Why choose vocational education over a college degree

Planning your next move after school? Or trying to help your child figure out their next step? Find out who vocational education offers more benefits than you may assume. 

For many people, going to college after graduation may seem like a natural progression. Whether it’s because it’s expected from them, is family tradition, or due to prejudice about other options, many people don’t even consider going down the vocational route.

However, with the rising cost of college tuition, trade schools are becoming more and more popular. To help you, or your child work out whether this route might be appropriate for them, here are some advantages trade schools have over studying for a degree.

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Shorter programs

One of the biggest advantages of trade schools is how much shorter the programs are compared to college. Programs usually last about two years, while it typically takes four years to complete a bachelor’s program. So if you or your child were to enter a trade program immediately after graduating from high school, you can enter the workforce much faster than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Another great advantage of a trade school is that you will receive education geared toward your desired field. If you choose a bachelor’s, the chances are you’ll have to take a course you’re not keen on just to fulfill your credit requirements.

Lower costs

Another big plus for trade schools is that they’re much cheaper than your average bachelor program. According to a study that was performed by Idaho’s Department of Labor, the average bachelor program in the US costs a staggering $127,000.

In comparison, the average trade school program will cost as little as $33,000 – a difference of $94,000. And, while some may not think that a vocational diploma is as prestigious as a bachelor’s degree, it looks just as good in a diploma frame that will help you take pride in your success.

The difference in cost also doesn’t take into consideration the interest you would pay on financing. If you take a student loan with a 4% interest rate over the course of four years, your $127,000 bachelor’s program now balloons up to $154,000. If you take the same loan for your vocational program, the total cost will be $40,000.

While it’s true that most students will only partially finance their college education, going to a trade school can do a lot to alleviate your debt load. According to a 2012 study, the average debt load for a student graduating from college was $29,900, compared to just $10,000 for someone graduating from a two-year technical program. And if you graduate from trade school, you can enter the workforce earlier and start paying off your debt.

Great salaries and career opportunities

Contrary to what many may think, there isn’t that much difference between what your average college grad will earn compared to someone coming out of a vocational program.

According to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average student graduating from a trade and technical school can stand to make as much as $35,720 a year, though this number will greatly depend on the experience level and the industry.

When it came to those graduating with a bachelor’s degree, the average median income of new graduates was around $46,900 a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is only a $11,180 difference when compared to vocational schools.

However, this doesn’t take into account the fact that students can start earning much faster than their college counterparts, and don’t need to deal with as many student loans. Plus, some college students might need an extra year to graduate, which translates into more time and more money. All of these factors make trade schools more attractive to students with a limited budget.

Job security

One final consideration that’s often overlooked when choosing between a vocational school and a college education is the nature of the jobs you’ll be able to access. While bachelor programs will give you a more specialized skill set, jobs that are accessible to those coming out of trade school are usually much more difficult to export or outsource.

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce labor costs, and often look overseas for solutions. However, it’s much easier for someone to outsource their IT work overseas than it is to outsource electrical or carpentry work. Most trade jobs require that you have a physical presence, which is a major advantage when it comes to job security.

Also, the demand for high-precision skills is on the rise on the domestic level. Trade workers are older on average, and the aging workforce will ultimately translate to more opportunities for new, younger workers.

Is trade school right for you?

As you can see, there are many advantages to choosing a trade school over a college education. But at the end of the day, only you can decide which decision is right for you. We hope this article has helped you or your child to weight up your choices from a more informed perspective.

Photo by Thought Catalog