When it comes to furthering your education, it’s important to think about what type of career training will work best for you. For the past several decades, the push has been toward driving graduating high school students toward traditional colleges and universities. That’s left a big hole in the workforce, with employers finding a hard time attracting highly skilled blue-collar workers.
Now, with the U.S. facing a major shortage of skilled tradesmen and women, it’s time to take another look at the reasons to consider a trade school instead of college.
Trade School vs College by the Numbers
|National Average||Four-Year College||Two-Year College||Trade School|
|$9,410 (per year)|
|$3,440 (per year)|
|$5,000 – $15,000 Total|
|Time to Complete|
|3 months – 18 months|
|Books, housing, misc. fees|
|books, housing, misc. fees|
|Diploma or certificate of completion|
While the average cost for a four-year college is listed at $9,410 per year, most graduates actually end up paying around $127,000 for their degree! Of those, at least 20 percent graduate with more than $50,000 in debt and nearly six percent graduate from a four-year university with over $100,000 in student loan debt. How many years of work will it take to pay that off?
On the high end, it costs around $33,000 to complete trade school. However, don’t expect to pay that much for a trade school education. There are plenty of programs available that cost far less. Midwest Technical Institute, for example, offers a complete HVAC/R technician training program for less than $15,000.
Who Should Consider Trade School Instead of College?
Perhaps the two most important factors to keep in mind when weighing trade school vs college is the cost and time commitment you are willing to make for career training. If you’re looking for a faster track to a new career and don’t want to assume a lot of student debt, trade school could be a great option.
You can decide how much time you want to spend in school and plan your training accordingly. A six month to one year program at a good trade school can have you ready for entry-level employment as a professional welder, electrician or HVAC/R technician in anywhere from six months to just over a year.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is flexibility. Most trade schools offer classes year-round, which means you don’t have to wait for one semester to end and another to begin before you can start your training. Because many trade schools also offer day and evening classes, it’s easier to fit your schooling in without causing unnecessary disruption to your home and work life.
Another advantage of a trade school over traditional college is the career-focused training. At a four-year college, you’ll be required to take two years of prerequisites before you can start focusing on your major.
At a trade school however, hands-on training begins on day one. Keeping the educational focus strictly on career training allows trade schools to prepare students for a new career in less time and at a lower cost.
What Are Good Trades to Get Into?
Electrician: Work in a variety of settings installing, maintaining and repairing electrical systems. Job growth will be faster-than-average through 2026 with a median yearly wage of $52,720. 
HVAC/R Technician: People in this skilled trade will experience faster-than-average job growth through 2026 with median yearly earnings of $45,910. 
Welder: Fast growth and a median yearly salary around $40,000 makes welding a great career choice. 
Truck Driver: Life on the road could pay off for you. Train to earn your CDL in just a few short months. The industry is growing and so are salaries, with a yearly average of $43,340 per year. 
Why Trade School Might be Better for You
If you like the thought of working with your hands and staying busy, a career in the skilled trades is a rewarding option. For instance, becoming an HVAC technician would allow you to get into a growing field with great earning potential and plenty of job opportunities. 
Trade schools are also a great choice for visual learners who retain information by seeing and doing as opposed to sitting in a classroom. Vocational school programs provide the type of hands-on training students need to enter the workforce with skills and confidence.
If you want to learn more about attending trade school and what to expect, our friendly admissions staff here at MTI is ready to help.