The Ultimate Guide to TRADE & VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS Exploring the Advantages and Opportunities in Career-focused Education

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Today’s economy demands a skilled, trained and educated workforce and completing a degree or certificate program has become a requirement for more and more occupations. In fact, research from the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projected that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the United States will require some type of postsecondary education. Vocational and career-oriented schools offer a specialized education for students who have specific career goals. Unlike community colleges and more general education avenues, students are able to focus solely on their career choice and receive training in the field.

Best Vocational Trade Schools 2018-2019

2-Year Colleges

Students seeking professional training can choose from any number of vocational and trade schools. From community colleges to career schools to trade schools, popular programs include nursing engine mechanics and culinary arts. To help choose the right school for you, review the following best accredited trade and vocational schools for 2018-2019. The schools are ranked based on a variety of factors, including student to teacher ratio, tuition rate and the availability of financial aid.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Washburn Institute of Technology $5,472 57% 82% 54% Yes Yes Yes

Washburn Institute of Technology, also known as Washburn Tech, is a public 2-year technical college located in Topeka, Kansas affiliated with and administered by Washburn University. Washburn Tech offers a wide range of career-focused certificate and certification programs in advanced manufacturing, business, computer and networking technology, construction, drafting and design, health care, hospitality and human services, and transportation. Specific programs of note include welding, legal office professional, commercial and heavy construction, electrical technology, emergency medical technician (EMT), automotive service technician, and many others. Enrollees must take and pass an entrance exam or, alternatively, submit qualifying scores from ACT, SAT, PSAT or one of several other testing services, or submit transcripts indicating an earned associate's or bachelor's degree. Graduation requirements and tuition costs vary by individual program. Program lengths also vary, lasting from 1 semester up to 2 years. Classes are offered on campus Monday through Friday in either full-day or part-day sessions, or both. Additionally, in partnership with ed2go, Washburn Tech's Division of Continuing Education offers access to dozens of online, synchronous, instructor-led 6-week personal development, skills training and certification programs in a variety of study fields. Tuition fees for these courses are the same for both Kansas and out-of-state residents.

2 Brigham Young University-Provo $5,300 51% 87% 47% No Yes Yes

Brigham Young University is a private, not-for-profit university owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in dozens of fields of study. BYU offers 2 bachelor's degree programs that fall under into the category of vocation-related education: a Bachelor of Science in Construction and Facilities Management Construction Management, and Bachelor of Science in Construction and Facilities Management Facilities Management. Both degree programs are available exclusively on BYU's Provo campus, although some general education courses are offered online. Students should expect to devote 4 years of full-time study to complete either degree program. In addition to the construction management degrees, BYU offers both Emergency Medical Technicianand Advanced Emergency Medical Techniciancertification courses through its Continuing Education department. The EMT course is 120 hours in length with an additional 12 hours of hands-on experience in a clinical setting. The Advanced EMT is 140 hours long and consists of online didactic instruction and in-class projects, skills labs and case studies. EMT Certification is a prerequisite to taking the Advance EMT course.

3 Pamlico Community College $1,824 - 72% 18% Yes Yes Yes

Pamlico Community College is a 2-year public college located in Grantsboro, North Carolina offering a variety of general education and vocation/trade-related associate degree, diploma and certificate programs and courses. Fields of study include: cosmetology; dental laboratory technology; electrical systems technology; electroneurodiagnostic technology; esthetics; medical assisting; medical office administration; office administration; and welding. All programs are offered exclusively on campus, although some general education courses, for associate degree students, for example, are available online. Admission/course requirements, program lengths and tuition costs vary by program. In most cases, associate degree programs will require 4 semesters of full-time study, diplomas between 2 and 3 semesters of full-time study, and certificates between 1 and 2 semesters of full-time study.

4 Cox College $9,600 59% 100% 14% Yes No Yes

Cox College is a small, private college located in Springfield, Missouri that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates exclusively in the health care field. Vocation-related programs include: Associate of Science in Nursing (leading to a career as a Licensed Practical Nurse); Associate of Science in Radiology; Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Imaging; and Associate of Science in Medical Assisting. All programs are offered in a hybrid study format combining both online and on-campus coursework. Admission/course requirements and program lengths vary by program, but associated degree programs can typically be completed with 2 to 3 years of full-time study, and the BS in Diagnostic Imaging normally require 4 years of study. In addition to vocation-related degrees, Cox College offers a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, and Master's of Science degrees in Nursing, Occupational Therapy, and Nutrition Diagnostics/Dietetic Internship. A wide range of continuing education and life support courses, conferences and seminars are also available through Cox's Continuing Education Center.

