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It’s no secret that everybody and their grandmas believe you should go to a university after high school.

And, of course, there is a reason for it. Those who have a college degree generally have higher employment rates and salaries. But it’s no longer the only option for a solid career after high school.

You can look at all the options for post-secondary institutions here.

But for now, we’ll focus on trade school vs. college.

Trade school vs. college

At a glance, here are the pros and cons of each:

Trade School:


  • Tuition cost is an average of $33,000 total
  • Certificate only takes two years to earn
  • Quickly receive a higher income of $40,000


  • Climbing opportunities are slightly more limited. After 10 years in the workforce, trade school graduates make about $1,347 less annually less annually than college graduates.
  • The work schedule can be more varied, with night hours or weekends required.
  • More physical labor is generally required (which might not be a con for you).



  • Average income of $46,000 annually
  • Opportunities to climb in your career
  • Ability to earn a master’s for a potential $61,000 average annual income
  • Jobs often follow a Monday–Friday work schedule


  • Takes the most time to earn a degree. Four years on average.
  • High tuition costs with an average total of $94,000.

What is a trade school?

A trade school is a technical school where you are trained to perform a specific job. Some examples are hair styling, mechanics, ultrasound/x-ray technician, HVAC, gardening, the list is practically endless.

The cost is much less than a university, about $33,000 total instead of $94,000. It also takes only two years to complete and the classes you take a bit different. There is much more hands-on learning in a trade school.

You can end up with a very good salary graduating from a trade school. But keep in mind, you are usually working “blue-collar” jobs. That means your schedule is going to vary a lot from the standard Monday–Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule. Maybe that’s not a bad thing for you, especially if you’re getting to focus on something you enjoy. The salary is pretty similar to those with a bachelor’s degree, but it doesn’t allow you to pursue a master’s degree, which could mean a greater increase in salary. Here are the average annual income breakdowns:

Average salary less than one year after graduation:

  • Bachelor’s degree: $46,000
  • Trade school certificate: $40,000
  • Master’s degree: $61,000

A few trade schools in Arizona:

Sometimes, people will attend trade school first to get an immediate higher paying job before going to a university. This is especially true for the medical field. If you want to become a doctor, it means years of schooling and high tuition costs. It might be a good idea to first become a dental hygienist or a technician in order to get some experience and earn a good income until you graduate.

What about college?

A college in the sense we’re referring to includes universities and community college. You have a few options in earning your degree: You can go straight to a university, or you can attend a community college first and then transfer.

We have a lot of information on local colleges that you can learn about here.

Earn a trade school certificate while in high school

You don’t have to wait until graduation to start career training.

There are vocational schools, like EVIT or West-MEC, where you can attend their trade school (often tuition free) while still in high school. Primavera also offers dual-credit courses (learn more here) to earn college credits, or you can attend community college and earn high school credit for those courses.

To learn more about these different opportunities, reach out to your guidance counselor via email or at 480.456.6678, option 4.

Not sure what you want to do? Talk to your counselor!

Students: If nothing else, remember, your guidance counselor is here to help you! A big part of a guidance counselor’s job is to help you plan out your life after high school.

In fact, Primavera has dedicated College and Career Specialists who are experts in financial aid, college costs and earning scholarships. They know the pros and cons of every route, even if you want to jump into a career or join the military.

Don’t forget to reach out to them. You can find your counselor’s information on your PSP home page, or just give us a call at 480.456.6678, option 4 and we’ll help you find the right person. ?

If you’d like to learn more about Primavera, fill out the form below. We’ll be in touch shortly. 🙂

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