Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

ASO Staff Writers
by
Updated September 7, 2023
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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.

FAQ

question-mark-circleCan 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.

question-mark-circleAre scholarships available for vocational students?

Yes. Vocational students qualify for many scholarship and grant opportunities. Some scholarships require attendance at an accredited institution.

question-mark-circleWhen 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.

question-mark-circleHow 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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Best 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.

#1 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Pikes Peak Community College

  • Location-markerColorado Springs, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,662
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled13,655
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment37%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Red Rocks Community College

  • Location-markerLakewood, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,661
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled7,008
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment28%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Front Range Community College

  • Location-markerWestminster, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,662
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled19,283
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment30%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Community College of Denver

  • Location-markerDenver, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,662
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled8,232
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment24%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Arapahoe Community College

  • Location-markerLittleton, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,662
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled12,759
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment35%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Aims Community College

  • Location-markerGreeley, CO
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,544
  • Out-of-state$10,200
  • Retention Rate76%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled6,634
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment28%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Colorado Mountain College

  • Location-markerGlenwood Springs, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,320
  • Out-of-state$10,872
  • Retention Rate45%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled5,636
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment26%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Community College of Aurora

  • Location-markerAurora, CO
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,662
  • Retention Rate65%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled8,597
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment18%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Pueblo Community College

  • Location-markerPueblo, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,429
  • Out-of-state$15,512
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled6,545
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment25%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Colorado Mesa University

  • Location-markerGrand Junction, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,787
  • Out-of-state$20,720
  • Retention Rate74%
  • Acceptance Rate78%
  • Students Enrolled9,373
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment35%
  • AccreditationYes
#11 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Trinidad State Junior College

  • Location-markerTrinidad, CO
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$5,957
  • Retention Rate59%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,621
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment23%
  • AccreditationYes
#12 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Pickens Technical College

  • Location-markerAurora, CO
  • 2 year
  • Campus
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,480
  • Out-of-state$6,960
  • Retention Rate69%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,049
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment0%
  • AccreditationYes
#13 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Lamar Community College

  • Location-markerLamar, CO
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$5,956
  • Retention Rate47%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled849
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment15%
  • AccreditationYes
#14 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Morgan Community College

  • Location-markerFort Morgan, CO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,574
  • Out-of-state$14,662
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,266
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#15 Best Vocational Trade Schools in Colorado

Northeastern Junior College

  • Location-markerSterling, CO
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,467
  • Out-of-state$6,701
  • Retention Rate65%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,390
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment17%
  • AccreditationYes

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.

Postsecondary schools also need a state license to educate students. In Colorado, the Department of Education maintains a list of licensed schools.

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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.

  • minusBeauty 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.

  • minusElectrician Schools

    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.

  • minusParalegal Schools

    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.

  • minusParamedic Schools

    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.

Daniels Scholarship cursor-click

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.

Amount: Varies

Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship cursor-click

Who Can Apply: Colorado residents who attend school in the state can apply for this scholarship. Candidates must demonstrate financial need.

Amount: $1,000

NIADA Regional Scholarships cursor-click

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.

Amount: $3,500

William J. Blair Scholarship Fund cursor-click

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.

Amount: $2,500

Family of Bradley Gendron Scholarship cursor-click

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.

Amount: $1,000

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.

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