Reimagine Your Future

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  • February 28, 2019


The story has been drilled into students’ heads for ages — whether from parents, teachers, or grandparents — that traditional college is an absolute must. Many students go to a four-year school because they believe it’s the expected thing to do. According to research by Degree Query, 30 percent of students worldwide only go to a four-year college because they think it’s the natural progression after high school, and 23 percent only go because they think it’s what’s expected from them. Make the family proud; go to a four-year university. But, is a bachelor’s degree THAT important? Is it the end-all in education? Sure, everyone needs a skill to support themselves and their families, but do those skills need to come from training at expensive four-year universities? There is another option; one that makes so much sense practically and financially — trade schools.


Trade School vs College



A trade school is sometimes referred to as a vocational school, technical school, or vocational college. It is a post-secondary institution designed to give students the technical skills to prepare them for a specific occupation. Vocational training, also known as Vocational Education and Training (VET) or Career and Technical Education (CTE), provides job-specific technical training for work in the trades. These programs generally focus on providing students with hands-on instruction and can lead to certification, a diploma or certificate. Examples of trade schools include UEI, American Career College, and Summit Academy.

At a trade school, you can get a degree in fields like information technology, nursing and health sciences, automotive technician training, and medical assisting. Program lengths vary, but typically they can range from anywhere from eight months to two years. At Summit Academy, we are a non-profit entity and our programs are 20 weeks in length.

Trade schools have been underrated and frowned upon for so long, but that undeserved stigma is rapidly changing. More and more students are starting to look for a different path to a career, especially since the cost of advanced education is leaving people with sticker shock and massive amounts of debt. It’s no secret that those with bachelor’s degrees or higher have larger earning potential than those who stopped at a high school diploma. However, when you weigh in the heavy-duty loan that has to be paid off once a job is secured, the bachelor’s degree doesn’t seem so important anymore. It might actually be a burden. And with trade schools having courses from healthcare and carpentry to STEM careers like an electrician and information technology, you have lots of choices!


Typically, a trade school cost substantially less than a traditional college, and many students graduate with less debt than those who pursued their education through a college or university. The average cost for a bachelor’s degree is $25,000-$50,000/year, which adds up to a whopping $100,000-$200,000 for four years of attendance. That price tag doesn’t include room and board or the fact that often a four-year degree can take a bit longer than the estimated four years.

According to Forbes, the college graduate class of 2016 was sent out into the world with not only their degrees but also the largest student loan debt of any graduating class in U.S. history. More than 70 percent were carrying a student loan debt of more than $37,000. The burden of college costs has shifted from the government to “we the people” and it’s financially devastating. And that number will only rise through the years.

There’s good news: Trade school runs, on average, around $33,000 from start to finish, with many students only carrying a loan of around $10,000. Summit Academy is an accredited institution with no out-of-pocket cost to the student. You leave the school with ZERO debt. That doesn’t seem so massive, in comparison to the loans needing to be repaid by those with bachelor’s degrees. This huge monetary savings makes a trade school look very attractive.


Don’t let anyone fool you: a bachelor’s degree is not the only way to a solid income. Vocational school education gets you into many well-paying careers. For example, carpenters in Minneapolis bring in a median annual salary of $53,200. Electricians earn more than $72,000/ year, and Medical Administrative Assistants make a median annual wage of $43,500. In fact, the Number One trade in Minneapolis in need of qualified individuals is in the construction industry.


When it comes to salaries, trade school graduates aren’t making much less than their traditional college counterparts. The median salary of entry-level positions of trade jobs is $35,720. Bachelor’s degree holders, when they begin working, only make around $11,000 more annually than those who received trade school diplomas, and that’s assuming they can even find a job in their chosen field. That may seem like a lot, but consider that every month they are paying an average of $200-$350, or around $3,000 annually, on their student loan. That brings the salary gap down rather quickly. Also, keep in mind that you, coming out of trade school, will be in the workforce an average of two years longer than traditional college students. You’ll be bringing home the bacon that much longer. On average, you’ll have made more than $75,000 before the person with the bachelor’s degree even starts searching for a job.


In reality, some people simply aren’t prepared for the rigors of a four-year college. For many students, college is their first experience away from home and, without an adequate plan, it’s easy to stray off course. The Institute of Education Statistics estimates that 40 percent of attendees at a four-year college drop out before completing their degree. If you find yourself as a part of that 40 percent, not only have you incurred some of the expense of college, but you left without receiving a degree. For the 60 percent who do complete their degree, a whopping 64 percent take longer than four years to graduate, costing themselves nearly $70,000 in lost wages and educational expenses per year, according to U.S. News. Most colleges don’t even require students to pick a major until the end of their sophomore year, creating a class of undecided students who may have wasted their time and credits on courses they choose not to pursue.

Choosing to go to trade school over college is a viable option for so many reasons. The cost of trade school is significantly lower than traditional college. The amount of time spent in a classroom is reduced because the courses are subject-specific and relevant to your chosen profession. Salaries coming out of trade school are pretty competitive with your bachelor degree-bearing counterparts, especially when you weigh in the fact that most students come out of universities burdened with debt that takes forever to pay back. Added to all the great facts about trade school vs. college, most trade schools offer their graduating students job placement assistance, which practically guarantees you’ll start to earn money upon receiving your certificate or diploma! Summit Academy has full-time staff dedicated to assisting students to find careers in their chosen field.

Furthering your education is always a fantastic idea, and it’s best to explore your options when it comes to going to a trade school or college. So, from information technology to community health workers, don’t forget to consider trade schools.


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