There’s a certain stigma that has surrounded trade schools for a while: that they somehow provide an inferior education that is only good for those who can’t do anything else. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s debunk some common misconceptions about trade school.
Trade schools are for people who aren’t smart enough to get into college.
That is simply untrue. According to U.S. News & World Report, there are at least 100 colleges that accept 90 percent of those who apply; some even accept all who apply. Trade schools offer focused education and teach many skills that are relevant to even those who study in four-year colleges, such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, pride in workmanship.
You can’t get a high-paying job if you go to a trade school.
If earning an average of $47,230 right out of school is low, then I guess that’s right. But how many four-year college grads can’t get jobs in their field and are working as baristas? Some of the highest-paying trade school career options pay well over that average salary:
- Dental hygienist ($71,970)
- Electronics repairer ($55,610)
- HVAC technician ($57,250)
A trade school degree is not a real degree.
It’s true that you can opt for a diploma or certificate program from a trade school, but many offer two-year associate degrees; some even offer four-year bachelor’s degrees. In some cases, a diploma or degree from a trade school is a steppingstone to continuing education. For example, if a student earns a diploma in medical assisting, there’s no limit to where that person’s career can go. They will have a strong foundation that could lead to any number of careers: nursing, accounting, administration and more.
If you learn a trade, you’re stuck with it throughout your entire career.
It’s true that your education is focused on a particular trade and the skillset that goes with it. However, many technical skills overlap. For example, someone who studies to become an HVAC technician will learn some basic electrical and welding, as well as essential workplace skills. A pharmacy technician will learn about anatomy, billing, records and medical ethics and could work in a variety of locations. Who knows where it could lead?
Credits don’t transfer to a four-year school.
It’s true that some students study at a trade school with the intention of finishing their education at a traditional college. Just ask the university if they accept transfer credits. They may only apply to certain majors, but you can learn the specific requirements before you enroll.
Trade schools aren’t challenging.
Yes. Major universities with heavy academics have some very challenging programs, but trade schools teach students to be workforce-ready on day one of their first jobs. The hands-on training students receive is valuable. Every student is challenged with new tasks that mimic what they will do in the real world. Many also are required to participate in externships that actually get them into the field to practice in a real company.
You can’t get financial aid if you go to a trade school.
That is also untrue. Most trade schools offer financial aid for those who qualify, and many even offer scholarships. Depending on the trade and the demand for workers, some employers will pay a student’s tuition if they agree to work for them for a certain length of time.
There’s no job placement at a trade or technical school.
Most trade schools offer job placement services and have staff available to help students learn to interview, write resumes and apply for jobs. Many schools also offer job fairs and invite local employers to come meet with students who will graduate soon.
These misconceptions have given trade schools a bad reputation.
In reality, many young people are seeing the value of attending trade school and not a traditional college—especially when you consider cost, length of the program and job availability.
How much does it cost to go to a trade school?
The cost is significantly less than a four-year college. The average trade school education costs $33,000—sometimes less than the cost of a single year of college. If you multiply that by four, you get $132,000, which also comes with significant student debt that can last nearly the length of a career!
What are some of the advantages of a trade school?
The trades are in demand. Many trades workers are nearing retirement age, and people are needed to fill their shoes. If you learn a trade, there are short-term programs. You could complete your program in a few weeks or months as opposed to a few years. Imagine that you’re 19 and just completed a nine-month HVAC technician program. You start working immediately.
Let’s say you earn $50,000 a year. Your friend, who is also 19, decided to attend the state university and has three more years to go. By the time he or she graduates, you will have worked for three years and made $150,000. Deduct the $33,000 for the cost, and you’re $117,000 ahead of your buddy who has earned $0 and paid $132,000 in tuition. Now, who’s the smarter of the two?
How to Trade school
It’s easy. You need to have a high school diploma or a GED and fill out an application. In many cases, there are student loans for trade programs. You just need to contact the school you want to attend and ask about their financial aid. If you want to know how to apply, visit the school’s website. In most cases, you can apply online.
Trade programs in Chicago
Coyne College in Chicago offers several in-demand training programs that last less than a year:
- HVAC Refrigeration
- Electrical Construction & Planning
- Electrical Construction & Maintenance
- Medical Assistant
- Medical Coding & Billing Specialist
- Pharmacy Technician
Coyne also offers financial aid and has career services specialists who can help you find a job.
Contact Coyne College for more information or to enroll in a program.