Funding Your Vocational Degree A Guide to Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students

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During a vocational program, students build career-ready skills in fields like healthcare, manufacturing, and technology. Earning a vocational certificate or degree prepares graduates for high-demand careers in many different industries.

But vocational school can be expensive. An associate degree can cost over $30,000 at a private school. Most students cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for vocational or trade school. Fortunately, vocational students qualify for many of the same forms of financial aid as students pursuing an academic degree.

Vocational students can pursue financial aid opportunities like scholarships, grants, and loans. Learners attending an accredited school can fill out the FAFSA to receive federal student aid, including Pell Grants, federal loans, and work-study jobs. This guide covers important information about funding a vocational degree, including scholarship opportunities for vocational students and how to fill out the FAFSA.

Scholarships and Grants for Vocational Students

There are many ways to fund vocational school, like loans, scholarships, and grants. Some financial aid opportunities are specifically targeted to vocational students; others are open to many kinds of students, including vocational students. To learn about scholarships and grants you may qualify for, review the following list.

Foth Production Solutions Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: Nov. 15

The FFA awards two $1,000, non-renewable scholarships each year to FFA members who are high school or college students working towards a vocational diploma or college degree from a technical/postsecondary vocational school or college or university.

The Medallion Fund

Sponsoring organization: New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Rolling

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation gives scholarships to students of any age, on a rolling basis, who are New Hampshire residents and enrolling in any accredited technical or vocational program.

Fact Trade/Technical School Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Federation of American Consumers and Traveler

Amount: A maximum of $5,000 divided between two winners

Application due date: Jan. 15, 2016

FACT gives out eight scholarships each year to students of all backgrounds, two of which are for trade or technical school students or prospective students.

2nd Chance Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: America Fire Sprinkler Association

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, applications were taken until Aug. 26)

The America Fire Sprinkler Association awards five $1,000 scholarships to anyone who graduated high school (or the equivalent) looking to pursue a college degree or trade school/vocational education.

Tech Prep Education

Sponsoring organization: U.S. Department of Education

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Varies

This grant, issued by the U.S. Department of Education, is meant to fund both the last two years of secondary education and at least two years of postsecondary education, as students complete an associate degree or two-year certificate.

The $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Niche

Amount: $2,000

Application due date: Every month (typically the last day of the month)

The $2,000 “No Essay” Scholarship is a simple scholarship with—you guessed it—no essay requirements for all students or those planning to enroll in school within the next 12 months.

High School Senior Scholarship Contest

Sponsoring organization: America Fire Sprinkler Association

Amount: $2,000

Application due date: April 6, 2016

The America Fire Sprinkler Association awards $2,000 scholarships to 10 high school seniors wanting to pursue a college degree or trade school education.

Central Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Central Scholarship

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Rolling

Central Scholarship offers scholarships to students planning on attending a non-degree certificate program at a community college or career school. The scholarships are specifically for students who live in or near Baltimore.

Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway Promotion and Contest

Sponsoring organization: Dr. Pepper

Amount: Up to $100,000

Application due date: Different awards have different due dates

Dr. Pepper gives out many scholarships, starting from $1,000 and some as high as $100,000, for submitting the most compelling “one of a kind” stories. Students aged 18-24 are eligible to win all prizes, whereas students 25 and older can win certain prizes.

State Farm Good Neighbor Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: State Farm Companies Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: Scholarship opens Jan. 2016

State Farm Companies Foundation will be awarding scholarships to high school seniors planning to enroll in a two or four-year college or vocational school, who demonstrate financial need and have between a 2.5 and 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Applications and further details open up in Jan. 2016.

Graduate Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Alpha Kappa Alpha

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was Aug. 15)

There are two types of graduate scholarships offered by Alpha Kappa Alpha: merit-based and financial-neediness. Merit-based scholarships require the student has at least a 3.0 GPA and community service/involvement experience, whereas financial-neediness prioritizes students who can demonstrate financial necessity.

