Is Trade School or a Four-Year Traditional College Right for You?

As summer begins, many incoming seniors look forward to their last year of high school. Some will spend their time at summer jobs or internships, while others will take time to spend with friends and family. Once the school year starts, they’ll be off looking at colleges and sending out applications. But a traditional 4-year university isn’t the best choice for everyone.

College has its benefits (social life, a wide variety of courses, etc.), but can also come with a staggering amount of debt. Trades school, alternatively, typically has a much lower cost and offers skills-based training, as well as very attractive career prospects.


Colleges are known for their strenuous application process. Prospective students generally first need to score well on their college entrance exams, then apply to several schools, fill out lengthy applications, wait to see where they were accepted, and finally choose from any offers they receive.

The trade school application process is generally much more streamlined. Prospective students usually just need to supply their high school diploma and can then enroll for the next program.


Colleges are expensive. According to a recent report put out by the College Board, an in-state student can expect to pay an average of $26,820 in annual tuition for a public college. An out-of-state student can see an average of $43,280 tuition for the same type of school, while students opting for private colleges can see average tuition of $54,880.

Although the cost of trade school can vary widely depending on the particular school or area of study, on average, U.S. News & World Report, found that trade school students pay $33,000. That’s for their entire education, not an individual year.

Job Stability

Many trade school jobs are positions that won’t be going away any time soon. Regardless of how the economy is performing, we’ll still need plumbers, electricians, automotive technicians, welders, CNC machinists, etc. College graduates will find that job stability varies wildly depending on what discipline they decided to study. However, college does provide students with the opportunity to gain access to a wide variety of knowledge.


A traditional college experience generally takes 4 years. A trade school program, on the other hand, usually clocks in at 2 years. This means that graduates can be out in the workforce making money two years before traditional college graduates.

At the end of the day, whether a traditional college or trade school is right for you will depend on what you want out of the experience and what you can afford. Both have their share of pros and cons.

Do you plan to attend a traditional college or a trade school? Let us know in the comments section below!

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