$15 million in grants & scholarships available this year for those who qualify10


The Difference Between College, Trade School and Universal Technical Institute

May 8, 2018 ·

Step 1 of  
What kind of training are you interested in? Required
Change program to see other campuses.

  • Home
  • /
  • UTI Blog
  • /
  • Education
  • /
  • The Difference Between College, Trade School and Universal Technical Institute

Every year, millions of high school students and workers face the choice of whether they should pursue an education at a traditional four-year college or university or a trade school. Both undoubtedly can increase career opportunities and financial earning potential.

However, there are factors to weigh when deciding which avenue would be the most beneficial to meet short- and long-term career goals. These pros and cons depend on a prospective student’s personal attributes, financial situation and the amount of time the person is willing to invest in an education.

Here’s a rundown of the differences between colleges and trade schools, plus how Universal Technical Institute can be beneficial as you prepare for a new career.

College Education

Traditional four-year colleges and universities generally are standardized to deliver a bachelor’s degree upon graduation. A student’s first two years in an undergraduate program of study usually consist of prerequisite general education courses like English, math, science and history. That type of coursework is often required before students begin to focus on the curriculum associated with their major, which is their primary interest.

Welding technician in lab

Trade School Education

Trade schools provide programs that often allow students to graduate in one year or less. The primary focus of the curriculum is on job-specific program content that allows those students to gain expertise in the industry and their specialized field.

Classes at trade schools or in vocational training typically involve a lot of hands-on experience in a specialized program of study. Those classes can be fairly small in student size and tend to model an atmosphere similar to the workplace that students strive to join after completing their training program.

Auto Mechanic Students Tuning a Performance Engine

UTI Education

UTI is not just an automotive college or auto mechanic school. It’s a skills-based trade school that offers an extensive range of transportation-related technician training programs, such as automotive technician training that students can often complete in about a year.7

Along with automotive training, UTI offers programs that are dedicated to diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine industries, as well as welding technology and computer numerical control (CNC) machining programs. The hands-on experience taught in those programs focuses on training students to prepare to become technicians, allowing them to learn on products from leading manufacturers in those industries.1

Diesel Students and Teachers Working Hands-on

Comparing College, Trade School and UTI

When you consider colleges, trade schools and UTI, there are four distinctive attributes that factor into a prospective student’s decision to attend: cost, process, time and specialization. Students decide between the pros and cons of pursuing knowledge as they consider their passions, potential income and the job stability associated with their industry of choice:

    COST: According to, the average cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree program at a public university is $25,615 per academic year. The website also gives averages for out-of-state tuition and private universities, which can cost even more.

    The average cost for a trade school education is $33,000 — far less expensive compared with the accumulated cost over four years at a university. Like traditional colleges, there are trade school scholarship opportunities and funding options that students can look into as well.10

    TIME: Time is an important factor when considering postsecondary education. The first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree give students time to either select a major or change the major they initially chose, which can lead to attending classes longer than four years. When that occurs, overall costs can rise.

    And some students face extenuating life situations that cause them to quit school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 62% of students completed their four-year degree programs between 2012 and 2018, with the rest dropping out before earning their diplomas.

    Students who enter trade schools — including UTI — with the sole intent to complete their program without a change can save money and time while attempting to reach their short- and long-term career goals.

    PROCESS: College students are often inundated with research papers and written tests. In addition, their undergraduate classes can be impersonal, often being held in auditoriums and lecture halls. The hands-on experience at traditional four-year programs is often limited to internships outside the classroom. When it comes to trade schools, class sizes are often smaller, equating to a more personal experience with the instructors. UTI is no different, and this allows instructors to allot more time for their students.

    SPECIALIZATION: The only thing guaranteed when it comes to job security is there is no guarantee. However, many trade schools are focused on helping students become marketable for in-demand jobs. And many trade school instructors — including those at UTI — have had successful careers in the areas that they teach.

    Though it isn’t a guarantee of employment, building relationships with those instructors can help students network with prospective employers. Four-year colleges have career services departments that often prepare students for job interviews. UTI’s Career Services team does the same. In addition, team members also help set up interviews for graduates.

Get the Education That’s Right for You

Earning a bachelor’s degree has become an expected norm for most people looking to enter the workforce. However, with the rising costs of a four-year degree and the length of time that education demands, not to mention the growing need for technicians and other trades, a shift is occurring as trade schools become not only viable but valued alternatives, often saving students both time and money as they prepare for careers that are in demand.

Read: How Long Does It Take to Become an Automotive Technician?

With a variety of program options, UTI can be a great choice for those wanting to pursue a career in skilled trades. Reading about trade school requirements and the application process will help prepare you before making a decision.2

To find out more, request information here or call us at 800-834-7308.

With classes starting every 3-6 weeks, no need to wait to start your career.
Hands-on training. Get hands on experience with the industry's leading brands.
No Pressure to commit. Get answers to your questions without any obligations.
Request More Info Or Call Now 800.834.7308

1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.

10) Financial aid, scholarships and grants are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


Take 60 seconds and find out how you can get trained.

Step of
What kind of training are you interested in? Required
Change program to see other campuses.
First Name Required
Last Name Required
Date of Birth Required
Zip Required
Phone Number Required
Email Required