Technical School Vs. Traditional College

One of the most meaningful decisions we must make as adults is choosing a career path. Our “job” will not only support us financially for life, but will provide opportunities to grow as a person and make friends. For many people, the first step in choosing a career is deciding whether to attend a traditional college or a technical school.

Colleges and universities are institutions of higher learning where you study to earn either a two-year academic degree, called an Associate’s degree, or a four-year Bachelor’s degree. A technical school offers practical training for careers and offers certificates and degrees for programs that can take up to two years to complete. Technical schools offer training in anything from welding to culinary arts to flower arranging; cooking school is an increasingly popular choice thanks to all the new TV reality shows focused on chefs.

For some careers, you will not have a choice about whether to attend a college or technical school. If you want to be a veterinarian, you must attend college. Likewise, only a technical school will help you become a mechanic or a sous chef. If you have not settled on a career, choosing between a college or a technical school can seem overwhelming. One of the best ways to decide which option is right for you is to review the pros and cons of both.

Advantages and Disadvantages of College

If you are not sure about your career path, a college may be a good choice. Degree programs do not require you to choose a focus right away; you can take a year or two to study a variety of disciplines first.

Attending college can also provide the opportunity to enjoy a rich social life, since four-year colleges usually require you to live on campus for at least the first two years. Living in a dormitory with other students can help you make lifelong friends and business contacts once you have started your career.

College degrees are necessary if you want to attend business, law, veterinary, or medical school. In many professions, a college degree is perceived as more prestigious than a technical school education, even if the training is comparable.

Colleges can be prohibitively expensive, and the cost of a college education rises every year. Not everyone qualifies for financial aid, and many students leave school with hefty debts from college loans. These loans can take years to repay, especially if you go into a lower-earning field, such as teaching.

In addition, a college degree takes years to complete. If you delay declaring a college major, you may find the requirements for your chosen degree necessitate a fifth year of college. Colleges also require you to take core courses in subjects such as English, history, science, and math. Though the school intends this to give you a well-rounded education, it does mean you will have to take many courses unrelated to your field of study.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Technical School

Technical School Vs. Traditional College

Technical schools tend to cost considerably less than most colleges. Their programs also take less time to complete. They are more focused than traditional colleges so you will not have to take two years of history and English courses if you want to be a massage therapist, for example. You will spend more time in a practical, laboratory environment learning the skills of your job at a technical school, while college students spend most of their time in the classroom.

Technical schools are usually easier for working adults to attend because they tend to offer more evening and online courses. Many technical schools will also help you find a job once you have completed their program. You may even earn more with a technical education, too. According to a 2001 study by the Russell Sage Foundation, technical school graduates earn almost 10 percent more than most college graduates.

There are some disadvantages to technical schools, however. Technical school education can be perceived as less rigorous—and thus, less prestigious—than a college education. Because their programs of study are so focused, you will not necessarily learn other skills, such as writing or critical thinking, which can also benefit you.

If you decide later to pursue a college degree, you will not get credit for your technical school training. Nor will you enjoy the rich social experience of living with other students, since few technical schools offer on-campus housing.

There are many factors to consider when choosing between a college and a technical school. Your personal and professional goals, as well as the amount of time and money you have to invest in your education, can make one type of school more attractive than the other. The good news is that both colleges and technical schools offer solid preparation for a plethora of rewarding and lucrative careers.


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