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Vocational Trade Schools Versus Two- and Four-Year Colleges

vocational trade schools

They All Teach–What’s the Differences?

Vocational trade schools, two-year schools and four-year colleges: any can provide an education, but how are they similar and how are they different?

Vocational Trade Schools

Timeline – Vocational trade schools tend to offer the shortest time from beginning to graduation–usually nine to eighteen months.  This can offer several advantages, including low tuition, less lost work time for working adults, and the fastest track towards the desired career. Many vocational schools design their programs with flexibility or in a concentrated format so students have a better chance of completing the course work when compared with taking classes only during the day for years at a time.

Purpose – Vocational programs are usually offered by educators that provide only vocational training. These schools train workers for entering the workforce in a specific job title. The classes are laser focused on helping students learn what they need to get into that field. Vocational trade schools award certificates. The cost of vocational school is the lowest of the three types of schools.

Two-year Colleges

Timeline – As their names denote, two-year college programs take two years to complete. Though a longer time than the vocational program, the class work is more fleshed out and not as concentrated as vocational schools.

Purpose – Two-year schools generally award associate’s degrees. They carry more weight than certificates. Though career-oriented, the degrees may be applied to more types of careers than a vocational certificate. Many associate degrees can be parlayed into bachelor’s degrees with further education, depending upon the college and the degree obtained. The cost is higher than vocational trade schools.

Four-year Colleges

Timeline – It takes four years to complete these degree plans because the course work includes a general education core. Subjects like math, history and science will likely be part of the experience, along with the courses directly related to the major. Students can also select one or more minors to specialize in a particular area.

Purpose – The four-year college creates well-rounded graduates. They receive bachelor’s degrees. It’s easier for these grads to segue into careers not directly related to their degree since their education is broad. It’s also the most expensive of the three types of schools. Students will acquire substantially more debt at a four-year college. Bachelor’s degrees also qualify students to pursue master’s degrees, providing they have completed any prerequisite classes required.

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