Vocational Trade Schools in Honolulu

Updated September 1, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, offer career-centered programs that equip students with skills required in specific occupations. Traditional vocational programs cover trades like auto repair, elevator installation, HVAC, and welding.

The continued rise in the number of students who choose to enter the workforce sooner has fueled a demand for more diverse vocational programs. Trade schools now offer programs in information technology, medical assisting, and computer network management.

Vocational programs often take under two years to complete. By offering career-focused programs, trade schools save students time and money. Additionally, some vocational credits can transfer to an associate or bachelor's program.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that 74% of students with an occupational credential work in jobs that are directly related to their field of study. On the other hand, 53% of students with academic credentials find work in their field of study after graduation.

As such, vocational schools in Hawaii and beyond can lead to lucrative and fulfilling careers.

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What is trade school?A trade school is a postsecondary institution that offers skills-focused programs that prepare students for jobs in a specific sector or industry.
Can I go to trade school online?Some vocational programs are available online. However, many online trade school programs use a hybrid delivery method.
Can I get financial aid for trade school?Yes. Trade school students can receive financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
Are scholarships available for vocational students?Most states maintain scholarship and grant programs specifically for trade school students. These programs typically include a residency requirement.

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

A self-review and peer-review process, accreditation involves the close examination of a school's academic programs to determine whether they meet standards established by recognized accrediting organizations. Postsecondary institutions voluntarily seek accreditation to demonstrate their commitment to their students.

In the United States, the ED and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process. Nonprofit universities typically seek regional accreditation. They can be public, private, two-year, or four-year schools. For-profit trade and sectarian schools usually seek national accreditation.

If you plan to apply for any type of financial aid from the government to help pay for your education, make sure you enroll in an accredited institution. The ED only channels federal assistance packages through accredited schools.

Additionally, schools holding the same type of accreditation often accept transfer credits from one another. Accredited institutions rarely accept credits earned at non-accredited schools.

The ED and CHEA recognize the Distance Education Accrediting Commission as the main accreditor for offsite education in the country, which includes online programs and schools. TheAccrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges serves as the principal accreditor for institutions offering technical or trade programs.

A school's license to operate is not the same as accreditation. An operating license means a school meets the minimum requirement to offer educational programs within the state. Accreditation evaluates the quality of a school's academic offerings. Be wary of schools that claim accreditation and a license are the same.

Vocational Trade Schools in Hawaii

The following list ranks the best trade schools in Hawaii. Ranking criteria include accreditation status, financial aid options, cost of attendance, and graduation rates.

  1. Honolulu Community College

    Honolulu, HI

    Founded in 1920, Honolulu CC began as the Territorial Trade School in Palama. It adopted its current name in 1966. The college now serves more than 4,000 students each year and is one of the best trade schools in Hawaii.

    Part of the University of Hawai'i System, Honolulu CC offers associate degrees across seven liberal arts majors and 22 associate and certificate programs in career and technical education fields. The college also offers direct transfer pathways to UH Mānoa, Hilo, and West Oahu. Honolulu CC maintains articulation agreements with other private four-year institutions throughout the Aloha State.

    Honolulu CC administers an apprenticeship program through a contract with the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility. The program leads to an associate of applied science degree or a certificate of achievement award.

    The college supports its students through career counseling and job search advice, tutorial sessions, technical support, and health and wellness services.

    Honolulu CC is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  2. Kapi'olani Community College

    Honolulu, HI

    Established in 1946, Kapi'olani CC began as a technical school with a strong focus on food service programs. Today, Kapiolani CC is a member of the University of Hawai'i System and one of the best vocational schools in Hawaii. The college offers associate and certificate programs in diverse areas like medical assisting, paralegal studies, radiologic technology, and medical laboratory technology.

    Kapi'olani CC offers several support services to help all members of its diverse student population. The college provides special programs for native Hawaiian learners, students with disabilities, veterans and active-duty military service members, and online learners. All students benefit from career and academic counseling, group or individual tutoring sessions, and job placement resources.

    Kapi'olani CC administers apprenticeship programs in culinary arts, optometry, phlebotomy, and dental assisting. The college works closely with community businesses and commercial institutions to craft apprenticeship programs that produce workplace-ready graduates.