Graduate Scholarship Program

Sponsoring organization: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Amount: Up to $18,000 per calendar year

Application due date: Applications accepted from July 1-Oct. 15

Full-time graduate students with financial need, who have a 3.0 or higher GPA, can earn up to $18,000 per calendar year from the CIA. A 60- to 90-day work tour at an agency facility in Washington D.C. is required for winners.

CrossLites Scholarship Contest

Sponsoring organization: CrossLites

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: Dec. 15

This scholarship is open to high school, college, and graduate students and asks applicants to write an essay about a quote.

Graduate School Scholarships

Sponsoring organization:

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: Every three months offers scholarships to current graduate students or those who graduated within the last five years of $1,000 each. Scholarships are awarded through a drawing.

EdvestinU National Monthly Scholarship Giveaway

Sponsoring organization: EdvestinU

Amount: $1,000

Application due date: Last day of every month

Three students (graduate students are eligible) each month win $1,000 scholarships. A drawing determines the scholarship recipients.

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Google

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is available to women who are either undergraduate or graduate students, pursuing studies in computing or technology. The financial award is for the academic year.

AWAF scholarships

Sponsoring organization: Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF)

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD (scholarships are awarded quarterly)

Many scholarships are given out by the AWAF, to women with a “passion for a career or advancement in the automotive and its related industries.” A 3.0 GPA or higher is required.

Ignite Change Leadership Contest

Sponsoring organization: Boston GLOW

Amount: Up to $5,000 and other prizes

Application due date: TBD

Females not yet in college aged 13-19 in Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville, Massachusetts can win a scholarship for writing the best essay about what you’d change for females in your community.

Daughters of the Cincinnati Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: The Daughters of the Cincinnati

Amount: Up to $16,000

Application due date: March 15, 2016

Daughters of career-commissioned officers of the United States armed services are eligible for scholarships of up to $16,000.

Dr. Gussie M. Ware Memorial Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Community Foundation of Northern Illinois

Amount: Varies

Application due date: March 1

These scholarships are given to high school seniors about to start college who are African-American, have at least a 2.5 GPA, and either have a permanent resident in Winnebago County or are relatives of Dr. Gussie M. Ware.

Charles Shelton Veterinary Medicine/Technology Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: Charles Shelton Foundation

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: April 15, 2016

The Charles Shelton Foundation awards one $2,500 annual, non-renewable scholarship to African-American high school or college students or returning adult students. An essay and letters of reference are part of the application.

ABA Diversity Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: American Bus Association

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: Varies

For under-represented students studying anything related to the transportation, tourism, or travel industry, the American Bus Association awards two $2,500 scholarships. Students must have completed their first year of college at an accredited school and must complete a 500-word essay.

AIGC Graduate Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC)

Amount: Varies

Application due date: July 15 each year

The AIGC offers scholarships to grad students who have financial need and belong to an American Indian tribe or Alaska Native group.

AMS Minority Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: American Meteorological Society (AMS)

Amount: Up to $6,000

Application due date: Feb. 5, 2016

The AMS offers scholarships to minority students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

APTA Minority Scholarship for Physical Therapist Assistant Students

Sponsoring organization: American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

Amount: $2,500

Application due date: TBD

The APTA gives out a scholarship each year to minority physical therapy assistant students.

Merit Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: AHIMA Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

The AHIMA Foundation offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students studying health information management, health information technology, or a related subject.

Donald and Shirley Hastings Scholarship

Sponsoring organization: American Welding Society

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

This scholarship is for undergraduate students pursuing welding engineering or welding engineering technology studies. Financial need must be demonstrated.

Minority Scholarship Program

Sponsoring organization: Warner Norcross & Judd

Amount: $2,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was April 1)

This generous law firm gives out a $2,000 scholarship each year to a paralegal/legal assistant student who’s a Michigan resident. Preference is given to minorities.

Student Scholarship Program

Sponsoring organization: eSchoolView

Amount: $1,000-$5,000

Application due date: TBD (in 2015, it was Feb. 6)

eSchoolView offers a number of scholarships to high school seniors across the nation interested in pursuing graphic design, web design or development. The application includes creating a web page.