5 Salina Area Technical College $4,531 - 77% 4% Yes Yes Yes

Located in Salina, Kansas, Salina Area Technical College is a 2-year public institution offering associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in a wide range of vocational- and trade-related fields. Subjects include allied health (including emergency medical technician), auto collision repair, commercial truck driving, construction technology, dental assistant, electrical technology, HVAC, medical assistant and practical nursing, among others. All programs are available on-campus. Many programs are presented with multiple exit points, each with its own length, requirements and resulting credential. For example, students interested in SATC's HVAC program can choose between earning a Technical Certificate (a 2-semester program consisting of technical and advanced technical coursework) or an Associate of Applied Science degree (a 4-semester program consisting of the same 2 semesters of technical and advanced technical courses plus 2 semester of general education coursework). Federal, state and private financial aid resources are available to qualifying students, as well as tuition payment plans. SATC additionally offers a large number of scholarship opportunities.

6 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus $4,575 71% 70% 80% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Oklahoma-Norman is one of the largest public universities in the U.S., preparing its students for careers in practically every professional field imaginable. Students interested in a vocational career will find several options available at OU Norman, primarily in the form of undergraduate pre-professional programs. Pre-professional programs at OU allow students working on a bachelor's degree, normally in a closely related field, to complete a set of courses in preparation of continuing on to earning a graduate degree in a specific profession. However, a student may be able to complete a bachelor's degree and corresponding pre-professional course curriculum and move directly on to obtaining licensure and employment in their chosen field. Pre-professional programs available at OU include Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Law, Physician Associate and Pharmacy. All pre-professional programs are taught on-campus and normally require 4 years of full-time study. In addition to these pre-professional programs, there are 2 additional vocation-related programs available at OU: the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences' fully online Bachelor's in Radiation Sciences degree-completion program; and the College of Law's on-campus Legal Assistant certificate program, which is designed to prepare students for careers as legal assistants and paralegals. The legal assistant program is offered in 2 formats: 2-year, 6-semester regular format, and 4-semester fast track format. Both formats require summer session attendance.

7 Altierus Career College $12,729 - 75% 3% Yes Yes Yes

Altierus Career College is a private, not-for-profit multi-campus institution offering a variety of vocational- and trade-related education options. Altierus's Tampa, Florida campus is currently home to 6 diploma programs, including: Electrician; Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC); Massage Therapy; Medical Assistant; Medial Billing and Coding; and Pharmacy Technician. Additionally, Altierus's Tampa campus offers a Surgical Technologist associate's degree. All programs include on-campus hands-on training, with some programs supplemented with online coursework. Program lengths vary from 33 to 36 weeks in length, with the exception of the Surgical Technologist program, which requires 96 weeks. Terms for most programs begin every 5 weeks. Tuition costs also vary by specific program. Financial aid in the form of institutional grants and scholarships is available to qualifying students through the Zenith Student Grant program. Contact the Tampa campus for more information on the Zenith Student Grant and other financial aid opportunities. Altierus Career College is accredited nationally by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

8 Central Louisiana Technical Community College $3,335 - 72% 20% Yes Yes Yes

Serving 10 parishes on 8 campusesCentral Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC) is a 2-year institution offering associate degrees, diplomas and certificates to prepare students for a wide range of highly skilled, high-paying, in-demand vocational and trade careers. There are currently 16 campus-based career and technical programs available in fields such as air conditioning and refrigeration, automotive technology, carpentry, cosmetology, electrician technology and patient care technician, among others. Each program has its own set of requirements and resulting credentials. For example, the Air Conditioning & Refrigeration program offers three competency credentials (Technical Competency Area, Certificate of Technical Studies, and Technical Diploma), while the Cosmetology program offers 2 competency credentials (Technical Competency Area, and Technical Diploma). Programs are typically available at 1, 2 or 3 campus locations, with a small number offered on more than 3 campuses. None of these programs are available online. Program completion lengths vary depending on several factors, including specific program and exit point, as well as the individual student's chosen workload. CLTCC additionally offers a number of non-credit online career-training programs through its partnership with ed2go. Subjects include electrical technician, HVACR technician, medical administrative assistant with medical billing and coding, paralegal, and many others. Coursework is asynchronous, but all program work must be completed within a specified time (3 months, 6 months, 12 months, etc.) Programs vary in length and cost. Tuition rates are the same for Louisiana residents and out-of-state students.

