What Is The Difference Between Technical College And Community College?

Technical college and community college can both provide beneficial experiences for students. However, there are differences between the two that may include associated costs, skills acquired, and program length.

Often, the terms “technical college” and “community college” [1] will be used interchangeably, but community colleges are typically more focused on general education, while technical college or trade schools are career specific.

Technical College vs. Community College: What Are The Associated Costs?

Certain technical colleges offer programs and courses that can typically be completed in less than a year. With less time spent at college, students are able to enter the workforce sooner. Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) offers numerous programs that can be completed in less than a year*. Community college tuition averages between $6,000 and $15,000* [2] each year and it can take 2-4 years to complete, which means the overall cost is higher at a community college versus a technical college. For the latest information on MTI program tuition and costs, please visit our catalog.

*Not all programs and courses can be completed in less than one year
*These tuition ranges do not include room and board, books and supplies, transportation or other expenses and fees
*Financial assistance is available to those who qualify

Technical College vs. Community College: What Skills Does Each Education Offer?

The programs at a technical college, or trade school, provide practical, specific skills that can offer the necessary education to begin a career upon completion of the program or necessary certification. Often, technical colleges focus on hands-on programs in allied health or mechanical trades including medical and dental assisting, welding, HVAC/R-MAR, and truck driving. These programs are typically taught by instructors who are industry professionals with years of experience working in the field they are teaching.

Technical colleges usually do not require general education programs, and instead focus entirely on the skills needed for a specific career. Many industries require industry certifications, and trade schools prepare students with the necessary skills and knowledge to sit for the certification exams.

The length of programs at technical colleges are typically shorter than community college, for example at Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) most programs and courses can be completed in less than a year. Technical college programs may include certificates of completion. A benefit of shorter programs is the ability to possibly enter the workforce sooner than other postsecondary education options.

Community colleges are different because they often require students to take general education courses and may focus less on practical skills. Some community college students will transfer to 4-year colleges, in fact 49% of students [3] enrolled in traditional 4-year colleges transferred from a community college. Community college programs are intended to take two years to complete and students who graduate from community college usually earn an Associate’s Degrees [4].

For more information, check out our blog post “Trade School vs College: A Guide to Weighing Your Options.”

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Technical College vs. Community College: What Are The Potential Career Paths?

The students who choose to attend technical college, or trade school, often know what careers they would like to pursue and choose technical college because it offers specific training in those fields. Once completed, students can choose to join the workforce in many industries, including the mechanical trades or allied health careers.

Community college can be better suited for students interested in a more general education, or students who aren’t sure what they want to study [5] and prefer to explore by taking a number of different classes.

How To Choose Between Technical College And Community College?

If working in a trade is what you want for your career, then a trade school may be the best fit for you.

Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) offers programs including HVAC/R-MAR TechnicianWeldingDental AssistingMedical Assisting, and more. These programs focus entirely on the skills needed in the profession being studied, and can usually be completed in less than a year.

If you’re interested in a more general education, training that includes more classroom time, or you want to take courses that transfer to a 4-year college, community college may be the better fit for your needs. Both opportunities can be good for commuters, flexible schedules, and students who are balancing work, life and families.

For more work/school/life balance tips, check out our article “How to Achieve Work School Life Balance.”