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What is a Technical Degree? 

By Cait Williams

Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: July 18th, 2023
What is a Technical Degree? 

If you’ve ever heard the term “technical degree,” you may have thought it sounded a little intimidating. Maybe it even sounds scarier than pursuing something called an “undergraduate” degree. But don’t let the name fool you! A technical degree is more than attainable, and it may even be the place for you to start your higher education journey. So, let’s jump into all the details together!  

Technical degrees 

A technical degree is one of the faster ways that you can work to obtain industry specific knowledge to help you begin your career. These degrees usually take around two years to complete and can be obtained in a variety of fields.  

It’s important to note that while there are technical degrees available in technology, a technical degree does not only refer to a technology related degree in this setting. These degrees typically focus on teaching a trade or specialized topic that is highly specific to one job. It’s also important to note that technical degrees can also be classified as technical diplomas or certificate programs. Various schools may use different titles, so keep that in mind as you research. 

Areas of study 

Technical degrees are available in healthcare, industrial jobs, computer technology, library sciences, and more! There are lots of options that you can explore–below are some of the various categories that you may want to check out! 

Healthcare 

Technical degrees for healthcare help you earn jobs in everything from dental assisting to medical sonography. You can earn your LPN in as little as two years and work from there to become an RN! You can also earn a pharmacy technology, surgical technology, or a healthcare technician diploma, all of which allow you to work in clinics, hospitals, offices and more! 

Business and Technology  

The options for certificates and diplomas in the fields of business and technology are endless. Everything from cybersecurity to supply chain management and more can usually be found at technical schools and community colleges. There are also information technology, business management, computer support, and accounting programs out there as well! 

Technical Services  

If you’re someone who really likes to do hands-on work, then technical services are the path for you! This is where you can get real job training in culinary arts, automotive repair, carpentry, cosmetology, and so much more! 

When to complete a technical degree 

First off, there is no right or wrong time to explore a technical degree, there is just what’s best for you! Jobs that you obtain a technical degree for usually require you to have a high school diploma, but no other education requirements. Most people can earn a technical degree in as little as two years after graduating high school!  

Some employers require technical degrees before you are hired, but for the most part, technical degrees will be for jobs that are very entry-level friendly. This means finding a job after you complete a technical degree should also be a bit less challenging.  

Benefits of a technical degree 

Now that you understand what a technical degree is, let’s talk about the benefits they offer!

Short duration 

Technical degrees don’t have the same four year time commitment that undergraduate degree programs have. Because they have a more specialized focus, you won’t spend the first half of a technical degree gaining broad knowledge. As a result, most technical degrees will only take around two years or less to complete.  

Cost effective  

Because these programs are shorter, you can also count on them to be much more cost effective. You should also keep in mind that just like other degrees, there are tons of scholarships for community colleges and trade schools out there that you can use to help fund your education!  

Smaller class sizes 

One of the other bonuses to pursuing a technical degree is that you usually attend a much smaller school. You won’t be attending huge lectures with hundreds of students. Instead, your classes will be specific and usually very hands-on, depending on your field of study. You should get more interaction with instructors and peers, which might open more opportunities! 

Flexibility 

Finally, there’s the added bonus of flexibility that comes with pursuing a technical degree. These programs can be found online and in person. Because these degrees are attractive to working professionals in addition to recent high school graduates, it is not uncommon for them to be designed to fit into people’s already existing busy schedules. You can generally pursue them while working and handling whatever else may be going on in your life! 

Where to obtain a technical degree  

Technical degrees can be found at a plethora of educational institutes. They are most commonly found at community colleges, trade schools, and vocational schools. They are less common at traditional four year universities, but some larger schools may still offer them.   

Trade schools 

Chances are you’ve come across the term “trade school” in your search for technical degrees. So, since we just mentioned them too, let’s talk about them for a minute. First, trade schools, technical degrees, and vocational schools are all similar. These three terms are frequently used interchangeably, and you’ll most definitely come across all those terms at some point.

Trade schools are places where you learn hands-on skills and specialized jobs. The biggest difference between trade programs and technical degrees will be the areas of study that each offers. Trade programs are usually very hands-on and may take you less than two years to complete. Technical degrees may still involve practical application courses, but will also involve lectures and class time. 

If you already have a degree… 

If you already have your undergraduate or an associate’s degree, you might be wondering if a technical degree is worth obtaining. While a four year degree does take more time to get, it doesn’t mean that you should discredit a two year degree from your plans. In the case that you’d like to work as a nurse, but have an undergraduate degree in something unrelated, receiving an LPN might be the best path for you. Technical degrees can be great options for individuals who are looking to switch career fields.  

What’s best for you  

Okay, now comes the really important part of the article, asking yourself if a technical degree is right for you. Use the questions below as a starting point to begin thinking about a technical degree. 

Questions To Consider

Questions To Consider

  • Are you looking to switch career fields or break into a new career field?  
  • What is your highest level of completed education? 
  • Do you live near a community college or trade school? Questions To Consider

For more guidance you can set up an informational meeting with an advisor at a nearby community college that offers these programs. Also, you can request more information from online universities that offer these types of programs. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask questions! Talk to friends and family as well who know you and might even have experience with these programs.   

 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Technical degrees are a great way to expand your knowledge in a field you are currently in, but are also a great way to begin switching to or starting off in a new career field 
  • There are lots of programs out there with very specific focuses; take your time finding what program is right for you before deciding
  • These programs offer a lot of flexibility in terms of schedule, tuition, and the format in which they are delivered, making them more attainable 
  • There are a large selection of technical degree programs at your local community college or at many online universities
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about technical degrees

Is a technical degree the same as an associate's degree?

Despite the fact that they can take similar time to complete, associate degrees and technical degrees are not the same. An associate degree focuses on a broader course of study and is similar to the education you would receive at a four year college. A technical degree will be more specially tailored to a specific job.

What is a technical major in college?

Don’t let the term confuse you; the word “major” is usually used when talking about undergraduate degrees. At a four year college, a technical major will usually refer to a degree in technology, such as IT degree or computer science degree.

Is a technical degree the same as a bachelor's degree?

  No, a bachelors and technical degree are not the same. However, it is possible to receive a bachelors in a technical major, such as IT, engineering, or business administration. Bachelor’s degrees take around four years to complete, and focus on a much broader course of study than technical diplomas/certificates or associate degrees.

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