9 James Madison University $5,896 72% 83% 20% Yes Yes Yes

James Madison University is a public research university located in the Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg, Virginia. JMU offers 2 vocational-related options: a Paralegal Studies Certificate, and an undergraduate Pre-Occupational Therapy program. JMU's Paralegal Studies Certificate is available fully online. The program is designed for working adults currently employed as legal assistants or staff, as well as career changers with little or no legal experience. This is a synchronous formatted program, meaning that students login to live, instructor-led classes twice a week. Admission requirements include a previously earned undergraduate degree or 4 years of professional work experience (not necessarily in the legal field). JMU's paralegal program is an assessment-based certificate program and not a certification program. Certification is not needed to work as a paralegal in Virginia, but may be required in other states. Students intending paralegal employment outside of Virginia's borders should contact their state's bar association for details on certification requirements. JMU's Pre-Occupational Therapy program is a bachelor degree-level program that is neither a major or minor, but rather a curriculum of undergraduate courses to be taken in conjunction with earning a bachelor's degree in another major field of study. The Pre-Occupational Therapy program is typically completed by those students intending to continue their educations and earn a Master's in Occupational Therapy but may be completed with the intention of seeking the necessary licensure for employment as an occupational therapist without earning an MOT. As with most bachelor's degrees, this exclusively on-campus program normally requires 4 years of full-time study. Coursework consists of classes in a variety of related subjects including biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, the social sciences and more.

10 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities $12,546 44% 80% 59% Yes Yes Yes

Through its College of Continuing & Professional Studies, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities offers several undergraduate degrees and certificates in vocational fields. Certificate programs include Construction Management, Facility Management, Health Services Management, Interpreting and Manufacturing Operations Management. Bachelor's degree programs include Construction Management, Health Services Management and Manufacturing Facility Management. All 3 bachelor degree programs are fully aligned with their certificate counterparts, which means students can apply all credit hours earned in the certificate program to the corresponding bachelor's program. Programs are offered in a variety of online/in-class formats. For example, Manufacturing Operations Management Certificate students can choose between blended classroom/online and fully online study options, while students working on an Interpreting Certificate may complete all courses either online or on-campus, or through a combination of both. On-campus classes are often available both during the day and in the evening. Tuition costs vary depending on the credit hour requirements of the specific program. Out-of-state students pay a higher tuition rate for these programs than Minnesota residents.

11 Mississippi State University $7,780 56% 63% 81% Yes Yes Yes

Mississippi State University, in partnership with ed2go, offers a substantial number of vocational certificate programs in the construction, trades, health care and legal fields through its Extension Service department. Examples of construction and trades certificate programs include CNC Machinist, Composites Technician, Electrical Technician, HVACR Certified Technician and Solar Power Professional. Health care related programs include Administrative Dental Assistant, CBCS Medical Billing and Coding, Certified Medical Administrative Assistant, Physical Therapy Aid and Veterinary Assistant. Legal certificate options include Legal Secretary and Paralegal. All programs are available fully online. Coursework is asynchronous, meaning that the student can access and complete coursework at their own pace. However, all coursework must be completed within a time period designated by the specific program (typically 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or 18 months). Program costs (several hundred to a few thousand dollars) and requirements also vary by program. Program prices are the same whether the student resides within or outside of Mississippi. All ed2go courses are non-credit, and therefore don't qualify for federal financial aid. Some programs, however, may be eligible for state government tuition assistance.

12 University of Utah $7,408 76% 74% 72% Yes Yes Yes

Through its Continuing Education & Community Engagement department, the University of Utah offers several vocational-related certificates in the health care and legal fields, all exclusively available 100% online. Health care certificates are offered in several subjects such as medical coding and billing, medical transcription editing, medical office management, pharmacy technician and veterinary assistance. Students interested in the law can earn certificates for occupations such as advanced paralegal, legal nurse consultant and legal secretary. UU's certificate programs are structured to provide students with comprehensive coverage of their respective fields of study. Program lengths vary from a few weeks to several months, depending on the specific program. For example, the Medical Coding and Billing Certificate typically requires 4 months of full-time study, while the Legal Secretary Certificate program is designed to be completed in 7 weeks. Program costs also vary (from several hundred to a few thousand dollars) again depending on the specific certificate's course requirements and program lengths. Many of these certificate programs are offered with no prior qualification requirements, while prerequisites may apply with others. For example the Medical Coding and Billing Certificate requires a high school diploma or GED, and the Legal Secretary Certificate requires a basic knowledge of word processing and typing of at least 50 words-per-minute.

13 Utica College $19,446 82% 44% 97% Yes Yes Yes

Utica College is a private, not-for-profit university located in central New York State. Utica's Bachelor of Science in Construction degree program is offered exclusively on the school's campus in a 4-year curriculum format. This construction management program combines the foundations of management techniques, real-world learning experiences and an emphasis on professional responsibility. Students gain technical construction knowledge, as well as managerial, financial and planning skills needed for implementing construction activities. Students must complete a total of 128 credit hours with a minimum grade of "C" in all major and major-related courses. As part of the major course requirements, students must complete a minimum of 480 experiential learning contact (internship) hours under the direction of an industry sponsor. Utica offers tuition rates that are competitive with those of similar New York State public universities. Out-of-state students pay higher tuition rates than New York residents. This degree program is accredited by the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE).

