Trade School vs. Vocational School: What’s the Difference?

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Although many students think that going on to a college or university and seeking either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree is their only option after they complete high school or receive their GED, there are other options, such as trade school, that are great ways to continue your education. Trade schools or vocational schools are a less time and money intensive way to continue your education after high school. It will give you a little bit more freedom than a traditional college is likely to but is not for everyone.

In this article, we hope to answer some of the most common questions that arise when thinking about educational opportunities to pursue after high school. We will be discussing the differences between trade school and college, as well as some of the major pros and cons of each option. This article should give you a solid toolset to go out and choose for yourself which style of schooling will be best for you.

Is a Vocational School the Same as a Trade School? Is a Vocational School the Same as a Trade School?

Trade school, vocational school, vocational college, and technical school are all terms that are used to describe the same general subset of schools. This is a type of schooling that you pursue post-high school. You would be working towards a certification in a common and essential profession, such as being an electrician.

Training towards a vocation or trade is the primary goal of both, regardless of what you choose to call the school or what the school decides to call itself. You are training towards a specific career and are generally only focusing on that subject matter throughout your courses.

What Does a Trade School Mean?

What Does a Trade School Mean?

The term trade school comes from the idea that you are learning a trade or a craft. Historically, if someone was a woodworker, they would have trained in that trade under a master who would have taught them what they knew. Generally, this style of apprenticeship would take a few years, but training under the best masters would give an upcoming woodworker, or other tradesmen, a good amount of social clout as a result.

Now, trade school is a name that is used to refer to a short certification program that one generally completes after high school in order to prepare for their desired career path. There are a variety of disciplines that you could study in trade school, ranging from being an electrician to a hairdresser.

There are still ways that you can advance the certification you receive from trade school through an apprenticeship, but most of the education of tradesmen now happens in a classroom setting. That being said, trade school programs do tend to be pretty hands-on, so don’t expect to just be taking notes in a lecture all day.

What is a Vocational School?

What is a Vocational School?

Vocational school is used interchangeably with trade school to refer to a short-term program that will give you a certification to work in a particular vocation. Vocational school can cover a whole host of topics and is an excellent option for someone looking for an affordable, computer-based way to continue their education after finishing high school or receiving their GED.

Vocational schools tend to be commuter schools, meaning that the school itself doesn’t offer any housing. This means that vocational schools tend to attract local students from the surrounding areas who are able to stay either with family or in their own living situation, separate from the school. Some students love the feeling of a commuter campus, but others prefer the residential feel of many colleges and universities.

There are many vocational school programs available for students to study. They last anywhere from a few weeks to about two years, with most programs lasting about a year in length. There are programs for everything from hospital machine technicians to accountants to commercial diving, meaning that there is a vast range of subjects that can be studied at a vocational school.

At a vocational school, you enroll in the program you will be attending, similar to how you would enroll in a college major. You will only be taking courses that will advance your knowledge and experience in the field that you will be seeking certification in, meaning that you will not generally be taking any common core or general requirement classes. This is great if you want to focus quickly and enter the workforce, but doesn’t allow you the time or freedom to take courses just because they interest you.

Is Trade School Worth It?

Is Trade School Worth It?

If you think that you want to enter the workforce soon, not pay a ton for your continuing education, and are interested in attending a computer-based school, then trade school might be the right option for you. Trade school is a great way to get good training for a specific career.

Trade school is worth it if you are only interested in the subject you plan to pursue a certification in. A trade school’s disadvantage is that you will only be studying that one subject, but if that is what you value, then trade school really can be the best option.

Many people are strong proponents of the idea that you can’t make it without a college degree in the modern world, and while there is some merit to that statement for certain career fields, there are other career fields in which you can flourish without a college degree. The world functions well with a wide variety of talents, and trade school certifications play an integral role in that framework.

If you want to determine if trade school is the best value for your money, you will have to do that math for yourself. Each person’s situation is different, so there isn’t one set answer. You should know that trade school generally takes less time, costs less, but that you are also likely to make less money in the long-run. The major downside of trade school, as opposed to college, is that there often aren’t a lot of opportunities for upward mobility after you complete trade school.

