What Is the Difference Between Trade School and College?

Trade schools offer a streamlined approach to education, teaching students job-specific skills, while colleges provide an opportunity to explore different subjects and career paths. Colleges generally have higher tuition fees and a larger class size than those offered at trade schools.

The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projects the creation of 47 million jobs by 2018, with less than one-third of them requiring a college degree. During a 2012 study, it found that 39 percent of men with an educational certificate from a trade school earn more than men who have an associate degree, and 24 percent earn more than men who have a bachelor's degree, suggesting that what a student studies matters more than how long he studies it. Though colleges tend to have more rigorous admission requirements than trade schools, earning a bachelor's degree from a college tends to take longer than earning a diploma from a trade school.

Trade schools have smaller classes, so students tend to get more one-on-one time with their teachers than students at colleges do. Students with college degrees may need more education, such as a graduate degree, or on-the-job training. Trade schools provide students with hands-on training, meaning graduates are immediately ready to enter the job market in their chosen field. This hands-on training may appeal to students who don't enjoy traditional learning in a classroom environment.