14 University of Central Florida $4,478 50% 73% 43% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Central Florida offers 2 program options for students interested in a non-attorney legal career: its bachelor's in legal studies degree program and its paralegal program, both of which are offered 100% online. UCF's B.A./B.S. in Legal Studies is designed to provide students with a broad overview of the basics of law and function of the legal system. Students have the option of selecting from among 7 specializations, although choosing a specialization is not required. The B.A. degree requires demonstration of 1 year of foreign language proficiency at the college level, while the B.S. degree requires 2 years of foreign language proficiency at the college level. Otherwise, the degrees are identical. UCF's Bachelor's in Legal Studies qualifies graduates to apply for the Florida Bar Registered Paralegal designation as well as sit for the national paralegal certification examinations. Other career options for degree holders include court reporter, legal assistant, legal analyst and contracts specialist, among others. Out-of-state students pay a higher tuition rate than Florida residents. UCF's Paralegal programis a non-credit, self-paced program offered in partnership with ed2go. The 12-month program prepares students to sit for the paralegal certification exams and for employment as an entry-level paralegal. Tuition for this program includes access to the National Association of Legal Assistants Certified Paralegal Exam Review self-study courses.

15 Everest College-Everett $11,124 - 74% 39% Yes Yes Yes

A variety of career-focused diploma programs and one associate degree are available at Altierus Career College's 3 campuses in Tampa, Florida; Norcross, Georgia; and Houston, Texas. Diploma selections include computer information technology, dental assistant, electrician, HVAC, massage therapy, medical assistant, medical billing and coding, and pharmacy technician. A surgical technologist associate degree is also offered. Not all programs are available at all campuses. Most programs start every month and run 8-12 months, except the surgical technologist program, which is 24 months. Some programs combine online and in-person learning while others, such as electrical or HVAC, all take place in labs. Most programs prepare students to take industry certification testing upon course completion. Admitted students must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Students can access academic advising, tutoring and career counseling and financial aid is available for qualified students. Altierus is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

16 Towson University $6,560 74% 70% 47% Yes Yes Yes

Medical coding is a steadily growing specialty in the health care field and Towson University offers both on-campus and online programs for students interested in this high-demand market. Medical coders compile, process and maintain medical records according to the health care industry's numerical coding system for physicians' offices and clinics. Courses cover medical insurance, medical terminology, anatomy and coding guidelines for all of the body's systems. At course completion, which is 4 months for each program, students are prepared to sit for the American Academy of Professional Coders exam. Students can take advantage of many resources at Towson, including academic advising, tutoring, career counseling, technology support and financial aid for qualified students. Towson is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

17 University of Florida $4,477 46% 88% 29% No Yes Yes

Students seeking a vocational career will find certificate programs, bachelor's degrees and an online option at the University of Florida. Certificate programs include construction management, emergency management, emergency medical services management, environmental horticulture management, landscape pest management, pest control technology, senior fire officer and urban pest management. Prerequisites may include a high school diploma or equivalent, specified courses, an associate degree or previous work experience. A range of 15-24 credit hours is required to complete the various certificate programs. The bachelor's degree in construction management requires 125 credits, and the fire and emergency services degree which also has an online option, requires 120. Students who have already earned an AA degree may apply to UF during the junior year, and then complete the fire and emergency bachelor's online. Advising, tutoring, career and financial aid resources are available to all students. The University of Florida, located in Gainesville, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

18 Liberty University $15,105 24% 55% 88% Yes Yes Yes

Liberty University offers on-campus and online certificate, associate and bachelor's programs in various vocational fields such as aviation, medicine, justice and technical studies. Those interested in aviation can choose from a certificate program or an AA degree in aviation maintenance technology. Other options include a BS in aviation maintenance management either on campus or online (with a residential component), or an online BS in aviation. Aviation courses include aircraft electrical systems, landing gear systems, airframe assembly and inspections and propeller systems. Additionally, LU offers a flight attendant AA. Courses such as flight attendant orientation, airline operations and accident prevention/care prepare students for careers as national or international flight attendants. The school also offers 2 paralegal options - an undergraduate certificate and a BS, both online. Students gain a foundation in law, legal writing methods, real estate transactions, and procedures of criminal and family law. Students in the online medical office assistant AAS program learn the business and administrative sides of the medical field, from front-end administrative duties to diagnostic coding to medical billing. The school's on campus technical studies AAS degree can be focused on carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing or welding. Academic support and financial aid is available. LU, located in Lynchburg, VA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

