The Difference Between College, Trade School & Universal Technical Institute

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute May 8, 2018 ·
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A comprehensive guide that distinguishes traditional four-year colleges from skilled trade schools and Universal Technical Institute curriculum, tuition costs, and length of time until graduation

Every year, millions of high school students and workers face the dilemma of whether they should pursue an education at a traditional four-year college/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 consists of prerequisite general education courses like English, math, science and history. That type of coursework is often required before students are allowed 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 they 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 

Universal Technical Institute Education

UTI is just not 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 training that students can often complete in about a year.Programs are dedicated to the automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, and marine industries, as well as welding technology and computer numerical control (CNC) machining programs. The hands-on experience in those programs focuses on training students to prepare to become technicians, allowing them to learn on products from leading manufacturers in those industries.

Diesel Students and Teachers Working Hands-on

Comparing College, Trade School, and UTI

When you consider colleges, trade schools and Universal Technical Institute, 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 the knowledge as they consider their passions, potential income and the job stability associated with their industry of choice.

    According to CollegeBoard, the average total cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree program is $33,000 per year. However, that’s without consideration of the cost of living in an on-campus dormitory with a meal plan, not to mention books. The average total cost for a two-year trade school is $33,000—far less expensive compared to the accumulated $132,000 over four years.

    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 by the end of their sophomore year or change the major they initially chose. At some colleges, changing a major may cause the need to take more classes, which often requires attending classes longer than four years. When that occurs, the overall cost for school can rise as well. Some students face extenuating life situations that cause them to drop out altogether. According to the National Center for Education Statistics,just a little bit more than half — that is, 59% of students —completed their four-year degree programs in the period between 2009 and 2015 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 up to several years of their time while attempting to reach their short- and long-term career goals.

    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. Universal Technical Institute is no different, which allows instructors to invest more time in students.

    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. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% surge in the need for electricians between the years 2016 and 2026. 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 Employment Services team does the same. In addition, team members also 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. Four-year universities and two-year colleges continue to be an excellent option to prepare for many career fields. Trade schools are also valuable options, often saving both time and money as students prepare for careers that are in demand in the skilled trades. For students interested in pursuing auto mechanics schools, UTI should be on their short list.

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