Vocational Trade Schools in Arkansas

The best vocational trade schools in Arkansas offer programs in rewarding careers in growing industries like medicine, law, and construction.

May 26, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Why Choose Trade School?

Students who want to quickly enter the workforce often attend vocational school. Most people who want to work in a vocational position enroll in a trade program immediately after graduating high school or completing a GED. However, anyone who wants to make a career change can begin a trade program at any point.

Aspiring construction managers, welders, electricians, and physical therapists all learn through trade school. Research shows that 74% of trade school graduates work in a field related to their degree.

Trade schools' curricula differ from traditional four-year colleges. Trade schools teach students how to complete skilled jobs that require special training, while a traditional college prepares students to work in roles that require knowledge about theories and strategies. Bachelor's degrees also include general education courses that may not directly relate to a major, so they take longer to complete than a trade degree.

A trade degree usually takes under two years to complete. Although most trade programs require in-person training like an apprenticeship, some schools offer online programs. Online trade programs use various flexible formats, including self-paced and asynchronous formats. Students who want to complete their degrees quickly can complete accelerated programs.

Read on to learn more about accreditation for trade schools, the top vocational schools in Arkansas, and financial aid.

FAQ About Vocational Schools in Arkansas

Can I get financial aid for trade school?

Yes. Accredited trade schools in Arkansas can accept funds from FAFSA.

How long does trade school take?

Trade school takes under two years to complete. Associate programs take longer to complete than certificates, which may take only two months.

Are scholarships available for vocational students?

Schools, private companies, and foundations all offer scholarships for vocational students. Most scholarships require students to attend an accredited school.

What is the difference between trade school and vocational school?

Trade schools, vocational schools, and technical schools are all the same type of institution. People use these terms interchangeably.

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Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Vocational schools in Arkansas can earn accreditation. When a school earns this accolade, it means it regularly receives quality assessments from a third-party organization selected by the U.S. Department of Higher Education (ED).

Accreditation benefits students. It ensures that schools meet the rigorous standards needed to provide learners with a quality education.

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges serves as the accrediting body for more than 650 postsecondary trade and technical schools. Online programs can also earn accreditation through the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. These two organizations grant national accreditation.

Some institutions that offer trade degrees, like community colleges, can earn regional accreditation. Regional accrediting agencies oversee schools that offer two-year and four-year degrees. The Higher Learning Commission accredits colleges and universities in Arkansas.

Some scholarships only award funds to students attending a regionally accredited university, and some employers prefer job candidates with a regionally accredited degree.

Degrees can earn programmatic accreditation. For example, the Advanced Welding Institute oversees accreditation for welding programs, and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education provides accreditation to physical therapy programs. The ED offers a lookup tool so students can quickly research a school's accreditation status.

Trade colleges must also earn either a certification or license from either the ED or a state agency to ensure they meet certain standards. Students should contact prospective schools to discover their licensure status.

Vocational Trade Schools in Arkansas

Finding a qualified, accredited trade school takes research. To help in the process, we gathered data on trade and tech schools in Arkansas and rank them based on factors like reputation, affordability, and academic quality.

  1. Northwest Arkansas College

    Bentonville, AR

    Based in Bentonville, NWACC offers technical and vocational programs in areas including health information management, emergency management technology, paralegal studies, and food studies.

    Many of NWACC's programs offer several specialization options. For example, the food studies program offers concentrations in artisanal food, baking arts, beverage arts, and culinary arts. Several programs also offer online and hybrid options, including the physical therapy assistant, nursing, and environmental and regulatory science programs.

    NWACC hosts three apprenticeship programs: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); plumbing; and electrical. These programs combine professional experience with technical training, requiring students to work full time while attending four hours of classes each week. Both the plumbing and HVAC programs are sanctioned by the Arkansas Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship Training.

  2. Arkansas State University-Beebe

    Beebe, AR

    Located about 35 miles northeast of Little Rock, ASU-Beebe also maintains campuses in Searcy, Heber Springs, and Jacksonville at the Little Rock Air Force Base. The school offers associate degree and certificate programs in areas such as agriculture equipment technology, health information assistant, power sports technology, and wildlife enforcement.

