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Trade School Vs. Apprenticeships

This article is about going to a trade school or becoming an apprentice to learn your trade. This article isn’t meant to make choices for you, but it will hopefully give you the information to decide which is the better path for you to take—trade school or an apprenticeship.


Apprenticeships teach transferable skills in order to completely prepare the apprentice for the trade.

There are over 22,000 registered apprenticeships in the United States. And, over 533,000 apprentices going through these programs in order to become skilled tradespeople. The amount of programs out there may seem like a lot, but being accepted into an apprenticeship can be difficult. If you’ve applied and are waiting, consider taking some courses at the community college or through a trade school.

Very often, apprenticeship programs work in conjunction with a community college, so you’re also building up college credits while you earn money learning the trade you’re interested in. Not all apprentices complete their training. In 2017, there were over 200,000 apprentices and only 64,000 of those went on to finish.

If you’re concerned about the job market once you move on from your apprenticeship, don’t be. It’s not like the United States has an overabundance of skilled tradespeople. In fact, we don’t have enough. The average age of our skilled trades worker is nearing retirement, and that’s a lot of knowledgeable people about to exit. There aren’t enough trained people to fill that increasing gap. Which means, you’ll have a job if you choose a skilled trades career, no matter if you complete an apprenticeship or go through a post-secondary training program.

Apprenticeship Prerequisites

Trade School

Going to a trade school will get you career-ready quicker than going to a traditional college, because you aren’t spending time learning about subjects that have no relation to your chosen profession.

Trade schools are available for pretty much any career training you would be interested in, from cosmetology to culinary, plumbing to construction, and way beyond.

The trade school costs will vary wildly, but most schools do offer financial aid.

If at all possible, stay away from programs that don’t come with accreditation; those could prohibit you from getting the necessary licensing and certifications that would allow you to work in your field. And you may not be able to transfer non-accredited credits to another school.

Trade School Prerequisites

Read: Applying to Trade School: Requirements for a more in depth discussion on each of these.

Use the search application to connect with a school near you.

Pros And Cons Of Trade Schools & Apprenticeships

Trade school



Once you’ve graduated with your certification, you may still have to complete an apprenticeship.




With most apprenticeships, once you’ve completed the required hours, you are considered a journeyman and can work on your own.

Trades Where Apprenticeship is Expected

Again, there’s no right or wrong way if you’re stuck deciding between an apprenticeship or trade school. But, there are certain trades where the expectation is you’ll go in as an apprentice.

Best trades to go into under an apprenticeship:

Most other trades will require you to have some sort of formal training through a trade school prior to starting your apprenticeship.

Making Your Decision

The truth is, one way is not better than the other. Both have their up- and downsides; you just have to choose which works best for you. Both options, trade schools or apprenticeships, are very solid. It’s just a matter of you figuring out if you want to go the school path, or go straight into that apprenticeship. Either way, you won’t make a bad decision by choosing to go into a skilled trade.

You can find an apprenticeship using the finder feature on through the Department of Labor.

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