Most trade school or vocational school professions don’t have a lot of potential to move up and achieve a higher paid job. Most of these jobs have a few levels of pay that are common but don’t have the same growth potential as many jobs that prefer a college degree over a trade school certificate.

Is Vocational School Considered College?

Is Vocational School Considered College?

Although some colleges do offer vocational programs, vocational school is different from college. A vocational school, community college, and college are all different things, and each refers to a different post-high school educational opportunity that you could choose to pursue. Each has its own pros and cons, and any of them can be the best option for you. It all depends on what you are looking for.

A vocational school, or trade school, is typically the shortest in length, with many programs only being about 50 weeks long. They end in you receiving a certification that allows you to work in the trade or vocation that you have been trained in. Some of the most common trade school programs are masonry, carpentry, and plumbing, although there are many more out there. Vocational school is a great option if you want to be able to get out into the workforce quickly but want to be able to make more than you would have with just a high school diploma.

Community college is a completely different classification of school. A community college is a cheaper, usually less prestigious computer-based college. They often offer vocational programs, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees, even offering specific graduate degree programs. Community college is a great choice if you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree but either would like an affordable option or need something with lots of flexibility.

Colleges are higher education institutions that can be either private or public that offer undergraduate education, meaning bachelor’s degrees and sometimes associates degrees, but not usually. Universities are higher education institutions that, again, can be private or public and offer both undergraduate and graduate programs. Either can also offer vocational programs, but not all do. Attending a traditional college or university is usually, but not always, the most expensive of these options.

In short, vocational schools can be included in a college, but they are not necessarily considered college. In college, students work towards a degree, while students work towards certification in most vocational schools. One of the main similarities between trade school and college is that both options can be used to help give you more background knowledge and skills before you fully enter the workforce.

What is the Difference Between College and Vocational School?

What is the Difference Between College and Vocational School?

The main differences between college and vocational school are in the length of time it will take to complete, the cost of attending, the end goal you are working towards, and the curriculum’s style. Each of these differences can play a huge role in if you chose to attend a vocational school or a college.

The first difference is the amount of time it will take to complete. Although there are outliers, vocational schools generally take much less time to complete than college. In order to earn an associate’s degree, which is the quickest degree you can earn, students typically study for around two years. To complete most vocational schools, students will study for about ten to twelve months, but they can take up to two years for the longest certificates.

The next notable difference is the cost of attending. Both options offer scholarship and financial aid options, so the cost you end up paying for either option may differ greatly. Most of the time, college costs more than vocational school. The flip side of this is that most college graduates can have the potential to make more money in the long-term than a vocational school graduate.

When you graduate from college, you get a degree. You can get an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or even a doctorate degree, also known as a Ph.D. When you graduate from a vocational school, you get a certificate that allows you to work in that field. It is the certification that generally needs to be renewed every few years, but, if kept up-to-date, will allow you to work in the field indefinitely.

The last big difference between vocation school and college is the style of curriculum. College curriculums will generally have you take some common core courses in the first year or so to help build a solid foundation of knowledge. By contrast, vocational schools will have you only take courses in the subject that you are pursuing a certification in.

Unfortunately, negative associations with trade schools and even community colleges do still exist in society, but these are generally associates made by people who don’t have to stress about the financial obligations that come with attending college. Trade school and community college are both great, affordable options to continue your education.

A benefit of trade school or community college is that it tends to be a more cost-effective way for an adult already in the workforce to be able to continue their education. This educational institution style generally has more flexibility with the timing of courses and, as is the case with trade schools, tend to offer short courses that allow individuals to take a short amount of time off of work to learn a new skill. Trade schools and community colleges are great resources that should not be overlooked in a community.

Wrapping Things Up: Trade School vs. Vocational School: What’s the Difference?

Trade school, or vocational school, offers a great alternative option to the traditional two or four-year degree tract college programs that many high school graduates attend. This is a more financially feasible option for many students and is a good option if you want to enter the workforce soon but still have some credentials beyond just a high school diploma or a GED. Trade schools are a great way to give yourself the tools to pursue the job of your dreams!

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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