If you are thinking about furthering your education, you may be wondering if you should take a traditional approach by attending a college or university, or if you should enroll in a career school.
While you may think that the best opportunities arise from attending a college or university, there are many benefits to enrolling in a technical school. Many of these benefits include shorter program lengths and an affordable form of education.
When you look into career schools, you will see that they offer a variety of training and education programs that span many career fields. However, not every school offers the same programs, and some trades are only taught at specialized institutes. However, no matter the program, you can expect to receive a certification or licensure upon completion. Depending on the program and school, it may even award you with an associate’s degree.
What are the differences between career schools and traditional colleges?
Trade and vocational schools, or career schools, are different than a traditional four-year college or university for many factors. These differences include the way programs are designed and implemented, as well as program lengths and the topics that are taught. However, the main difference is the program guideline and the curriculum.
When you enroll in a traditional four-year degree program, you take not only academic classes geared towards your major, but also general education classes and electives. You are also expected to take and pass special testing for the school to admit you. When you enroll in a career school, you only take courses that you need to find a job in the employment field you are studying.
When you enroll in traditional education, you pay for a well-rounded and diverse education, but it can be costly and time-consuming. However, students graduate faster at career schools than a traditional college or university. You will also have the skills and trade to fulfill a specific job.
Some of the most popular programs in career schools include careers in medical and dental assistance and management, criminal justice and law enforcement, legal services, infant and childcare, and information technology.
The Costs of Career School vs. Traditional College
Over the past decade, tuition for traditional colleges and universities has increased drastically, as has the amount of student loan debt. In the U.S., the average cost of a single academic year is about $35,000 for in-state tuition and over $100,000 a year for out-of-state and private schools. When you factor the number of years it will take to complete a degree, graduate, and find employment, you may start to wonder if there is an alternative education path.
When you enroll in a career school, you are opting for more affordable education. Typically, tuition and fees for a two-year trade or vocational program cost around $6,400 per year. For shorter programs that last a couple of months, the costs can be even less. Not only will you spend less on your education with a career school, but you will also graduate faster than your peers enrolled in a traditional college or university. You will even begin to make money in your field before they graduate.
Advantages of Career and Technical Education
Although shorter program lengths and affordable tuition and fees are two main benefits of enrolling in a career school over traditional education, they are not the only benefits.
When you enroll in a specific program at a trade or vocational school, you are focusing your education on courses and skills that will lead you to a particular field of employment. Meaning, that you will graduate from the program with the hands-on training that you will need to find work, which is a benefit that your counterparts enrolled in a traditional education program will not have upon graduation.
Also, when you follow a traditional education path, you can expect to spend the first few years of your college experience in auditorium-style classes. Career schools, on the other hand, tend to always have smaller classrooms with less than 30 students from the start of the program up until the completion.
With the large classes and number of students at traditional schools, the drop-out rate, primarily upon first-year students, is very high. However, career schools have a low student drop-out rate. With smaller classes, you will be able to work at your own pace, while on track to complete a fast-tracked career-focused program.
When you enroll in a career school, you do not only have support from teachers and staff throughout the program but also upon graduation. It is common for career schools to offer students getting ready to graduate with help to find employment, as they tend to have relationships with local employers in specific fields. Also, since students at career schools take part in apprenticeships, they often have more work experience in their field than do traditional college students.
Disadvantages of Career and Technical Education
Although there are many advantages to career schools, you must also know the disadvantages before you enroll in a program. When you graduate from a traditional college or university, you know that your school is accredited to award degrees. While it is common for career schools to offer certifications and licensures, not every school is accredited or licensed. If it is accredited, it may only be valid in the state, which can cause problems finding employment in the future.
If you are planning to apply for financial aid, you must check whether the school will accept it. Lastly, you should look to see if there are any formal complaints filed against the school from former students or faculty. When you register for a career school, you are signing a contract. If you wait to check out a school until after you enroll and make a tuition payment, you may not be able to get your money back if you choose to forgo the education program.