Vocational Trade Schools in Alabama [2022 Guide]

Looking for a career upgrade? Consider learning a trade. Alabama's trade, technical, and vocational schools have options for all kinds of students.

Updated September 9, 2022 • 6 Min Read

Why Choose Trade Schools?

Many high-paying, fast-growing career fields do not require a four-year degree. Employers often seek candidates with job-specific skills and industry certifications. Trade schools in Alabama provide rigorous and relevant training in a variety of career fields.Students often choose vocational schools in order to enter the workforce sooner. Curricula vary by program, but learners develop career-specific skills and knowledge. Many programs also lead to industry certifications. While the time necessary to graduate varies, most students complete their technical education within two years. According to 2009 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), students who earn an occupational scredential are more likely to work in a career related to their studies than learners who obtain an academic credential.

Most technical colleges in Alabama deliver programs that incorporate hands-on training. Instructors often work closely with local employers to provide internship or cooperative education opportunities. Even online vocational programs typically include the application of practical skills.

Alabama vocational schools offer training in fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, and business. Common vocational programs include dental hygiene, pharmacy technician, hospitality management, heating and cooling, and automotive repair. Most technical schools admit both recent high school graduates and working professionals who intend to change careers.

FAQ About Vocational Schools in Alabama

Can I go to trade school online?

Yes, many trade and vocational programs offer online learning opportunities.These programs require excellent time-management skills and self-sufficiency. However, online programs offer greater flexibility than on-campus options, which can be ideal for working professionals.

Can I get financial aid for trade school?

Federal and state financial aid is available to students attending accredited vocational schools in Alabama. However, learners at programs that do not meet minimum length requirements may not be eligible for aid.

Are scholarships available for vocational students?

Yes, many schools, civic organizations, and charitable organizations offer scholarships for students pursuing a trade or vocational education. This guide includes several examples.

Can trade school credits transfer?

Learners can often transfer credits from trade or vocational schools toward a two-year or four-year degree. Some vocational schools maintain articulation agreements with community colleges and universities.

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Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Accrediting agencies provide an impartial quality check of a school's academic and career preparation programs. Vocational schools in Alabama can receive accreditation from the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools Council on Occupational Education. Institutions can also seek accreditation from a national accrediting agency that focuses on trade and career preparation, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

Additionally, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission awards accreditation to schools that provide distance education programs. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Department of Education maintain online databases of recognized accrediting agencies. Learners can also use this list of the best online institutions of 2020 to select a school that fits their needs.

The accreditation process includes a thorough review of the school's curriculum standards, faculty credentials, and student success. Agencies often consider the job placements of graduates and whether the institution's programs prepare learners to succeed in their chosen profession. Many vocational schools also work with national certification agencies to align their curricula to industry certification requirements.

In addition to institutional accreditation, learners can look for programmatic accreditation. Individual programs may receive accreditation from field-specific agencies, such as the American Council for Construction Education, the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation, and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. These organizations ensure each program's curriculum meets industry standards for training and education.

Although accreditation is a voluntary process, all schools must obtain a state license to serve students. The Private School Licensure Division of the Alabama Community College System authorizes schools to educate Alabama students through on-campus and distance programs. The licensing process involves a review of the school's academic requirements to ensure its educational programs meet set standards.

Programs that lead to state licensure should also hold authorization from the appropriate state agency. For example, practical nursing programs in the state should hold recognition from the Alabama Board of Nursing.

Vocational Trade Schools in Alabama

The rankings below offer a snapshot of the best vocational schools in Alabama. However, students should consider their individual needs when selecting a school. Learners should choose an institution and program that aligns with their educational and career goals. Other important factors include cost and degree-completion time.

  1. Gadsden State Community College

    Gadsden, AL



    Founded in 1925, GSCC is one of the best trade schools in Alabama with a variety of career and technical programs. Students can choose from more than 70 associate degrees and certificates. Areas of study include academic, technical, health sciences, as well as skills training programs.

