Vocational Trade Schools in California

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Updated January 13, 2023

One of the top trade schools in California, the school offers 87 degree and certificate programs in more than 180 areas of study. Students can also

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Why Choose Trade School Near You?

Trade schools prepare graduates for careers in healthcare, technology, legal services, and professional trades like plumbing and welding. Many of these careers offer strong salaries and growth potential, making trade school a good investment for many students.

During a vocational program, students take courses in their field while also completing practical training through internships or fieldwork. For example, dental hygienists build their skills through clinical hours, while veterinary technicians take labs and intern at animal hospitals.

Trade school appeals to students seeking a focused workforce training program. Completing a one-year certificate or a two-year associate degree at a vocational school in California prepares graduates for the workforce. Professionals with an occupational credential benefit from a higher employment rate than those with an academic credential, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Many trade and technical schools in California charge lower tuition rates and offer self-paced or accelerated options. Students seeking greater flexibility can also research online vocational schools.

This page introduces trade schools in California and lists top-ranked programs to help prospective students learn more about vocational programs. It also provides information on popular vocational programs, earning potential for trade school graduates, and scholarship opportunities for trade school students.

Questions About Trade Schools

What is trade school?

Trade school provides job training for careers in healthcare, the legal field, the tech sector, and other in-demand areas. Trade programs typically last 1-2 years.

Can I get financial aid for trade school?

Yes. Students attending accredited vocational schools in California qualify for federal financial aid and other forms of financial aid like scholarships.

Can trade school credits transfer?

Yes. Many trade schools accept transfer credits from other schools. In general, credits earned from a regionally accredited school are more likely to transfer.

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Vocational Trade Schools in California

Trade schools in Southern California, the Bay Area, and other parts of the state train students for in-demand careers. By choosing a top-ranked program, graduates can advance their career and increase their earning potential. Our list ranks the best vocational and trade schools in California to help prospective students find the right fit for their interests and goals.

#1 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Cerritos College

  • Norwalk, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Located in Norwalk, California, Cerritos College offers premier programs to students from all walks of life. The school specializes in vocational trade programs for leaners wanting to gain practical experience and enter the workforce quickly.

All enrollees benefit from rigorous core curriculums, skilled faculty, and supportive learning environments. While enrolled, students complete foundational and advanced coursework in their subject area. Participants can further their learning through experiential learning opportunities, such as internships.

The college connects students with numerous institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. Prospective applicants can speak with the financial aid office to determine scholarship eligibility. Of those admitted to the college, 80% receive financial aid awards. Of all admitted learners, 27% graduate from the college.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$8,708
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
22,287
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#2 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Southwestern College

  • Chula Vista, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Individuals seeking flexible hybrid study should consider enrolling at Southwestern College. Located in Chula Vista, California, the school specializes in vocational trade programs. These programs are a great option for learners looking to get practical hands-on training and join the workforce quickly.

Students benefit from a supportive learning community, whether in-person or online, and skilled faculty. Participants complete foundational and advanced coursework throughout their studies. While enrolled, students can pursue additional learning opportunities, such as internships and externships.

Enrollees benefit from institutional resources throughout their studies, through guidance from career services and academic advising. The financial aid office connects students with funding opportunities and can help prospective enrollees determine their eligibility for financial aid. Out of all incoming learners, 80% receive financial aid awards. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$7,420
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
19,231
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#3 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Long Beach City College

  • Long Beach, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Located in California, Long Beach City College offers premier programs to students from all walks of life. The school supports several vocational trade programs from its main campus in Long Beach. As the school's specialty, these programs are suited to individuals who want to join the workforce quickly after gaining practical, hands-on training and experience in a specific trade.

Whether in person or online, enrollees benefit from a rigorous curriculum, engaged faculty, and experiential learning opportunities. Students complete general and subject-specific coursework throughout the program. Learners can collaborate with faculty on research projects, pursue internships, and explore other experiential learning opportunities during their degree.

