College or Trade School?

You’re planning what’s beyond high school, wondering what career you might like to pursue. You’re wondering if you need to attend a traditional, four-year college to get the training and diploma you’ll need to begin life’s journey.

It’s a big decision. While college is just one of many compelling options for today’s high school student, just knowing a brick-and-mortar college (or online-degree program) is not your only option may be the best place to start. Because there is the option of furthering your education through a trade school.

What Are Your Goals for Your Future?

Many considerations go into choosing between a college and a trade school, but an excellent way to begin the journey is by examining your future goals.

Are you a student with a variety of interests but unsure of what you want to do after graduation? Then looking into a college degree program that gives you the time and opportunity to explore your interests through general education classes may be a good choice for you.

On the other hand, if you’re a student with a solid plan for where you would like to take your career – and you want to get out into the workforce as soon as possible – a trade school may be your best option to get on the fast track of earning your certifications.

And while no one can decide for you whether college or trade school is the best fit, let’s look at some factors to consider when making your decision.

The Traditional College Education

trade schoolOnce you’ve enrolled, you will typically spend the first half of your degree program taking general education courses. While the specific classes you take will vary based upon your degree program, they often include:

• English Composition and Literature
• General Science
• History
• Math

These classes will allow you flexibility over the first year or two. They can give you a more well-rounded education and help you with your decision of the specific degree you want to pursue.

Trade Schools

trade schoolIf you already have a clear idea of the career path you want to pursue, trade schools can be an excellent option. Trade schools differ from traditional colleges in many ways, including:

• Job-specific educational format
• Skill-based learning
• Lower cost of tuition
• Less time to complete the program
• Specialized career offerings

Once you enroll in a trade school, you will immediately start with classes that are based solely on the training needed to help you succeed in your future career. While traditional colleges begin with one to two years of the general education classes listed above, these types of courses are not part of a trade school program.

Instead, you’ll be trained only in the career path you’re pursuing. This is good news for those students who are set on the occupation they want to enter. And there are many different programs available through trade schools, including electrical technician, plumbing, automobile technician, welding, and carpentry.

And many trade schools now offer training online to help those who need added flexibility due to work and family responsibilities.

About That Cost…

With the changing economy and rising tuition prices, the cost of higher education is a major concern for students looking to earn a degree through a college or trade school.

Typically, trade schools cost substantially less than traditional colleges, and many students graduate with much less debt than those who pursued their education through a college or university. According to, completing an average four-year bachelor’s degree program costs students $127,000. On the flip side, the average cost for a trade school degree is only $33,000 – a savings of $94,000.

While college remains a good option for many students, the U.S. Census Bureau says that nationally, 20 percent of those who start at a traditional college do not complete a degree. And 65 percent of college seniors graduate with student loan debt averaging $29,000.

Part of the difference in the cost between the two types of programs is the length of time it takes to complete your education. Most bachelor’s degree programs are completed in four years, while the typical trade school degree gets you out in the workforce in less than two – saving you time, money, and a great deal of student loan debt.

Making the Right Decision for You

Whether you eventually settle on enrolling in college or entering a trade school program, you’re taking the next step in creating a prosperous, rewarding future. While the prestige of a college degree is necessary for certain occupations, trade schools enable you to enter a specialized workforce faster and with less debt. By doing your research and weighing the pros and cons of all your options, you can feel confident in your decision to move forward into an exciting future.

Contact Us

Interested in learning how Hub & Spoke can help you discover if a trades program is right for you? Sign up below to stay informed on the project and up-to-date with Hub & Spoke. For our industry professionals, click here to find out how you can make a difference in workforce development.


Photo by Pete Wright on Unsplash
Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash
Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash


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