    Certificates take 3-5 semesters to complete. Associate degrees require about five semesters. Learners can study online or onsite and visit with virtual advisors on educational plans and admissions questions.

    The associate degree in court reporting trains students with hands-on learning through laboratories, practicums, and internships.

    GSCC also offers technical training through the One Stop Center, Joe Ford Center, and Alabama Technology Network (ATN). ATN works with 150 companies annually to provide workforce development in additive manufacturing, environmental systems, practical energy, and lean manufacturing.

  2. Wallace Community College-Hanceville

    Hanceville, AL



    Wallace State, established in 1966, serves about 7,000 students through a variety of learning formats. Students take classes on the main campus in Hanceville, a second location in Oneonta, or online. Evening and hybrid classes offer added flexibility for working professionals.

    Wallace State ranks as one of the top trade schools in Alabama with more than 50 areas of study. Students earn associate degrees and certificates in aviation and flight technology, culinary arts, cosmetology, and diesel mechanics.

    Apprenticeships available through the Office of Career and Workforce Development provide paid job training.

    Students can also find cooperative education programs that combine classroom learning and on-the-job training. Learners gain a year of work experience by completing the program.

    Apprenticeships take about one year to complete. Internships typically take one semester, and cooperative education programs take about three semesters.

  3. Northwest-Shoals Community College

    Muscle Shoals, AL



    NW-SCC opened its doors in 1963 and now offers two locations in Muscle Shoals and Phil Campbell.

    Today, the two-year college, one of the top trade schools in Alabama, offers around 100 associate degrees and certificates to its more than 3,500 students.

    Areas of study include diagnostic imaging radiology, salon and spa management, automotive service technology, and welding.

    Short-term certificates and two-year associate degrees also provide hands-on work training. The associate degree in emergency medical services requires clinicals that give students practical skills. Labs such as those offered in the carpentry and cabinetmaking program teach students on-the-job building techniques in construction, floors, walls, and site preparation.

    Outside of the traditional college learning environment, students also gain technical training and take personal development classes through the Workforce Solutions Division.

    The division partners with local companies to cater to their employment and training needs. Students can enroll in the machinist apprenticeship program, customized manufacturer training, or computer classes.

  4. Shelton State Community College

    Tuscaloosa, AL



    SSCC, a large public two-year school established in 1979, serves about 7,000 students. With two campuses in Tuscaloosa, many learners take in-person courses. The college also offers offsite internships and apprenticeships at SSCC's corporate partnership locations.

    Programs provide students with career and technical training and academic pathways to transfer four-year colleges. Technical associate degrees and certificates train students in air conditioning and refrigeration technology, culinary arts, diesel mechanics, and welding technology.

    Learners can also become apprentices or interns through the Mercedes-Benz Industrial Mechatronics Program, Mercedes Technician Program, Nucor Technical Academy, Hunt Refining Company Operations Operations Co-Op Program, or Technical Scholar Program.

    Apprenticeships offer free tuition, books, and paid wages. However, students must commit to work after graduation.

    The Mercedes-Benz Industrial Mechatronics Program includes seven semesters of study and 18 additional months of on-the-job-training at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International. Program graduates receive an associate degree in industrial electronics and a short-term certificate in industrial maintenance.

  5. Northeast Alabama Community College

    Rainsville, AL



    NACC, with a 117-acre campus in Rainsville, first offered classes in 1963. Students also take dual-enrollment programs at local high schools and career and technical courses at the DeKalb County Technology Center, the Ernest Pruett Center of Technology, and the Marshall County Technical Center.

    More than 180 associate degrees, certificates, and short-term certificates train students to transfer to four-year schools or enter the workforce. Students choose from majors in air conditioning and refrigeration, industrial systems technology, medical office administration, and paralegal studies.

    The Skills Training Division also offers non-credit training opportunities for learners who want to upskill and gain professional certification. Short-term training programs prepare students to become carpenters, CDL truck drivers, home health and hospice aides, and pharmacy technicians.

