The Ultimate Guide to Trade School for Parents

The Ultimate Guide to Trade School for Parents

The concept of trade school is simple: Teach students the skills necessary to get them a job in their chosen career field. In today’s complex and ever-changing job market, having a set of skills that employers need can help set you up for long-term success.

The idea that trade school is just an alternative path for high schoolers who don’t (or can’t) enroll in a two-year or four-year college is fading. Now more than ever, Gen Z is challenging outdated concepts around everything from education to careers. 

It’s important to choose a career path that not only fits your strengths, interests and passions but is also a good investment of your time and money. That can be especially challenging considering the lack of insight most high schoolers have into their long-term future. 

Committing to earning a two-year or four-year degree might be tempting. But considering less than 60% of four-year college students earn a bachelor’s degree and less than 20% of community college students earn an associate’s degree, it is worth considering other options.

MTI is here to help. This guide serves as a resource for parents researching trade school as an option for their high schooler.


What is a trade school?

Trade schools are postsecondary educational institutions where students receive hands-on training that gives them a specific set of skills required for their chosen career field. Some trade schools focus on one industry, such as healthcare or mechanics. Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) offers a diverse mix of programs across different industries, including allied health, mechanical trades, cosmetology and trucking. 

Unlike longer academic programs, such as two and four-year colleges, most trade school programs don’t require general education classes, like English or Biology. Instead, students take classes directly related to their field of study. Trade school programs utilize hands-on training to give students the specialized skills required for their chosen career. 

Explore trade school programs

Trade school programs are focused on skilled trades—meaning roles that require a specific set of skills. Cosmetology is considered a skilled trade because it requires licensing and specific training to be able to do the work. Similarly, welding, HVAC, trucking, medical and dental assisting are all skilled trades. 

MTI offers the following skilled trade programs:

How much does trade school cost?

When evaluating trade school programs for your student, cost is likely to be one of the biggest deciding factors. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average public university student borrows $32,637 to attain a bachelor’s degree. By comparison, the cost of a trade school program is between roughly $3,600 to $16,000 total.

MTI has several resources specifically around trade school costs. Check out the following for more information:

Trade school vs. College: Key Differences

If you’re torn between the idea of college or trade school as a next step for your high schooler, here’s a quick overview of the key differences. 

  1. Cost: Two-year and four-year programs typically require a larger monetary investment compared to trade school. Students should consider not only tuition, but also additional expenses like books and housing. When considering all factors, trade school can be a more cost-effective option, especially with shorter program lengths and financial aid opportunities that may be available. 
  2. Application process: Enrolling in trade school is often a simpler process than two-year and four-year college. Most trade school programs do not have prerequisites other than a high school diploma or GED. On the other hand, college admissions can require test scores, GE classes, application fees or GPA requirements.
  3. Style of learning: For students who prefer hands-on learning through doing, a trade school offers just that. This style of learning emphasizes practical skills and real-world application, allowing students to gain valuable experience from day one. In contrast, most traditional colleges often involve a more classroom-focused approach that emphasizes bookwork and lectures.

What are the benefits of trade school?

The benefits of trade school extend well beyond the classroom. 

  • Shorter programs: Trade school students are less likely to burn out and more likely to graduate on time than traditional 2-year or 4-year college students. Less than 60% of students at four-year colleges earn a bachelor’s degree. At community colleges, less than 20% graduate with their associate degree or certificate. At MTI, 77% of students graduated in 2022.
  • Quicker entry into the workforce: Trade school programs typically are much faster to complete compared to two-year and four-year college programs. Most of MTI’s programs can be completed in less than a year. 
  • Demand for qualified skilled workers: The demand for skilled trade workers can vary across different roles and industries, but in general the demand for trade workers is surging, with recent data showing double-digit growth in demand for skilled trade jobs since the start of 2023.

How to make a financial plan for trade school

Financial planning for trade school is just as crucial as planning to attend a two- or four-year college. It’s important to understand all of your high schooler’s options when it comes to financial aid, scholarships, student loans, etc. 

Most accredited trade schools, like MTI, offer financial aid to those who qualify. Students are required to submit the FAFSA to determine what they may qualify for.

Additionally, incoming trade school students have the opportunity to apply for scholarships and grants that can also help reduce the cost of their education. Here’s a list of just a few scholarships to consider. It’s never too early to explore how to financially prepare for trade school. 

How to help your high schooler choose a trade school program

Start by asking your high schooler about the activities they most enjoy. Also, taking career aptitude surveys or a learning style quiz can help narrow down their career paths not only by their interests, but also how they learn and what type of program might be the best fit for long-term success. 

Each year, MTI assists thousands of high school students and their parents as they navigate the next phase beyond high school. MTI can help you engage in conversations with your high schooler and find excitement for this  new chapter in their life.

Trade school graduates and success stories

“I was a 2020 high school graduate with no clue on what I wanted to do. I tried a big university, I tried a community college, and then I heard about MTI and thought I’d give it a shot. I loved it so much. The campus staff is incredible, and I had the best instructor ever.”

Audrey, Moline, IL

2022 Dental Assisting Graduate

“It changed everything about me. Gave me a solid foundation to build upon and become my own independent contractor. As well as pursue my passion of making metal art.”

Karlee, Springfield, MO

2022 Welding & Pipefitting Graduate

Learn More

Checklist for Trade School

Most high schoolers don’t have their entire future mapped out. We get it. 

The information outlined in this guide is intended to help you and your high schooler determine whether trade school might be the best next step to continue their education and start a path toward a career. 

Together, we encourage you to ask your high schooler the following questions:

  • Are you a hands-on learner? 
  • Do you want to enter the workforce quickly? 
  • Are you looking for a more affordable option than traditional two- or four-year college? 
  • Do you want to learn a valuable skill set that is in demand? 

If they answered “yes” to those questions, trade school may be a great option for your high schooler. 

Take the Next Step at MTI 

To get started, we’ll connect you with a High School Representative who will be your student’s point of contact from enrollment to graduation. 

You can reach out directly to a High School Representative at your local campus using the contact information below, or you can fill out an information request form to be connected. 

Your High School Representative will arrange a campus tour for your high schooler to explore MTI’s campus and learn more about our programs. Additionally, they’ll help your high schooler set up a meeting with the Financial Aid Team so they can understand what financial aid options may be available to them, and guide you through the FAFSA application process.

High School Representative Contact Info

For more information, please contact your local High School Representative.

East Peoria, IL Campus

Kimberly Wood

Shawn Johnson

Moline, IL Campus

Dave Ruddy

Rebecca Miller

Springfield, MO Campus

Kristine Sardina


Helpful Links

For even more information about trade school programs including costs, scholarship opportunities and more, visit the links below: