Four-Year Colleges or Technical Schools: Pros and Cons

An Important, Potentially Expensive Decision

During your senior year of high school, you are bombarded with many decisions that will affect the rest of your life. The most prominent decision that you will have to make is your plans for post-secondary education.

Since you were in preschool, you have had the idea of a traditional college shoved down your throat by your parents, teachers, coaches, and guidance counselors, without being informed of the other options available after high school.

While a four-year college is right for many people for guaranteeing job security and higher earnings, it is not the only option and it also not right for everyone. Attending a technical college is another path to job security and higher lifetime earnings.

The Pros of Four-Year Colleges

  • Opportunities to Learn about a Wide Range of Subjects

For the first two years of your bachelor’s degree, you will be required to take at least one class in each of the liberal arts, which are math, science, English, social studies, and possibly a foreign language. Depending on your major, you will have to take more than one class in a liberal art area. Though you may feel like learning about subjects that do not relate to your major is pointless, learning all of the liberal arts provides a diverse education and broad range of skills and knowledge that you can use in the real world.

  • Additional Prestigious Learning Opportunities

Traditional colleges offer prestigious learning opportunities beyond the classroom or even the country (e.g. internships, research projects, clubs and societies, study abroad). These prestigious opportunities can give you a rich experience that you would not otherwise have. If you did not attend a four-year college, you most likely would not be able to intern at a major corporation or study in Europe for a semester. These learning opportunities can help you may connections for getting a job and/or make you look more appealing to future employers.

  • Meeting a Diverse Group of People

At a four-year college, you will have professors and classmates from all over the world. Learning from and meeting people from other states and countries will give you many perspectives, increase your understanding of other cultures, and help you develop tolerance for people from other cultures. People skills are essential for success in the real-world, and understanding a diverse range of people will help in that department.

  • Learning Life Skills

In addition to learning a wide range of academics, you will have the opportunity to learn social and living skills. Living on campus will enable you to learn practical living skills (e.g. doing your own laundry, cooking, cleaning, organizing, etc.). Even if you do not live on campus, you will be forced to learn time management skills and organizational skills. Peer pressure will be even more prevalent than it was in high school because being a legal adult and the lack of parental oversight enables many people to engage in drinking, sex, drug experimentation, gambling, etc. College will force you to stay firm in your values or reevaluate your values for the benefit of the rest of your life.

The Cons of Four-Year Colleges

  • The Cost

The cost is the most notorious aspect of four-year colleges. Starting at a four year-college from freshman year can cost 50,000 dollars to 200,000 dollars. If you transfer to a four-year college after attending community college for two years, your cost can be reduced by a quarter, but the difference that makes depends upon the cost of the four-year college that you transfer to. Most likely, you will need to rely on mostly student loans to pay tuition, books, fees, and room and board (if you are living on campus).

  • Class Sizes

Most universities have liberal arts class sizes that range up to 200 students. A large class size can make it difficult to get your professor to know your strengths, weakness and abilities and make personal connections with your professors and classmates. In many cases, your professors will not even know your name. When they go to grade papers, the name on the paper will just be a name. If a professor can add a name to a face and voice, they may be more subjective about your grade, which may work in your favor.

  • Length of Time to Earn Degree

A bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete if you complete all of your classes when you are supposed to, stay in the same major, and do not take winter and summer classes. Unfortunately, many students have to do an extra semester or two or squeeze in winter and summer classes due to failing to complete all their classes due to a low grade or dropping classes and changing majors.

  • Earnings Not Commensurate to Student Loan Debt

Most students earn between 30,000 and 40,000 per year upon graduation. That salary does not go very far if you have to pay a hefty amount of student loans. Many students are living at home with their parents for several years after college because much of their pay is going towards paying off their student loans.

  • Not Getting in the Field that You Earned Your Degree Job Upon Graduation

The increasing number of young people pursuing a bachelor’s degree has made the demand for entry-level jobs skyrocket. Many college graduates end up getting a job that does not require their degree or does not relate to their degree. Some college graduates get into the field in which they earned their degree and are unsatisfied, so they intentionally do not pursue a job in the field in which they earned a degree.

The Pros of Technical College

  • Reduced Cost

The cost is often significantly less than a four-year college. A trade school education typically costs around 35,000, which can be paid off in a much shorter amount of time than 100,000 dollars. The reduced cost is due to the shorter programs, smaller facilities, and no room and board costs.

