For most people, pursuing a four-year college degree seems like the most obvious decision after completing high school. The main reason for this perspective is the higher-income probability among undergraduate degree holders. A study conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics revealed that bachelor’s graduates earn $46,900 per year, which is roughly $16,900 more than high school diploma holders’ income of $30,000. Imagine the difference of $500,000 between their salaries for 30 years of work!
However, due to the rapidly increasing tuition cost and expenses of college education, as well as other external factors, many are now considering trade schools as an education alternative.
Some of the now-popular higher education options are trade, vocational, or technical schools offering programs aimed at enhancing a specific job skill. While considering traditional brick-and-mortar college or distance learning program, you will find that there is also an alternative to pursuing your education through a trade or vocational school.
So how do students know whether or not a trade school is best for them?
Here are the details you need to consider:
Whether fresh out of high school or already a professional pursuing career advancement, enrolling in a traditional higher education institution—such as a community college and a public or private university—is a choice that many prospective students make. The first half of their degree program typically involves completing general education requirements. While the specific courses differ primarily based upon their chosen degree program, they usually include the following:
- English and Literature
- General Science
These courses set students up for success in a variety of majors, enabling them to spend the first two years making a sound decision about choosing the right program that aligns with their career goal.
Generally, it takes anywhere between two and four years to complete an undergraduate degree. After earning an associate or bachelor’s degree, graduates can either join the workforce or enroll in graduate degree studies.
To help adult learners handle the rigors of post-secondary education, many top colleges and universities also deliver a variety of online degree programs in different fields of study. Through these programs, students can complete their courses within a time frame that does not disrupt their schedules or compromise their personal and professional obligations.
Having grown in popularity only over the last few decades, trade or vocational schools are also an excellent option for those pursuing a specific career path.
Trade schools vary from traditional colleges in several ways, such as the following:
- Job-specific Educational Curriculum
- Lesser Time to Complete the Program
- Lower Cost of Tuition and Fees
- Skill-based Training
- Specialized Career Offerings
Trade school students acquire knowledge and training that is specific to their job of choice. Traditional colleges begin with one or two years of general education courses, which do not form part of a trade school curriculum.
Traditional degree programs integrate general education classes; however, trade schools only focus on the actual skills needed for a job. This may seem like excellent news for students seeking to be part of the workforce immediately, but it leaves little room for changing concentrations or programs.
There are several programs available in vocational schools that help students get started in a well-paying career without a traditional degree program. The lineup commonly includes:
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician (HVAC)
- Automobile Mechanic Program
- Electrical Technician Program
- Welding Program
Online vocational programs are also offered for added flexibility and convenience.
Certain factors come into play when deciding between a traditional college and a trade school, but an excellent place to start is identifying future goals and objectives.
Do you possess a wide range of skills but are quite unsure of your career path? Look into a degree that allows you to rediscover your interests with its general education courses. If you, however, have a definite career plan in place, a trade school is a suitable option to fast-track the completion of your certifications evidencing your skills!
Trade Schools are not a dead-end option if students are clear about their career goals and understand the educational curriculum of this type of program.
Did you know that there used to be a great deal of stigma surrounding trade schools? In the past, it wasn’t seen as a viable option if you were looking to land lucrative jobs. This perspective, however, has changed over the years. Today, we see an increasing number of students pursuing trade school programs to expedite course completion—and at a much cheaper rate at that.
With that said, discovering the ins and outs of a trade program makes for an excellent career investment.
Being employed in the trade sector has long-term advantages that are unique to trade professionals. With numerous jobs in the country being outsourced abroad, trade industry workers often enjoy career security better than college degree earners. There is evidence of increasing domestic demand for skilled professionals, as employers are progressively demonstrating a preference for job applicants’ real-world skills over their academic achievements.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that trade careers are welcoming more and more applicants. Professions in the industry are offering median annual salaries that are well above the national average.
A college degree is said to guarantee better opportunities for higher income in practically all sectors. These earnings, however, are dependent on several factors such as work experience, location, and most importantly, the specific career path. Regardless of the college degree you are pursuing, you can raise your earning potential by continuing advanced studies or acquiring years of valuable professional experience.
