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.
Yes. Accredited trade schools in Arkansas can accept funds from FAFSA.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Northark ranks among the top trade schools in Arkansas and the top community colleges in the country. Founded in 1974, the school currently serves around 1,800 students annually. Northark hosts dozens of technical degree and certificate programs in areas such as automation and systems integration, medical laboratory technology, radiology, automotive service technology, and turf management.
Northark offers several course delivery models, including online, blended, face-to-face, and site-to-site. Online courses allow students to complete coursework from any location with internet access, while blended courses combine online and face-to-face class sessions. Site-to-site courses enable students to attend class at satellite campuses and other partner learning sites, using video conferencing tools to interact with live class sessions held at other campuses.
Among the major trade schools in Arkansas, UA-PTC operates several campus locations across Little Rock and an adult education center in nearby Benton. The school offers technical education In allied health and human services, business and information technology, culinary arts and hospitality management, and technical sciences. Students can choose from associate degrees and technical certificates in fields like dental assisting, paralegal technology, aviation maintenance, machine tool technology, and baking and pastry arts.
The school offers a variety of support services, including academic advising, childcare, veterans services, and career counseling. The Office of Advising and Career Services provides registration assistance, course selection counseling, degree planning, and career advising. UA-PTC also offers counseling, academic tutoring, and disability services.
A public four-year college based in southern Arkansas, UAM offers a variety of technical degrees and certificates in areas such as automotive service technology, heavy equipment operations, diesel technology, health information technology, and welding technology. The UAM College of Forestry, Agriculture & Natural Resources offers unique associate programs in forest technology and land-surveying technology.
UAM also offers an engineering/manufacturing apprenticeship in conjunction with the Arkansas Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education. This five-semester program stresses technical skills, personal behaviors, and manufacturing core exercises, conferring a 72-credit associate of applied science degree upon graduation. Students typically attend technical classes two days per week while maintaining full-time employment in a manufacturing production environment.
A full-service community college based in eastern Arkansas, EACC serves a five-county area and offers some of the state's lowest tuition rates. Students can choose from several technical degree and certificate programs in fields like auto body repair, drafting and design, residential heat and air conditioning, and residential construction and carpentry.
Students gain access to dedicated tutoring and study resources at the school's Learning Center. EACC also provides support through its online Learning Express platform, which features both academic and career resources. EACC boasts strong career outcomes among graduates, with 70% of the school's associate degree graduates finding employment within one year of graduation.
Founded in 1975, Ozarka serves around 2,500 students annually and ranks among the fastest-growing colleges of its size in the country. The school offers professional programs in fields such as agriculture, culinary arts, health information technology, aviation, and automotive services. Many of the school's associate degrees prepare students to seamlessly transfer into bachelor's programs at several four-year Arkansas colleges.
Students gain access to support services such as admissions counseling, academic advising, veterans services, and disability services. The school also provides online tutoring in a variety of academic subjects, and students can access online resources such as study groups and other virtual meetings to support their studies.
A public two-year college based in Pine Bluff, SEARK offers associate degrees and certificates in allied health and technical studies. Students can study areas like air conditioning and refrigeration technology, emergency medical sciences, phlebotomy technology, and sterile processing. Some programs include both on-campus and online course options, and many associate programs prepare students to transfer into four-year programs at other Arkansas public colleges.
Learners gain access to resources and support services such as individual counseling sessions, resume assistance, job interview preparation, and regular career fairs. The school's Career Services office works with the C-Net internship program to connect students to relevant internship opportunities. Career Services counselors can also help students with transfer connections and other career opportunities at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
A member of the Arkansas State University System, ASUN offers technical and vocational programs in the applied sciences, community services, and nursing and allied health. Students can pursue fields such as emergency control technology, hospitality services, agriculture technology, and emergency medical technician.
Learners gain access to a variety of resources through the school's Academic Support Center, including workshops, drop-in tutoring, study materials, and test proctoring. Workshops help students develop the skills they need to succeed in college, such as time management and study skills. ASUN also offers tutoring in subjects such as math, writing, and science.
Affiliated with the University of Arkansas System, UAHT hosts career and technical programs in areas such as industrial technology, power plant technology, surgical scrub technician, and industrial electricity. Students can also pursue unique fields such as funeral directing, funeral service education, and bladesmithing.
