Why Choose Trade School?
Vocational and trade schools in Colorado provide career-focused training in areas like allied health, technology, the skilled trades, and legal services. Trade school graduates can pursue careers as occupational therapy assistants, mechanics, respiratory therapists, electricians, and paralegals. Many of these in-demand fields offer above-average salaries and strong projected job growth.
Vocational programs offer several benefits over four-year academic programs. For example, completing a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years, meaning learners can enter the workforce faster than students at four-year programs. Vocational schools also often typically cost much less than four-year programs.
Additionally, professionals with an occupational credential benefit from a higher employment rate than professionals with an academic credential, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Many vocational and technical schools in Colorado offer self-paced or accelerated options to fit the schedule of busy students. Learners can also consider online vocational programs, which prioritize flexibility.
During a vocational program, students complete coursework and hands-on training. For example, paramedic studies students build their emergency care skills through laboratory and experiential learning requirements, while electrician students apply their training during practicum requirements.
Our list introduces the top-ranked trade schools in Colorado. By researching these schools, prospective students can find the best fit for their interests and professional goals. This page also provides information on the career and salary outlook for trade school graduates and scholarship opportunities for students.
Can I go to trade school online?
Yes. Many trade schools offer online vocational programs. During an online program, students complete coursework in a distance learning format while meeting any onsite requirements locally.
Are scholarships available for vocational students?
Yes. Vocational students qualify for many scholarship and grant opportunities. Some scholarships require attendance at an accredited institution.
When can I apply to trade school?
Many trade schools accept applications on a rolling basis, meaning new students can apply at any time. Most programs also offer multiple start dates throughout the year.
How long does trade school take?
Earning a certificate or degree from a vocational school generally takes 1-2 years, depending on the program. Students receive classroom and experiential training during their program.
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Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
Prospective trade school students should always check a school's accreditation and licensure status before applying. Attending an unaccredited or unlicensed school can affect a student's education and their ability to find jobs after completing a program.
Accredited schools meet high standards for educating students. To earn accreditation, colleges and universities undergo a rigorous review from an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the agency evaluates the school's student learning outcomes, academic mission, and faculty qualifications. Accredited institutions must regularly repeat the review process to maintain their status.
Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For instance, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree.
In Colorado, schools that offer vocational programs may hold regional or national accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities typically hold regional accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to schools in Colorado.
Vocational and trade schools in Colorado often hold national accreditation from a specialized agency like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), which holds approval from the Department of Education. ACCSC grants accreditation to over 650 trade and technical schools nationwide. Other specialized agencies, such as the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, accredit online schools. Learn more about the accreditation process here.
Postsecondary schools also need a state license to educate students. In Colorado, the Department of Education maintains a list of licensed schools.
Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado
Vocational schools in Colorado prepare students for careers in growing fields. By choosing a top-ranked vocational program, professionals can advance their career and increase their earning potential. Our list ranks the best trade schools in Colorado to help prospective students find the right fit to reach their goals.
Pikes Peak Community College
Colorado Springs, CO
Located in Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College is the largest higher education institution in the Pikes Peak area. One of the top trade schools in Colorado, PPCC offers more than 150 degrees, including technical career education. PPCC's vocational programs include associate degrees and certificates in fields such as allied health, automotive collision repair, culinary arts, and dental assisting.
An associate of applied science in a trade or technical profession typically requires 60 credits and takes two years to complete. Instruction and coursework prepares students for jobs in their field. For instance, the AAS in automotive collision repair requires courses in metal welding and cutting, structural damage repair, and spray equipment operation.
Graduates are qualified for jobs in auto shops. PPCC boasts an 89% job placement rate. Some programs include an internship or apprenticeship component in addition to coursework.
Red Rocks Community College
Red Rocks Community College is part of the Colorado Community College system and maintains campuses in Lakewood and Arvada. RRCC offers associate degrees and certificates in several trades and technical disciplines, such as auto collision technology, building maintenance, computer information systems, and emergency medical services.