Whether students choose to settle for a trade school program or enrolling in college, they are taking the crucial step in designing and creating a rewarding and successful future career. The difference, however, is that while a college degree helps you land a job, a trade program makes you become part of a specialized workforce for much less. By conducting research and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of all possible choices, students can be confident about making the right choices toward an exciting future!
The cost of higher education is a cause for worry among prospective college students.
The average trade school degree program costs roughly $33,000—making it a much cheaper option to the baccalaureate program that costs $127,000. Education loans at 4% for over ten years cost $154,000 for a baccalaureate program and a $40,000 for a trade program.
Most bachelor’s degree programs take about four years to complete. Trade programs, on the other hand, typically enable you to become part of the workforce in less than two years. All these lead students to choose trade programs that save them time and resources. It is also worth noting how trade schools keep students from acquiring massive student debts!
Trade school students’ expenses include laboratory fees, tools, and books. Students in public two-year colleges disburse an average of $1,420 on supplies and books. Trade school programs, on the other hand, usually include these expenses in the overall tuition rates.
Students should consider the average net price of a specific academic institution or trade school. This is the amount that learners generally pay for books, fees, supplies, tuition, and other expenses after financial aid is applied.
A trade school, or otherwise known as a technical or vocational school, is an academic institution that teaches the skills for a specific job. These are a more streamlined approach to education, with program curricula that focus on developing a particular set of skills and expertise for a chosen career.
Trade programs generally take less time to complete, involve smaller class sizes, and conduct hands-on training, making them suitable for skills-oriented learners. Vocational programs lead to well-paying career opportunities, and many of them end up being dental hygienists, electricians, nuclear technicians, machinists, and mechanics, among many other popular occupations. Apart from the high earning potential, career growth also awaits skilled professionals.
The difference between the earnings of graduates fresh out of a four-year college and a trade school may be negligible. However, the National Center for Educational Statistics says that the median annual salary of trade and technical jobs vary on industry and experience level. Trade schools typically require only two years to complete versus a four-year undergraduate program, enabling the former to enjoy more savings.
The majority of jobs waiting for technical school graduates are typically outsourced. With the right skill set, you can enjoy security in being employed locally.
The cost of enrolling in trade school programs differ based on the type of trade school and the student’s residency. Tuition rates usually reach in excess of $30,000. The National Center for Education Statistics discloses the tuition for several types of trade schools within the years 2015 and 2016:
- Two-Year Public In-District: $3,350
- Less Than Two Years Public: $6,483
- Less Than Two Years Private For-Profit: $12,665
- Less Than Two Years Private Not-For-Profit: $12,893
- Two-Year Private Not-For-Profit: $13,427
- Two-Year Private For-Profit: $14,680
Financial aids for trade schools come in the form of in-house scholarships and grants. To save on your fees, ask your school for opportunities of assistance. The three basic types of financial aid options for trade school education are grants, loans, and scholarship programs.
Grants for trade schools, unlike student loans, are free money for a trade school that does not have to be returned. Trade school grants are based on financial need. One of the most well-known programs is the federal Pell Grant, which is readily available to students who do not hold a degree. The amount of financial assistance that students receive depends on their level of needs as well as their overall school costs for part-time and full-time attendance. For the academic year 2018-2019, the maximum grant was $6,095.
Several state governments also provide grants for vocational students.
Scholarship Programs are another type of free money for trade school. Thousands of scholarships for vocational schools are offered by professional associations, academic institutions, trades organizations, and unions. Vocational scholarships typically target students who are joining specific occupations. Some technical school scholarships or trade school scholarships are specifically designed to help minorities, veterans, women, and other select members of the community. The majority of the trade school scholarships are merit-based, but each association sets its eligibility requirements.
If students need additional funding, they can opt to get a student loan. The disadvantage is that the loan amount must be returned with interest. Federal Loans must be the student’s first choice as they come with fixed interest rates and do not typically need a good credit history.