    ASU-Beebe also offers apprenticeship programs in electrical and plumbing. Both programs require four years to complete. Students work full time under the supervision of a master plumber or electrician while attending classes 1-2 days per week in the evenings. The electrical program requires 576 hours of classroom instruction, while the plumbing program requires 640 hours. Both programs are approved by the Arkansas Department of Career Education State Apprenticeship Office.

  3. National Park College

    Hotsprings, AR

    One of the top trade schools in Arkansas, NPC offers a variety of professional degrees and certificates. Learners can pursue programs in areas such as automotive service technology, hospitality and tourism management, marine repair technology, mechanical systems, and professional medical coding. All students gain access to support services and resources including academic advising, library services, technology services, and career counseling.

    NPC also offers apprenticeship programs in electrical and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Both programs require 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 160 hours of classroom instruction. The HVAC program takes three years to complete, while the electrical program takes four years.

    NPC also offers pre-apprenticeship training for both professions, enabling students to earn up to 60 credits before beginning their apprenticeship. The pre-apprenticeship covers foundational topics such as safety practices and material handling.

  4. Arkansas Tech University

    Russellville, AR

    A public college based in Russellville, ATU ranks among the top technical schools in Arkansas. The college offers a variety of associate degrees and certificates in fields such as collision repair technology, cosmetology, welding technology, medical assisting, and nuclear technology. ATU also offers bachelor's and graduate degrees, enabling students to continue their education beyond the associate or certificate level.

    ATU offers connections to several apprenticeships in the River Valley area, preparing students for careers as electricians, plumbers, and millwrights. Candidates can also complete the college's two-year construction technology program in conjunction with an apprenticeship. During the program, students work in teams to build a three-bedroom house. Candidates who successfully complete the program can also earn a certificate of proficiency in facilities management.

  5. Black River Technical College

    Pocahontas, AR

    A public two-year college founded in 1971, BRTC hosts several professional programs, including one-semester certificates of proficiency, two-semester technical certificates, and two-year associate degrees. Many of the school's associate programs prepare students to seamlessly transfer into bachelor's programs at four-year institutions around the state, including Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas, and Central Methodist University.

    BRTC offers programs in areas like fire services administration, machine tool technology, nutrition and dietetics, respiratory care, and web design. Students can also pursue a four-year plumbing apprenticeship that prepares them to obtain licensure from the Arkansas Department of Health. The apprenticeship comprises 640 classroom hours and 8,000 hours of job training under the supervision of a licensed plumber.

  6. Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas

    Helena, AR

    A community college member of the University of Arkansas System, PCCUA offers a large selection of degree and certificate programs in fields such as advanced manufacturing, behavioral health technology, graphic communications, health science, and medical laboratory technology. Many of the school's associate programs enable candidates to seamlessly transfer into bachelor's programs at other UA institutions.

    As part of a major state university system, PCCUA offers many resources and support services for students, including academic advising, transfer counseling, veterans services, and academic tutoring. Students can also access study labs and tutoring services on all three campuses, receiving assistance from both peer and professional tutors. PCCUA's Career Pathways Initiative offers professional preparation and support through information services, family and community services, and career counseling.

  7. South Arkansas Community College

    El Dorado, AR

    A comprehensive community college based in El Dorado, Southark ranks among the top vocational schools in Arkansas. The college offers professional certificates and degrees in health sciences and technical fields, including industrial technology and mechatronics, medical coding, and welding technology.

    Southark also hosts the South Arkansas Electrical Apprenticeship School, which offers a four-year apprenticeship for aspiring electricians. Sanctioned by the State of Arkansas Department of Labor's Office of Apprenticeship, the program requires 144 classroom hours and 2,000 job training hours each year. Students receive an apprenticeship license for the duration of the program, and graduates can sit for the State of Arkansas' Journeyman Electrician Exam.

    Students can earn academic credit for prior work experience, military training, industry-based skills, and other relevant experience.

  8. Arkansas State University-Three Rivers

    Malvern, AR

    An affiliate of the Arkansas State University System, ASUTR ranks among the top trade schools in Arkansas. The school offers dozens of degrees and certificates in the health sciences, business technology, and applied science technology. Students can pursue a variety of subjects, including industrial robotics, pipe welding, nail and skin care, medical office administration, and gas metal arc welding.

