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Why Trade School Makes College Look Bad


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School To Career 2012/2013 Replacement Naval Hospital Project U.S. Navy photo by Jesse A. Lora, NAVFAC (SW)

Considering going to trade school? There are plenty of opportunities. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY-SA

Trade schools make colleges look bad? I mean it. Not that there’s anything wrong with colleges, but vocational education really hasn’t been getting the credit it deserves. As Mike Rowe appropriately pointed out: there’s this perception in our culture that a college degree is in some way superior to alternatives such as learning a trade.

The truth of the matter is, there’s a need for plumbers, electricians and mechanics, just as much as there is for lawyers and doctors. And looking down on the trades is, as Mike puts it, “a bull—- attitude, and it’s creating huge problems.”

So in ‘defense’ of trade schools, and for every high schooler or apprentice out there wondering whether it is worth it, here are the top reasons for attending one.

#1 Ample Job Opportunities and an Early Start

You’ve probably heard of the skills shortage, right? Trades are high in demand, since the current skilled workforce of the United States is aging. 2012, for example, saw a shortage of as many as 600,000 workers in U.S. manufacturing.

While companies and businesses still need to adjust accordingly and offer better wages in some (but not all) trades, the fact remains that more workers are needed. By learning a trade, you are taking a very particular path. Though some may see this as dangerous, it has its benefits and can prove to be safer than other alternatives.

You don’t emerge as simply a ‘general’ skilled worker after finishing trade school. You are a tradesman who is qualified and specialized to do certain specific jobs. The certification you receive after you finish trade school is proof of that and also increases your chances to find a job. And, furthermore, a trade school education is also considered higher education, equal to any college degree.

Last but not least, trade school takes less time than college, which means that by the time your peers are out of college you’d have already spent 2-4 years out in the labor market.

#2 Lower Cost, Lower Debt and Why Not a Scholarship as Well?

Whichever trade school you attend, you will realize that it costs much less than a college degree. A $33,000 trade school degree vs. a $127,000 bachelor’s degree? You get my point. And a bachelor’s isn’t enough these days, so you’d have to think about getting a master’s after that.

Yes, some might say that in the long run a college degree will yield a higher return on investment. But as the article in the link above shows, this is contestable because there are numerous factors at play. Take into consideration the following: Did you get a loan? How much was it? How long will you have to pay it back and how much will it cost you?

Also, as already mentioned, you get to finish trade school earlier, which means that if you really wanted to, you could graduate from two trade schools for less money in total and for the same amount of time (or even less!) as it takes your peers to complete a full college degree!

Finally, scholarships are not limited only to college students. There’s a good chance you might be able to qualify for a scholarship as a vocational and trade student. While it the amount might not be huge, it would further reduce the costs of your already not-too-expensive education.

#3 Hands-On Learning and Work

And to further drive the point home about the value of trade schools – keep in mind that different kinds of people learn and work differently. The opposition between college and trade school is a flawed one, because blue collar jobs are just as necessary as white collar ones. Luckily, to some people trades and crafts come more naturally than to others.

Such people are tactile learners, rather than visual or auditory. That makes them better suited to do hands-on work. If you are such a person then going to trade school, rather than tormenting yourself with college, is a logical choice. Your education will reflect your disposition and you will be able to focus on doing a good job and honing your talent, rather than struggle with grasping the material.


All of this is not to say that college education is overrated. It’s the right place for some people, just as trade school is the right place for others. There is simply a professional venue for everyone. What we need to realize is that each of these venues holds value and is beneficial to society. So if you find yourself wondering whether to go to trade school, keep all of this in mind.

Are you planning on attending trade school? Or maybe you already have? Leave us a comment! You can also subscribe to our e-mail list to receive exclusive savings and offers, information about new gear, contests and more!

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