Students who demonstrate financial need may be qualified for a subsidized Stafford Loan. Under this arrangement, the federal government pays the loan interest while students complete their training and within the first six months after finishing school.
Students who did not qualify for scholarships may apply for need-based financial aid offered to vocational school students. You may apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA for Trade Schools. Scholarship organizations also use the FAFSA form to pick qualified students.
In most cases, parents don’t pay much attention to FAFSA requirements until it’s nearing the application deadline. With an in-depth understanding of how FAFSA actually works, students will have a better chance of meeting the requirements for eligibility of the aid.
1. File Your Application Ahead of Time
Many federal loans and grants for technical schools are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. As such, completing your FAFSA form at the earliest possible time is guaranteed to keep you ahead of the game. Scholarships for technical schools also prioritize applicants who have filled out and submitted their FAFSA forms.
Some parents assume that they have to put the FAFSA on-hold until they complete their previous year’s tax return. However, this reduces a student’s chances of obtaining need-based assistance. To avoid such problems, fill out the financial aid documents utilizing the previous year’s record reflected in the IRS Data Retrieval Tool available approximately three weeks after filing the form.
2. Minimize Taxable Income
The FAFSA is the primary tool schools rely on to evaluate the applicant’s expected family contribution. When computing your family’s portion of costs, remember that the biggest component is the income level. You should keep the amount of taxable income as low as possible on the base year.
3. Clarify Asset Ownership
Parents usually save up for their children’s college education. One critical FAFSA component, however, is that schools expect students to spend more than their parents for their higher education.
4. Never Assume You Won’t Be Eligible
The assumption that the FAFSA is only eligible for specifically low- and mid-income families often discourages trade school students. Remember, however, that FAFSA’s needs-analysis formula is complicated. According to the U.S. Department of Education, your parent’s ages and the number of school-age members in your family can significantly impact your chances of getting that aid.
5. Remember: FAFSA Is Just One Part of the Whole Picture
The FAFSA is a critical tool in identifying qualified students for need-based aid, and the selection happens after considering a few factors. The strategy is to find trade schools that are a suitable fit and to reach out to the financial aid office to explore the possibility of obtaining financial assistance through FAFSA.
Trade school grants and scholarships are the most common financial aid options for trade school students. The following lists the scholarships for tech schools and vocational colleges:
The American Fire Sprinkler Association is an advocate of life-saving automatic fire sprinklers. The association assists contractors in implementing the best life-saving strategies and technologies, conducting training and workshops, and correcting misunderstandings about fire safety procedures. AFSA also hosts training sessions in academic institutions.
AFSA offers high school scholarship programs to high school seniors who are planning to pursue a trade degree program at an accredited trade school, college or university. The scholarship amounting to $2000 is reimbursed directly to the academic institution, and students must be enrolled full-time not later than the fall semester of the application year.
The Refrigeration School is a more than 50-year old trade school headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a very extensive trade school and receives regional accreditation as well as offering select programs for students with the desire to work in the trades.
RSI’s Women in Skilled Trades Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to the most deserving female students who demonstrate financial need. All-female students who are studying or will study in the Refrigeration School in Arizona are eligible for the scholarship program. Applications are open all year round.
The American Council for Construction Education’s mission is to be the leading international advocate of quality construction education. They support, promote, and accredit top-quality construction education programs. ACCE provides accreditation to colleges and universities that educate professionals in the construction industry. The Council also advocates safe industry standards.
Applicants for the Dupree Construction Education Fund and the National Housing Endowment Scholarship must be enrolled in a Master’s, Ph.D., or advanced construction-related degree, in a college, university or trade school with an ACCE-accredited program.
Women in HVAC/R provides three $2,000 scholarships per year, including one for Technical College or Trade School, one for a Baccalaureate’s degree program at a four-year academic institution, and one for a distance education program that covers air conditioning, heating, refrigeration, and ventilation.
All of the WHVAC/R Scholarship Programs are open to women in high school or post-secondary education, aspiring to join the HVAC/R field by any of the above means.