19 Appalachian State University $4,159 68% 71% 36% Yes Yes Yes

Appalachian State University offers a vocational career option in its Bachelor of Science degree in building sciences with a concentration in construction management. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of construction managers is projected to grow 11% through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. In this program, students learn the management and the technological sides of the construction industry. Courses include building systems, materials and methods, planning and scheduling, statics and strength of structures, occupational safety and sustainable architectural design. The 4-year program requires 122 semester hours and a professional internship. The university offers global learning opportunities in the form of short-term, focused, study abroad programs led by building sciences faculty in Austria and Switzerland concerning renewable energy and architecture, Nicaragua and Costa Rica focusing on sustainable technology, Peru concentrating on building and designing for nature, and South Korea and Taiwan addressing sustainable energy and architecture. Graduates can expect to pursue careers as a construction manager, contractor, home builder, industrial engineer or project manager. The school offers academic advising, career and financial aid services. Appalachian University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

20 Ohio State University-Main Campus $9,168 54% 85% 80% No Yes Yes

The Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) at Ohio State offers 29 associate degree and certificate programs in agriculture, horticulture, environmental science, business and hydraulics. ATI's programs emphasize experiential learning, including paid industry internships. The ATI campus includes a horticultural complex, landscape construction laboratory, 1,700-acre working farm, and specialized labs in renewable energy, engineering technologies, sciences and floral design. AA or AS degrees options include environment and natural resources, floral design and marketing, food business management, greenhouse and nursery management, landscape horticulture, livestock production and management, sustainable agriculture and turfgrass management. ATI also offers industrial technician certificate programs for industrial maintenance technician, electrical and controls technician and mechanical technician. OSU offers orientation for new students, academic support and tutoring, career exploration, counseling and wellness support and some 20 student organizations, many with a career focus. OSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

21 John Brown University $24,218 77% 62% 96% Yes Yes Yes

The BS in construction management at John Brown University integrates engineering and design concepts, project management and business skills, the latest computer applications, hands-on experience and communication skills to develop construction industry leaders. In their senior year students oversee a project from start to finish, including planning, estimating, procurement, execution, supervision and coordinating subcontractors. The 4-year program requires completion of 133 semester hours. Possible career options for construction management majors include field engineer, quality control engineer and contract administrator. JBU also offers a minor in construction management that requires 19 hours and a 2-year AS degree that takes 62 hours. The school offers academic and career counseling and financial aid. John Brown University, located in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

22 Arkansas State University-Mountain Home $2,256 - 51% 19% Yes Yes Yes

Arkansas State University-Mountain Home offers associate degrees, technical certificates and certificates of profiency in a range of vocational and trade fields including agriculture, automotive, health, hospitality, HVAC, machining and welding. All courses are taught on the campus in Mountain Home, AK. The various programs run from 1 semester for a certificate of proficiency to 2 years for an associate degree. Graduates are prepared for various careers after completing their program. For example, graduates of the A.A.S. in Hospitality Management program are ready to work in all areas of hospitality management, including hotel and lodging facilities, travel and tourism and food service and recreational facilities. But the degree is not intended to transfer. However, the A.A.S. in Agriculture and Natural Resources program is designed for students to ultimately transfer to a 4-year university, with their knowledge of animal science, plant science, field crops and economics. And graduates of the paramedic program, which has A.A.S. and technical certificate options, are eligible to apply for the National Registry of Emergency Technical Paramedic certification testing and gain the ability to function as a team member on an advanced life support ambulance. Academic advising, tutoring, career counseling and financial aid are available. ASUMH is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

23 Indiana University-Bloomington $9,087 79% 80% 55% Yes Yes Yes

A wide selection of vocational career programs in diverse fields such as health care, tourism and nutrition await students at Indiana University. All of the undergraduate certificate programs are online and taught by the same faculty who teach on campus. Medical coding students learn the process of assigning universal medical code numbers to medical diagnoses and procedures. Graduates can become medical coders, benefits coordinators or medical billers. The 9-month dental assisting program encompasses lecture, laboratory and clinical instruction. Courses include oral pathology, dental therapeutics and restorative dentistry. IU's certificate programs in tourism planning and development and cultural heritage tourism can land graduates positions as travel agents, members of cruise line management, tour guides, event planners and museum educators. Students in the nutrition program learn to make well-informed nutrition choices for themselves, their families, their clients and patients. Graduates can continue on to professional programs in health care such as nursing or physical therapy or work as a nutrition consultant in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or physicians' offices. IU's dedicated services for online students include admissions and orientation support, math and writing support, success coaching, career counseling and financial aid. Indiana University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

24 Lake Area Technical Institute $2,616 - 67% 22% Yes Yes Yes

The Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, SD, offers a wide range of degree, diploma and certificate programs, on campus and via "eDegrees," a blend of online and on-campus learning. On-campus programs include agriculture, automotive, aviation, building trades, cosmetology, electronics, heavy equipment, med/fire rescue, medical and welding. Choices for eDegrees, where some classes are online and others involve hands-on training and/or clinical experiences on campus, include ranch management, dental assisting and emergency medical technician. The on-campus cosmetology program, in which students are trained in hair, nail and skin care, for example, runs 15 months. Students learn the latest techniques while cutting and coloring hair as well as how to apply cosmetics and perform manicures, pedicures and facials in a fully operation salon on campus. The ranch management A.A.S. eDegree program takes 4 semesters to complete. Students learn about beef and sheep production, breeding and grazing practices. Support services for both online and on-campus students include counseling, career services and financial aid. LATI is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