    Learners can also take online training programs and non-credit workshops and community education courses.

    The college's open admissions policy accepts all applicants who have completed high school.

  6. Bishop State Community College

    Mobile, AL



    Bishop State, a public two-year institution, offers an affordable public education to students in Mobile and Washington counties.

    Founded in 1927 as the Mobile Branch of Alabama State College, this college offers a variety of one- and two-year programs that train students for some of the fastest-growing careers in Alabama. Associate degrees and certificates focus on trades such as construction management, hotel and restaurant management, funeral service education, and manufacturing and technology.

    Depending on the program, learners study on the main campus locations in Mobile, the Theodore Oaks Shopping Center, or the City of Semmes Training Center.

    Bishop State's Workforce Development division also offers short-term occupational training programs and apprenticeships. Programs include the lineman training, the heavy highway construction training, and youth programs. Apprentices may incur fees, which the school offsets with stipends.

  7. Jefferson State Community College

    Birmingham, AL



    Founded in 1965, Jefferson State stands out from other vocational schools in Alabama with its extensive selection of majors and small classes that deliver personalized attention.

    Students can choose from 150 transfer, career, and professional programs in close-knit learning environments that feature an average class size of 21.

    This two-year college offers four locations throughout Alabama with career and professional programs in subjects such as biomedical equipment technology, construction management, manufacturing and technology, and veterinary technology.

    Jefferson State's apprenticeship program provides offsite learning. Apprentices follow a program that includes classroom instruction twice a week at night and paid full-time work experience at partner companies such as Vulcan Materials Company, Alabama Dynamics Fabricators and Machinists, and Milo's.

    Students can enroll in apprenticeships in machining, welding, and industrial maintenance.

  8. Trenholm State Community College

    Montgomery, AL



    Trenholm formed in 2000 when John M. Patterson State Technical College and H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College merged. This two-year college rises above other Alabama technical colleges with its flexible and affordable academic and career training opportunities.

    Students earn associate degrees and technical certificates at two locations in Montgomery. Programs give students the technical and occupational skills to land entry-level positions in growing industries in Alabama such as automotive services, culinary arts, dental assisting, cosmetology, emergency medical services, and medical billing and coding.

    The school's Continuing Education Division also delivers workforce training that meets the needs of the community and businesses in Alabama.

    Flexible programs offer evening, online, and weekend options. Non-credit courses include healthcare certificates, one-day seminars, and career training in computer applications and teacher professional development.

  9. Wallace Community College

    Dothan, AL



    Established in 1949, WCC distinguishes itself as one of the largest vocational schools in Alabama with a comprehensive offering of programs.

    This public two-year institution serves students of various backgrounds with two locations in Dothan and Eufaula and training offered through the Center for Economic and Workforce Development.

    The college features associate degrees and certificates in three divisions: general academics, health sciences, and career technical. Students can pick from majors in applied engineering technology, electrical graphics, radiologic technology, cabinetmaking, masonry, and small engine repair.

    Businesses and community members can also take non-credit workforce development courses that lead to careers as certified nursing assistants, industrial welders, dental assistants, and eye care assistants. Learners can complete fast-track programs in 12-14 weeks or less.

    Prospective students apply for admission in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. They must complete an application and sometimes take placement exams.

  10. Calhoun Community College

    Tanner, AL



    Calhoun Community College, one of the largest trade schools in Alabama, features 49 associate degrees and 52 career certificates that students can earn from its 110-acre Decatur campus or online.

    Top programs at Calhoun Community College include advanced manufacturing, emergency medical technology, and computer and information systems. As of fall 2019, Calhoun Community College trained 1,185 existing industry workers, 824 healthcare workers, 224 CDL drivers, and 116 cyber and internet technology workers.

    Two-year associate degrees provide paths directly to the workforce or transfer opportunities to four-year colleges. Learners can study paralegal studies, aerospace technology, advanced technology, or welding technology.

    Certificates offer short-term training to learn specific technical skills. Some credits from certificates can transfer to higher degrees.

