In the US, most high school students are told they need to go to college to get a good career, but that isn’t always true. Trade school is an excellent way for students to begin a great career in manufacturing. A manufacturing career can take a person up the corporate ladder, let them grow their skills on the shop floor, or both. Some of the benefits of going to trade school instead of college are no college debt, best fit, earnings potential, and opportunity.

No College Debt

It’s no surprise that college is expensive, but it may be surprising how much more expensive it is than trade school. According to Midwest Technical Institute, just one year at a four-year college can cost $9,410, while an entire program at a trade school can cost $5,000-$15,000. That means students could get a certificate or diploma for less than the cost of one year of a four-year college. There are also grants, scholarships, and loans available for trade school just as there are for college. However, since trade schools tend to cost less to begin with, it is easier to get enough grants or scholarships to cover the cost of tuition and supplies without taking out loans.

Best Fit

trade school

College is a good fit for some people, but it isn’t the best fit for everyone. Some people learn better by seeing and doing. Trade schools are great for this. Some people want to start learning about their future career right away. Four-year colleges tend to have two years of general education requirements before students start to focus on their major. In trade schools, students begin classes related to their future career right away. Beyond the initial program in college, there are some careers where further advanced degrees are required, so college students may be in school for years before they can begin working in their field. With trade school, a student can get their diploma or certificate and get to work, often earning future certificates on the job.

Earning Potential

The earning potential for graduates of trade schools is also relatively high. According to, the average annual salary of an entry-level welder is $42,829. The average annual salary of an entry-level machinist is $44,495. And the average annual salary of an entry-level CNC Machinist is $45,063 per year. For reference, the average entry-level salary in the US is $28,000. Careers in manufacturing can make much more money right away than other careers. A trade school is a great way to get the training students need to start a challenging and profitable career. Because most trade schools are also shorter than four years, students could have several years of experience under their belt when other people their age are looking for their first job.


There is a lot of opportunity for growth in manufacturing. Workers could move up the ladder, becoming a manager, or one day own their own shop. Workers could also learn to operate more machines and have a broader set of skills. The two are not mutually exclusive, either. Depending on the size of the shop, the owner may operate machines on the floor. With manufacturing, there’s the flexibility to create the kind of job that fits a worker best, and the freedom to change that job over time.

Too often trade schools, and manufacturing, aren’t even considered viable options after high school. However, trade school can lead to a great career in manufacturing with no college debt, the best fit, earning potential, and opportunity. Bright minds and hard workers can have excellent careers in manufacturing and it’s a shame that it’s so often overlooked. Trade school can be an outstanding option for the right people.

Another option, besides trade school, is a manufacturing apprenticeship.

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