Trade School or College?


David Reynolds, Writer

Should I choose a trade school or a traditional college? What even is a trade school?

A trade school, otherwise called a vocational or technical school, is a school where you go directly into the workforce after learning a trade or sometimes while you learn a trade. Trade schools are generally less time consuming than college, trade schools taking at most 2 years and a bachelor’s degree taking 4 years. Some local trade schools include certain programs at Calhoun and Drake State. Other options include Paul Mitchell’s School and The Salon Professional Academy. Trade school careers have a wide range. These professions are just a small sampling of trades: diesel mechanic, plumber, rotary drill operator, electrician, elevator installer or repairman, cosmetologist, radiation therapist, diagnostic medical sonographer, and heavy equipment operator.

It’s tough to say how many Bob Jones students choose the trade-school route. Dr. Bostick, our college and career counselor, said, “According to the Senior exit survey, 108 (24%) students planned to attend a 2-year community college.  I am not sure how many of those were enrolling in a specific technical/vocational program.  From my experience, many students were interested in welding, HVAC, robotics, and the healthcare programs.” 

Cost is a major advantage of trade school. Statistically, a trade school is cheaper than getting a bachelor’s degree at a traditional college. In an article by The Simple Dollar, it was stated that the average cost for a bachelor’s degree is $127,000 while trade schools’ average was $33,000. Those who graduated from a trade school have also gotten into the workforce faster than those who graduated from college, and according to Career School Now, as early as 6 weeks for some jobs. Get Schooled stated the demand for trade jobs has been increasing due to those who have trade jobs retiring.

Dr. Bostick stressed that trade schools are legitimate options. “I do believe there is a negative stigma about vocation/technical school.  Many students have the perception that you cannot be successful with a vocational/technical skill, and that is simply not true.   Many times parents or friends are giving students misinformation.  Thirty years ago there was not such a high demand for skilled laborers, but today there is.  According to the Department of Labor, America will need 41,700 more cement masons, 114,700 more electricians and 218,200 more carpenters by 2022.  The demand is strong for students who are interested in vocational/technical schools.”  

Some people are very happy with their choice to attend a trade school. Dr. Bostick shared, “My sister is a cosmetologist and loves it!  She graduated Cosmetology School at 21, worked in a salon for a year or two, and opened up her own salon.  She is 40 years old, and has been a salon owner for over 15 years.  She does very well, works 3-4 days a week, and loves what she does.”

Despite these benefits, vocational schools aren’t for everyone. Colleges give more financial aid than trade schools. Trade schools are only for specific fields. For example, if you choose a trade school program for carpentry, you can only be a carpenter. Someone who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science can be a software engineer, a database administrator, an information security analyst, and more.

Choosing can be difficult. If there is a specific career in mind that a vocational school offers, vocational school is the way to go because it saves money and allows you to move forward with your life and career.

For those who want to go to a technical school, Dr. Bostick, whose office is located in the upstairs Commons area, said, “I want students to know all of their options.  The definition of success is not defined by a 4 year degree.  If students are interested in a vocational/technical college, I highly encourage them to visit me.  There are so many opportunities for students, and I want them to take full advantage of the grants and scholarships that are available to them.”