The 5 Biggest Challenges of Trade School

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by Stefanie Grodman

Published on September 7, 2021 · Updated on May 13, 2022

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The 5 Biggest Challenges of Trade School


Many individuals begin rewarding and profitable careers after obtaining vocational training. They may prefer the stimulating, results-driven work that many trades offer. Learning a trade can present significant advantages. For example, trade schools and community colleges tend to be more affordable and less time-consuming than four-year schools. Students can also begin earning wages in their fields quickly through apprenticeships or externships.

Many graduates find attractive trade jobs that provide lucrative, stable employment. However, trade schools can present their own set of challenges and may not be compatible with everyone's goals or abilities. Prospective students should take the pros and cons of trade school into account.

What Is a Trade School?

Trade schools offer hands-on training in specialized areas like carpentry, welding, dental hygiene, culinary arts, masonry, and plumbing. Through experiential learning, vocational training equips students with the concrete skills they'll use in the daily functions of their jobs.

Vocational programs tend to be more affordable than four-year degree programs. Although costs vary among programs and institutions, the average total cost of attendance at a two-year school for the 2018-19 academic year was about $11,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In contrast, the total average cost of attending a four-year public college in 2018-2019 was more than $28,000.

Vocational programs typically take under two years to complete. Many programs only last a few months. This is a big draw for students who wish to start earning wages in their field as soon as possible. In contrast, many non-trade careers require a four-year or graduate-level degree.

The 5 Biggest Challenges of Trade School

Is Trade School Still Worth It?

With many rewarding and in-demand career opportunities, tradespeople often earn above-average salaries and report high job satisfaction. According to PayScale, as of August 2021, the average job satisfaction reported by both electricians and HVAC technicians was "highly satisfied."

Trade school can be an excellent option for students who are not interested in or unable to attend a four-year university. Vocational programs often enable students to pursue stable and lucrative careers. As tuition and other college costs continue to rise, many individuals feel that vocational training offers a better return on their investment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trade School

What are the pros and cons of trade school? true

Professionals with vocational training often enjoy stimulating, in-demand work and good pay. However, the challenges of trade school may deter some learners. The highly specialized training provided by trade schools can limit the breadth of learners' career options, and even skilled workers are not immune to a competitive job market. Hands-on work can also be challenging and physically demanding.

Why do people look down on trade schools? true

Many people equate academics with professional success or social capital and belittle the value of vocational training. While four-year colleges can offer students many opportunities, college is not the only way to find fulfilling employment.

Are trade schools worth it? true

Even with its challenges, vocational training can be an excellent fit for individuals interested in concrete, results-driven work. Trade school can offer students a cost-effective, streamlined path to a lucrative career.


Feature Image: Westend61 / Getty Images

The hands-on training of trade schools is hard to accomplish online, but vocational skills continue to hold value on the new job market. Trade schools can be a direct route to job stability, high salary potential, and personal fulfillment in your career. Learn more about the importance of trades in today's economy. We've ranked the best online community colleges & trade Schools for programs, financial aid, and more. Compare and search for the school that matches your goals.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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