How to Choose Between a Trade School and an Associate Degree

How to Choose Between a Trade School and an Associate Degree

An associate’s degree takes two years to complete, and most trade school programs take about the same or a little less time. If you are having difficulty deciding between the two options, it is essential to know the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Choosing what you do after high school is an important step into adulthood. Likewise, you may be an adult considering returning into academia to further or change your career. Check out the difference between getting a trade program certificate and a two-year degree.

Look at Your Interests, Skills, and Hobbies

Most high schools train students to pursue a two- or four-year degree. However, vocational high school programs are an option for teenagers who want to pursue a career in a trade. If you are a teenager graduating from a vocational high school, you probably already know what you want to do after graduation.

But you may be weighing your options if you are a senior at a typical high school or an adult thinking about starting a new profession. Consider what you like to do and where your talents lie. Are you good with numbers or your hands? Do you have a knack for words or figuring out how things go together?

For instance, you may enjoy being a hairdresser if you excel at cutting and coloring hair. Likewise, a cosmetologist might be a good option if your friends and family constantly ask you for makeup advice and beauty tips.

Conversely, consider the subjects and activities you struggle with. Do you hate writing essays or getting dirty? Does the idea of sitting through lectures or learning about computers bore you?

When deciding between a trade school and a community college, the first step is picking your major or focus. One may not provide you with the ability to pursue your dream job. 

Consider How Much You Want to Learn

Some career choices force you to get either an associate’s degree or a trade certificate, but some fields give you the option to go to either. For example, you could get a certificate or an associate degree in business management or information technology.

Getting 2 year degrees at a community college means taking required classes that fulfill the degree’s requirements as well as choosing elective courses. The three types of elective classes are:

  • Free electives, which is any class you want to take.
  • General education electives, like math, English, humanities, social and natural science.
  • Area of study electives, which are classes that support your major.

Elective classes round out your education and can let you try new subjects and interests. An associate of arts degree in general studies could help you figure out what you want to do if you are unsure.

Trade programs, on the other hand, focus on a specific occupation. A vocational school will eliminate wasted time on other subjects if you know exactly what trade you want to do. For instance, a certificate from a carpentry school may be faster to obtain than a carpentry associates degree.

Find Out Which is Better Suited for Your Future

An AS or AA degree may be just the beginning of your academic future. You can pursue a bachelor’s degree after graduating with an associate’s, which will be necessary if your professional aspiration later requires a four-year or graduate degree.

In some cases, you may be able to get an associate’s degree at a trade school. For example, nursing trade schools have two-year degrees. If you get an associates in nursing, you can seek the licensing to become a registered nurse.

Or you may use your trade school certificate towards an associate’s or bachelor’s degree later. However, this may depend on the specific degree or trade school as well as the transferring school.

Factoring the Time and Prospective Money

Most trade school programs take less time than associate programs. While an associate’s degree takes two years, a trade program is usually only three to 18 months. If you pursue an online associates degree and take fewer or more classes than typical, it can alter how long the program takes.

However, the cost is nearly the same. The average price for an associate’s degree at a two-year college is about $3,500 per year, or $7,000 total. The average total cost for a program at a trade cost is between $5,000 to $15,000.

The additional expenses include books at both facilities, but you may have extra fees at a community college. Likewise, trade schools do not offer housing, whereas some institutions with associate programs do, which can add to the total cost if you live on campus.

While a higher degree typically means a higher income, many trade professions are quite lucrative. Some of the top-paying trade jobs include the following:

  • Elevator Installer and Repairer – $88,500
  • Radiation Therapist – $86, 850
  • Web Developer – $77,200
  • Dental Hygienist – $77,000
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer – $70, 350
  • Respiratory Therapist – $63,800
  • Electrician $57,000
  • Plumber – $56,000
  • Wind Turbine Technician – $56,000
  • IT Technician – $55,500
  • Ironworker – $53,000
  • Legal Assistance – $53,000
  • Geological and Petroleum Technician – $50,600
  • HVAC Technician – $50,500
  • Licensed Practical Nurse – $49,000

The average salary for someone with an associate degree is about $46,000. However, the range between the 25th percentile and top earners is between $34,500 and $64,500.

Getting Into Trade School and College

Online trade schools and colleges can make it easier to pursue either a certificate or degree. Online courses are convenient options if you have a full-time job or other responsibilities. If enrolling in an online program is a must for you, check out which schools offer this option. 

To enroll in college, you will need to submit an application, application fee, and an essay in some cases. The enrollment process can take weeks to months before you hear back. The college will evaluate your high school grades and college entrance exams, like:

  • ACT (American College Test)
  • SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)
  • SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II)
  • CLT (Classic Learning Test)
  • AP Test (Advanced Placement Test)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • GED (General Education Development)

Trade schools do not look at these exams, although some require an admissions exam to determine what courses you need to take. All you need to apply is a high school diploma or GED. Admission to a trade school is basically an open enrollment.

Generally speaking, trade school is better if you want job-specific skills to join the workforce in a shorter period. An associate degree from a college is more suitable if you want to pursue general studies to figure out a career or need a higher level of education for your dream profession.    

By Admin