What is a Trade School?

Also known as a vocational school, a trade school is a post-secondary institution that teaches students everything they need to know before going into a highly skilled job, known as the skilled trades. Common jobs in the skilled trades include construction workers, mechanics, and welders, and many high schools don’t educate their students on careers in the skilled trades. So why should one consider going to a trade school over a four-year college?

1. Trade Jobs Can Pay Just as Much as Corporate Jobs

One misconception about the skilled trades is that you won’t make a lot of money working in these jobs. While that is true for only some of the careers in the skilled trades, many other skilled trade workers can make up to six figures a year, or come extremely close to it. Some of the highest paying (national average) trade jobs include:

  • Radiation Therapists- $115,000 per year
  • Construction Managers- $97,000 per year
  • Electric Linemen- $75,000 per year
  • Aircraft Mechanics– $66,000
  • Plumbers- $56,000 per year

Keep in mind that these are only averages, so you can make more or less depending on where you’re working. Also, construction managers tend to see higher salaries if they go on to complete a Bachelor’s degree.

2. There Are Different Types of Jobs Within the Trades

The term “skilled trades” is almost always synonymous with construction-related jobs, but there are several different types of trade jobs that go outside of the construction industry. This means that if you’re not interested in construction but are curious about trade school, there are a variety of options for you. Some examples of trade jobs outside of construction include:

Healthcare

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Respiratory Therapist

Manufacturing

  • Machinist
  • Metal Fabricator
  • Tool and Die Maker

Service Industry

  • Baker/Chef/Cook
  • Cosmetologist
  • Landscape Horticulturist

3. Schooling Doesn’t Take as Long as College

Becoming certified in the skilled trades can take anywhere from a few months to three years. The majority of students who attend a college or university take at least four to five years to complete their degree, and this may or may not include an internship. When attending a trade school, you’re always going to have a chance for hands-on experience. The internships/apprenticeships are almost always built into the curriculum, which also means that you don’t have to worry about finding one on your own.

Trade schools usually have multiple start dates, unlike universities that require you to either start in the fall, spring, or in some cases, starting in the summer is allowed. This means that if the “fall semester” has already started, there’s likely another start date available before the spring semester starts, and maybe even before the winter quarter.

4. The Cost of Education is Much Less Expensive

Because trade schools are very hands-on, you spend more time outside of the classroom, which means you don’t have to pay as much for your classes. In the United States, the average cost of one semester in college is around $10,000 (around $40,000 for four years). This number is calculated for students attending a public university in their home state and doesn’t include additional fees. This cost rises significantly for private colleges and for students studying out-of-state.

The average cost of attending trade school is around $33,000— and that’s for an entire program with tuition and all fees included. So compared to a four-year university (after you add up all of the fees and multiply that number by four or five years), you’re paying about 75% less when attending a trade school.

5. You’re Almost Always Guaranteed a Job

Trade schools pride themselves on their ability to help their students find a job once they’ve completed their program. Compared to a university, whose students typically only get a job right after graduation if they’ve completed an internship (and not all degree programs require an internship), most trade schools have advisors whose job is to help students find jobs once they’ve graduated. These schools also make their job placement rates available, so make sure to look this up before deciding on a school.

Just remember that because trade jobs are highly skilled, you may be required to enroll in continued learning courses to renew your license. This is typically done annually, depending on what type of trade you’re working in.

If you’re on the fence about attending college, consider attending a trade school. You have the potential to make a good living as well as save money on your educational expenses.

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