What is trade school?
A trade school is a type of educational institution that offers specialized, career-specific training in manual and technical vocations. Trade schools prepare students with the necessary knowledge and skills to work in specific fields, such as:
- Auto mechanics
This type of education teaches how to apply trade-specific knowledge, tools and techniques, giving students the foundation to gain entry-level employment in a skilled trade of their choice.
What is college?
A college is an educational institution where students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. Colleges are designed to provide a comprehensive education that covers practical and theoretical aspects of a chosen field of study with a breadth of knowledge.
At the undergraduate collegiate level, students typically take general education courses as part of their degree program in several areas, such as:
- Foreign language
- Political science
General education courses help students learn how to think critically, analyze data and solve problems — skills essential for many careers or to be a valuable contributor to society at large. The general education portion of an undergraduate degree program is combined with a major or required course of study portion of the degree, which provides students a depth of knowledge in their chosen discipline to contribute to their field of study.
Beyond undergraduate programs, colleges also typically offer graduate-level education for those looking to pursue a master’s degree or research in a particular field. Graduate-level degree programs are designed to refine students’ knowledge and skills even further and can sometimes include real-life applications.
College vs. trade school programs
Before choosing a program, it’s important to consider your educational and career goals as well as the following processes, requirements and costs.
Admissions for trade schools may require only a high school diploma or a GED, but applicants’ aptitude for the trade they want to pursue will impact their admission.
On the other hand, college admission requirements tend to require a formal application and other materials such as letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores and essays. In addition, college admissions processes can be competitive because of the limited number of spaces available and the number of applicants.
There are also open enrollment institutions such as University of Phoenix. No SAT or GMAT scores are required to be admitted. Traditional essays are also not required. The following are required for eligibility:
- Be at least 16 years old at the time of application if applying to a bachelor’s degree program
- Be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or hold an approved, valid visa if residing in the United States
- Not have been expelled from a previous institution
- Complete all required forms for admission as well as submit official test scores and official transcripts from all colleges and universities you’ve attended
The time to complete a trade school program is typically shorter than that of college degrees. Trade schools usually offer one-year or two-year certifications or two-year specialized associate degrees. At colleges, bachelor’s degree programs usually take four years to finish. Shorter trade school programs can benefit those looking to enter the job market sooner or with limited time and resources to devote to a college degree.
Nevertheless, there are ways for college students to earn their degrees faster. For example, some colleges allow students to take accelerated classes or pursue dual-enrollment programs that combine high school and college courses. Moreover, online degree programs often offer flexible schedules.
The cost of college and trade school can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the type of institution (public or private), living arrangements and the length of the program. Trade schools sometimes accept scholarships and grants, but they may be limited compared to those accepted by college programs.
College tuition can be more expensive than trade school tuition depending on your school of choice. However, there are several ways students can explore paying for college such as:
- Financial aid: Money awarded to students based on their financial needs.
- Scholarship opportunities: Awards given to students who demonstrate exemplary academic performance, talent or other specified parameters.
- Grants: Funds provided by the government that can be used for tuition, books and other college-related expenses. These funds typically do not have to be repaid.
- Tuition reimbursement programs: Some companies offer tuition reimbursement programs to their employees so they can further their education without paying out of pocket.
When looking at cost, it’s important to understand the difference between grants and scholarships. Grants are typically need-based, while scholarships can be based on merit, interests, experiences and other factors. Furthermore, while scholarships and grants usually don’t have to be repaid, scholarships may require repayment if the student fails to fulfill specific requirements such as a certain grade point average.