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Trade School vs College - How They Compare - Most people naturally assume that they have to enrol in a 4-year college once they graduate from high school. It just seems like the proper thing to do.

And the reason is simple: other educational alternatives such as a trade school or a community college are seldom talked about probably because they seem less appealing.

Source: by Jeswin Thomas

Statistics show that 4 year College graduates have a higher median income than their less recognized peers. And with this in mind, a college degree at first glance seems vastly superior to a trade school.

But when you factor in the weak economy and the high cost of a college degree, the gap between the two dramatically narrows.

If you’re close to graduating from high school, and your grades are nothing exceptional, and you love working with your hands, then maybe you should consider a trade school. Not everyone is meant to attend a 4-year traditional college.

A trade school provides you with excellent training that qualifies you for a fulfilling career.

Especially, when you look at the current unemployment rate for college graduates and the significant investment in both time, and money.

A trade school then can be a worthy alternative to a traditional 4-year college. This is especially true for those who love to work with their hands—people who intend to work as plumbers, electricians, welders, hairstylists, auto mechanics, and more.

A trade school might even offer a better trade-off than a standard college education. If you aren’t familiar with it, here's an overview of a trade school education and what to expect.

What is a Trade School?

A trade school is a post-secondary educational establishment that offers students hands-on training in a particular occupation or trade.

A trade school could also be known as, a vocational college, a technical school, or a vocational school. Trade schools are mostly for-profit institutions and can be public or privately owned.

Rather than the general education offered in a traditional college, trade schools provide a more narrowed curricula focused on developing skill sets in a particular field.

Trade school programs typically run from 8 months to 2 years. And at the end of your program, you'll earn a certificate or diploma. You can qualify to write a licensing exam or start as an apprentice or journeyman in a skilled vocation.

For some programs, you can also earn an associate degree just like a 2-year college. And contrary to what most people believe, a trade school qualification can lead to well-paying jobs.

Elevator technicians, electricians, mechanics, machinist, dental hygienists are some jobs that pay well. Even better than some college degree jobs.

Now let’s looking into Trade school vs College degree, and how they compare.

It's easy to get enrolled in a trade school, and you won't have to stress over the college application process.

You don't need to write the SATs or ACT, and you don't need to be bothered with high grades either, although that isn’t a licence to neglect your grades.

Besides how easy it is to get in, let's see how a trade school education stacks up against the more traditional 4-year college experience.

1. The Salary Potential

Although as you would expect it’s lower, the starting salary for trade school graduates aren't exaggeratingly lower especially when compared with that of their peers who graduated from a traditional college.

2017 Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics suggest that trade school graduates earned a median annual salary of $35,720.

This figure naturally varies widely depending on the industry and the experience of the worker.

Some trade school jobs, such as an elevator installer, gets paid as much as $77,000 annually.

On the other hand, bachelor degree holders earned a median annual salary of $51,800, which too, varies depending on the industry, location, and experience.

2. The Duration

The apparent advantage that college graduates have in terms of salary potential quickly diminishes when you factor in the time spent in school.

This is because you can complete trade school in 2 years or less, as compared to 4 years in a traditional college.

And that means the trade school graduate already has 2 years of income made, before their college-bound peer joins them in the labour force.

That amounts to $71,400 still working with our previous data, which makes up for roughly 4.5 years of difference in income.

Joining the workforce earlier also gives the trade school graduate more years of experience, which directly translates to better pay. And more time to save up a significant amount of money for retirement.

3. The Cost of Education

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, an average 4-year college education in the US costs about $127,000.

Even more troubling is the fact that about 70% of the students take out a student loan to help pay for college.

So, the cost of getting a college education is even steeper than the “sticker price” suggests when you factor in the interest accruing from these loans.

And it means a more substantial student loan repayment and, of course, a significant reduction in disposable income after graduation.

Also, the college lifestyle contributes to the cost of a college education. You must pay for dorm rooms, parties, eating out, and other expenses that go along with the college experience.

On the other hand, the average trade school degree costs about $33,000. Which, when you compare it to the $127,000 tuition cost of a college degree, it saves you about $94,000.

And when you factor-in the possibility of getting paid during internships or apprenticeships, it becomes even cheaper to attend a trade school.

Also, if we are to assume that the students loans accrue at an interest rate of 4% for more than 10 years, the bachelor's degree will then cost $154,000 and the trade degree will cost just $40,000—a staggering difference of $114,000.

