Trade School or College

Are you ready to take the next step in life by advancing your education? Whether you’re a recent high school grad or looking to switch careers, you must decide: where will I pursue the knowledge and skills I want?

There are several paths you can take when choosing the school that’s right for you, and your choice isn’t one you should make lightly. To help you understand the differences between a traditional four-year college or university and the accelerated programs offered at a trade school, we break down the learning environment of these two school types.

The Difference Between Traditional College and Trade School

As you decide which school to attend, keep in mind a key difference between traditional college and trade school. Trade schools often provide a hands-on experience for students through career-specific training. Alternately, traditional colleges or universities focus on a broad range of analytical and theoretical knowledge in lecture-style classes.

  1. School Structure

  2. Consider what kind of learning environment makes you feel most comfortable and engaged. Where do you learn best?

    Traditional colleges or universities most often hold lecture-style classes in a liberal arts program. Individuals who have studied the abstract theories and research that dominate their field teach traditional college classes. Proportion of self-study to class time is often high.

    At a trade or technical school, students learn in a hands-on environment that focuses on the career skills they want. Trade school instructors have experience in the field they’re teaching, so students gain first-hand knowledge, techniques and insight to prepare them for entry-level work.


  3. Curriculum

  4. How do you want to evolve your skill set?

    College professors and adjunct instructors are highly knowledgeable in their fields of expertise. Many of them teach upper-level coursework as well as introductory classes. Traditional college students can expect to receive a broad education, including many basic courses such as English, math and social studies.

    Trade school students, however, may take a few general classes at the beginner level before they progress to field-specific training, apprenticeships or externships. Students learn on-the-job responsibilities prior to graduation that they can translate into useful skills for the workforce.

  5. Program Length

  6. How much time do you want to spend learning new skills?

    Students generally spend four or more years earning a liberal arts education at a traditional school and two years or less training at a trade school. In fact, some trade schools offer training programs that can be completed in as little as seven months.

  7. Credentials

  8. Education credentials demonstrate your achievements. What type of qualification do you want?

    If you want to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree, attending a traditional college or university can open the door to achieving that goal. Associate degrees typically provide a sturdy foundation for the workforce, while bachelor’s degrees prepare students with a broad body of knowledge about their field. Unfortunately, the first time many bachelor’s degree holders experience on-the-job responsibilities is when they take their first professional job.

    Completing a technical training program arms students with entry-level skills and insight they can use with confidence their first day on the job. Trade school students often learn in dynamic shop settings and get their hands dirty to accomplish tasks and complete program requirements.

    Now you understand what sets trade school apart from a traditional college. Where will you pursue your education?


    *Apex Technical School and its instructors are licensed by the New York State Education Department.
    Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.