Trade Schools vs. Tech Schools

  • Trade School
  • March 12, 2024
  • 5 min read
Trade Schools vs Tech Schools

Most people have heard about the skyrocketing costs of traditional colleges and universities over the past several decades. More significantly, we have also heard about the decreased return on investment for this education, as wage gains have not kept pace with program costs for liberal arts degrees.

This information has made many question the value of higher education and whether we should go to college. For others, it has resulted in a deeper investigation into alternatives to traditional colleges and universities if we want to pursue a different style of higher education program.

This article explains the differences between two prominent alternatives to traditional colleges…trade schools versus tech schools. If you’re considering furthering your education and aiming for a hands-on career, this article will help you decide what type of college will suit you best. 

Both trade and tech schools have much to offer, but they cater to different interests and career paths. Let’s break it down to help you make the best choice for your future.

What is a Trade School?

Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, prepare students for skilled jobs in a broader set of professions or trades such as healthcare (e.g. nursing, medical assistant, dental assistant, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician), construction and maintenance (e.g. plumbing, electrical work, welding, carpentry) and more. 

Trade school may be the right fit for you, depending on your interests.

Hands-On Learning

Trade schools emphasize practical, hands-on training over traditional lecture-based classroom learning. Their goal is to ensure you are job-ready with the skills you need the day you enter your field of study.

Shorter Programs

Trade school programs can usually be completed in fewer than two years, often in less than a year. Some can be completed in as little as six to twelve weeks. Shorter programs, if designed properly, mean you can start your career faster without sacrificing the quality of your education.

High Demand for Skilled Trades

The value of stable employment prospects cannot be understated when you are considering making an investment in your education. Fortunately, most skilled trade training programs offer excellent employment prospects for graduates, as vocational training is directly linked to specific job opportunities.

What is a Tech School?

“Tech schools,” more formally known as technical colleges or institutes, primarily focus on careers in technology and related fields. Why might someone choose to research or attend a tech school?

Specialized Programs 

Tech schools typically offer programs designed to help students secure employment in the fast-paced, ever-evolving tech industry. 

Some prominent examples of programs offered at tech schools include IT Technician programs (there are many varieties of this type of training), computer science, or software engineering. In any case, the programs at tech schools provide specialized knowledge in an emerging set of interrelated industries that have a stable employment outlook for the foreseeable future.

Career-Oriented Curriculum

The program curricula at tech schools are usually designed to equip students with the specific skills employers are looking for in the tech sector. Make sure you verify if the school is accredited…if they are, they are required to regularly consult with industry experts to verify the training they are providing remains relevant.

Higher Earning Potential

Technology-focused careers tend to offer higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and IT occupations are projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the average for all occupations and is why politicians always promote training programs in these areas.

Trade Schools vs. Tech Schools

Understanding the differences between tech and trade schools can help you decide which path aligns with your career goals.

Industry Focus 

Trade schools cover a broader range of hands-on occupations, while tech schools focus more specifically on the technology sector. Trade schools can (and often do) offer the same type of programs seen at tech schools, but often offer additional types of programs in unrelated areas.

Curriculum Structure 

Trade schools focus on practical job skills and primarily focus on lab training, whereas tech schools often include more theoretical and technical coursework in comparison. Hands-on job skills are very helpful when seeking employment in the tech industry, so consider attending a tech program at a trade school to get the best of both worlds if you are interested in these career paths.

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Whether you should enroll in a tech school or a trade school depends on your personal interests, career goals, and the type of work environment where you hope to work after school. 

If you’re drawn to hands-on work (e.g. healthcare, legal, construction, maintenance professions), a trade school might be the best fit for you. If you’re passionate about opportunities in the IT or software development space, a tech school might be the right fit. 

The lines have blurred a bit between these two categories of school over the last several years, so whichever path you choose, make sure you are verifying the quality of the institution by checking its accreditation and licensure status and reviews from former students. In either case, you’re taking an exciting first step toward a rewarding career!

Chief Information Officer

Dr. Thomas Kenny was born in Chicago, raised in Las Vegas, but considers Northwest Career College his true home. He has been working at NCC for as long as he can remember. He started by moving and building furniture on…Read Full Bio