Most associate of applied science degrees require 60-63 credits and take two years to complete. Certificate programs require 10-40 credits. Associate degree students frequently earn a certificate in the process of earning their degree. For instance, an AAS in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration requires 62 credits and students earn a certificate in refrigeration in the first 11 credits. Courses cover topics such as fundamentals of gas heating, piping skills, basic sheet metal, air conditioning systems, and mechanical codes.
Front Range Community College
Front Range Community College runs multiple campuses in cities throughout Colorado, including Westminster, Longmont, and Fort Collins. The school offers over 60 career programs and certificates in fields such as automation and engineering technology, criminal justice and public safety, medical assisting, and welding technology.
Most associate programs at FRCC require 60-63 credits and take two years to complete. For example, the associate of applied science in medical assisting degree requires 60 credits, including courses on medical record terminology, medical office administration, and pharmacology. FRCC offers apprenticeships in healthcare, manufacturing, and tree care.
Community College of Denver
Community College of Denver runs multiple campuses across the Denver metropolitan area. CCD shares facilities with two, four-year universities: the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Colorado Denver. CCD offers over 100 degrees and certificate programs.
Students can choose from associate degrees in technical and trade fields such as applied technology, dental hygiene, electrical engineering, and veterinary technology. These associate of applied science degrees generally require 60 credits and take two years to complete. Certain programs may require an internship or apprenticeship.
CCD also offers certificate programs that focus on specific skills. Some certificates take as little as six credits and one semester to complete. For instance, students of engineering graphics and mechanical design can obtain short, one-semester certificates in solidworks and scanned input 3-D modeling.
Arapahoe Community College
Located in Littleton, Arapahoe Community College was the first community college to open in the Denver area. ACC offers a number of degree and certificate programs, including associate degrees and bachelor's degrees. The school's technical and vocational trade degrees cover fields such as construction management, health information technology, medical laboratory technology, and emergency service administration.
ACC also offers apprenticeship programs in community association management, medical assisting, property management, and water operation. An associate of applied science degree in a technical or trade field requires 60-90 credits. Learners can usually complete the degree in two years. ACC delivers some programs, particularly those with a lab or hands-on training component, in a hybrid format with online lectures but in-person lab sessions. ACC also offers several scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.
Aims Community College runs campuses in Greeley, Windsor, Fort Lupton, and Loveland. Aims offers over 200 degree and certificate programs, including vocational trade programs in paramedics, nursing, engineering technology, and fire science technology.
Many of the school's trades and technical profession programs prepare students to obtain official credentials. Learners can choose from several program options. The college's associate of applied science degrees require 50-65 credits and take two years to complete.
Students can complete certificates in 1-2 semesters. For instance, in emergency medical services, students can complete a 12-credit EMT certificate, a 13-credit AEMT certificate that includes a clinical internship, or a 51-credit associate degree in paramedics. All of these options prepare students to take the National Registry of Emergency Technicians exam. Tuition costs $106 per credit for in-state students and $425 per credit for out-of-state students.
Colorado Mountain College
Glenwood Springs, CO
With multiple campuses across western Colorado, Colorado Mountain College offers five bachelor's degrees, 54 associate degrees, and 77 certificate programs. CMC's associate and certificate programs include those in trade or technical professions, such as culinary arts, paramedics, fire science technology, and hospitality management.
CMC offers 60-credit, two-year associate of applied science technical or vocational degrees that prepare graduates to enter the job market. CMC's associate of applied science degrees also fulfill many of the requirements for a bachelor of applied science program in leadership and management. For students who wish to transfer credits into a bachelor's program at another school, CMC also offers an associate of arts program in many of the same fields.
To apply, prospective students should submit an online application, high school transcripts, and SAT/ACT scores. Tuition costs $185 per credit for in-state students and $466 per credit for out-of-state students.
