Why Trade Schools Are Bad? (11 Reasons Why)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

For many people, attending a four-year college or university is not an option due to academic, financial, or other reasons. Trade schools are an alternative but there is a stigma dogging these institutions.

There are a number of negative perceptions about trade schools and many of them have merit and deserve serious consideration. Here are 11 reasons why trade schools are bad.

Why Trade Schools Are Bad?

1. Job-Specific Training Only

As opposed to the well-rounded education that students attending a four-year academic institution would expect to receive, trade school students only receive training to perform a specific type of job.

Not only does this limit the number of growth opportunities that are available, but trade schools also do not provide the extensive knowledge base that majoring in a field of study in college would provide.

Students enrolling in a trade school would be well-advised to make sure that their chosen vocation is truly the type of job they can commit to long-term because those are the only skills that they will learn.

2. They Can Be Very Expensive

Attending trade school is widely viewed as a cheaper alternative to enrolling in a four-year college but the fact remains that vocational training programs can still be quite expensive.

With tuition easily reaching thousands of dollars, finding ways to pay for attending trade school can be challenging for many prospective students, particularly those who cannot afford it without financial aid.

3. Lack of Versatility

One of the biggest knocks on trade schools is the way that they produce graduates who lack versatility when they enter the workforce.

By their nature, vocational and technical programs teach trade-specific skills and train enrollees to perform a specific job when they leave school.

Because trade school graduates have a skill set that is limited to their specialization, they lack the versatility and adaptability that is often required of workers who seek to advance in their profession.

4. Limited Options

While there are thousands of colleges and universities across the nation offering degrees in just about any field of study imaginable, the options for trade schools are far more limited.

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Trade schools are vastly overshadowed by four-year colleges not only in terms of the number of institutions that there are to choose from but also in the proximity of these campuses to students.

Compared to colleges and universities, many of which can be found away from major metropolitan areas, trade schools tend to be based in areas where local populations of students can be found.

Furthermore, while four-year schools offer hundreds of fields of study, trade schools are far more limited in the breadth and diversity of their programs, which may number in the dozens at best.

5. Career Growth Is Limited

Another drawback to attending trade school is that upon completing coursework and entering the workforce, career growth is limited for a number of graduates.

Many people who complete trade school are hired into entry-level positions in their chosen vocation and are unable to advance significantly because of their limited training and experience.

Particularly where management positions are concerned, those jobs are more likely to be offered to candidates who have a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

Thus, despite being able to enter the workforce faster, trade school graduates may soon find themselves hitting a ceiling as far as career growth is concerned.

6. Stiff Job Competition Upon Graduation

Stiff Job Competition Upon Graduation

Generally speaking, trade schools are less selective than four-year colleges during the admission process with many of them requiring students to have no more than a high school diploma (or its equivalent).

Many trade schools also have year-round enrollment, meaning that new students are admitted throughout the year on a rolling basis.

What this means is that trade schools put out high numbers of graduates and most of them are funneled through popular programs including:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Medical technician
  • Dental hygienist
  • Welding
  • Construction
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)

Upon leaving trade school, many graduates will find themselves competing against their peers for jobs. Particularly in crowded fields, this can lead to over-saturation of certain local job markets.

7. Challenging Schedule

Part of the allure of attending a four-year university is experiencing the so-called college life. It is a chance to learn independence and bond with peers and like-minded people.

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But attending a trade school is a no-nonsense endeavor that is purely motivated by the need to enter the workforce and earn income as quickly as possible.

For this reason, the curriculum at many trade schools can be quite rigorous as the typical program is two years or less.

8. Lower Earning Potential

A major concern regarding trade schools is the earning potential that their graduates can expect to reap upon completing a vocational program and joining the workforce.

According to one study, a person with a bachelor’s degree would earn nearly $268,000 more over the course of 20 years than someone completing a trade school program.

This brings into serious question whether someone would be better off enrolling in a trade school, or perhaps going the community college route and perhaps transferring to a four-year university.

9. They Are Not Worth It

There is a common notion that despite the high costs, attending a four-year university is an investment in one’s future. In other words, the degree will pay for itself and then some.

It stands to reason that the same logic could be applied to enrolling in a trade school. A certificate of completion in a particular trade should justify the cost of attendance by way of job earnings.

But as many trade school graduates have learned, such is not always the case. Coming out of trade school may provide training in a particular field but competition for jobs can be stiff.

Furthermore many jobs are entry-level and do not pay well. Advancement opportunities and the bigger paychecks that accompany them may be few and far between.

Sadly, trade schools may not be worth it in the end because the jobs they prepare students for do not pay well enough to justify the costs of attending these vocational institutes in the first place.

10. Trade School Stigma

One of the biggest shortcomings of trade schools is the negative perception that many people still have toward vocational or technical programs.

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There is a stigma associated with trade schools that these institutions are for people who did not perform well enough in high school to be admitted to a four-year college or university.

Another perception about trade schools is that they are strictly for training enrollees for blue-collar or hands-on jobs.

Even though this negative stigma may be outdated and not accurately representative of the truth, it is nevertheless still a widely-held belief.

11. There Are Sham Trade Schools

A major consideration when it comes to trade schools is whether a particular institution is legitimate in terms of having the proper licensing and accreditation and providing degrees worth having.

Sadly, some trade schools have been exposed as elaborate scams that amount to nothing more than shady operations that steal money from vulnerable students. Some of their sketchy practices include:

  • Misrepresenting the job market and students’ prospects for employment upon graduation
  • Greatly exaggerating the compensation that graduates can earn
  • Misleading students about the credentials of instructors and the school’s licensing and accreditation

In recent headlines, ITT Technical Institute, a for-profit chain of vocational campuses, was forced to shut down after it was found to have defrauded thousands of students by engaging in illicit practices.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why grad school is so expensive, why college is so boring, and why schools don’t teach life skills.


For many people, trade schools are their vital link to the professional world. For those who have found their calling in a specific field, trade schools may be an option worth considering.

But this path can be fraught with risks and pitfalls for those who do not consider their choices wisely and there are a number of reasons to think twice before enrolling in one.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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