So, you might want to attend trade school if money is a problem, and you don’t wish to be entangled in debts for much of your adult life.

4. The Dropout Rate

For some youngsters, a rigorous 4-year program might be too much. They might be ill-prepared for the hard work involved in earning a bachelor's degree, and consequently, may drift off course.

A survey by the Institute of Education Statistics, revealed that 40% of students that enrolled at a 4-year college dropout before getting their degree.

Despite having spent a substantial amount of time and money, they left without receiving any degree.

For the remaining 60% that managed to complete their degree, 64% took longer than 4 years to finish, which costs them an estimated $70,000 in expenses and lost earning opportunities per year.

And because their colleges do not require them to choose a major till the end of their sophomore years, many students also waste their time and credit on courses they, later on, chose not to study.

5. Employment

The primary goal of getting a college degree is landing a good job after graduating. However, that hasn't been the experience with everyone.

As reported by the Economic Policy Institute, unemployment and underemployment rates; which stands at 8.5% and 16.8% respectively for college graduates younger than 25 years, are currently twice their level as compared to the year 2007. And it's been getting worse.

The job market has slowed considerably for fresh college graduates. There are fewer job opportunities, and thus a large number of them are struggling with paying their student loans.

Generally, trade school graduates fare better in the job market. In fact, many trade school students find a job while still in school.

This is mostly because the jobs that they are trained for require physical presence and, therefore, difficult to export to another country.

The internet has facilitated the outsourcing of lots of jobs to countries where labour is extremely cheap.

And companies are capitalizing on this trend to maximize profits. This makes local employment in some sectors difficult.

Plumbing work, automotive repair, and building construction will be impossible to export as they require the worker to be there in person.

Additionally, the demand for high-skilled workers is increasing. This is due to the aging folks who work in trades that require a high level of skill and precision.

As they get older and retire, they create a gap that needs filling by younger skilled hands.

6. School Experience

A traditional college offers a more rounded school experience. You can join frats and clubs, get involved in sports and attend sporting events, go to parties, and enjoy living in a dorm with your peers.

You can create lots of great memories and form lasting friendships and valuable contacts. And your education is not limited to the classroom.

A college education often includes lectures by notable personalities – prominent academics, politicians, and world figures.

You also get to interact with students from different parts of the world. You'll miss out on all these if you opt for a trade school.

There is no campus culture on trade schools, and the social experience is not as vibrant. And there are hardly any international students.

The point here is; Trade schools focus solely on training you for a job. So the question now is; should you go to a trade school or a 4-year college?

Before deciding on either, here’s some advice; first find a career that you believe will be fulfilling and right for you. Then research it's educational requirements.

Also, look at the job’s earning potentials and opportunities for growth. If the career you want to pursue requires a bachelor's degree, then you must attend a traditional college.

However, if your intended occupation requires a trade school education, you can save a lot of time and money by going for an associate degree or certificate.

Another good question to ask yourself is; how long are you willing to commit to post-secondary education?

A bachelor's degree typically takes a minimum of 4 years to complete. And even longer, especially if you work while in school.

A trade school takes only 2 years and much less in some cases. Finishing school and entering the workforce early means you will save more for retirement.

Attending a college might mean starting to save later. Still, graduates who land a good job with generous salaries can make up for the lost time by putting aside more money every month.

Another good question to consider is; Are you one of those persons who love’s working with your hands and fixing things? Or do you prefer a more corporate setting?

Consider your natural talents when deciding between a trade school and a traditional college. Jobs like hairdressing will entail interacting socially with a lot of people and will be ideal for you if you are a people-oriented person.

There are many jobs also that involve lots of social interactions but require a bachelor's degree too. Therefore, roles in sales and marketing will also be a good fit.

There are distinct advantages to attending a college as well as drawbacks, just as it is with trade schools.

Choosing college or trade school is a function of your career goals, finances, personal circumstances, financial goals, family background, and time commitments.

If you are about to graduating from high school or know someone that is about to, you should keep an open mind and carefully weigh your options.

If you remain unsure, you may start with a trade school and earn your associate degree. And if you then feel like it, you can transfer your credits to a traditional 4-year college.

Well, that’s all for today’s post. I hope you guys found value in it. With that said you guys, have a great day, and I’ll see you all in the next one.

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