Choosing a career is a huge decision. Whether you’re graduating high school, exiting the military or switching careers, it’s a significant commitment to enroll in higher education. Which school do you choose? What do you study? What job will you have afterwards? These are common questions when considering a possible path of postsecondary education.
Truth be told, college is not for everyone. Attending a trade school is sometimes an overlooked option for people considering their next career move. Which is better for you, trade school or college? The answer to this question will largely depend on your ultimate career goals, career interests, and considerations regarding cost of education and time spent in school.
Is a trade school better than college?
Generally speaking, trade school isn’t “better” or “worse” than college, but it is better for people who don’t need or want years of academic study, and would instead prefer a more direct path to a vocational career. Certain specific trades don’t require a four-year degree. Instead, it is more important to gain hands-on experience in the actual field in order to be qualified for an entry-level job.
Trade school can be an option for people who want to start working quickly, who can envision themselves in a specific vocational career, and who generally don’t wish to spend the time and money necessary to complete a college degree. Enrolling in trade school might make sense for you if you have a field or job that you think you would like to do, for example, cosmetology or dental assisting. If you wish to become a dental assistant, you’d be wasting time at a university that doesn’t train you for that job!
The student life at a trade school can be just as exciting as a four-year college, but without the huge price tag or number of years spent at school. Trade school offers dedicated peer groups, classroom instruction, and experienced teachers to guide students towards a career in the skilled trades, such as in the fields of allied health, mechanical trades, or truck driving. Vocational training programs usually offer flexible schedules so that students can balance other life commitments, such as another job or family obligations. Most trade schools offer robust student services to support each student on their journey.
What is the cost of trade school or college?
Both trade school and college require a certain level of investment. Every school and program will be different, depending on location, program of study, and type of degree awarded.
The range of costs for a college degree varies widely, but the cost of college has been rising in recent decades. At the top of the range, a four-year education at a private university could cost around $200,000, according to a College Board report on 2017-2018 college pricing. In the mid-range of costs, an in-state public university education might cost around $100,000 for four years. These numbers include tuition and fees, as well as the cost of supplies and housing, to give an overview of an expected college budget. Another way to look at it is this: the average cost of tuition at a public university for one year is about $10,000. 
To give an example of the cost comparison of trade school vs. college, at that same price of about $10,000 a student can complete an entire professional truck driving program at Delta Technical College in only 20 weeks. The overall range of tuition costs and fees for vocational training programs and courses at Delta Tech is between $10,000 and $18,000, depending on the program. This does not include the cost of books, supplies, or housing, which can vary.
Considering that the average Millennial carries $30,000 in student loans, the cost of trade school is considerably less expensive than a traditional academic education. Even tuition for two-year degrees at community colleges can cost somewhere in the ballpark of $3,000 to $5,000 per year for in-state students, and more for out-of-state students, depending on region.
Time commitment of community college vs. trade school
For students considering entering the skilled or mechanical trades, gaining hands-on skills training is more relevant to a future job than obtaining a degree from an academic college. Both community colleges and trade schools generally offer vocational training classes, though every campus will vary in the scope and types of programs offered.
What are the differences in time commitments between community colleges and trade schools? Generally speaking, trade schools offer a faster track to completion. Trade schools are entirely dedicated to vocational training, while community colleges offer a mix of GED classes, pre-college classes, and vocational classes.
Most vocational training programs at Delta Tech can be completed in one year or less, with the exception of the cosmetology program, which can last either 13 or 16 months. Most programs, such as medical assisting or HVAC training, can be completed in 9 months. Comparatively, an associate degree at a community college takes two years to complete, while certificate programs may vary in length.
To learn more about the training programs and options that trade school has to offer, fill out the form below to contact your local Delta Tech campus.