The school's Purtle Advising Center offers individualized counseling and degree planning. Academic advisors assist students with course selections, career pathways, and connections to additional school resources.
UAHT also offers dedicated transfer advising for students who plan to pursue a four-year program after earning an associate degree. The school maintains transfer relationships with several four-year colleges around the state, including the University of Arkansas and Central Arkansas University.
Located in West Memphis, ASU Mid-South offers a variety of associate degree and technical programs in fields such as aviation technology, diesel maintenance, mechatronics, welding technology, and respiratory therapy. ASU-Mid South offers prior learning examinations that enable students to earn academic credit for the demonstration of course competencies.
High school students from Crittenden County School Districts can take advantage of ASU Mid-South's career program, which offers workforce training and apprenticeship opportunities. Emphasizing outreach for low-income students, the program serves as a bridge to technical training, building both academic and vocational skills. Career coaches offer specialized support to students, assisting with career and course planning, financial aid and scholarship applications, and connections to apprenticeships.
A public, four-year college and member of the University of Arkansas System, UAFS ranks among the top technical schools in Arkansas. The school's associate degree and certificate options include office management technology, radiography, surgical technology, robotics technology, and unmanned aircraft systems.
UAFS provides comprehensive resources and support services for students, including career services, library facilities, academic advising, and tutoring. The school's Gordon Kelly Academic Success Center offers placement testing, academic coaching, tutoring, and open computer labs. Academic advisors can assist students in mapping out and meeting their academic goals, while career counselors can connect students to career resources and opportunities with local employers.
Affiliated with the University of Arkansas System, UACCM hosts a wide selection of professional programs in areas like surveying, welding technology, and automotive service technology. UACCM's career programs typically take four months to complete for a certificate of proficiency, nine months for a technical certificate, and two years for an associate degree.
Students gain access to counseling, college readiness, and career planning services. Licensed career counselors can assist students in developing a career plan, determining correct course selections, and identifying career opportunities before and after graduation. The student readiness service helps learners build and maintain effective habits for college, such as time management, study, and organizational skills.
Primarily serving students in Baxter County, ASUMH ranks among the top trade schools in Arkansas. The college emphasizes the values of lifelong learning, enhanced quality of life, academic accessibility, and diverse experiences. Students can pursue professional degrees and certificates in areas including funeral science, mechatronics, automotive systems repair, professional medical coding, and emergency medical technician.
ASUMH participates in the Arkansas Career Pathways program, which offers career training and technical education to low-income students. Participants must be adults with dependent children and make an income of less than 250% of the federal poverty level. The program offers career and educational advising, job search assistance, and guidance in developing academic and professional skills. Qualifying students receive tuition assistance. They may also qualify for financial assistance for childcare, transportation, books, and other expenses.
UA Rich Mountain hosts several technical degree and certificate programs in areas like health information billing and coding, inert gas welding, massage therapy, office technology, and advanced manufacturing.
The school maintains transfer arrangements with several four-year colleges around the state, including Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, and the University of Arkansas. UA Rich Mountain also offers transfer advising through its Transfer Success Center.
Additionally, UA Rich Mountain participates in the Arkansas Career Pathways program, which offers financial assistance and advising to low-income students pursuing technical and career programs.
A member of the University of Arkansas System, UACCB ranks among the top trade schools in Arkansas. The school offers a variety of technical certificates, certificates of proficiency, and applied associate degrees. Students can pursue programs in areas like agriculture technology, medical office management, cosmetology, mechatronics, and welding technology.
Students gain access to academic advising and regular career fairs and events. Advisors can assist students with course selections, additional educational opportunities, and connections to campus and community resources. UACCB hosts a career fair each spring that enables students to connect to local employers.
The second-largest Arkansas school by enrollment, A-State enrolls more than 14,000 students annually. As the flagship university of the Arkansas State University System, A-State offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and vocational and technical programs.
Students can choose from associate degrees and certificates in fields including clinical laboratory sciences, radiologic sciences administration, and neuropsychological testing. The school also offers a unique associate of applied science in land surveying and geomatics.
As a major public college, A-State offers comprehensive career support for all students. The school's Career Services center offers career coaching, interview training, and career and major exploration. Students can also attend career workshops and job fairs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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