Trade School Or College: What Should You Choose?

Excel High School graduates have completed training certificate courses, attended trade and four year college programs, and pursued careers in the armed forces. Sometimes, you earn your high school diploma, and your path is clear. You know what you want to do, and you do it. Other times, you might need a little help deciding what pathway is best for you.

High school graduates have many different options, and which direction you take after earning your diploma really boils down to the following important factors:

  • • Cost
  • • Admissions
  • • Program Length
  • • Type of Training


One factor to consider before making a decision about what to do after high school is how much you want to spend to further your education. When you compare the cost of a certificate program, trade school, or a four year degree, it becomes pretty obvious that the price of these three options is different. In fact, according to Best Colleges, the average cost of a certificate training program is between $1,000 to $5000 total. Alternately, the average total cost to complete a trade program is $33,000, which is the average cost for a single year of a four year college degree.

Because the cost of each choice is so different, it’s a good idea to check and see if the career you’re interested in can be learned through a certificate program or trade school. Excel’s Post-Secondary school, Washington Technical Institute offers a range of programs in everything from Information Technology to Healthcare, and more. The goal of WTI is to ensure our programs are affordable and help as many of our students graduate without debt, if possible. Aside from low tuition, WTI students can choose an interest-free payment plan that will allow them to pay for their education while they are in school, graduating without debt. For those that may need a little assistance, WTI has a great partnership with Climb credit, a lender that specializes in affordable student lending. Going into debt for a 2- or 4-year degree is not the only option.


Another factor to consider is the admissions process. If you graduated from high school, but academics were never your strong suit, then you might want to pursue further education through a certificate training program or trade school. You can also attend a community college for a year or two until you can show that you can achieve a four year college’s admissions standards.

For the most part, certificate programs will not require anything other than proof of a high school diploma for admissions, so they’re a worthwhile option if you’re looking to attend classes right away. Generally, trade schools expect applicants to have a 2.0 grade point average in high school, and some will require that you pass a standardized test known as the Career Programs Assessment Test. Four year colleges will sometimes accept students with a 2.0 GPA if they have higher SAT or ACT scores, but usually, a GPA closer to a 3.5 is expected in more competitive schools.

Program Length

How long you want to spend in school is an important factor to consider. If you can’t envision yourself in a four year program, passing the MCAT, attending medical school, and then completing your residency, becoming a doctor is not the right path for you. If you can’t envision yourself in two years of training and then an apprenticeship, you probably won’t want to attend trade school to become an electrician. 

However, if you’re willing to invest your time, then you can find a post-secondary program that is right for you. You just have to do a little research to figure out what sort of program you need to achieve your goals. 

Type of Training

The final consideration is figuring out what training you need and what type of school matches that career’s requirements. To do some basic career exploration, you can use the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOnestop site. You can explore careers, find training, do a job search, and filter for resources specific to your individual needs. 

Another helpful resource you can use is Training Provider Results, a government website that will help you explore various training programs, check for their completion rates, and see what the employment rates are for those programs. You can also check out the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard to make sure that the program you’re heading into is the best one available to you.

You have a lot of choices to make once you’ve earned your diploma, and they can feel pretty overwhelming. If you know the factors to consider and take the time to do a little research, you will move forward toward your goals with the confidence you need to reach them.

Choosing the right type of training and education is a big decision. It is important to remember that there is not only one right pathway. Washington Tech offers well-developed programs for in-demand careers. Unlike traditional routes of education, you can move at your own pace with individualized support from our staff and instructors. Whether you are looking for a career in IT, legal studies, healthcare, or business…you need to check out the WTI programs today and see what great options are offered. 

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