25 Siena Heights University $24,390 72% 53% 99% Yes Yes Yes

Siena Heights University is a private 4-year school affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church whose main campus is located in Adrian, Michigan. SHU offers Associate of Applied Scienceand Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, both of which can be individually tailored and earned in a wide range of vocation-related fields. These degrees are structured using the "inverted major" concept, building the degree program around a combination of general education courses and other major subject-related coursework (completed at SHU and/or other accredited colleges, universities, trade schools, etc.) and previously obtained subject-related licensure, college-equivalent prior learning and professional experience. Examples of vocation-related fields of study include construction management, cosmetology, electrician, HVAC, mechanical engineering technology, occupational therapy assistant, paralegal technology, paramedic/firefighter, pharmacy technology, radiography, respiratory therapy and veterinary technology, to name just a few. Some applicable SHU coursework may be available online. However, all coursework, as well as the individually chosen study field, requires prior approval by SHU. Program lengths and tuition rates vary depending on the individual program.

26 Washington State University $9,324 72% 70% 72% Yes Yes Yes
27 Louisiana State University $8,038 76% 67% 57% No Yes Yes
28 University of Mary $15,990 77% 59% 100% Yes Yes Yes
29 Mitchell Technical Institute $3,488 - 70% 26% Yes Yes Yes
30 Humphreys University-Stockton and Modesto Campuses $14,004 - 77% 53% Yes No Yes
31 Brigham Young University-Idaho $3,920 96% 53% 33% No Yes Yes
32 St Catherine University $31,042 91% 61% 98% Yes Yes Yes
33 Cabell County Career Technology Center $2,700 - 94% 29% No Yes Yes
34 Xavier University $35,920 69% 71% 99% Yes Yes Yes
35 University of Evansville $31,782 71% 64% 92% Yes Yes Yes
36 Iowa State University $7,098 87% 70% 78% No Yes Yes
37 Webster University $26,100 47% 65% 93% Yes Yes Yes
38 University of Massachusetts-Amherst $14,590 60% 77% 65% Yes Yes Yes
39 Misericordia University $29,150 74% 72% 100% Yes Yes Yes
40 California State University-Long Beach $5,472 32% 72% 39% No Yes Yes
41 Duquesne University $35,062 74% 76% 99% Yes Yes Yes
42 Creighton University $35,942 71% 73% 98% Yes Yes Yes
43 SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry $6,470 54% 68% 81% No Yes Yes
44 University of Idaho $5,162 76% 60% 89% Yes Yes Yes
45 Winona State University $7,103 60% 59% 47% Yes Yes Yes
46 Illinois State University $9,827 89% 73% 49% No Yes Yes
47 Western Washington University $6,732 83% 73% 63% No Yes Yes
48 Texas A & M University-College Station $6,872 67% 81% 54% No Yes Yes
49 University of Iowa $7,128 84% 71% 75% No Yes Yes
50 Alexandria Technical & Community College $4,768 - 64% 33% Yes Yes Yes

Search Vocational & Trade Schools Near You

Vocational and trade schools vary in the types of education and training offered. To find the school near you that best fits your specific educational and career needs, use the search tool below.

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Vocational Trade Schools Learning Center

What are Vocational and Trade Schools?

As defined by the U.S. Department of Education, career schools are also known as vocational, trade, or technical schools. These institutions may be non-profit or for-profit, public or private, and generally offer career-focused training programs that are two years or less. However, there is a slight difference between the curriculum of technical and vocational schools. Technical schools focus on a broader academic approach, teaching students about the principles of the field of study. Vocational schools often concentrate more on practical, hands-on skill building for specific occupational fields.

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Beyond special vocational and technical colleges, students may also access career and technical education (CTE) at other institutions, such as the following:

  • Community colleges (two-year, public colleges)
  • Private two-year colleges
  • Public and private four-year universities
  • Regional training centers
  • Adult workforce education centers
  • Industry groups

CTE provides students with access to both occupational and non-occupational instruction in a variety of subjects and areas of interest. As sub-baccalaureate programs of study, CTE allows students to earn a certificate, credential, diploma, or complete coursework in preparation for a licensing examination. Although some CTE programs allow students to transition into an associate or bachelor’s degree, most CTE programs are terminal and, therefore, do not include transferable credits.

