Career and Technical Education vs. Traditional College

You have decided that you are going to advance your education with a post-secondary degree, but you are not sure what educational setting is best for you.

Should you enroll in a career and technical education (CTE) program or a traditional college or university? Both types of educational institute prepare students for a career in the workforce. However, they offer different paths for getting there, as well as various training. While CTE programs provide specific training designed for a particular career, traditional colleges offer an array of courses and curriculum. Both educational institutions provide many benefits, but there are also many factors that will require you to look closely at both programs. If you are unsure which educational setting is right for you, below is a list of advantages and disadvantages for people wishing to start a new career by enrolling in a career and technical education program.

Advantages of CTEs

Programs Are Specialized

Traditional education programs generally focus on a broader curriculum that teaches students theory, critical thinking and decision making and how to conceptualize and analyze information. Career and technical education programs, on the other hand, trains and prepares students with specialized skills for a particular career. As a result, students spend the entirety of their education program perfecting specific job skills.

Shorter Education Programs

If you are planning on entering a career as soon as you meet the requirements, you may want to enroll in a career and technical education program. Unlike students at traditional four-year colleges or universities, those enrolled in a CTE program can complete a program in as little as a year. If you need precise training and certification to enter the workforce, career and technical education programs will be the quickest route towards employment.

Flexible Schedules

It is more common for adults to enroll in CTE programs than in traditional colleges, and one of the reasons is because they offer a more flexible academic schedule. Therefore, if you need to raise a family or work while you attend school to advance your career, you may prefer to enroll in a CTE program. Not only do they offer night and weekend classes, but also online courses and shorter semesters. Some programs allow you to complete courses at your own pace, although different schools may offer different options.

Smaller Class Size

Since CTE programs are specialized towards specific careers, there are typically fewer students in a CTE classroom than in a traditional college. This allows instructors to interact with each student more and to know them on a more personal level.

CTE Programs Costs Considerably Less

It is common for the average four-year college graduate to enter the workforce with debt. However, the same is not always said for a student graduating from a career and technical education program. Not only do nonprofit career and technical schools offer lower tuition than an average four-year college or university, but technical college students who start school at the same time as traditional students graduate at least two years earlier. Therefore, while their counterparts are still enrolled in a college or university, they have already entered the workforce and are already paying back any student debt they may have.

Increased Financial Aid Options

In recent years, both state and federal government began to offer more grants and scholarships to students who enroll in CTE programs. While traditional loans are also available for students in CTE programs, some state governments provide lottery grants and textbook reimbursement for students enrolled in CTE programs, which can make these programs more appealing.

More Job Options

As automation continues to eliminate jobs once held by human workers, there is more of an interest in careers that will not be so quickly taken over by computers, like skilled trades. But, CTE schools are still less explored than traditional colleges, meaning that there is still a demand for the careers that are taught in CTE programs.

There are many advantages to enrolling in a CTE program, but there are also several disadvantages. For a student to accurately assess which educational institution is right for them, they must also look into the disadvantages of CTE programs.

Disadvantages of CTEs

Less Prestige Than Traditional Colleges

If you are looking for an educational institution that offers prestige, you would want to choose a traditional college over a CTE program. Depending on the profession, a college degree is almost always thought of to be more prestigious than a CTE education, even if the training between the two is comparable. If you apply for a job and a fellow candidate has an equivalent degree from a traditional college, the employer may choose him or her over you. Since CTE programs are focused on one program of study, you will not take courses that can benefit you in the workforce, like writing and critical thinking. A lack of this education could prevent you from advancing your career. While the short-term gain might be better, the long-term gain is more limiting.

Technical Degrees Do Not Transfer to Traditional Colleges

If you decide to pursue a degree from a traditional college after you have already earned a certificate from a CTE program, your degree will rarely transfer. This means that you are likely not to get credit for the time and money that you put into the CTE program. If you decide after a few years of working that you want to further your education, you will have to go back to school and start from the beginning.

Fewer Earnings

While graduates of CTE programs are in better standing to land an entry-level position right after graduation, graduates from traditional colleges are likely to reach higher-level jobs throughout their careers. Also, earnings are typically higher for graduates with a bachelor’s degree from a traditional college than to those with certificates or degrees from a CTE program.

There is No Job Guarantee

Once a student has graduated from a CTE program, there is no guarantee that he or she will be able to find employment. During their studies, the market that they were training to enter could decline in demand or become oversaturated. If you enroll in a traditional college, you will learn many different skills that may introduce you to new careers options, if needed.

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