Enrollees can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout their program. The financial aid office connects students with funding opportunities and can help prospective applicants determine their eligibility for financial aid. The institution discloses that 77% of all learners receive some form of financial aid. Of all students, 20% graduate from their programs.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,472
Out-of-state
$9,952
Retention Rate
69%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
24,127
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#4 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Palomar College

  • San Marcos, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in San Marcos, California, Palomar College provides premier study opportunities to students through its hybrid programs. One of the school's specialties is its vocational trade program. They are a great option for people who want to gain hands-on experience and enter the workforce quickly in a specific trade.

Distance learning modalities enable enrollees to learn at their own pace. While enrolled, students complete industry-specific and general coursework, gaining skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Learners can pursue additional learning opportunities, such as faculty-driven research projects and internships.

Students can access career services, academic advising, and other resources throughout their program. Applicants can connect with the financial aid office to explore their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. Of those admitted to the college, 78% receive financial aid awards. Institutional support contributes to the college's 30% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$8,848
Retention Rate
67%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
23,874
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#5 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Ventura College

  • Ventura, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Ventura College is public school supporting in-person and online programs from its main campus in Ventura, California. The public college specializes in vocational trade programs. These are a great option for people who want to enter a specific trade quickly after gaining practical, hands-on training and experience. 

Distance learning modalities enable participants to learn at their own pace. Once enrolled, students complete foundational and advanced coursework relevant to their field. Enrollees can further their learning through research projects, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities.

Learners can access career services, academic advising, and other resources throughout their program. Prospective applicants seeking to fund their studies can meet with the financial aid office to explore scholarships, fellowships, and other aid. At the college, 89% of all enrollees receive financial aid awards. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,340
Out-of-state
$7,344
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
12,696
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#6 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Oxnard College

  • Oxnard, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

A leader in hybrid education, Oxnard College supports in-person and online learning opportunities from its main campus in Oxnard, California. The public institution provides many options for a vocational trade program. Many people choose these types of program to gain practical, hands-on training in a specific trade and join the workforce with some experience already under their belts.

Every student benefits from a supportive learning community, complete with skilled faculty and industry-relevant coursework. Participants complete general and subject-specific coursework throughout the program. Enrollees can pursue internships, research projects, and other learning opportunities throughout their studies.

Learners can access career services, academic advising, and other resources throughout their program. Students can connect with the financial aid office to explore their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. Of all enrollees, 97% receive internal and external funding awards. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,340
Out-of-state
$7,344
Retention Rate
72%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
7,464
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#7 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Santa Rosa Junior College

  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Santa Rosa Junior College is public school supporting in-person and online programs from its main campus in Santa Rosa, California. Students can enroll in one of several vocational trade programs. People often choose these to join the workforce in a specific trade after getting some hands-on experience under their belts.

Enrollees in either degree modality benefit from rigorous coursework, skilled faculty, and a supportive learning community. Once enrolled, students complete foundational and advanced coursework relevant to their field. Participants can pursue internships, research projects, and other learning opportunities throughout their studies.

Enrollees can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout their program. Prospective applicants seeking to fund their studies can meet with the financial aid office to explore scholarships, fellowships, and other aid. The college notes that approximately 75% of all incoming learners are awarded financial aid. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,282
Out-of-state
$8,128
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
19,101
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#8 Vocational Trade Schools in California

De Anza College

  • Cupertino, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

With 59 associate programs and 72 certificate programs, De Anza College offers options for many different learners. From its main campus in Cupertino, California, the public institution offers both online and on-campus enrollment. Working students benefit from the flexible course options.

In the school's career-focused programs, enrollees gain specialized skills for a defined career path or field. Associate programs include general education requirements that build broad, transferable skills. Instead of general education classes, certificate candidates complete a focused curriculum in their area of study.

With a certificate, graduates qualify for entry-level roles in their field. With an associate degree, graduates apply for jobs or pursue a bachelor's degree.

De Anza College at a Glance:

Total Online Certificate Programs: 3

Undergrad Tuition In State: $1,395

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $9,360

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,395
Out-of-state
$9,360
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
18,669
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#9 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Bakersfield College

  • Bakersfield, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Students choose from 68 associate programs and 80 certificate programs at Bakersfield College. From its Bakersfield campus in California, the public institution lets enrollees choose from online and on-campus enrollment options. Busy learners benefit from the school's flexible options, which make it easier to work while in college.