Community College of Aurora
Community College of Aurora is part of the Colorado Community College System and offers many vocational and technical career degrees in fields such as applied technology, computer information systems, cybersecurity, and patient care technology. These associate programs prepare students to obtain a job in their field upon graduation. Students can also easily transfer their degree to a public Colorado four-year university should they decide to pursue a bachelor's. CCA offers certificates focused on specific skills that learners can complete in one semester.
CCA's associate of applied science degrees require 60 credits and generally take two years to complete. Some allow for an accelerated completion of 12 months. Depending on the discipline, CCA may allow students to complete their coursework as part of an apprenticeship program. CCA partners with the Wagner Equipment Apprenticeship program in which students conduct rotations, spending 3-4 weeks in class and 3-4 weeks in shop at Wagner.
Pueblo Community College offers several vocational trade associate degrees and certificates in fields such as automotive service technology, criminal justice, culinary arts, and dental hygiene.
Students can choose from two-year associate of applied science degrees, certificate programs, and mini certificates. For instance, business management students can complete an AAS or a certificate in entrepreneurship, leadership studies, or bookkeeping. The associate of applied science degree requires 60 credits and focuses on preparing students for entry-level positions in marketing, management, sales, or other business professions.
PCC also offers some apprenticeship programs. For instance, the school's automotive service technology department offers a paid apprenticeship for high school students through Automotive Youth Educational Systems.
Tuition costs $153 per credit for state residents and $629 per credit for nonresidents. Tuition runs slightly higher for courses in nursing and dental hygiene.
Colorado Mesa University
Grand Junction, CO
Colorado Mesa University is a public university in Grand Junction that awards technical certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees. CMU offers trade and technical programs in fields such as aviation technology, hospitality management, mechatronics, and transportation services.
CMU partners with Western Colorado Community College to offer several joint programs. For instance, the associate of applied science in criminal justice is based on completing the police academy program at Western Colorado Community College and integrates instruction from the Peace Officer Standards and Training program. CMU also offers unique internship opportunities. Hotel Maverick, a newly opened boutique hotel, sits on the CMU campus and provides hands-on training opportunities for students in hospitality management and culinary arts.
Tuition costs $620 per credit for Colorado residents and $1,544 per credit for nonresidents.
Trinidad State Junior College
Founded in 1925, Trinidad State Junior College was the state's first community college. TSJC offers 49 programs in vocational fields, including applied technology, automotive service technology, barbering, and criminal justice. TSJC also offers shorter certificate options that overlap with these degrees.
Associate of applied science degrees prepare students for certification and entry-level jobs. AAS degrees require 60 credits and take two years to complete. The main difference between AAS degrees and other associate or bachelor's degrees is that they do not mandate as many or any general education requirements. For instance, the AAS in barbering jumps into courses directly relevant to the profession, including hair coloring, sanitation and safety, permanent waves and chemical relaxers, and advanced infection control.
The average cost of attendance for one academic year is $3,574 for state residents and $5,957 for nonresidents.
Pickens Technical College
Pickens Technical College offers 50 certificates in technical and trade professions for high school and adult students. Learners can choose from certificates in areas such as HVAC technology, facilities maintenance, welding, and medical assisting. Exclusively for high school students, the college offers a certificate program in early childhood education and an executive internship.
The required credits and program length depend on the specific certificate and field. Many programs combine classroom and shop learning experiences. The school offers apprenticeships in some fields. The advanced manufacturing certificate prepares students to become an entry-level machinist. Courses include blueprint reading, measuring instruments, and operating shop equipment.
Students balance time in the classroom with time in the Job Shop. The program is offered at two levels: a level I certificate requiring 25 credits and an advanced-level certificate requiring 49 credits. Tuition rates vary depending on the program.
Lamar Community College offers several trade and vocational degrees and certificates, including associate of applied science degrees in fields such as agriculture production management, applied technology, business, and cosmetology. These AAS degrees prepare students for entry-level positions.
An associate of applied science at LCC requires 60-65 credits and takes two years to complete. Coursework generally includes 15-16 general education credits and 45-50 field-specific courses. Classroom instruction is often accompanied by hands-on experience.
