College vs. Vocational Education and a Career Path

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Choosing the Option that is Best for Your Career

Americans owe more in student loan debt than credit card debt. In 2012, the number of students who graduated with student loan debt from traditional four-year degree programs reached 71 percent.

College degrees are expensive and the financial repercussions can linger for decades. Many high school seniors do not consider any other option after graduation than starting college in the fall to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Yet, vocational schools offer another often-overlooked career option.

A vocational education is an education plan that is tailored to a specific set of skills. Often these programs are less expensive and shorter in duration. Check out this list of every vocational school in the country.

Consider the Cost

Let’s compare the annual cost of a bachelor’s degree at several vocational schools and universities.

Vocational Schools


The cost range of the universities varies depending if the student is an out-of-state resident. As you can see, a program at a vocational school can be $15,000 less a year, which can equate to a savings of more than $60,000.

The savings you achieve from choosing trade school over traditional college might only be an immediate benefit. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2013 full time working adults between 25 and 35 years old with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $48,500, compared with $23,900 for those without a high school credential and $30,000 for those with a high school credential.

Adults in the same age bracket with a trade degree were found to earn an average median salary of $35,720 (it is important to remember this is just the average and actual salary figures will differ based on the industry and other contributing factors). According to these numbers, one can conclude that while vocational school offers an immediate savings because of a lower cost of admission, in the long term, a bachelor’s degree may yield a higher salary.

The College Experience

A college campus offers many benefits that an environment at vocation schools typically do not offer. The experience of living in a dorm room with other students, the opportunity to join clubs and recreational sports, and the responsibility for managing your own time and commitments are all a unique part of the university experience.

However, not everyone is looking for those experiences, nor do they need or want to pay for them. A vocational education offers a tailored learning plan in a fast-paced environment with more focus on building a specific set of skills than developing a well-rounded education.

Which Option is Better for My Career?

The answer as to whether college or a vocational school is better for you depends on your interests and career goals. The most important factor to understand is that you have other options besides a four-year college degree. Depending on your career goals, a trade school education may be just what you need to begin developing a career in a specialized field.

Additional Resources





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