    Kapi'olani CC is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  3. Hawaii Community College

    Hilo, HI

    Hawai'i CC began in 1941 as the Hawai'i Vocational School, joining the University of Hawai'i System in 1970. Hawai'i CC currently serves over 2,600 students. The college offers 26 associate and certificate programs that prepare students for transfer to four-year schools and entry into the workforce.

    Hawai'i CC supports students through academic advising, job search assistance, and career counseling. The college also provides resources for students with disabilities, veterans, and in-state learners.

    Hawai'i CC maintains transfer partnerships with the other schools within the University of Hawai'i System as well as with private colleges within and outside the state.

    Hawai'i CC is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  4. University of Hawai'i Maui College

    Kahului, HI

    UHMC began as the Maui Vocational School in 1931. It joined the University of Hawai'i System in 1965 and adopted its current name in 2010 when it started offering bachelor's degrees. UHMC offers bachelor of applied science degrees in business and information technology, engineering technology, and sustainable science management.

    UHMC also offers associate and certificate programs across more than 20 academic and occupational fields. Students can pursue programs in areas like culinary arts, creative media, electronic and computer engineering technology, and hospitality and tourism. Many of the college's associate degrees fulfill general education requirements for four-year programs.

    UHMC provides its students with academic and personal counseling, career placement, online tutoring sessions, and technical assistance. In addition, there are special programs for students with disabilities, veterans, students of native Hawaiian heritage, and online learners.

    UHMC is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  5. Leeward Community College

    Pearl City, HI

    Leeward CC opened in 1968 as the first community college in the University of Hawai'i System that did not first exist as a vocational school. Leeward CC serves about 7,000 students per semester and offers associate and certificate programs across 20 fields. In addition, Leeward CC maintains transfer pathways for specific programs in information and computer science, teacher education, business, social sciences, engineering, and plant biology.

    Leeward CC supports learners through free tutoring sessions, career guidance and job placement, personal and academic counseling, and health and wellness services. The college also has a laptop loan program, open computer labs, and a writing center. Distance learners can select from 13 completely online and 10 hybrid degrees and certificates.

    Leeward CC is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Find Vocational and Trade Schools in Hawaii

Vocational and trade schools vary in the types of education and training they offer. To find the school near you that best fits your specific educational and career needs, use the search tool below.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Several factors influence career options and salary levels, including education, industry, and experience.

For example, most trade school programs only require 12-18 months to complete. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some trade school occupations earn higher salaries than jobs that require a two-year associate degree.

Electrical and electronics repairers earn a median annual salary of $78,410. Diagnostic medical sonographers, who need at least an associate degree to qualify for entry-level positions in the field, earn a median annual salary of $71,410.

The NCES cites psychology as one of the most popular bachelor's programs, with 117,000 degrees awarded during the 2015-16 school year. However, some of the most common positions for psychology graduates -- like rehab counselors ($35,950) and social workers ($50,470) -- earn much lower median annual salaries than plumbers ($55,160) and electricians ($56,180).

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Many vocational schools continue to offer programs in fields like automobile maintenance and repair, aviation mechanics, and plumbing. In addition, trade schools now offer different types of programs, including six-month certificates and two-year associate degrees in applied technology degrees.

Some tech schools partner with workers' unions or private companies to administer apprenticeships, which can last up to four years.

See below for some of the most common vocational programs available today.

Beauty and Cosmetology Schools

Most vocational schools offer cosmetology programs that take 9-11 months to complete. Programs offered by community colleges take a bit longer, often up to two years, and students graduate with an associate degree.

States require cosmetologists to be licensed. Without a well-designed curriculum, students may experience difficulty passing the licensure exam.

Additionally, you can only sit for the exam if you completed a program from an accredited school. The National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences is the main accreditor in this field.

Some schools offer cosmetology specializations like nail technology or hair coloring. Pursuing a specialization may add to the length of your program.

Construction Management Schools

Construction management programs typically take two years to complete. States do not require licensure for this field. However, earning a certification can increase your chances of getting hired or advancing in your career.

The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) offers different levels of stackable certifications. CMAA certifications are widely recognized in the field.

Many construction management schools offer foundational courses in project management and resource control; blueprint reading; cost estimating; and building construction methods, materials, and equipment. Be sure to enroll in an accredited school or program, especially if you eventually plan to pursue a four-year program in construction management.