Technician/Service Provider Scholarships

Sponsoring organization: Nexstar Legacy Foundation

Amount: Varies

Application due date: TBD

This scholarship is for students at two and four-year colleges who plan on becoming technicians or service providers in the HVAC, plumbing, or electrical fields. The award is renewed each year for up to four years.


Can you get financial aid for vocational school?

Yes, students at a vocational school can receive financial aid such as loans, scholarships, and grants.

Can you get a Pell grant for vocational school?

Yes, the Pell Grant program awards money to students enrolled in accredited vocational programs. Applicants must submit the FAFSA every year to receive the Pell grant.

Will FAFSA cover vocational schools?

Yes, students attending accredited vocational schools can submit the FAFSA to qualify for federal student aid.

What is the average cost of vocational school?

On average, vocational programs at two-year colleges cost $3,700 per year, while vocational programs at private, for-profit schools cost $15,000.

Financial Aid and the FAFSA®: 10 Things to Know

The federal student aid program distributes $120 billion in aid each year. Vocational students attending an accredited institution can receive federal grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid by filling out the FAFSA. Here are the top 10 considerations to keep in mind when applying for financial aid for vocational school.

  • Check with Your School or Prospective School, First and Foremost

    Vocational schools can connect current and prospective students with financial aid information, including information on federal student aid, institutional aid, and state aid. Your school's financial aid office can also explain any stipulations on receiving financial aid. In addition, only accredited vocational schools can distribute federal student aid. Check the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to find out if your school qualifies.

  • There are Many Grants and Programs Targeted to Vocational Students

    Many grants and scholarships specifically support vocational students. For example, the Ciri Foundation offers vocational training grants, and the Horatio Alger Foundation offers career and technical scholarships. Some scholarships and grants fund students enrolled in specific programs. For example, Washington offers a career and technical scholarship for vocational learners pursuing training in a trade, STEM, or healthcare occupation.

  • Research the FAFSA® Deadline

    Applicants must submit the FAFSA before the deadline to receive federal aid. The federal student aid program makes the form available on Oct. 1st every year. The federal FAFSA deadline is June 30. However, your school may set an earlier deadline, so make sure to check with your financial aid office. Students should try to fill it out as soon as possible since some opportunities are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Get the Documents You Need Fill Out the FAFSA® Ready

    The FAFSA asks for tax and personal financial information. You need your most recent federal tax return, and dependent students also need to provide tax information for their parents. The FAFSA also asks about untaxed income, checking and savings account balances, and investments. Prepare your FAFSA documents ahead of time.

  • Students Who Are Dependents of Their Parents Will Need Their Parent’s Information When Applying for the FAFSA®

    Vocational students who qualify as dependents according to the FAFSA must also provide financial information about their parents. Students under the age of 24 who are unmarried and have no dependents generally qualify as dependents. Active-duty servicemembers and veterans qualify as independents and do not need to provide parental information.

  • Federal Over Private Student Loans

    Federal student loans offer several benefits compared to private loans. Federal loans generally charge a lower interest rate, provide more repayment options, and let borrowers consolidate their loans. For example, federal borrowers can participate in student loan forgiveness programs. Federal loans also do not require a credit history or co-signer, unlike most private loans.

  • Many Popular Scholarship Websites have Different Sections and Pages Specifically for Vocational Scholarships

    Many scholarship databases offer specific sections for vocational and trade school scholarships. For example the College Board scholarship search lets students search by their area of study, including vocational fields. Fastweb also lists trade, technical, and vocational school scholarships. Make sure to check popular scholarship websites to see if they list vocational scholarships.

  • Some Schools May Pay for Veterans

    Vocational and trade schools may help veterans with field experience transition into the civilian workforce. Many trade and vocational schools offer tuition discounts and other benefits for veterans. Thanks to educational benefits like the GI Bill, veterans may be able to attend vocational school for free. The GI Bill covers non-college degree programs at approved schools.

  • Not All Scholarships Are Merit-Based

    While some forms of financial aid for vocational school require a high GPA or strong test scores, other forms of financial aid do not weigh academic merit. For example, students qualify for the Pell Grant based on financial need. Similarly, some scholarships award money based on need or career prospects instead of prior academic performance.