    ASU also offers an electrical apprenticeship program that leads to a basic or advanced certificate of proficiency. Candidates for the basic certificate must be in their third year of apprentice work and employed at an approved electrical contracting business. The basic certificate covers topics in electricity fundamentals, wiring methods, and motor controls. The advanced certificate requires candidates to be in their fourth year of apprenticeship. The curriculum focuses on industrial safety, blueprint reading, and logic controllers.

  9. Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas

    De Queen, AR

    Affiliated with the University of Arkansas System, UA Cossatot operates a main campus in De Queen along with extension sites in Nashville, Lockesburg, and Ashdown. The school offers several degree and certificate programs in areas such as agriculture, business, health sciences, and technical studies. Some of the school's many professional programs include diesel technology, medical transcription, and automotive service technology.

    UA Cossatot also offers an electrician apprenticeship program in conjunction with the National Apprenticeship Training Foundation, available at its Lockesburg campus. This four-year program requires 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 576 classroom hours. Applicants must currently work in the electrical field under the supervision of a master electrician. Graduates can sit for the Journeyman Electrician Exam.

  10. Arkansas Northeastern College

    Blytheville, AR

    A community college based in Blytheville, ANC also maintains satellite campuses in Leachville and Osceola. The school offers some of the state's lowest tuition rates. ANC offers several professional and technical programs, including technical certificates, certificates of proficiency, and associate of applied science degrees. Learners can study areas such as advanced manufacturing, air conditioning and refrigeration, aviation maintenance, office management, and steel industry technology.

    All ANC students can take advantage of the school's Advising Center, which provides academic and professional support. Advisors assist students in achieving their personal, academic, and career goals. Students can consult advisors for help with course selections, degree planning, career counseling, and connections to campus resources.

Find Vocational and Trade Schools in Arkansas

Arkansas emphasizes career and technical education (CTE) at the secondary level, which means high school students can prepare for vocational and trade careers.

The state's Smart Core program, a set of college-focused and career-focused courses, is the state's default curriculum for all public high schools. Every public school district is required to offer at least three CTE programs from three different career pathways.

Arkansas students can also attend Secondary Area Career Centers, which provide vocational programs that smaller schools often cannot afford. Postsecondary students can find vocational and trade schools through the state's community college system or attend one of three technical institutes.

To learn more about different vocational and trade schools in Arkansas, prospective students can use this search tool.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual income for technical and trade school occupations is $55,270. However, salaries vary based on specific occupation, experience, and geographical location.

With a median annual income of $56,180, electricians earn slightly more than the median income for all trade school occupations. The BLS projects a 10% increase in electrician jobs between 2018 and 2028. Welders earn a slightly lower median income of $42,490 per year, and the BLS projects the need for this occupation to grow by 3% during the same period.

Trade schools also prepare students to work in various roles in the medical field. Radiologists earn a median annual income of $62,280, and the BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 9% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS also offers data for physical therapists, who earn a median annual salary of $89,440 and benefit from a 22% projected job growth rate.

Employers in larger cities like Little Rock or Fayetteville may pay higher salaries to trade school graduates to compensate for the higher cost of living. However, employers in rural towns may use federal aid to attract job candidates in high-need areas.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Trade school prepares students to work in multiple industries, including manufacturing, health, and construction. These occupations require technical skills, so courses focus on practical applications rather than theory. Some programs include an internship or apprenticeship component, which are sometimes paid positions.

Below are five common vocational programs in Arkansas.

1. Construction Management Programs

Trade schools offer construction management programs that teach individuals how to supervise and budget for construction projects. These programs prepare students to work in office settings and conduct fieldwork to acquire estimates and quality assessments.

Required courses cover topics like progress reports, financial and timetable estimates, and legal requirements. According to the BLS, certain employers may require a bachelor's degree for this job.

Some states, like California, may require construction managers working on government projects to obtain a license. However, this law does not apply to construction managers working on privately owned projects.

Construction managers earn a median salary of $95,260 and the BLS projects this occupation to grow by 10% between 2018 and 2028.

Learn more about construction management degrees.

2. Electrician Programs

Electrician programs prepare students to install and repair electrical systems. Courses teach learners how to read technical diagrams and blueprints, operate power tools on transformers, repair outdated wiring, and use testing devices to identify electrical issues.