    Students can take a career interest assessment to help them pick a major. The Calhoun Career Services office also provides workshops, virtual job markets, and cooperative learning opportunities.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Many trade schools in Alabama offer programs that lead to positions in high-growth career fields. Graduates often earn above-average salaries and enjoy high levels of job security. The state's economic and industrial recruitment efforts impact the availability of certain trade programs.

For example, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama ranks among the top states for aerospace and aviation engineers. Projections Central projects employment for aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians to increase 37.9% and 35.7%, respectively, in Alabama from 2016 to 2026.

Salary potential for graduates of technical schools in Alabama depends on the individual's industry, training, and experience. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), avionics technicians earn a median annual salary of $59,120 nationally and $54,410 in Alabama.

Prospective students can explore employment projections from the BLS to understand their career options. Recent data from the BLS projects healthcare positions to comprise a large portion of jobs created from 2018 to 2028. Users on the BLS website can also research each occupation's median salary and top-paying industries.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Many vocational schools in Alabama work in tandem with workforce development programs to help industry partners develop their workforce. Ambulatory healthcare services is one of the state's top industries, according to the BLS, and trade school programming in the state includes several medical training opportunities. Alabama is also home to large automotive manufacturing facilities and aerospace and aviation companies. See below for several popular vocational programs at technical colleges in Alabama.

1. Paramedic

Paramedics provide advanced medical care outside of hospital settings. Paramedics often provide the first level of intervention after a medical emergency or traumatic injury. Paramedics assess each patient's condition, provide first aid or life support, and transport the patient in an ambulance to a medical facility.

Projections Central projects a 13.7% increase in employment opportunities for paramedics in Alabama from 2016 to 2026. According to BLS data, about 3,780 paramedics and EMTs currently work in the state. Paramedic positions require1-2 years of training, and students must already have a valid advanced EMT license.

To qualify for work as paramedics, graduates must obtain a paramedic license from the Alabama Department of Public Health and pass the paramedic exam from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. To ensure they are eligible to pursue licensure, students should select an accredited paramedic training program.

2. Dental Hygiene

Dental hygienists work primarily in the dentists' offices, providing patient care during routine dental exams. Hygienists often conduct cleanings to remove plaque and tartar, take X-rays, and assess oral health. They discuss treatment plans and help educate patients about proper brushing and flossing.

Many dental hygienist preparation programs require two years of education and lead to an associate degree. These programs combine classroom instruction with clinical and laboratory training. The BLS reports that 3,790 dental hygienists work in Alabama and projects the occupation to increase 17.9% from 2016 to 2026. Alabama requires hygienists to hold a state license from the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama. This guide provides information about dental hygienist schools and curricula.

3. Paralegal Studies

Paralegals and legal assistants work with licensed attorneys to manage law offices, organize legal paperwork, and research laws and opinions. Projections Central projects employment for paralegals to increase 13.7% from 2016 to 2026. Alabama paralegals earn an average annual salary of $47,380.

Some paralegals complete only on-the-job training, while others earn a four-year degree in legal studies. Many paralegals complete certificate programs to quickly enter the workforce.Certificate programs in the field help learners develop skills including conducting online legal research and writing court documents. Some paralegal programs take only a few months to complete, while others require a year or longer.

Alabama maintains no licensing requirements for paralegals. However, industry certifications demonstrate knowledge and expertise to prospective employers. This resource provides additional information about paralegal training.

4. Medical Assistant Programs

Projections Central projects employment of medical assistants in Alabama to increase 24.7% from 2016 to 2026. This growth is likely due in part to the anticipated increase in patient volume. Medical assistants work primarily in physicians' offices, where they record vital signs and take patient histories. These professionals may also handle administrative tasks, such as completing insurance forms with medical codes and managing electronic health records.

Some medical assistants specialize in optometry or podiatry. Training for this position typically takes 1-2 years and may culminate in a certificate or diploma. Medical assistants can pursue industry certifications, such as certified medical assistant or certified clinical medical assistant credential.

