A traditional four-year degree is not for everyone, and trade school offers a compelling career path, especially when considering the factors associated with a college education: time of 4 years or more, average cost of $127,000, dropout rate of 40%, low in-field job prospects for average grads.

What is Trade School?

Also known as a technical school or a vocational school, a trade school is a program that offers students hands-on experience related to a specific career. Some of the careers that you can look forward to with a degree from a trade school include skilled labor positions like electricians, machinists, mechanics, pharmacy technicians, dental hygienists, and nuclear technicians.

Trade schools are a more streamlined approach to education, with curricula focusing on developing a particular skillset and knowledge base for a career rather than receiving a general education.

Trade schools typically take a lot less time to complete, have smaller class sizes, and the majority of the training is hands-on, which is an ideal environment for many types of learners. Vocational degrees can lead to well-paying jobs like electrician, mechanic, machinist, pharmacy technician, nuclear technician, and dental hygienist, with room for growth and managerial potential in each field.

Advantages to Trade Schools


Technical and trade school jobs have a median annual salary of $35,720, though this varies based on industry and experience level, says the National Center for Educational Statistics. Bachelor’s degree holders earn roughly $46,900, amounting to an annual difference of $11,180. This doesn’t factor in long-term earnings growth.

However, because trade school only takes an average of two years to complete versus four, that amounts to an additional two years of income for the trade school graduate, or $71,440.

Factor in more costs for the many students who take an extra year to graduate college, and trade school grads can be over $100,000 ahead at the get-go, making up for over 9 years of difference in income.


The average trade school degree costs $33,000, which, compared to a $127,000 bachelor’s degree, means a savings of $94,000.


Yet another advantage of technical trade school is that most of the jobs you’re training for are extremely difficult to export to another country. More and more jobs are being outsourced to places where labor is cheaper, making domestic employment in certain sectors difficult to get.

It is much easier to export, say, computer programming work or other information economy work than it is to export carpentry or electrical work, as that requires a physical presence.

Not only that, but there’s a growing domestic demand for high-precision skills. According to Forbes, skilled trade workers are a disproportionately older population, creating increased opportunities for young workers to fill their shoes.


Depending on the job, a trade school graduate can earn more than a university grad.

Both paths have the potential set you up to make than $1 million more in lifetime earnings than someone with just a high school diploma.

The advantages of a four-year degree are many: You’re going to earn much more later on in life and you also have the door wide open to continue your studies and earn substantially more with a master’s degree or doctorate, however the cost/benefit equation to higher education is changing every day.

Trade school graduates are limited in opportunities to continue their education. But, a four-year degree is expensive, and not suited to everyone’s learning style and skill set.

If you’re a hands-on learner, excited by the prospects of getting out of the classroom and starting to work immediately after high school, trade school is a relatively inexpensive alternative education that may work well for you and greatly improve your life.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Wow, I found this article very educative. I've read a lot of blog posts on this same topic. However, yours' comes with a lot of useful details that I need to know about trade school. Thanks for sharing this information on your blog.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *