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The skilled trades are jobs that require special skills. They’re found in industries like automotive, manufacturing, energy, healthcare and technology. Skilled industrial trades include jobs like mechanics, welders, machinists and collision repairers.
Skilled service trades feature jobs like nurses, therapists and healthcare aides. In construction, skilled trades jobs include plumbers, carpenters and electricians.
Trade school prepares students to enter skilled trades fields like technician repair and welding. Trade school is a viable alternative to traditional 4-year college, often with a shorter, less-expensive, specialized program.
The United States is currently experiencing a skilled labor shortage, according to CBS News. Industries including mining and
logging, durable goods, transportation, warehousing and utilities, manufacturing and construction had more jobs than workers in 2019. There’s a lot of opportunity for those looking for career growth in the skilled trades industries. A trade
school education teaches students the skills they need to qualify for these jobs, as well as provides employment assistance and networking opportunities to gain a career in the skilled trades.
Keep reading to learn all about trade school, how it compares to traditional college and how to make the right choice for you.
Trade schools, also called career schools, vocational schools or technical schools, teach students curriculum based on a specific skilled trade. Students typically need to have at least graduated high school or have the equivalent of a high school education,
like a GED, to attend trade school.
The purpose of trade schools is to deliver a focused education that equips students with skills specific to a particular occupation. Oftentimes, these tend to be hands-on careers, such as cosmetology, automotive repair or carpentry. Trade schools teach
students everything they need to know from the ground up, so in most cases, no prior experience or training is needed.
Unlike traditional 4-year liberal studies universities that require classes and electives in subjects students may never apply to their career, a trade school is focused on the industry students are preparing to work in. Students get hands-on experience
to prepare them for work in their trade.
Trade school is often shorter than traditional college, around 8 months to 2 years. Some trade school programs, like the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) computer numerical control (CNC) machinist training program, take just 36 weeks to complete.
That depends on the trade you’re studying. In auto mechanic school, for example, you’ll learn the
skills you need to be an entry-level automotive technician. Classes may be a combination of in-person lectures, online training and hands-on work in a lab using real equipment. Students take courses like Automotive Engines Service & Repair, Automotive
Climate Control Systems & Repair, and Vehicle Brake Systems.
In welding training school, you learn how to become an entry-level welder. This type of trade school teaches a variety
of welding techniques, like GMAW, GTAW, SMAW, oxy/fuel and FCAW welding.
At any type of trade school you attend, from dental hygienist trade school to marine mechanic school, you can expect
to be prepared for an entry-level career in your chosen trade. Look at the curriculum a technical school offers to see if it aligns with your career goals.
For skilled trades that aren’t taught at traditional colleges, you might be able to find vocational college programs for them. There are also vocational schools devoted to subjects that may be taught at traditional 4-year universities, but that
have shortened programs because they’re focused on a particular subject. Some types of trade schools include:
Trade schools can be both broader in a subject for entry-level positions, or more specific for advancement in an industry. For example, there are Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training programs for automotive, diesel,
marine and motorcycle professionals who want to specialize in certain brands.
Regular college isn’t for everyone. For many people who pursue the skilled trades, they find careers that are meaningful and that took far less time and money to study for in a trade school. With a trade school education, you can become an entry-level
worker and grow a career, or use what you’ve learned to start your own business.
When looking into any type of trade school, you’ll probably hear the terms technical school and vocational school used quite often. But what do they mean, and how do they differ from trade schools? Here’s a quick breakdown:
These three terms are commonly used interchangeably. However, it can be helpful to know the differences and how programs compare to one another when making your decision.
There are hundreds of career possibilities you can pursue with trade school program completion. Some examples of trade school careers include:
Trade school length will depend on the program. Typically, trade schools for a specific subject will take anywhere from 8 months to 2 years.
For those who don’t yet have a high school diploma or GED, some trade schools like UTI will offer GED assistance to help students get their GED so they can apply.
