College Vs. Trade School – Which One For You?

If you’re nearing the end of high school or have recently moved out in to the working world, you may be interested in prospects to build your long-term income by having an exciting new job path. Before you decide to dive in, however, it’s a good idea to consider the costs and income prospects of different careers and also the required education to get there.

The data makes a solid argument for that quest for higher education. Here’s a glance at how much to pay for trade school or college, and the income you can expect whenever you graduate.

The college vs. trade school debate

Experts, gurus, radio hosts, and news commentators have the ability to strong opinions if young adults should go to school. Proponents point to the numbers that demonstrate individuals with more education earn more. Opponents argue that college is really a waste of time and cash for many people who'd be ideal to going straight into the workforce.

In reality, your choices aren't so black and white. You can choose between trade schools, community colleges, public universites and colleges, and private schools. Those can be reasonably affordable all the way up to astronomical in price. And also the value you receive in return varies too.

To choose which helps make the most sense for you, it’s important to consider what career paths you'd enjoy, what lifestyle and income level you want, and just how hard you’re willing to try to get there.

Income has a tendency to increase with education

According to data from the Bls, every level of education leads to a higher income minimizing unemployment rate with the exception of doctoral degrees. That means someone with a senior high school diploma will earn more than someone without. Someone having a bachelor’s degree will earn a lot more than someone by having an associate’s degree.

Below would be the average weekly earnings and unemployment rate for Americans by degree of education.

Educational attainment Average usual weekly earnings (by 2022) Unemployment rate (by 2022)
Doctoral degree $1,885 2.5%
Professional degree $1,893 3.1%
Master's degree $1,545 4.1%
Bachelor's degree $1,305 5.5%
Associate degree

$938 7.1%
Some college, no degree $877 8.3%
High school diploma, no college $781 9%
Less than the usual senior high school diploma $619 11.7%

Data via the Bureau of Labor Statistics

As you can clearly see, more education means a greater income and much more job stability with few exceptions. In the next two sections, I will look at some more specific career paths and income levels for trade school and college graduates.

What careers are you able to have after trade school and how much are you able to earn?

A trade school is an educational institution that can help people prepare for specific jobs and career paths. Rather than the general education you receive in college, most of that which you learn in trade school is highly focused so that you can finish the program as quickly as possible.

Sometimes called vocational education, trade school programs can lead to jobs in building, medical, manufacturing, along with other sectors of the economy that often have a respectable salary.

Here are a few examples:

Occupation Average income
Database Administrator $85,778
Radiation Therapist $85,500
Elevator Install and Repair $84,990
Dental Hygienist $74,000
Occupational Therapy Assistant $67,500
Electrician $56,180
Carpenter $48,330
Masonry $46,500
Insulation Installation and Maintenance $44,180
Hazardous Materials Removal $43,900

Data Sources: BLS, ZipRecruiter

Note these are average incomes, not the starting income you'd earn right away in many cases.

What careers are you able to have after college and just how much are you able to earn?

With a college degree, you can move into a wide range of careers in the sciences, engineering, business, plus much more. Some jobs merely need a college degree generally, while some may need more specific degrees.

Here is definitely an estimate of starting salary by college degree:

College major (Bachelor's Degree) 2022 salary
Computer Science $72,173
Engineering $71,088
Math & Sciences $63,316
Social Sciences $59,919
Humanities $59,500
Business $58,869
Communications $58,174
Agriculture & Natural Resources $54,857

Source: NACE 2022 Salary Survey

Note that these are starting salaries. Incomes often increase with time and there is no limit on what you can now earn.

Within simultaneously areas, there are lots of possible jobs and career paths. For example, within engineering, you could be an analog, aerospace, electrical, computer, chemical, biological, architectural, civil, or environmental engineer.

According to Glassdoor, typically the most popular job titles for school grads include:

  • Sales associate.
  • Research assistant.
  • Reaching assistant.
  • Administrative assistant.
  • Account manager.
  • Social media manager.
  • Software engineer.

The cost of trade school vs. college

While college is likely to result in a higher salary, it isn’t a walk around the block. And it isn’t free. Actually, going to college can be very expensive.

A high school diploma is free of charge if you visit a public school. After that, you have to pay for many education opportunities. Based on the National Center for Education Statistics, here are the expense you may expect when going to college:

Degree Total average cost
Associate's degree $21,196
Bachelor's degree – public $106,372
Bachelor's degree – private $165,872

These numbers compare to typically $33,000 each year for any trade or vocational school program. Which means you can likely get an associate’s degree in a college for under the cost of trade school, but a typical bachelor’s degree costs about three times more.

That makes college unaffordable for many households. However, you will find resources available to assist in paying for school or vocational programs if you’re going to make it work.

Paying to have an education

If you are on the best way to any accredited college, university, or vocational school, you've multiple resources available to have great results. Those include scholarships, grants, student education loans, and work-study programs that can cover tuition, fees, and much more.

It’s a good idea to make the most of scholarships, grants, and federal student loans before looking to private student lenders, but here are some popular choices to assist you to cover the price of trade school or college.

  • is really a student loan comparison website that permits you to shop around web hosting student loans or student loan refinancing with one application. After completing a very short form, you will get offers from more than half twelve lenders.
  • is really a student lender that offers private student loans, student loan refinancing, and private loans. If you are on the way to school, Earnest can share your rates in about two minutes. You can also score a nine-month grace period, no origination or overtime fees, and the option to skip a payment once each year.


Invest in yourself – and get it done proudly. Education is definitely an purchase of your future.

Most of times, we have a gut feeling by what is better in terms of trade school or college. And if you’re not sure, keep talking to those who you respect and who know you well.  Those conversations will hopefully bring clarity in regards to what find yourself being the better decision for you personally.

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