Medical Assistant Schools

Medical assistants often work as part of a team of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners to provide timely patient care in hospitals, private practices, and rehabilitation facilities. Depending on the size and services provided by their workplace, medical assistants can perform administrative or clerical functions, provide clinical assistance, or both.

Medical assisting programs typically take one year to complete. Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees in the field. Choose a program that includes both a clinical training component and classroom instruction, since your job will likely require working directly with patients in some capacity.

You do not need to be licensed to work as a medical assistant. However, many employers look for certification from a reputable organization such as the Association of Medical Assistants, especially if you do not have several years of professional experience.

Electrician Schools

Electrician programs at trade schools usually take one year to complete. States require licensure, which in turn requires some type of practical training. Most trade school electrician programs include an internship or practicum to meet this requirement.

You can also become an electrician by completing an apprenticeship, which is a paid position. Trade unions and private companies often maintain apprenticeship programs, which can last up to four years.

Apprentice electricians work alongside master electricians. They start by learning how to perform basic electrical work and gradually assume more responsibilities as they gain practical experience.

The BLS reports that electricians earned an annual median salary of $56,180 in 2019. The BLS projects a 10% growth rate for electrician jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Mechanic Schools

Mechanic programs at vocational or trade schools usually take 12 months to complete. Students receive classroom instruction and practical training. After graduation, they are prepared to sit for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) exams.

Although states do not require licensure for auto mechanics, many employers prefer to hire mechanics with some type of industry-recognized certification and field experience.

There are over 40 ASE certification tests covering many specialized sectors of the automotive mechanic field, including collision repair, brakes, diesel engines, and suspension and steering. Mechanics must take the test every five years to maintain their certification.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Begin your search for financial aid by completing the FAFSA. Most accredited postsecondary institutions (including vocational schools) rely on the information you provide on the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for scholarships or grants.

Private donors and sponsoring organizations often also use FAFSA information to allocate financial aid packages. Trade school students may qualify for need-based federal programs like the Pell Grant. Some trade schools also offer their own scholarship programs, which can be need-based or merit-based.

If you need to take out a student loan, consider borrowing from the government before consulting private lenders. Federal student loans typically maintain lower interest rates that remain fixed for the life of the loan. In most cases, loan repayment starts only after you graduate from your program.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

Hawaii is proud of its long heritage and seeks to support its native students through scholarship opportunities. The foundation-based scholarships below each administer several financial aid programs.

Hana Lima Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship only accepts applications from students enrolled in trade schools in Hawaii. Applicants must have native Hawaiian ancestry, be a high school graduate (or have a GED), demonstrate financial need, and have a 2.0 GPA.
Amount: $1,500

Apply for Scholarship

Hawaii Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: The foundation administers several scholarship and grant programs for different types of students, including those who plan to attend a trade or vocational school program. The criteria for each scholarship vary, but many are need-based and require applicants to be Hawaii residents.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must submit a 750-word essay on two of the three topics in the online application form. Applicants must enroll full time in a vocational or undergraduate program and have a high school GPA of at least 2.5.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Horatio Alger Association Career and Technical Scholarships

Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from students under 30 who plan to pursue a technical education program. Applicants must demonstrate perseverance in the face of adversity and obstacles and demonstrate critical financial need.
Amount: Up to $2,500

Apply for Scholarship

Pauahi Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Administering over 100 scholarship programs, the Pauahi Foundation accepts applications from students of Hawaiian ancestry. The foundation welcomes applications from students enrolled in diverse fields of study, including those pursuing a program at trade schools, community colleges, and universities.
Amount: Varies Apply for Scholarship

Additional Education and Career Resources

Career and Technical Education Center - Hawaii

The CTE Center develops the standards and training programs for vocational and trade schools in Hawaii, as well as CTE courses at the secondary level.

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations provides information on wages, unemployment insurance, industry trends and workforce development in the state.

Hawai'i Workforce Infonet

Includes data on Hawaii's unemployment rates, employment projections, wages for specific industries and green jobs.

Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association

The state's professional organization for workers in the hospitality and tourism industry. Provides information on events, seminars and career opportunities for working professionals.

Healthcare Association of Hawaii

Professional organization for healthcare employees in the states, providing resources, reports, and information on opportunities for continuing education.

Workforce Development Division

Hawaii's Workforce Development Division provides assistance to employers and job hunters. WDD works with educators and employers to identify skills needed in the workplace and the best strategies for teaching them to students.

Learn More...


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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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