You've probably heard the words thrown around referring to a number of unique kinds of technical institutes and schools, but have you ever asked yourself "what is a trade school?" It usually comes as a surprise to many people to learn that the definition of a trade school (or vocational school as the institutions are also labeled) is actually fairly easy to explain.

What Exactly Is A Trade School?

Trade schools, or vocational schools as they are also commonly called, offer programs that concentrate on giving graduates the job-specific skills necessary for their chosen career path. This approach is in stark contrast to the typical four-year college which usually requires students to learn a wide range of material that is, in the end, unrelated to their chosen vocation.

The advantage to this approach is that vocational education students acquire marketable skills that put them in the lead when the time comes to enter the workplace. After two years of the hands-on work experience, personalized instruction and internships included in every vocational education program, trade school graduates are usually considered to be much easier to integrate into today's technology-driven workforce than are their traditionally schooled peers.

Who Goes to Trade Schools?

Previous generations often characterized trade schools as being places for high school graduates who did not have the grades to get into a university. Although this might have been true previously, it is definitely no longer the case today.

The fact is that, because highly-skilled labor is in greater demand now than at any time in history, vocational schools now appeal to an exceptionally broad demographic of students. The current trade school student body is made up of professionals who want to update their technical skills, unemployed individuals seeking a way to begin a new career, and recent high school graduates who want to join the labor force with a good-paying job in as short a time as possible.

Is It Difficult to Get Accepted Into a Trade School?

Each trade school features its own admissions polices and requirements that make it hard to give a standard answer to this question. It is safe to say, however, that the majority of vocational programs require applicants to hold a high school diploma or GED. As is true with just about everything, exceptions to this rule do exist and some kinds of programs will overlook a student's inability to fulfill the aforementioned admission requirements if supporting materials such as an employer's letter of recommendation or proof of relevant job experience is provided.

How Expensive are Trade Schools?

There is no denying the fact that attending a two-year trade school can be more pricey than getting a degree from a typical four-year university. If you were to truthfully compare the value delivered by vocational colleges (including one-on-one training and tutoring, internships in your future field, and help with job placement upon graduation) against the career-specific education provided by most universities, however, you would probably find that the trade school looks like a better investment.

It's also important to keep in mind that many vocational education programs are highly subsidized by the state and federal government and, therefore, offer tremendous financial aid packages to help prospective students pay their way through school. Should you determine that you want to attend a trade school, but are concerned with the price, you can fill out a financial aid application form first at to find out how much assistance you are eligible for.