The American Fire Sprinkler Association’s objective is to inform the public about how automatic fire sprinklers can save lives. The association assists contractors in implementing life-saving strategies and technologies, conducts training and workshops, corrects misconceptions about fire safety procedures, and provides essential information to academic institutions.
The AFSA offers high school scholarship programs to high school seniors who are planning to pursue a trade degree program at an accredited trade school, college or university. The $2000 scholarship is reimbursed directly to the academic institution, and students must be enrolled full-time within the fall semester of the application year.
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling field is related to new talent to continue to develop as a highly-skilled and sustainable profession. The PHCC Educational Foundation has the mission of assisting students in the specified trades to achieve their educational goals and be prosperous in their field. Forty-one scholarships are awarded per year, including students in the distance education program.
Eligible applicants are those full-time in an HVAC/R or Plumbing Apprenticeship Program that is a member of the Plumbing-Heat-Cooling-Contractors National Association and practicing with a licensed contractor. One of the requirements includes a letter from a high school principal and a letter of recommendation from a member of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors National Association.
The Association for the Science of HVAC, Refrigeration, and Engineering is an organization that advocates industry excellence and sets industry principles in the related field. It also promotes a viable world by enriching the science of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.
ASHRAE provides ten different scholarship programs for engineering students. Scholarships are granted to undergraduate students who are studying full-time in a post-secondary education school and who are pursuing a Bachelor of Science or Engineering program in the course of study in provision for the HVAC/R industry. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 at the minimum to qualify for the scholarship program.
Through its Founders Scholarship Program, the National Association of Women in Construction began offering financial assistance in 1963. Women in construction-related programs have access to national and regional chapter trade scholarship opportunities.
To pay it forward and give back to the automotive community, the Automotive Hall of Fame offers financial aid to full-time students of an accredited trade school in an automotive field. Awards are reimbursed immediately to the chosen school’s tuition and fees.
The Merchant Maritime Exchange Scholarship Fund was founded to improve the fields of maritime affairs and global trades, by helping students who are on an academic path towards success in related disciplines. Applicants must be enrolled in a four- or two-year post-secondary degree with an emphasis on Maritime Affairs or International Trade. All applications must be submitted online. The amount of scholarship funds is merit-based and score level. It can be used for tuition fees, books, and other program-related expenses.
Dwyer Group provides scholarships to women in trades to be settled to the accredited trade school of her choice. The $1,500 scholarship is awarded two times per year, to a total of six women per year.
Georgia High School students planning to pursue any field of discipline in a two-year community college or trade school can get a $1,000 scholarship from Flax Dental. Applicants should submit a 400- or 600-word essay on the topic “Why My Teacher Makes Me Smile” talking about a current or former teacher who has inspired them in a meaningful way.
The Home Depot Foundation aspires to give back to the communities who make their work possible. The Home Depot Trade School Scholarship grants $2,500 each to 1,000 students. The scholarship program is available to kids of Home Depot Associates who have been in the company for at least a year. Winners may reapply the following year.
Union’s current and retired members, as well as immediate family members, are qualified for scholarship programs ranging from $500 to $4,000 for their post-secondary education in community colleges, and trade and vocational schools.
The CIRI Foundation advocates and upholds culture and heritage of Alaska Natives from the Cook Inlet state. It provides several vocational training grants of up to $4,500 per year to a CIRI original candidate or direct lineal successor.
Central Scholarship provides scholarships to students planning on pursuing a non-degree certificate program at a career school or community college. These programs are specifically targeted to students who live in or nearby Baltimore.
Dr. Gussie M. Ware Memorial Scholarships are provided to high school graduates about to begin their college education who are African-American. Applicants must have at least a GPA 2.5 and permanent residency status in Winnebago County.
The American Bus Association grants two $2,500 scholarships for the under-represented students enrolled in transportation-, travel-, or tourism-related industries. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay and must have completed their first year of college at an accredited school or community college.
The American Indian Graduate Center offers scholarships to graduate students who need financial assistance and is a member of the American Indian tribe or Alaska Native group.
The American Meteorological Society (AMS) provides scholarships to minority students traditionally under-represented in the field of sciences.