Many of the school's certificate and associate programs emphasize industry-specific skills that prepare graduates for a particular career path. Associate programs incorporate general education classes that strengthen writing, communication, and other soft skills. Instead of general education courses, certificate candidates complete classes related to their field.

A certificate prepares graduates for the workforce. After earning an associate degree, graduates pursue employment or apply to bachelor's programs as a transfer student. Undergrad tuition at the college averages $1,288 for in-state learners and $7,700 for out-of-state learners.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$7,700
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
26,380
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#10 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Fullerton College

  • Fullerton, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Fullerton College enrolls learners in 78 associate programs and 64 certificate programs. The public institution prioritizes flexibility in its course options, which include classes offered online and on the Fullerton campus in California. These flexible options help busy students continue to work while in school.

Many of the school's programs emphasize career training and include practical skills. In associate programs, degree-seekers strengthen transferable skills during general education classes. Rather than taking general education courses, certificate candidates complete a focused curriculum of courses in their field of study.

With a certificate, graduates pursue entry-level positions in their field. An associate degree prepares graduates for entry-level careers or bachelor's programs. Undergraduate tuition at the college averages $1,104 for in-state students and $6,360 for out-of-state students.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,104
Out-of-state
$6,360
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
22,613
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#11 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Orange Coast College

  • Costa Mesa, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

At Orange Coast College, learners choose from 95 associate programs and 101 certificate programs. The public institution offers flexible enrollment options, including online classes and courses offered at the Costa Mesa campus in California. Students enrolled at the school rely on the flexible options to balance classes with work.

Many of the school's programs strengthen career-focused skills that train participants for a particular role. Associate programs incorporate general education courses to build transferable skills like critical thinking and writing. Certificate candidates take classes related to their field with no requirements outside of their major.

With a certificate, graduates pursue entry-level positions in their field. With an associate degree, graduates apply for jobs or pursue a bachelor's degree. The college's undergraduate tuition stands at $1,104 for in-state enrollees and $7,752 for out-of-state enrollees.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,104
Out-of-state
$7,752
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
20,042
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#12 Vocational Trade Schools in California

American River College

  • Sacramento, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Students advance their education in 90 associate programs and 101 certificate programs at American River College. Learners benefit from the public institution's diverse enrollment options, which include online classes and on-campus options from the Sacramento location. These flexible options make it easier for enrollees to balance school with work or other responsibilities.

The school's career-focused programs train participants for specialized career paths. Associate degree-seekers also complete general education courses that build broad skills, such as writing and critical thinking. Rather than taking general education courses, certificate candidates complete a focused curriculum of courses in their field of study.

With a certificate, graduates apply for entry-level positions in their field. After earning an associate degree, graduates apply for jobs or continue their education at a four-year college.

American River College at a Glance:

Total Online Associate Programs: 8

Total Online Certificate Programs: 5

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $7,824

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
$7,824
Retention Rate
70%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
31,265
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
35% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#13 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Imperial Valley College

  • Imperial, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Imperial Valley College enrolls students in 61 associate programs and 58 certificate programs. Located in Imperial, California, the public institution offers online and on-campus enrollment options, increasing flexibility for learners. These flexible options appeal to busy enrollees balancing school with other obligations.

In the school's career-focused programs, participants strengthen industry-specific knowledge and skills. Associate programs include general education requirements that build broad, transferable skills. Instead of general education classes, certificate candidates complete a focused curriculum in their area of study.

With a certificate, graduates enter the workforce prepared for many entry-level roles. Associate degree-holders apply for jobs or enter a bachelor's program. At the college, in-state and out-of-state enrollees pay $1,104 and $6,024 in tuition, respectively.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,104
Out-of-state
$6,024
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
8,511
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#14 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Foothill College

  • Los Altos Hills, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Foothill College enrolls students in 69 associate programs and 43 certificate programs. From its main campus in Los Altos Hills, California, the public institution provides flexible enrollment options. Learners can sometimes work full time while in school.