LCC's construction trades program includes courses on international building codes, computer-aided drafting, carpentry, roof framing, and related topics. Students must complete an internship and multiple construction lab credits. Learners who want a shorter, more specialized credential can pursue certificates within these fields. Online tuition costs $303 per credit for in-state students and $401 per credit for out-of-state students.
Morgan Community College offers more than 75 degrees and certificates, including vocational trade programs in nursing, criminal justice, law enforcement, automotive collision repair, and welding. MCC provides financial assistance to those who have lost their job as part of their worker retraining program. MCC offers courses in online, traditional, and hybrid formats.
Programs prepare students for entry-level positions in their field with coursework focused on the skills directly relevant to their jobs. The AAS degree in radiologic technology requires 77 credits and takes two years to complete. Students take courses in radiographic patient care, radiologic procedures, pathology and image evaluation, and other topics that prepare them to perform X-rays and diagnostic imaging tests as radiologic technologists in hospitals, surgery centers, and clinics. Many programs involve lab, shop, or other hands-on learning experiences.
Northeastern Junior College
Located in Sterling, Northeastern Junior College is a public community college that offers more than 80 programs. NJC's vocational trade programs include associate degrees and certificates in fields such as emergency medical services, welding technology, nursing, automotive technology, and criminal justice.
NJC's associate of applied science degrees feature less rigid general education requirements and prepare students to enter the workforce in a technical or trade career. AAS degrees require 60-65 credits. Students can typically complete these degrees in two years. NJC also offers one-year certificate programs in fields such as automotive technology, welding, and cosmetology. These programs do not require any general education courses or prerequisites of math, English, or science.
Application requirements include submitting high school transcripts and ACT/SAT scores. NJC also allows high school students to take concurrent courses for college credit.
Find Vocational and Trade Schools in Colorado
Colorado students can pursue career and technical education (CTE) at a variety of secondary schools, community colleges, and technical schools around the state. Students in these programs can study areas such as technology and communications, family and consumer sciences, and business and marketing.
Prospective students interested in finding a vocational school in Colorado can use the search tool below to explore their options.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
Many trade school careers offer above-average salaries and strong projected job growth. Salaries vary by factors like role, industry, and location, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that trade school occupations pay an average annual salary of $55,000.
Trade school graduates can pursue opportunities in many fields with varying salary potential. For example, personal care and service occupations pay $32,700 per year, on average, while installation, maintenance, and repair occupations offer over $50,000 per year. Additionally, healthcare practitioner and technical occupations pay around $55,000 annually.
Location also affects the salary outlook for trade school graduates. In Colorado, BLS wage estimates indicate strong salary numbers for many trade occupations. For instance, respiratory therapists make an average salary of over $64,000 per year, while dental hygienists earn over $86,000 annually. Paralegals in the state earn over $62,000 per year and electricians make around $55,000 per year.
The BLS also reports much faster-than-average growth for several trade school occupations, including dental hygienists, paralegals, and HVAC technicians.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Colorado trade school students can pursue certificates and degrees in many high-demand fields, including healthcare, the skilled trades, and personal services. This section covers some popular trade school programs in Colorado. In addition to these options, prospective students can research vocational programs in other fields.
Beauty and Cosmetology Schools
Cosmetologists, hair stylists, and skincare specialists provide personal beauty services for clients. They recommend treatments, cut and style hair, and provide skincare services. Beauty professionals may also operate their own salon or barbershop.
Careers in cosmetology generally require a vocational certificate or degree in the field. During a cosmetology program, students take courses in personal appearance services. Some programs also include classes in business management and marketing. Students also complete hands-on training to build career-ready skills.
The earning potential for cosmetology jobs varies. Barbers, hair stylists, and cosmetologists earned a median annual salary of around $26,000 in 2019, while skincare specialists
earned a median annual salary of $34,090. Many of these professionals need a license to practice. In Colorado, the Office of Barber and Cosmetology Licensure licenses cosmetologists.
Learn more about beauty and cosmetology programs.
