Vocational Trade School vs. 2- and 4-Year Colleges

vocational school

Learn How Vocational Trade Schools Differ from Others

Vocational trade school education may seem the same as two- and four-year colleges. In many ways they are similar; however, they’re also different in key ways.



Vocational trade schools tend to offer shorter educational paths to completion. As their name denotes, two- and four-year colleges award Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, respectively. Vocational schools have shorter programs that can vary in length, depending upon the plan.


Vocational trade school education focuses upon preparing students for their chosen career path. The “general education core” isn’t part of the curriculum. Instead, the course work homes in on the skills, experiences and knowledge necessary for the intended employment post-completion.


Because of their shorter academic plan, vocational trade school students acquire less debt than those who attend two- and four-year schools.


Vocational trade schools tend to be more flexible as to when they hold classes than two- and four-year schools, since usually their student population includes more adults transitioning into a different career than young people who have recently graduated from high school. For adult learners, attending classes part-time or in the evening can enable them to finish their coursework while meeting their other obligations, such as caring for their families and working.


Vocational trade schools are often located in several convenient locations so that students do not have to commute as far to school. Two- and four-year schools usually have one location.


Upon completion, graduates of a vocational trade school receive a certificate. Those who finish at a two- or four-year school receive diplomas. Both signify that the graduate has finished the work, but only certificates issued by a respected trade school will be readily recognized by potential employers.



Both types of schools can adequately prepare students to take any credentialing exam they may need before seeking employment and embarking on their chosen career path. For many types of employment, hiring agents need to see that students have obtained a minimum educational requirement and credentialing. Vocational trade schools can offer students a more efficient way to reach a satisfactory level of competency and education to pursue the career of their dreams.


Instructors for either type of school must possess adequate training and experience, providing they are accredited institutions.

Career Counseling

Both types of schools likely provide career counseling to assist students in finding appropriate work. It’s in a school’s best interest to help students succeed, whether they attend a vocational school or a two- or four-year school.

Ongoing Education

Both kinds of schools usually provide ongoing education opportunities so their graduates can keep their skills up-to-date throughout the span of their careers and as they move laterally in their industry.


Vocational trade schools and two- and four-year schools can properly prepare students to follow their chosen career path. Which they select depends upon their life needs and personal preferences.