In the school's career-focused programs, enrollees gain specialized skills for a defined career path or field. General education classes in associate programs strengthen transferable skills like critical thinking and writing. Instead of general education courses, certificate program participants take courses in their field of study.

With a certificate, graduates pursue entry-level positions in their field. With an associate degree, alumni can enter the job market or apply to four-year colleges as a transfer student.

Foothill College at a Glance:

Total Online Associate Programs: 26

Total Online Certificate Programs: 15

Undergrad Tuition In State: $1,395

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $9,360

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,395
Out-of-state
$9,360
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
15,123
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#15 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Modesto Junior College

  • Modesto, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

At Modesto Junior College, learners choose from 65 associate programs and 55 certificate programs. The public institution offers flexible enrollment options, including online classes and courses offered at the Modesto, California, campus. Many students work while pursuing a degree or certificate.

The school's career-focused programs strengthen specialized skills that prepare graduates for the job market. Those in associate programs take general education courses that build transferable skills like writing and critical thinking. Certificate candidates complete a focused curriculum that does not include classes outside of their field.

With a certificate, graduates move into the workforce and pursue entry-level roles. Associate degree-holders either enter the workforce or apply to four-year colleges as a transfer student.

Modesto Junior College at a Glance:

Total Online Certificate Programs: 2

Undergrad Tuition In State: $1,104

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $7,464

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,104
Out-of-state
$7,464
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
18,068
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#16 Vocational Trade Schools in California

San Bernardino Valley College

  • San Bernardino, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

San Bernardino Valley College lets learners choose from 56 associate programs and 57 certificate programs. From its San Bernardino campus in California, the public institution lets individuals choose either online or on-campus enrollment. Working students benefit from the flexible course options.

The school's career-focused programs provide the knowledge and skills required for specialized roles. Associate programs incorporate general education classes that strengthen writing, communication, and other soft skills. Instead of general education courses, certificate candidates complete classes related to their field.

With a certificate, graduates move into the workforce and pursue entry-level roles. With an associate degree, graduates either pursue employment or transfer into a bachelor's program. Visit the school's website for more information on enrollment requirements.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
64%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
14,872
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#17 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Diablo Valley College

  • Pleasant Hill, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Students advance their education in 75 associate programs and 73 certificate programs at Diablo Valley College. The public institution, located in Pleasant Hill, California, offers online and on-campus enrollment options which appeal to a variety of learners. People often choose to continue working while enrolled at the school.

The school's career-focused programs emphasize industry-specific knowledge and skills. In general education courses, associate degree-seekers strengthen critical thinking, communication, and writing skills. Rather than taking general education courses, certificate candidates complete a focused curriculum of courses in their field of study.

Professionals with a certificate qualify for entry-level roles in their field. With an associate degree, graduates either pursue employment or transfer into a bachelor's program.

Diablo Valley College at a Glance:

Total Online Associate Programs: 1

Total Online Certificate Programs: 7

Undergrad Tuition In State: $1,288

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $8,540

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$8,540
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
19,871
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#18 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Saddleback College

  • Mission Viejo, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Saddleback College offers 103 associate programs and 97 certificate programs. Learners benefit from flexible enrollment options at the public institution, which includes online courses and classes on the Mission Viejo campus in California. These flexible options appeal to busy students balancing school with other obligations.

The school's career-focused programs train participants for specialized career paths. General education classes in associate programs strengthen transferable skills like critical thinking and writing. Instead of general education courses, certificate candidates take courses in their field of study.

A certificate prepares graduates for entry-level positions in their field. An associate degree prepares degree-holders for the workforce or for bachelor's programs.

Saddleback College at a Glance:

Total Online Associate Programs: 1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $1,288

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $9,548

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$9,548
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
19,709
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#19 Vocational Trade Schools in California

College of San Mateo

  • San Mateo, CA
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Students enroll in 65 associate programs and 45 certificate programs at College of San Mateo. Learners select from online and on-campus courses offered by the public institution from its location in San Mateo, California. These enrollment options appeal to working professionals and other busy enrollees.

The school's career-focused programs train participants for specialized career paths. In associate programs, degree-seekers strengthen transferable skills during general education classes. Certificate candidates take courses in their area of study rather than general education courses.