If you’re interested in a skilled trade, there are many advantages to choosing a trade school for post-secondary education. These include:
Trade schools are good options both for people coming out of high school and for adults who want to learn a skilled trade for a more fulfilling career. Most trade schools will offer free in-person and virtual tours so you can see for yourself if the trade
school environment is a fit.
For those who decide to take the college route, there are several different options: community colleges and private or public universities.
In college, you typically spend the first half of your program completing general education courses. This may include math, history, English and science courses. These classes most likely will not directly relate to your career, but they’re designed
to give you a broad knowledge, and they also give you flexibility to decide what major you want to go into as you get further into your program.
Earning an associate’s degree from a community college typically takes around 2 years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree takes about 4. After graduating, students can either begin working in the field or decide to further their education
with graduate programs. Many complete internships during or after their program in order to gain experience in the field.
While the community college route might seem similar to a trade school, there are some key differences. Like a traditional university, community colleges require you to take some prerequisite courses, such as math and English. Trade schools, on the other
hand, allow you to dive right into the coursework for your chosen career path.
So how do you know if college is the right decision for you?
This is all dependent on you and your goals. For example, if you are interested in business, but aren’t sure if you want to go into accounting, marketing or management, college may be the right choice. Once you’re enrolled as a business major,
you’ll be able to take a variety of courses to get a better feel for what you want to do as a career.
Many colleges today offer online programs, which provides great flexibility for working students or parents. These programs allow students to complete their coursework at times that fit into their busy schedules. However, more and more trade schools are
beginning to offer online learning options as well.
While traditional college is the right choice for some, it’s not for everyone—and it’s important to not overlook the potential benefits of a vocational school. If you know what you want to do for work and are interested in a hands-on
career, trade school may be the way to go.
There are trade schools all over the country for whatever subject you want to study. You can use the web to search for “trade school,” the subject you want to study and where you live. You’ll see results for the subject you’re
interested in wherever you are.
If you’re interested in automotive, diesel, motorcycle, marine, CNC machining, collision repair and welding schools, UTI has 12 campuses in 9 states. Find UTI locations here. UTI offers housing assistance for relocating
That depends on the school. Generally, you’ll need to be at least 16 or 18 years old depending on the school and will need to have a high school diploma or GED. Some programs, like certain nursing schools, may have additional requirements to apply.
For UTI trade school requirements, students need to be at least 16 years old and have a high school
diploma, state-issued GED or state-authorized equivalent exam. Instead of a diploma or GED, a student may also be eligible with evidence of having previously attended a Title IV-eligible program at a postsecondary institution under the Ability to
Benefit provision prior to July 1, 2012, or with successful completion of an associate degree or college degree, or with successful completion of an officially recognized homeschooling program.
If you know you want to pursue a career in the skilled trades, attending trade school can be beneficial. Trade schools provide true-to-life, hands-on experience. Students learn in small class settings and can connect with industry employers at on-campus
career fairs and through employment assistance.
Trade school can be a smart choice for those who know they want to pursue a skilled trade and who want to gain the expertise they need for an entry-level position. Trade school is a shorter education than traditional 4-year college. It’s typically
less expensive, and it provides hands-on experience that students will encounter in the real professional world.
13 employers discuss how skilled trades industries remain in demand and serve communities. Read now.
Learn about scholarships for trade school, which can help students pay for some or all of school. Contact UTI for financial aid information.
Every year, millions of high school students and workers face the dilemma or whether they should pursue an education at a traditional 4-year college/university or trade school.
It only takes a few minutes to learn about technician training opportunities.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, and to review the applicable Gainful Employment disclosure, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
6) UTI graduates' achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is
an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
10) Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
12) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2016-2026), www.bls.gov, viewed October 24, 2017. The projected number of annual
job openings, by job classification is: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, 75,900; Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, 28,300; Automotive Body and Related Repairers, 17,200. Job openings include openings due to growth
and net replacements.
14) Incentive programs and employee eligibility are at the discretion of the employer and available at select locations. Special conditions may apply. Talk to potential employers to learn more about the programs available in your area.
15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI’s Custom Training Group on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation.
Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.