Career and Technical Education Versus Traditional College

Choosing to attend a vocational school versus a traditional four-year college is an important decision that a student must make. Oftentimes, the knowledge students have about what technical schools offer is limited.

There are many comparisons that could be made between a technical college and traditional college, learning the differences can help a student decide which to pursue.

A vocational education offers a variety of opportunities for students to learn in a different style when compared to a traditional college. While trade school offers a unique chance to pursue a specific career path, there are still disadvantages that should be understood before a student decides on a vocational school. To find out more about which educational opportunity works best for a student’s goals, continue reading below.

What is Vocational School?

Vocational schools, also known as trade school, are educational institutions which focus on technical skills in relation to long term career opportunities in single field. A vocational education is different from a university in that rather than taking the full 4 years to get a degree, a trade school lets students complete coursework in two years or less. A career and technical education provide a more streamlined approach to a particular field, for instance, massage therapy or occupational therapy. Any student that is considering a particular field and knows exactly what career he or she wishes to pursue should consider a trade school education.

Differences between Technical College & Traditional College

If a prospective student is considering career training through trade school, he or she should understand the differences when compared to a traditional college. Besides the time it takes to complete the degree program, there are other ways in which a technical college differs from a regular college. A few of the most obvious differences include:

  • Less financial responsibility.
  • Getting into the workforce quickly.
  • Learning important skills in a particular field.
  • Faster course completion.
  • Greater opportunities for scholarships.
  • Lower dropout rate than four-year universities.
  • Greater chances of a job after graduation.

Cost of a Technical Education

The cost of a technical education versus a traditional college education is one of the greatest advantages for students. Since a vocational education takes less time to complete, there is less financial burden on the student. Additionally, research conducted by the Idaho Department of Labor found the average cost for a bachelor’s degree in the country is nearly $127,000, with nearly 70 percent of students using loans in order to pay for tuition. A vocational degree is nearly three times less than the amount of a college education, with fewer students in debt. The average trade school degree costs $33,000 to complete. This means that students will graduate with a lighter financial burden than that of a four-year institution. Beyond just the cost of tuition for a college education, there are other fees too, which must be factored in, including housing, food plans, laundry and even commuting.

Advantages of Choosing Technical Schools

New graduates from a college or university may find it difficult to enter into the workforce in their chosen field. While some college majors may have a higher chance of finding employment right after graduation, others are not as lucky. Yet, vocational schools offer hands-on technical training to prepare students after graduation for their chosen career. Many of the vocational degrees offered are likely to lead to well-paying jobs in fields that have significant availability such as electricians, machinists, pharmacy technicians, mechanics, dental hygienists and more.

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Another overall benefit of choosing a career education over college education is job security. Many of the careers offered through vocational school training are difficult to outsource to other countries where labor may be cheaper. Computer programming for instance, can be easier to outsource to other countries. However, many of the vocational careers available are nearly impossible to export, including carpentry, electrical work and the like. These are all careers that require a physical presence. There is a growing domestic demand for high-precision technical careers, with trade workers being much sought after in today’s workforce.

Also, it is worth noting that career training programs are much less competitive when it comes to admissions. While many universities strive to be competitive and admit only the best of the best, technical colleges do not have that type of eligibility demand. In fact, many of the vocational programs require few admission requirements including minimum age and completion of a high school or GED program. Many vocational schools also offer educational programs online for those who cannot attend in person.

Disadvantages of Choosing a Vocational School

While the advantages of a technical program education are abundant, there are also a few disadvantages to consider. A few of the disadvantages relating to a career and technical education include:

  • Teacher quality – teachers in technical colleges are hired for their knowledge of a particular field, not for their teaching abilities.
  • Competition – since trade school takes about two years to complete, there can often be a saturation within the job market for a particular field at any given time.
  • Lake of diversity – entering into trade school means a singular career focus. Students who are unsure of their career paths will not have the chance at a broad education.

A vocational school can be an advantage for students who are sure of a particular field they want to study in. However, for students who are unsure or have more than one area of study that is of interest, trade school might not be the most obvious choice. A traditional education provides a variety of areas to study, especially in the beginning. The first two years of a student’s academic career tend to be more liberal-arts related, including areas such as Science, Math, English and beyond. A student in the first few years of college still has the ability to change majors without it affecting his or her course load. Yet, after two years in a trade school, a student will have his or her degree. If the student then changes his or her mind, it would be like starting from the beginning.

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