Technical School vs. College: Which is Better?

After high school graduation ceremonies and parties wind down for new graduates, it’s time to get serious and plan for the future. While many people first consider pursuing a college degree, college is not the only post-secondary option out there. Recently, technical schools have been getting more attention from learners—and it’s easy to see why. Several factors influence a person’s decision to get an academic degree at a university or earn a certificate from a vocational school. These can include the subject of study, tuition costs, and the potential to earn a good living after completion, to name a few. 

One survey showed that 49% of students believe that higher education is no longer worth the cost, with 89% agreeing that student loan debt is a significant concern. Still, education can be a critical part of your success in life, and a certificate or diploma is proof of your qualifications. These can help fast-track a career and give students the leverage they need to increase their chances of obtaining fulfilling and well-paying employment. 

Technical School vs. College: Know the Difference

If you’re contemplating what path to take, here are the main differences between a technical school and a college. 

Technical School

A technical school—often called a trade school or vocational school—is a specialized, career-focused institution that provides students with training in a specific field. Often, students will receive hard skills training, giving them hands-on experience in their chosen area of study. The lessons involve a combination of practical and classroom learning. Health care is a perfect example, with students studying in the fields of EMT, nursing, medical assisting, and veterinary assisting. These students study in a classroom and spend clinical hours in a medical setting. 

Technical school programs focus on one specific trade or skill. This means students do not need to take as many general education subjects they won’t need for their chosen career pathway. The majority of the classes the student attends are relevant to their field. 

Consequently, enrolling in a technical school usually allows students to complete their courses faster compared to a traditional college. Many programs can be completed in less than a year. 

In terms of employability, technical school graduates often land jobs faster since they already have the knowledge and skills required by most employers. This is particularly crucial as the skills gap continues to grow. McKinsey reports that 87% of organizations globally already have problems finding skilled workers or expect to within the next few years. 

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Technical schools are also far more affordable than colleges. Graduates of technical schools spend less to earn their credentials—and yet their starting salaries can be similar to those who graduate from private universities. 93% of students who had apprenticeships keep their jobs and earn an average annual salary of $77,000


A college or university offers students a higher education that includes soft and hard skills while gaining knowledge and expertise in their chosen fields. College students can choose a major area of study they want to focus on. However, unlike in technical schools, students spend the first year or two of their studies taking general education courses before they start more specialized classes. Once they’ve chosen their major, students turn their attention to mastering industry-specific skills. A college education also develops a rounded skill set, including things like analytical thinking, communication skills, and problem-solving that will be useful once they graduate. 

College students spend an average of four years completing their undergraduate studies. While they can also receive internships during their time in school, these are often not as focused as those offered through technical school apprenticeship programs. In some programs, students may need to study for and pass licensing exams before employment. 

College admission requirements are also more involved. Students may have to pass an admissions test, submit ACT or SAT scores, write essays, secure a letter of recommendation, and/or fill out application forms. This takes time, so students must begin their college application process as early as their junior year. 

For technical schools, the admissions process is relatively simple. Students usually only need to submit their high school diplomas, although there may be other requirements involved. 

Technical School vs. College: Which is Right for You?

The choice depends on your personal and career goals. Consider your interests, what you want to achieve, how much you would like to earn, your budget, and your preferred timeline.

If you would prefer a solid foundational education and cost is not an issue, a college degree may be the right choice for you. But if you need to choose a more economical approach, consider technical training programs that will allow you to complete your studies quickly and secure a job right after graduation. 

To explore technical education in the health or veterinary sector, check out our programs at HCI College

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