With a certificate, graduates enter the workforce prepared for many entry-level roles. An associate degree prepares alumni for the workforce or for bachelor's programs. At the college, undergraduate tuition averages $1,362 for in-state students and $9,006 for out-of-state students.

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,362
Out-of-state
$9,006
Retention Rate
70%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
8,163
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#20 Vocational Trade Schools in California

Ohlone College

  • Fremont, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Students advance their education in 52 associate programs and 61 certificate programs at Ohlone College. Learners choose between online and on-campus courses offered from the Fremont, California, campus of the public institution. Working professionals benefit from the flexibility to attend school without leaving their job.

Many of the school's programs emphasize career training and include practical skills. General education classes in associate programs build key soft skills like communication, writing, and critical thinking. Certificate candidates complete courses in their field of study without general education requirements.

A certificate trains graduates for entry-level positions in a specific field. With an associate degree, alumni either pursue employment or transfer into a bachelor's program.

Ohlone College at a Glance:

Total Online Certificate Programs: 1

Undergrad Tuition In State: $1,104

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $7,464

Average Tuition
In-state
$1,104
Out-of-state
$7,464
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
8,900
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Prospective trade school students should always check a school's accreditation status before applying. Accreditation benefits students in several ways. Credits earned at an accredited school are more likely to transfer, and an accredited degree meets more professional licensure and certification requirements. Students enrolled in accredited schools also qualify for federal financial aid.

Accredited schools meet high standards for granting certificates and degrees. To earn accreditation, schools voluntarily submit to a rigorous review from an independent accrediting agency. This review evaluates the school's student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic mission. Accredited institutions repeat the process on a regular basis to maintain their status.

California trade schools, colleges, and universities may hold regional or national accreditation. Community colleges and research universities typically pursue regional accreditation, which remains the highest standard in postsecondary education. In California, the WASC Senior College and University Commission grants accreditation to four-year institutions, while the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges grants accreditation to two-year colleges.

Vocational and trade schools often pursue national accreditation from an organization like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Other specialized accreditation agencies include the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which grants accreditation to online schools, including online vocational schools in California.

In addition to accreditation, private trade schools should also hold licensure from the state. In California, the Bureau for Private and Postsecondary Education regulates private vocational and trade schools.

Learn more about the accreditation process.

Find Vocational and Trade Schools in California

California's community colleges make up the biggest higher education system in the country and are California's largest workforce training providers. However, community colleges are not the only vocational and trade schools in California.

Postsecondary students can also get career and technical education through California's Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCPs), apprenticeship programs, and adult education programs. Comprehensive high schools, magnet schools, early-college high schools, and ROCPs provide vocational and trade education to California's secondary students.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Trade school graduates work in healthcare, technology, hospitality, and many other industries. As a result, the career and salary outlook for trade school graduates varies by field.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that technical and trade occupations earn an average salary of around $55,000 per year. Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations earn $50,000 per year, while healthcare practitioners make over $55,000 per year. Management occupations earn over $96,000 per year.

Students considering trade and vocational schools in California can look up California wage estimates for state-specific information. For example, dental hygienists in California earn over $106,000 per year, while respiratory therapists earn nearly $84,000 per year.

Many vocational careers offer strong job growth. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for dental hygienists, respiratory therapists, and HVAC technicians.

Vocational programs also prepare graduates for in-demand careers in STEM. Over one-third of STEM professionals do not hold a bachelor's degree, according to the Pew Research Center. Many of these professionals work as healthcare technicians, engineering technicians, and tech workers -- fields that do not require a bachelor's degree.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Vocational and trade schools in California offer programs in allied health fields, professional trades, legal services, and other in-demand fields. Students can prepare for careers as dental hygienists, veterinary technicians, or occupational therapy assistants at a trade school. Vocational programs also prepare graduates for careers in plumbing, medical assisting, and cosmetology.

This section covers some popular vocational school programs. In addition to these options, prospective students can research other programs.

