Trade Schools versus Colleges – Is One Better than the Other

Trade schools historically grew out of the vocational classes that high school offered. The high school had shop, mechanics, agriculture techniques, and home economics. As some kind of certificate or diploma became important, trade schools came into being. When tradesmen came to America, they had apprentices. An expert in the making and engraving of silver, invited a boy to be his apprentice and taught him to copy the work that he did. The apprentice had the experience of watching a master at work. He didn’t have a classroom. He was given more and more bits of the work to do. As he became better at the craft, he might inherit from the master or he might move out on his own.

While the master might teach him how to keep track of the prices and how to send a bill, the master and student were only interested in the shop and making money from their craft. They didn’t read history or philosophy together. They didn’t study verbs and nouns.

As the vocational or trade schools began in the country, the 4-H Club started to teach children and older teens by doing the actual work with someone who was practicing the craft. The high schools also formed their clubs; i.e. FFA (Future Farmers of America) or FHA (Future Homemakers of America).

After the WWII, everyone thought they needed college. It was part of the American dream. Finally someone admitted that some people did not belong in college. It didn’t mean that they weren’t intelligent enough to go to college. It might mean that they wanted to be outside in the world. They might want to take care of animals. They might want to fix cars or race cars. They might want to help ill people but didn’t want all the “book learning” for an R.N. They might want to be a carpenter. It took a while for America to catch on that not everyone needed nor wanted to go to college.

The early trade schools taught things like carpentry, secretarial skills, and mechanics. The people who worked in the world as a carpenter, a secretary, and a mechanic were hired to teach the classes. At first the student could get a certificate from the school in a year or two. The school taught with tools of the trade. The carpenter worked with wood and learned how to use the different types of saws and levels, etc. Most of the classes for each subject were a hands on situation. In two years or less, the students were ready to go to work. The teachers were usually known in the community and a reference from the teacher and a certificate from the school was as good as some experience on their applications.

As time passed, more subjects were added to the trade school and it moved to vocational school and finally in the 1990’s they became career colleges. Some offered associated degrees. The associate degree is usually about 60 hours and if you have attended a community college which is a part of a university, the hours can be transferred and the student can move on to the Bachelor’s Degree (a four year degree). Most Career Colleges aren’t associated with a bigger school and the student stops with the Associated Degree. The way schools are accredited will make the difference.

Career Colleges offer things like Medical Assistance, Dental Hygiene, all types of doctor’s help in an office and other things. Some Career Colleges give a computer science degree that will help start the student in a technological job. There seems to be career colleges for nearly everything that doesn’t require the four year degree. Some of the colleges have gone on to grow into colleges but that is over time.

Some students think that the career college is less scary than the four year big school. Career colleges usually have recruiters who press the idea that the career college is more intimate and less impersonal than the big school. They don’t point out that the student is going to spend lots of money to be comfortable. If the student is going to start in a smaller, safer place, he will pay for it. All the “college” courses, such as English and Math, probably will not transfer and the student is going to pay for it twice. Career Colleges are not cheaper than college. The schools are very expensive. Usually everything is taken care of for the new student. The books are sold within the school at a higher price. If thestudent wants a four year degree eventually, he could attend a community college and buy textbooks on the internet or at a competing book store in town. Some career colleges believe the texts are so important that they shouldn’t be traded at the end of the class. The career college makes a good profit with all new books each session.

Usually Career Colleges are privately owned. They may be owned by one man who is getting very rich or they might have a number of investors who are businessmen and interested in the bottom line which is money and profit. It might be a non-profit school, for instance a Bible school but they are still more expensive even though the government may be allowing them to function tax exempt.

If I wanted the certificate or the associated degree, I would check the state vocational school. The cost will be less. You will have the learning experience in your chosen subject and be ready to work in two years or less. The vocational schools have added many of the classes that I have mentioned above. Breathing therapists and body massage have been added as well as X-ray technicians. Check to see what the vocational school nearby has to offer.

The nearby vocational school makes it easier for the student to live at home and save money. The first year of college isn’t quite as tempting as the parties and social life that a university has to offer. The people in the vocational school are more focused on their future. They are moving toward that future as rapidly as possible. Hopefully they aren’t paying too much for the school to only find an entry level job when they graduate.



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