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A Parent's Guide to Trade School

In recent years, more people are beginning to realize that the trades can lead to a lucrative and rewarding career path. Due to the exponential rise in student debt that 4-year universities can incur, more high school graduates are considering trade school as a great option. As parents, we want what's best for our children as they transition into adulthood, and trade school can be just that.

It is also important to note that trade school offers many alternative careers for students who are interested in one line of work, but may not want to go to college. For instance, if your kid likes the idea of becoming an engineer but is deterred by the amount of schooling involved, there are engineer technology programs offered by community colleges that only take 2 years to complete. Or if your child is interested in law, but doesn't want to go to law school, paralegal or court reporter education takes two years as well.

Other jobs such as nursing and physical therapy technician takes around two years to complete as well. The above mentioned careers and many more are all respectable ones that can lead to a great paycheck and a fulfilling future. To get a deeper understanding of what trade school can offer your child, we invite you to read further!

While Still in High School

Has your child mentioned that they're considering the skilled trades? Even if their experience has been limited to YouTube videos and school electives, there are a few steps you can take while your children are still in school to ensure that they are set up for a great future in trade school.

  • Look at your school district’s vocational education offerings. Career tech education curriculums are available in almost every area. You can call the school district's office for guidance.
  • Find out about dual enrollment with community colleges near you; many of them allow high school students to take classes.
  • Check out trade unions. Your child may be able to score an apprenticeship in the field he or she is interested in. Some unions offer classes to give students a taste of the field before they enter it professionally.
  • Internships and apprenticeships are fantastic opportunities, so be sure that you and your child are aware of them.

Helping Your Kid Choose a Direction

Is your child unable to decide between college or trade school and in need of guidance? You can help them make the decision right for their future! No student is the same, and while college can be great for some, for others, it may not be fulfilling. It is important to discuss these different paths with an open mind, and not rush into any decision.

There are many benefits of going to trade school over a university. One of the main benefits that trade school students experience is an increased chance of being hired after graduation. With trades often requiring apprenticeships and/or offering job placement opportunities, many students have jobs secured before completing their program.

More tips for helping your graduate choose the best direction possible:

  • Examine Your Opportunities: A bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean automatic job training or preparation. Skilled trades training, however, almost guarantees it by offering hands-on experience.
  • Visit Schools: Visit different campuses with your child so he or she can begin understanding what they like or don't like in a school. Whether it's a university, or a trade school, knowing the culture of a school can help you make informed decisions.
  • Picking the Right Environment: Accredited programs, apprenticeships through contractors, or trade unions, are ideal ways to learn a trade. When choosing the best path for your student, be sure that your program is accredited and offers at least some of these hands-on options.
  • Comparing the Price Point and Programs of Schools: The tuition and other costs associated with training should be taken into consideration. Other financial factors such as loans, housing, and any needed school supplies/program tools should be accounted for as well.
  • Know and Encourage Your Student's Interests: Listen to your child and encourage them to follow what they're passionate about — whether or not that passion involves the skilled trades. If it does, however, parental support is often a valuable, understated, resource.

More About Trade School Education

Shorter time: Depending on the career and program your child chooses, trade programs typically last between a few months to two years. (Some trades require apprenticeships before you're entirely authorized to work independently.)

Better on the bank account: We all know how expensive tuition can be, and the student debt crisis adds to a family's apprehension. Since trade school programs tend to be shorter, the cost is less prohibitive. Even if loans are necessary, they are very likely to amount to less than would be needed for a university degree.

Stable Income: Competitive salaries through trade industries can lead to a sustainable living. Along with the opportunity to enter the workforce sooner and with less accumulated student debt, trades can lead to a great paying career.

Making a difference: Many skilled trades are experiencing a slight worker shortage. If your child wants to put their talents to use by becoming a nurse, plumber, welder, or any other trades professional, then they will be contributing to the community in more ways than one.


At the end of the day, high school students need our guidance and support. No matter what schooling option your child decides to receive, he or she is likely to succeed in an industry they enjoy; especially with a supportive parent by their side.

If you would like to explore different trade school options near you, visit our programs guide!

Read: Career Training in 6 Months or Less