Trading Degrees

Do trade and vocational schools get enough credit?



Beyond the financial stability or academic rigor that a college degree provides, for most, it symbolizes an increase in social status. But as student loans pile up and job opportunities diminish, more students are beginning to realize that this status is overrated.

The traditional formula to moving up the economic ladder was to perform well in school, get accepted into a good college and then graduate and land a stable, well-paying job. For many recent graduates, however, the last part of the formula is becoming a fantasy.

It’s no secret that all across the nation tuition prices have risen, while jobs for college graduates have decreased.

So is it time for individuals to take vocational schools more seriously? Many think it is.

I know many students who graduated from vocational school and earned a job in their trade, then used that job to pay for their undergraduate tuition.

“For many people, trade schools have a stigma attached to them, and the stigma is not as much about the field you’re trained in but rather the status of the career in that field,” says Aimee Brown, a spokesperson for Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, a vocational college that provides dozens of career opportunities in the field of aviation.

There are more than 60 trade and career colleges in Oklahoma that provide individuals with practical, real-world skills, and despite the stigma, every year, thousands of students finish and begin earning money in their respective careers.

“Attending a school like Spartan School of Aeronautics or other technical colleges provides the fastest route to being job ready,” says Brown.

While college majors like anthropology and philosophy can be academically challenging, there’s not a significant demand for these degrees in the workforce. Vocational schools, on the other hand, can boast of the opposite.

“We don’t have anything that does not lead to a job currently or in the next few years,” says Jeff Knapp, communications coordinator for Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City.

The average vocational college tuition is less than $7,000, the average length is less than two years, and the average starting salary is more than $30,000.

There are still a slew of career paths that require a bachelor’s degree to enter, but Knapp believes vocational schools can serve a vital role in a college student’s road to graduation.

“I know many students who graduated from vocational school and earned a job in their trade, then used that job to pay for their undergraduate tuition,” says Knapp.

Males also usually dominate vocational schools, but Brown believes more females should explore the option.

“Women often tend to overlook the advantages of trade schools, but they are a great opportunity for women looking to enter the workforce,” she says.

Nevertheless, according to a Pew Research study conducted in 2014, most college graduates don’t regret their decision to attend college. Still, there’s no one road to success. Though universities may seem like the only option to a happy, productive life, it may be a good idea to trade that major in for a tangible skill.