home. Too many graduates from one vocational program can put a strain on your job search efforts.

You can prevent this by looking at opportunities in all different areas you may be interested in living in to see what the opportunities are.

Is Trade School Worth It For me?

That question requires a deep look at the above and what your personal goals are for your life.

If you are considering trade school vs college, there are a lot of things that need to be considered. Everything from career type to future salaries are all important components to think about.

There are some pretty big differences between college and trade school. From length of education to the types of opportunities available for college graduates that are not available to blue collar workers.

You need to be aware of what it is that you want out of your life.

While trade school jobs can be achieved quicker, with some good salaries, a Bachelor’s degree is a better option for those that want to climb that corporate ladder.

But, here are a few other things to consider when deciding if trade school is a better fit.

  • Cost. How will you pay for trade school? Will you pay in cash, get financial aid, or take loans? Making sure you have the means will be critical.
  • Location. While there are many trade and vocational schools all over the country, there may not be one close to you. Will you be able to attend an out-of-state school, find lodging, and be able to fund your meals?
  • Time. Is there a specific time frame you have that you need to complete your education in? Some schools have open enrollment that will allow you to attend any time, but others may only have courses several times a year.
  • Salary. While many skilled trades can exceed 6-figures, most do not. Understanding the salary ranges for the vocation you are most interested as well as the state you will work in is critical to know before attending a school.

So, are trade schools worth it?

What do you think?

Jill Caren
Jill Caren

Jill Caren is a self-taught web developer and SEO strategist with a passion for helping kids figure out a career plan. As a "lost" teen who found her way later in life, she hopes to help other teens know the many options that are out there for them! Jill can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.