  • Smaller Class Sizes

The class sizes are typically around 25 students, which is similar to the class sizes in your high school. The small class size allows for you to develop a personal connection with your classmates and instructors and makes it easier for you to receive help in areas that you are struggling in.

  • Shorter Time to Complete

The programs typically take no longer than a year to complete when attended full-time. The benefit of a short time to complete is you can start your career faster to have money coming in to pay off your loans. Even if you have to live at home with your parents for a while to pay off your loans, you will be able to move out sooner than those who attended college until they were 22 to 23 years-old.

  • Potential for More Job Opportunities

Since trades are the road less traveled and there is always a demand for the trades, finding a job will be less of a struggle upon graduation. In many trades, there are more positions available than graduates in that field.

  • Potential for Higher Salary

Some trades offer a starting and long-term salary than a field that require a bachelor’s degree. For example, the average starting salary for an electrician is 50,000 dollars per year. By the time electricians reach the end of their career, they can make up to 80,000-90,000 dollars per year, which is more than most four year-college graduate can make in their entire career.

  • Hands-On Experience

Technical school educations offer the hands-on experience that four-year colleges do not. While you are in class, you will be practically learning the skills that you will be using on a day-to-day on your job, unlike four-year colleges where you have to do internships to put into practice the book information you have learned in class. You do not take liberal arts classes at trades schools, so you will not have to struggle through subjects that you will never use in your career. Trade schools are best for people who are good with their hands and not inclined to book knowledge.

The Cons of Technical College

  • Stigma

In this knowledge-based society, there is a stigma attached to those who do not and did not attend college. You will be faced with disappointment from your peers and older adults, but the person that you are living your life for is yourself. Therefore, you must make the decision that will make you content.

  • Less Opportunity for Advancement

Though you will be given raises on a regular basis throughout your career, especially if you join a labor union, you will not have much potential to advance in higher positions (e.g. manager, CEO, executive, etc. ) because there are not many higher positions available in the trades. If being manager or CEO is not on your wish list, you do not have to worry about this disadvantage. Being happy and making enough money to live comfortably is what counts in the long run.

  • Potential for Lower Salary

Though there are several trades where you have a lot of earning potential, but there are also trades where you do not have a lot of earning potential. For example, the average salary for a hairdresser is only 24,000 dollars per year. You can combat this disadvantage by choosing the right trade for your financial needs and desires.

  • Lack of Exploration in Broad Range of Areas

Many college underclassmen end up changing their major after taking a series of liberal arts classes and falling in love with a subject. The exploration of the liberal arts steers many young people to their true destiny and/or discover an interest or talent that they never thought they had.

Employers are quick to hire college graduates even if they have a degree that does not relate to their industry because the liberal arts aspect has given them a broad range of knowledge. Because technical school is focused on one skill, you will miss out on the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects and gain a broad range of knowledge. However, there are many different types of intelligence.

If you know that do not possess an aptitude towards academic intelligence but possess an aptitude towards practical intelligence, the education provided by a trade school may be perfect for you.

  • Running into For-Profits Schools and Schools that Lack Accreditation

Be aware of schools that are for-profit and lack accreditation. For-profit schools are out for their profits, not the benefit of their students, and often cost more. If one of their programs is not generating enough profit, they will drop the program on a whim without making sure their students can transfer their time and money to another institution. Also, be aware of schools that lack regionally accreditation because those schools’ curriculum is not proven to be up to standard. Going to a school that lacks accreditation will make you not taken seriously by future employers.

How to Choose Between a Traditional College and Trade School

The pros and cons of traditional colleges and trade schools tend to be equal in number and significance. Choosing between the two is the one of most difficult, yet important life decisions. Simply looking at the pros and cons can be overwhelming. There are several factors you should consider.

  • Career goals
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Aptitudes and interests
  • Educational needs
  • Financial needs and desires
  • Cost of education
  • Confidence in choice

Going by your personal factors will help you make the right decision. Success is not a universal concept; it is individual to each person. For some people, success may be working for a major corporate company. For some people, success may be having fun socializing with clients while making them look beautiful. For other people, success may simply be creating and raising a loving family. Your destiny lies in your hands.

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