Vocational School vs College: Which Is Best For You or Your Child?


Are you in your final year of high school and weighing up your options for the future? Or perhaps you’re a concerned parent interested in learning more to help guide your child on the right path.

Choosing between vocational school vs college involves many key considerations. These include your personal interest, finances, and a desired career path.

We break down the pros and cons of trade school and college to help you make the best decision for yourself.

Trade School vs College Differences

Trade school and college are significantly different. And it’s important to understand these differences before making your choice.

In college, you have the opportunity to study and pursue a variety of interests and subjects. On the other hand, trade school is a specialized program where all your focus is on one trade or skill.

A trade school streamlines education, focusing on developing specific career-based knowledge rather than general education.

The fact that you only attend classes that are relevant to your field of study decreases the study period at vocational school. You can finish the certificate program of your choosing in one to two years. This is much shorter than the four years that you’d spend at college.

A college education takes longer because while you specialize in one subject you will also study a range of other modules that are irrelevant for your core subject.

Another difference is that trade schools are typically much smaller, with fewer students in the class which allows for more hands-on education. Colleges tend to be quite large with lectures attended by many students and fairly impersonal teaching.

Students may flourish in either environment depending on the way that they learn and absorb information.

Vocational School Benefits and Drawbacks

There is quite a stigma attached to attending trade school as college is often lauded as the only way to make money and earn success. However, this is not the case and there are many advantages to choosing a trade school over college.

First of all, you will enter the workforce and start earning money in half the time than you would if you chose to go to college. You will also leave trade school with much less student debt as the average trade degree costs around $33,000 whereas the average bachelor’s degree costs around $127,000. Trade school is a much more affordable option.

When you leave technical school you will be guaranteed job security. You’ve been trained in a specific skill that is difficult to outsource and for which there will always be a demand — such as plumbing, carpentry, or mechanics. Learn more now about trade school opportunities.

There are some potential drawbacks, however. College creates an environment where you can build soft skills by attending events and taking extra classes that you cannot get at trade school. You also won’t have the opportunity to network at trade school or further your field of study.

Earning potential is a difficult one. Straight out of college, graduates will earn more than trade school certificate holders. However, college graduates also join the workforce later and in the long term, the earning potential shows little difference.

Choosing Vocational School vs College

Ultimately, the choice between vocational school vs college depends on a few key factors. If you have decided on a skill-based career path, then trade school is the best option. This is also the case if you’re concerned about finances and want to enter the job market as soon as possible.

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