  • See If Organizations You’re Already Part of Offer Scholarships or Grants

    Many organizations offer scholarships and grants to members. The 4-H organization, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the Elks Foundation all offer scholarships to members or children of members. If you are part of an organization, find out if they offer scholarships for vocational students or other forms of financial aid.

The Cost of Vocational School

The cost of vocational school varies widely depending on the type of program. For example, students pursuing an associate degree at a public two-year college pay a total of around $7,000 in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A one-year vocational certificate at a private, for-profit technical vocational school costs around $15,000 in tuition and fees. Short-term vocational training can cost even less.

In addition to tuition, vocational students may need to pay technology fees, materials fees, and other expenses depending on their program. While trade school students generally do not pay to live in dorms, they should also factor in living expenses. Prospective learners can reach out to vocational schools to learn more about the total cost.

By researching financial aid for vocational school, prospective students can potentially cover the cost of their certificate or degree.

How to Find and Apply for Vocational Scholarships

Vocational students qualify for many scholarship opportunities based on factors like their field of study, school, and/or career goals. Professional organizations, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations grant scholarships to vocational students. This section offers tips and suggestions to help students find vocational scholarships, complete their scholarship applications, and win scholarships to pay for vocational or trade school.


Step 1: Don’t Postpone the Financial Aid Search

If you are counting on vocational school financial aid to pay for your program, then start your search for opportunities early. Waiting to apply for scholarships can mean missing out on many opportunities.

Incoming students should begin their financial aid search as soon as they start researching programs. Make a scholarship calendar with deadlines, application requirements, and scholarship information. Submit scholarship applications as early as possible rather than waiting until the last minute. If you find a good scholarship that is not accepting applications yet, make sure to go back and apply later.

Once you're in vocational school, keep looking for scholarships on a regular basis. Most schools post scholarship opportunities throughout the year. By applying for scholarships throughout the academic year, students can increase their chances of receiving awards.


Step 2: Decide What You’re Going to Study Ahead of Time

Knowing what you are going to study in vocational school opens many scholarship doors. For example, California's Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program awards up to $8,000 for students in allied health programs. Similarly, some scholarships only grant money to students attending certain schools, so making decisions about your education can mean qualifying for more scholarship opportunities.

Knowing your school and area of study can also help when writing scholarship essays. Many of these essays ask applicants about their area of study and career goals. Providing specific answers helps applicants stand out.


Step 3: Look at General Scholarships

In addition to vocational and technical scholarships, students should also research general scholarships. Many general scholarships accept applications from any postsecondary student, including vocational students. For instance, Union Plus scholarships support union members and their children whether they're attending a university, college, trade school, or technical school.

When researching general scholarships, vocational students should carefully review the eligibility requirements. Some only accept applications from degree-seeking students, while others also support students earning a certificate. Many general scholarships also require recipients to attend an accredited school. If the requirements are not clear, reach out to the scholarship organization for clarification before applying.


Step 4: Gather Essential Documents Right Away

The exact application requirements vary depending on the scholarship, but students must often submit proof of enrollment, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants who have not yet started their program may also need to submit an acceptance letter.

Organizing these essential documents at the beginning of your scholarship search can save time. Since many scholarships accept online applications, scanning documents can be a handy way to stay organized. Some scholarships require documents that cannot be prepared in advance, like a customized letter or essay. For these scholarships, make sure to add the requirements to your scholarship calendar so you have time to prepare them before the deadline.


Step 5: Get Working on Those Essays

Many scholarships require an essay as part of the application package. Students may need to write an essay on their educational or career goals. Some scholarships ask students to write about challenges they've faced in their academic career or about their plans after completing their program.

Scholarship essays can feel daunting, but putting them off can mean missing deadlines and losing out on financial aid opportunities. Students should plan to write a customized essay for each scholarship. If the scholarship asks for a specific word count, do your best not to go significantly under or over that number. Ask a family member or friend to read over the essay to make sure it answers the prompt. Above all, set aside time to write and revise the essay so you aren't rushing at the last minute.

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