Instructional programs that highlight academic education (liberal arts, English, mathematics, physical sciences, performing arts, social sciences, humanities, behavioral sciences) are deemed not to be CTE in nature. Generally speaking, CTE teaches students specialized skills to pursue specific careers fields and is divided into 16 career clusters.

  • Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
  • Architecture & Construction
  • A/V Technology & Film
  • Business Management & Administration
  • Education & Training
  • Finance
  • Government & Public Administration
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality & Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Planning
  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Is Vocational School Right for You? High School Assessment

Today’s high school students have a variety of post-secondary options available. While traditional 2- and 4-year colleges may seem the most popular choice, many students are taking a more trade-focused route. Vocational and trade schools allow students to enter a hands-on career field in as little as 12 months (sometimes sooner). The following quiz can help new high school graduates determine if vocational school is right for them.

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  • 1.Are you a recent high school graduate who is eager to get started in a career?
  • 2. Do you have a specific vocation or job in mind?
  • 3. Are you interested in liberal arts, English, mathematics, physical sciences, performing arts, social sciences, humanities or behavioral sciences?
  • 4.Do you need to finish your degree in two years or less?
  • 5.Does your career choice require hands-on, technical experience?

Vocational & Trade School In-Depth

Before enrolling in a vocational or trade school program, it's important to learn the details, including the potential salary for your desired industry, who offers programs, and the pros and cons you might encounter along the way. See what many of today's vocational programs have in store for future students.

Projected Job Openings

Prospective students have multiple educational pathways to consider when thinking about enrolling in a vocational training program. Some of the fastest growing industries in the country include numerous occupations requiring a vocational education for employment. In fact, the ten industries projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to experience the largest employment gains between 2012 and 2022 are all vocational in nature.



Projected Job Openings


Home health care services


Individual and family services


Outpatient, laboratory, and other ambulatory care services


Management, scientific, and technical consulting services


Computer systems design and related services


Cement and concrete product manufacturing


Office administrative services


Offices of health practitioners


Veneer, plywood, and engineered wood product manufacturing


Facilities support services

Percentage of Associate Degrees July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012

Vocational School vs. Four-Year College

Vocational School Four-Year College
Degree Types Diploma, Certificate, Associate, Vocational Courses Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
Curricula Focus Vocational & Technical Training, Clinical & Professional Experience Academic, General Education, Liberal Arts & Sciences
Length of Program 3 – 24 months 2 – 8+ years
Demographics Non-Traditional, Older, Returning Students Typically 18 – 24 year olds
Admissions Requirements High School Diploma or GED, Course Prerequisites, GPA Requirements High School Diploma or GED, Standardized Test Scores, Minimum GPA Requirements, Letters of Recommendation, Admissions Essay

Pros & Cons

During the past three decades, vocational education has become a respected approach for career preparation, providing students the opportunity to study and learn in context–that is, develop skills specific to an occupational field. As policymakers and educators alike focus on the commitment to building a qualified and skilled workforce, the importance of vocational education as a quality pathway to career success will only increase. However, prior to enrolling in any vocational program, prospective students should examine both the positives and potential drawbacks to completing an occupational degree, credential, certificate, or diploma.

Increased Market Competitiveness.

Vocational education is directly aligned with a graduate’s market competitiveness as it prepares them for a specific occupation or specialized vocation.

Improved Career Opportunities.

Salary data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) both reveal one important point: Education pays. In 2013, individuals with an associate degree earned 19.3 percent more per week than those with only a high school diploma. And, individuals with an associate degree have unemployment rates of approximately 5.4 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for those with a high school diploma.

Shorter Programs.

Bachelor’s degrees typically require at least four years of full-time study to complete, while vocational programs can generally be finished between three to 24 months of study, depending on the subject matter and specific program.


Although a important and growing part of the education sector–and workforce–vocational programs still deal with a general stigma, with some viewing them as lesser options than four-year academic programs offered at universities.

Limited Career Flexibility.

Because of their career-specific nature, many vocational programs can actually limit career flexibility in two ways: 1) they do not transfer to future four-year academic programs and 2) they may not be accepted as an educational requirement for employment in advanced related fields, like an academic degree.

Lower Average Salaries.

Although a vocational education can lead to better earning potential, individuals with associate degrees still earn less than those with a bachelor’s degree (31.2 percent less). In 2013, the average salary of an individual with an associate degree was $35,720.

Before Enrolling

  • Success rate.

    The success of an institution’s students is a direct reflection of its quality. Prospective students should get an understanding of the following three statistics: admission rate, graduation rate, and job placement. High admission rates may indicate the program is not competitive, while low graduation rates may mean instruction is low quality. And, low job placement may reveal the institution does not properly prepare graduates for career success.

  • Program cost.

    For many students, the top priority is the program cost. However, cost is not solely determined by tuition alone. Are there technology or lab fees? Do students need to pay for additional equipment or software? What are the average book costs? Getting a sense of the total cost of attendance can help prospective students make a practical decision regarding their educational investment.

