Pros and Cons of Trade School: Should You Enroll?

Ginger Abbot

Apr 19, 2021
Pros and Cons of Trade School

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Pros and Cons of Trade School

Are you approaching your high school graduation or considering a new career in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic? Trade school offers the opportunity to begin a lucrative fresh start, but is it the right choice for you? 

Investing in your education requires mindful consideration of your aptitudes and interests. However, if you have a passion for working with your hands, the certifications and licenses you earn can transform your life. Here are the pros and cons of trade school to consider when deciding whether to enroll. 

1. Pros of Trade School — Costs

Many people think that trade school costs as much as enrolling in a 4-year college, and in some cases, they are correct. However, recent research by the Idaho Department of Labor shows that the average university student spends well over $100,000 obtaining their degree. 

The difference often lies in incidental costs. Many college students live on campus, adding the price of a dorm and a meal plan to their tuition bill. Additionally, they must buy books and other supplies. 

Conversely, it costs only $33,000 on average to complete your trade school program. In some cases, you might pay as much to finish as it would cost for only one year of undergraduate university work. While you may still need to pay for books and supplies, you won’t have to spend hundreds on a weighty British literature volume to learn auto mechanics. 

2. Pros of Trade School — Starting Salaries

Another attractive pro of attending trade school is the salary you can often command right out of the starting gate. You also have the opportunity to earn while you learn. 

Consider the following hypotheticals. If you earn a college degree in a field like education, you might command a starting salary of $35,909 a year as a teacher. However, before you can even get to that point, you must earn your degree and certificate, often at a considerable upfront expense to you. You’ll have to sit for state examinations, which cost a pretty penny and pay all required state fees. 

Conversely, you can earn over $13 an hour as an apprentice electrician during your first period alone. By the time you reach your fourth year, you can command over $20. That income goes a considerable way toward defraying your school expenses. 

Your 2-year degree can also morph into a 4-year one, allowing you to take advantage of your increased earning power to advance your education. For example, you might become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), pulling a comfortable $47,480 a year before you go on to pursue your bachelor’s in nursing. 

3. Pros of Trade School — Time Commitment

You might have picked up on this third pro of trade school from the last entry. While many college degrees require a 4-year commitment, you can often earn your trade school diploma in two years or less. 

This feature makes trade school an attractive option if you are already a working adult, perhaps with family obligations to manage. You don’t have to wait as long before you increase your earnings. 

4. Cons of Trade School — Limited Applicability

What are the cons of attending trade school? One is the limited applicability of your education. A liberal arts degree gives you slightly more leeway when switching to another career field — many job listings require degrees in “related” fields. 

Conversely, if you become a diesel mechanic, you can probably find other work in the automotive industry. However, you’d need to start from scratch with your education if you wanted to switch to electrical engineering. Therefore, you should carefully consider your passion when choosing your field of study. 

5. Cons of Trade School — Changing Landscapes

Another potential con of attending trade school is the risk that future technological developments could render your certificate obsolete. Ensure you examine the future projections for your field before leaping. 

For example, those who worked in fossil fuels may need to learn new skills as the planet transitions to renewable resources. Understand that you’ll need to undergo continuing education to stay current with trends in your field even after earning your degree or certificate. Some professions require you to do so as a condition of maintaining licensure.   

Consider the Pros and Cons of Trade School

If your high school graduation approaches, or you are one of the many considering a career change in the pandemic’s wake, consider the pros and cons of trade school. It could be your first step in a lucrative new field. 

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