  • Dental Hygienist Schools

    Dental hygienists examine patients and clean teeth to improve oral hygiene and health. They assess a patient's oral health, provide preventative care, and discuss treatment plans with dentists. Dental hygienists typically hold an associate degree that includes coursework in anatomy, periodontics, and clinical dental hygiene.

    The median annual salary for dental hygienists exceeded $76,000 in 2019, making it one of the highest paid vocational careers. Dental hygienists also benefit from much faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028.

    In every state, dental hygienists need a license. The California Dental Hygiene Board licenses dental hygienists in the Golden State.

    For more, visit our page on dental hygienist programs.

  • Occupational Therapy Schools

    Occupational therapists care for patients with disabilities or injuries that limit their physical abilities. Occupational therapy assistants help occupational therapists by providing therapy to patients and training patients to use special equipment. They keep records on each patient's progress and report their work to an occupational therapist.

    Occupational therapy assistants typically hold an associate degree, which often includes courses in human anatomy, physiology, and occupational therapy. Programs also incorporate fieldwork to build practical skills. Occupational therapy assistants earn a median annual wage of over $61,000 per year and benefit from faster-than-average job growth projections.

    In California, the California Board of Occupational Therapy licenses occupational therapy assistants. Candidates must hold an associate degree from an accredited school with at least 16 weeks of occupational therapy supervised field experience and passing scores on a national exam.

    Learn more about occupational therapy programs.

  • Paralegal Schools

    Paralegals help lawyers by conducting legal research, preparing legal documents for trial, and reviewing trial transcripts. They also file legal documents in court, maintain documents and case files, and draft contracts. Paralegals typically hold an associate degree, which includes courses in legal research, contract law, and legal writing. The American Bar Association approves paralegal education programs that meet high standards.

    The BLS reports that paralegal and legal assistants earned a median annual salary of nearly $52,000 in 2019. The field offers much faster-than-average projected job growth. After completing a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies, graduates can apply for paralegal jobs. The field does not require a state-issued license.

    For more information, visit our page on paralegal programs.

  • Respiratory Therapist Schools

    Respiratory therapists help patients who struggle from breathing problems, including people with chronic respiratory diseases. They conduct diagnostic tests to measure lung capacity and create treatment plans for patients. Respiratory therapists also teach patients how to use medical devices.

    Careers in respiratory therapy require an associate degree, which includes coursework in human anatomy, diagnostic procedures, and patient assessment. Students also meet clinical requirements to build practical experience.

    Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of over $61,000 in 2019 and benefit from much faster than average job growth projections. In California, respiratory therapists need a license from the Respiratory Care Board of California. Applicants need an accredited associate degree and must pass a national exam. The National Board for Respiratory Care offers the certified respiratory therapist and registered respiratory therapist certifications.

    Learn more about respiratory therapist programs.

  • Veterinary Technician Schools

    Veterinary technicians perform medical tests and examine animals under the supervision of veterinarians. They may prepare animals for surgery, administer anesthesia, and give pets vaccines or other medical treatments.

    During a veterinary technician program, students take courses in animal anatomy, veterinary medicine, and surgical nursing for animals. Vet tech students also complete an internship or practicum with clinical hours.

    According to BLS data, veterinary technicians earned a median annual salary of over $35,000 in 2019. The field benefits from much faster-than-average job growth. In addition to a vocational program, vet techs must also hold a state-issued license.

    In California, the Veterinary Medical Board licenses veterinary technicians. Applicants must attend an approved veterinary technician school and pass a national licensing exam.

    For more, check out our page on veterinary technician programs.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Vocational and trade schools in California often charge lower tuition rates than four-year colleges and universities. For example, California public universities cost around $8,000 per year in tuition and fees, while private universities cost over $33,000 per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In contrast, community colleges cost around $1,200 per year for California residents. By choosing an affordable vocational program, students can save thousands on their certificate or degree.

In addition, trade school students qualify for several forms of financial aid. Students enrolled in an accredited school can apply for federal financial aid by completing the FAFSA. This federal financial aid program offers loans, grants, and work-study opportunities for recipients.

Not all California technical colleges meet requirements for federal financial aid. Prospective students can check with schools to see if their students can receive federal financial aid.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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