Electricians install and maintain electrical systems in homes, businesses, and other buildings. They read blueprints and technical diagrams to install and repair wiring. Electricians also inspect electrical components, use testing devices to identify electrical problems, and conduct repairs. They must follow safety practices and regulations at all times.
Technical colleges in Colorado train students in areas like circuitry, electrical theory, and safety practices. Learners also study electrical code requirements and build their professional skills through laboratory and practicum requirements.
In 2019, the median annual salary for electricians exceeded $56,000, with faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028. Electricians must typically pass a national examination and apply for a license to practice. In Colorado, the Electrical Board licenses electricians.
Learn more about electrician programs.
Paralegals assist lawyers by conducting legal research, gathering evidence for cases, and writing reports to help lawyers prepare for trial. They may also take formal statements from clients, file legal documents with the court, and draft legal documents like contracts. Paralegals may specialize in different areas, like corporate law or litigation.
Most paralegals complete a program in paralegal studies. During an associate degree in paralegal studies, students take courses on topics like legal research, contract law, legal writing, and corporate law.
In 2019, the median annual salary for paralegals exceeded $51,000. The BLS reports much faster-than-average job growth for paralegals between 2018 and 2028. Paralegals do not need a license to practice.
Learn more about paralegal programs.
Paramedics provide emergency care for sick or injured patients. They respond to 911 calls, conduct patient assessments, provide medical treatments, and transport patients to hospitals or other medical facilities.
Paramedics typically hold a certificate or associate degree from a paramedic studies program. During their program, students take courses on topics like patient assessment, field equipment, and trauma emergency care. Programs also incorporate hands-on training in hospital or ambulance settings.
BLS data reports that paramedics earned a median annual pay of over $35,000 in 2019, with faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028. Paramedics typically hold professional certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and a license from the state. In Colorado, the Department of Public Health & Environment licenses paramedics.
Learn more about paramedic programs.
Financial Aid for Trade School Students
Trade school students typically pay less for their education than students at four-year universities. For example, public universities in Colorado charge over $9,500 per year in tuition and fees, on average, while private universities cost over $22,000 a year. In contrast, Colorado community colleges charge an average of $3,600 per year.
In addition to choosing an affordable program, trade school students can lower the cost of their education by applying for financial aid. To qualify for federal aid, students must submit the FAFSA every year. However, schools must hold accreditation in order for their students to qualify for federal financial aid. Prospective students can check with schools to find out if their students can receive federal aid.
Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not require repayment, making them among the best forms of financial aid. The next section covers scholarship opportunities for trade school students in Colorado.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
Students attending trade schools in Colorado may qualify for scholarship opportunities offered by private foundations, professional organizations, and government agencies. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for trade school students in the state.
Who Can Apply: Colorado residents with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply for this scholarship. Recipients can use the scholarship to earn a degree at any two-year accredited college in the United States.
Who Can Apply: Colorado residents who attend school in the state can apply for this scholarship. Candidates must demonstrate financial need.
Who Can Apply: The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association offers regional scholarships for students who demonstrate achievements and leadership skills. Recipients can use the scholarship to attend any college.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship funds students from Fort Collins who demonstrate financial need. Recipients need a minimum 3.5 GPA and must attend a postsecondary college or vocational school.
Who Can Apply: Offered through Diabetes Scholars, this award funds students with Type I diabetes who attend accredited colleges or technical schools in Colorado. Applicants must submit recommendations.
Additional Education and Career Resources
The Colorado Association for Career and Technical Education is an organization that supports those who provide CTE to students around the state. Members include career counselors, teachers, and administrators.
This report from the University of Colorado Boulder provides an in-depth forecast of the state's industries.
This agency is responsible for monitoring the state's economy, including job creation and the business climate in different regions of Colorado. In addition, OEDIT provides support to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
This page on Colorado Department of Education provides an overview of career and technical education in the state, including specialty areas and definitions of relevant terms.
Perkins Collaborative Resource Network of the U.S. Department of Education presents vocational school enrollment data based on different career clusters.