  • Accreditation.

    Generally speaking, accreditation is a vital–but often overlooked–factor of the review phase. Accreditation means the college or institute has invested time and effort to meet quality, success, and educational guidelines set forth by accrediting agencies. Secondly, many certification and licensing agencies for specific professional areas of practice (e.g. diagnostic medical sonography, medical coding, etc.) require students to graduate from an accredited program of study. While the Department of Education does not accredit programs directly, it does maintain a list of approved accrediting bodies for post-secondary institutions and programs. Students can review the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs for more information.

  • Admission requirements.

    Not every institution or vocational program requires the same admissions materials or requirements. Before enrolling, students should ask about the program’s admissions process. Does the program require a high school diploma or GED? Do students need professional experience in the field to be admitted? Are standardized testing scores necessary?

  • Instructor Background.

    The success of any program hinges on the quality of the faculty and instructional staff. For the particular area of study (e.g. medical assisting), students should review the academic background and professional experience of the faculty. Do they have training and degrees in that field of practice? What certifications do they possess? How long have they worked in that specialty?

Quick Facts

Individuals with a vocational associate degree or certificate earns between $4,000 and $19,000 more than those with a liberal arts/humanities degree Source: Association for Career & Technical Education
More than 1.3 million vocational degrees, diplomas, and certificates were awarded in 2013Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Half of all STEM job openings are open to graduates with less than a bachelor’s degree Source: The Brookings Institution

FAQs: Interview with Sean Lynch, Legislative and Public Affairs Manager

Sean Lynch is the Legislative and Public Affairs Manager for the Association for Career and Technical Education located in Alexandria, Virginia. He shared his thoughts on CTE, trends in vocational education, and why vocational education is a valid and beneficial form of post-secondary training.

What is the role of ACTE and why is it important for prospective students to know about/connect with ACTE?

ACTE is the largest national nonprofit association dedicated to CTE professionals, including educators, administrators, career and guidance counselors and others connected to the CTE community. Our role is to advance education that will prepare students of all ages for success in their careers, including through advocating for effective federal policy, building public awareness and sharing best practices and resources with professionals in the field.

Could you describe the current trends in vocational education?

One thing that we are seeing increasingly is engagement among the employer community with CTE programs, because they recognize that these are a critical part of their efforts to bridge the skills gap. According to the Manpower Group Talent Shortage Survey published in 2014, 25 percent of employers stated that the reason they could not fill existing job openings is a lack of applicants with necessary workplace competencies–things like teamwork, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. As employers are realizing that CTE programs can teach technical skills (which were also cited as a challenge among applicants) relevant to 21st century careers and these employability skills that are in high-demand, I think we’re seeing a trend toward stronger partnerships forming across these two communities.

Vocational education seems to have a somewhat negative connotation, e.g. that it is only for working-class kids and adults. Is that necessarily the case?

I’m glad this question got raised, because it is an important one. When many people hear about career and technical education (or Vocational Education), they often envision a dirty facility in the back of the school. CTE programs have made enormous strides to ensure relevancy and earn their place as a component of every student’s education, regardless of their background. CTE engages students and gets them excited about learning, helps them apply their academics in a hands-on way and lets them explore their potential career interests so they can have a meaningful discussion with their parents and counselors about what postsecondary plans make the most sense for their chosen career field–whether that’s a two- or four-year degree, other credential or entering the workforce.

What are the general benefits of a CTE education?

CTE provides a really unique way for students to apply their academic curriculum in a context of their career goal–so a student who might struggle to conceptualize the slope of a line may find it easier when that’s the pitch of a roof. It engages students with relevant, real-world learning opportunities, which 81 percent of dropouts report would have kept them in high school. And it helps students to have productive dialogues with their families and career and guidance counselors about where they are going in their career path and what steps they need to take to get there–about 6 out of 10 students in CTE programs report that they intend to continue on in that career field, and the others are still gaining technical and employability training and readying themselves for their future.

Do you have any advice for prospective students considering a CTE/vocational education?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of working with career and guidance counselors to make a plan for your education that includes CTE, no matter what your postsecondary plans are–there has been a great emphasis on spreading the message that CTE is for all students, and we’re seeing a stronger understanding of how it can fit into every educational experience.

In light of the White House’s push for greater access to post-secondary education, how do you/ACTE feel CTE and vocational education fit into the mix of options?

I think the White House’s efforts are really getting at the need to overcome the skills gap, particularly in a lot of high-growth, critical industries that are instrumental in ensuring our continued economic growth and competitiveness. We’ve all heard the statistics about this–that middle skill careers are growing and a significant part of the economy. And it’s critical that we prepare students today for the 55 million jobs that will be created by 2020–including the 30 percent of those that are going to require some college education or a two-year degree.

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