Posted On: May 24, 2023

Trade School Pros and Cons: Are Trade Jobs Worth It?

Trade School Pros and Cons: Are Trade Jobs Worth It?

After years of stigma, trade school enrollment is on the rise. It's a great alternative to college for anyone who's interested in a skilled trade. It's less expensive, more applicable, and a provides a faster route to professional earnings.

But how does trade school work?

In this blog, we will go over the definition of a trade school and the pros and cons of trade school.

What Are Trade Schools?

A trade school is a post-secondary (meaning post-high school) institution that provides students with the technical skills needed for particular occupations, often skilled "trade jobs." They're also referred to as technical schools or vocational colleges.

A trade school's definition often depends on a direct contrast with a 2- or 4-year university or college. While colleges include general education requirements, vocational schools are focused entirely on job training in specific, applicable skills. Tech schools typically award certificates, while colleges award degrees. Trade education is hands-on and practical, while a university education is more theoretical.

Pros and Cons of Trade School

Is trade school a good idea? If you're interested in a job that can be learned through a vocational college, the benefits often outweigh the downsides.

What are the Benefits of Trade School?

Overall, the goal of trade school is to prepare you for an in-demand career in a direct and cost-effective way. As a result, it can give you a leg up to start earning money in a skilled trade quickly.

Fast and Direct Training

Vocational colleges focus on equipping students for an entry-level position in their field. You learn the applicable skills and basic concepts without any general education requirements. This means that your education is focused and as fast as possible.

The exact length will depend on the trade involved and the structure of the program, but tech schools' faster programs are usually a few months, with more in-depth programs lasting up to two years.

Hands-on Experience with Applicable Skills

You walk onto many jobs with zero hands-on experience, these days. That's where tech schools are different – hands-on practice in a simulated working environment is a fundamental part of your education.

Lower Cost

How much does trade school cost? The cost question is complicated. It'll depend on the job you're preparing for, the reputation of the school, and different features of the program, like job placement.

The easier question to answer is "how much are trade schools in comparison to college?" Because hands-down, trade school is more cost-effective than a 2-year or 4-year college degree. It's roughly a third or even a quarter of the cost.

And while many college graduates end up taking low-paying jobs completely unrelated to their degree, you'll enter the job market with applicable skills that can get you hired.

Gateway to a Stable Career

Many trade school jobs are thought to be the least at risk for replacement by AI.

There's always going to be a demand for the installation, maintenance, and repair of systems that are essential for our health, comfort, and convenience. We'll always need plumbers and dental hygienists.

What Are the Downsides of Trade School?

As with anything, there are downsides to trade school.

A Limited Number of Programs

Trade schools can be difficult to find since they fell out of popularity. Depending on your field of interest, you may not be able to find local vocational programs.

Financial Aid Barriers

The financial aid situation has improved with the push back toward vocational education, but it's still not as readily accessible as aid for college. Longer tech school program (at least 15 weeks) may qualify for federal loans or grants, but there are fewer options for short programs.

Limited Career Growth

While your skills are likely to remain in demand, trade jobs often don't come with a career ladder to move up. There are also fewer chances for lateral changes. Your work will change less over the years, dictated more by new technology or innovation rather than your growing role. But for a lot of people, that isn't a problem.

Types of Trade School

Like universities, trade schools can be public, private, or for-profit. There are online programs, in-person programs, and hybrid programs.

But in choosing a trade school, you'll want to start with the most basic categorization: what occupations a school prepares you for. Some schools specialize in one occupation, while others may offer educational tracks for a whole category of careers (or even multiple categories).

Construction/Trades Careers

The building trades are one of the original purposes for vocational college. You can get general construction experience on the job, but many of the specialized jobs require training before you can be safe and effective at your job.

Examples of trade jobs that require trade school include:

  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Masons
  • Welders
  • Heavy equipment operators

Mechanical Careers

Our lives run on machinery, and someone needs to learn how to maintain and repair it. Whether you're repairing a car engine or manufacturing equipment, these skills will remain in demand.

Examples of mechanical careers that require vocational training include:  

  • Automotive technicians
  • Aircraft/avionics technicians
  • HVAC or refrigeration techs
  • Industrial machinery technicians
  • Water treatment technicians

Healthcare and Wellness

It takes a lot of different roles to make our healthcare system run smoothly. That's not even counting skilled workers in the wellness space, like massage therapists.

Examples of health and wellness careers that you can jump-start with vocational training include:

  • Dental hygienists
  • Cardiovascular technicians
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Billing and coding specialists
  • Clinical medical assistants
  • Nursing assistants
  • Phlebotomists
  • Massage therapists

Other Trade School Careers

There are a range of other careers that start with tech school, including:

  • Commercial driving
  • Paralegals
  • Cosmetology
  • Home inspection
  • Chefs or cooks
  • Computer information systems

Is Trade School Worth It?

If you're interested in one of the careers that trade school caters to, then it can provide a faster and more cost-effective route to your professional life than college.

Many of these careers also require additional training or continuing education that can be completed with a reputable online training provider like us.  Construction and industrial jobs often require OSHA training, including a DOL card. Healthcare professionals need HIPAA training, OSHA, infection control, and more. You can even study the basic concepts you'll need for industrial maintenance with us.

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