An associate degree in this field takes learners about two years to complete. Common courses in an electrician program include introduction to wiring, principles of transformers, industrial safety, commercial systems, and logic controllers. Many electrician programs require an apprenticeship, and some courses may include fieldwork.

Students graduate from an electrician program knowing how to safely maintain and set up electrical systems. Electricians typically work full time and on weekends at homes and offices. Some electricians are self-employed.

3. Radiology Technician Programs

Aspiring radiologists who want to work in hospitals and doctor's offices pursue this program. These professionals use imaging equipment to create x-rays for diagnostic purposes. Radiologists also administer nuclear medicine and complete ultrasounds.

Radiologists must earn an associate degree, which takes at least two years to complete. Common radiologists courses include radiation physics, sonography, nuclear medicine, and radiation therapy. Certain radiology programs include hands-on clinical experience during which students shadow current radiologists and produce images.

4. Physical Therapy Programs

Students with an associate degree in this field can practice as physical therapists. Physical therapists help elderly and injured individuals regain mobility and manage pain. These professionals work actively with patients, so they must stay in good physical shape and be able to remain on their feet for extended periods. They often work in hospitals or rehabilitation settings.

The BLS projects a much faster-than-average job growth for this field. Physical therapists must have strong interpersonal communication skills and the ability to encourage patients.

Physical therapy programs teach students how to guide exercises using hands-on therapy, diagnose patients and create treatment plans, and review medical records. Common courses include introduction to neuroscience concepts, cardiopulmonary pathology, and healthcare issues.

5. Respiratory Therapist Programs

Respiratory therapists assist patients who struggle with normal breathing, like individuals with asthma or pneumonia. They work in medical facilities and help patients of all ages.

These professionals need at least an associate degree to practice. Respiratory therapist programs take at least two years to complete and cover topics like cardiopulmonary disorders, how to complete a diagnostic test, how to operate tools like ventilators, best practices for record-keeping, and medical terminology. Common courses include cardiac anatomy and physiology, critical care techniques, respiratory equipment, therapeutics, and emergency care.

The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 21% between 2018 and 2028. Respiratory therapists earn a median income of $61,330.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Vocational schools in Arkansas tend to cost less than traditional four-year colleges. Trade school students can benefit from federal financial aid by completing the FAFSA.

The FAFSA offers grants and subsidized loans on a need-based basis. Similar to scholarships, grants do not require repayment. Subsidized loans require repayment, but they do not begin collecting interest until after the recipient graduates.

Learners can also apply for unsubsidized loans through the FAFSA, which are not need-based and begin collecting interest before graduation. Prospective students should check whether a school accepts the FAFSA before applying.

Filling out the FAFSA typically takes 55 minutes for first-time applicants and 45 minutes for renewals. Students who file taxes as dependents must submit their guardian's tax information from two years prior to the current year. All other students can submit their own financial information.

Taking the time to fill out the FAFSA can lower future student loan payments. Student loans collect interest and usually follow a 10-year repayment plan. Specific interest rates vary by loan. Learners can also apply for scholarships to further reduce loans.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

Private companies and foundations set funds aside specifically for trade school students pursuing certain majors. Below are five scholarships for students attending vocational schools.

Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Arkansas Department of Higher Education provides this scholarship to students pursuing technical education in fields like information technology and healthcare. Applicants must be Arkansas residents and high school graduates.

Amount: Up to $800

Cornerstone Scholarship Charitable Trust

Who Can Apply: African American students under 25 from Arkansas may apply for this scholarship. The recipient must enroll in an accredited university, college, or vocational school and demonstrate financial need.

Amount: Varies

Law Enforcement Officers' Dependents Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students attending a college or technical school in Arkansas may apply for this scholarship. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education offers this award to dependents of law enforcement officers, firefighters, constables, and game wardens who were killed or permanently disabled while performing duties.

Amount: Varies

Military Dependents Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Arkansas Department of Education awards this scholarship to dependents or spouses of military personnel who were permanently disabled or killed on duty. The recipient must attend a university or technical college in Arkansas.

Amount: Varies

John W. Bailey Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a certificate program in welding at a Central Arkansas school may apply. The application requires two recommendation letters and financial transcripts.

Amount: Varies

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. Provides a variety of resources related to Arkansas' workforce, including information about career training, employment, and the state's labor market. 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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