According to the BLS, medical assistants in Alabama earn an average salary of $29,220 per year. This guide includes information about accredited medical assistant certificate programs.

5. Construction Management

Construction managers oversee building projects, from the planning stage through completion. These professionals schedule workers, order supplies, and manage budgets. Projections Central projects a 7.5% employment growth for construction management occupations in Alabama. Construction managers in the state earn an average annual salary of $98,550, according to the BLS.

Several technical schools in Alabama offer building construction programs. These two-year programs lead to an associate degree and help learners develop the skills necessary to enter the construction field or advance their career. Courses typically include reading blueprints, workplace safety, contracting and construction law, and construction estimating.

Construction managers can demonstrate their expertise through industry certifications from the Construction Management Association of America and the American Institute of Contractors. Alabama requires construction managers to hold a general contractor license from the State Licensing Board for General Contractors. This page includes information about the best construction management programs.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Trade schools in Alabama offer high-quality educational programs that typically cost less than four-year degrees. According to NCES data, the average cost of tuition and fees at four-year public universities in Alabama was $9,827 for the 2017-18 academic year, while tuition and fees at two-year schools in the state averaged $3,243 for the same time period.

The Alabama Community College System includes 24 schools, with campus locations throughout the state. Learners at two-year institutions in Alabama can pursue certificates or associate degrees, and they often save on costs related to housing and transportation. Additionally, some schools offer distance education options, which can further reduce costs.

Federal and state financial aid programs can help defray the cost of career training and education. Learners should complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for federal funding. Trade school students can qualify for need-based aid, such as the Pell Grant, which offers up to $6,345 for the 2020-21 academic year.

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education administers several state financial aid programs, such as the Alabama Student Assistance Program, which delivers $300-$5,000 per academic year to eligible students. Unlike loans, these awards do not require repayment.

Learners can also apply for scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition, books, and equipment. Students can also consider federal student loans, some of which offer deferred interest charges.

Scholarships for Trade School Students

In addition to grants, learners can apply for scholarships to help fund their education. The scholarships below are available to students attending trade schools in Alabama. Learners can contact their school's financial aid office for information about institutional scholarships. Students can also pursue scholarship opportunities from civic organizations, employers, and philanthropic organizations.

Alabama Home Builders Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award supports Alabama residents pursuing a construction-related program at an accredited junior college, university, or technical school in Alabama. The scholarship committee considers financial need, and past recipients may reapply.

Amount: Varies

Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in career entry-level, degree-granting programs in any health discipline can apply for this award. Learners must be attending a participating school in Alabama. Applicants must submit a resume and one-page essay on their career goals.

Amount: $1,000

Baptist Health Care Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Baptist Health employees and their families can apply for the family scholarship program. The award supports students seeking postsecondary education in an allied health field. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Baptist Health maintains facilities throughout Central Alabama.

Amount: $1,000

E.L. Gibson Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Administered by Enterprise State Community College, this fund supports students seeking a degree in an allied health field, such as respiratory therapy, nursing, or radiology. Applicants must live in Coffee County or the surrounding region.

Amount: Varies

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Scholarships

Who Can Apply: These awards support Alabama high school seniors from Jefferson and Tuscaloosa Counties. Applicants must plan to continue their education in a vocational or college program. The company awards 10 scholarships each year, with five reserved for the dependents of Mercedes-Benz team members.

Amount: $2,000

Additional Education and Career Resources

Division of the Arkansas Department of Education that oversees career education, including adult education, career and technical education and rehabilitation services. Comprehensive resource for information about vocational and trade education in Arkansas' school system. BLURProvides a variety of resources related to Arkansas' workforce, including information about career training, employment, and the state's labor market.fB A college and career planning system to help Arkansas students learn about potential careers and the education necessary to get them. Labor market information resource for Arkansas. Includes current employment data, industry and occupation projections, and helpful guides for individual vocational career clusters.

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