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The Live Wire

Should you go to trade school?

While many are expected to attend college after high school, often other options aren’t discussed. Trade school is a great option that can bring in career opportunities in place of traditional college.
A great alternative to college or university is vocational school, as it is cheaper and just as beneficial.
Vanessa Litton
A great alternative to college or university is vocational school, as it is cheaper and just as beneficial.

The average American student loan debt is about $38,000. Collectively, student debt in the United States is about $1.8 trillion. Prices are rising, and students are finding it more difficult to afford living while paying off student loans. Instead, trade school can be a great alternative for a student looking to enter the workforce and earn money quickly, while still earning a degree. 

What is trade school?

Trade schools are postsecondary educational institutions established to teach and train students directly for specific skilled careers. Additionally, trade schools teach hands-on learning to prepare students for work in their trade. These schools are unlike typical four-year colleges, where students aren’t required to take additional courses such as history or English. 

How is trade school different from college?

When considering the cost of college tuition, fees, housing and food, a student going into a trade has significantly lower costs. The average student who goes into a trade is about $10,000 in debt, not even a quarter of the debt of a college student. 

Not only can going into a trade be less time-consuming, with the average time to earn an associate degree being two years, you can simultaneously earn money through apprenticeships. Unlike college internships, you get paid as you learn while gaining hands-on experience.

 “For some people, a four-year college path is not what is best [if] you love what you do, it feels less like work and more like a passion.  There is good money and lots of success to be found in trades,” said Shelby Bryce, Liberty High School counselor. 

One of the most reputable vocational schools in Iowa is Kirkwood Community College. While being a college and vocational school, many opt for Kirkwood because of its convenient dual credit program allowing students to earn credits and save money while still being in high school. 

“Kirkwood is a great Community College for trade programs. They have a large variety of offerings at affordable costs,” said Bryce.

From Art and Design to Business or Agriculture, Kirkwood offers an option for everyone. Kirkwood also has guaranteed admission for graduates to Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, assuring one is transfer-ready (more can be found on the Kirkwood website).

A big misconception around trade jobs is assuming they are solely for electricians or construction managers. Going into a trade can mean a lot of different things and lead down many different paths from STEM to social services. 

Should I go into a trade?

When deciding whether or not to enter a trade, school counselors typically recommend trade schools for students “…who maybe don’t love the core courses in high school but love the electives.” This is because trade school focuses less on the knowledge of a skill and more on the skill itself, allowing students of all backgrounds and skill levels to go into a trade.

Overall, there is no definite answer when deciding to go to a vocational school or a traditional college, it ultimately relies on an individual’s goals and desires for their future. Bryce’s recommendation for students is, “Follow your heart- do what makes you happy- choose a path that will lead to goals and dreams that are sustainable and limitless.”

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About the Contributor
Vanessa Litton
Vanessa Litton, Reporter
Vanessa Litton is a Junior at Liberty High school and this is her first year with the Liberty Live Wire. She is an environmental and civil rights activist who is always keeping up with the latest issues. Outside of school she enjoys, reading, writing, and listening to music.