Yes. Students at trade schools can receive loans, grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid.
Why Choose Trade School?
Trade schools in Illinois provide career-focused training in areas like allied health, the skilled trades, and technology. Trade school graduates can work as respiratory therapists, radiation technicians, and occupational therapy assistants. They can also pursue careers as mechanics, electricians, paralegals, and cosmetologists.
Vocational programs combine classroom learning with hands-on experiences through practicum, lab, and clinical requirements. For example, students in paramedic programs strengthen their skills through experiential learning in hospitals and ambulances.
Vocational programs offer several benefits over four-year academic programs. Earning a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years, meaning students can enter the workforce faster than students at four-year programs. Additionally, 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.
This page ranks the top vocational schools in Illinois to help students identify the best vocational program for their needs and goals. It also introduces career and salary data for trade school occupations and scholarship opportunities for Illinois trade school students.
Can I get financial aid for trade school?
Yes. Students at trade schools can receive loans, grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid.
Can trade school credits transfer?
Yes. Credits earned at trade schools often transfer to other schools. However, many schools only accept credits from accredited institutions.
What is the difference between trade school and technical school?
Trade schools and technical schools are essentially the same, providing career training in areas like healthcare, the skilled trades, and legal services.
What is the highest paid trade?
Many trade school jobs offer above-average salaries, including roles like dental hygienist, respiratory therapist, construction manager, and plumber. Prospective students can look up earnings by industry to learn more.
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Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
Prospective trade school students should always check a school’s accreditation and licensing status before applying. Accredited schools meet high standards for educating students. To earn accreditation, schools must undergo a rigorous review from an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the accrediting agency evaluates the school’s student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic mission. Accredited schools must regularly repeat the process to maintain their status.
Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For example, 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.
Schools that offer vocational certificates and degrees may hold regional or national accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities typically hold regional accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to colleges and universities in Illinois.
Vocational and trade schools often hold national accreditation from specialized agencies like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Approved by the Department of Education, ACCSC accredits over 650 trade and technical schools nationwide. Other accrediting agencies include the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which grants accreditation to online schools. Learn more about the accreditation process here.
In addition to accreditation, postsecondary schools must also hold a license from the state. In Illinois, the Board of Higher Education licenses schools that offer vocational programs.
Vocational Trade Schools in Illinois
Trade schools in Illinois provide career-focused training in many in-demand areas. By choosing a top-ranked vocational program, students can advance their education and increase their earning potential. Our list ranks the best vocational schools in Illinois to help prospective students find the right fit for their goals and interests.
Find Vocational and Trade Schools in Illinois
Illinois students can pursue a variety of career and technical education programs. Use this search tool to find accredited vocational and trade schools in Illinois.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
Salaries for trade school occupations vary depending on the industry, location, and experience, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that technical and trade school occupations pay an average salary of $55,000 per year.
Personal care and service occupations offer around $33,000 per year, on average, while management occupations pay over $96,000 annually. Meanwhile, healthcare practitioner and technical occupations offer an average salary of $55,000.
Location also impacts salary. In Illinois, occupational wage data shows that radiation therapists earn over $84,000 per year, on average, and paralegals make nearly $60,000 per year.
Trade school graduates often benefit from strong demand. For example, the BLS reports much faster-than-average job growth for dental hygienists, paralegals, and HVAC technicians between 2018 and 2028.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Vocational and tech schools in Illinois offer programs in many high-demand areas, such as allied health, the skilled trades, and technology. This section introduces popular trade school programs. In addition to these options, students can research programs for other trade school jobs, like HVAC technician, cosmetologist, and occupational therapy assistant.
Dental Hygienist Schools
Dental hygienists clean patients’ teeth and look for signs of oral diseases. They examine patients, take dental x-rays, apply dental treatments, and report their findings to dentists. Dental hygienists also educate patients about oral hygiene.
Most dental hygienists hold an associate degree. During a dental hygiene program, students take classes in anatomy, periodontics, and dental care. Programs also incorporate clinical and laboratory training.
In every state, dental hygienists need a license. In Illinois, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation licenses dental hygienists. In 2019 dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of over $76,000, with much faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028.
Learn more about dental hygienist programs.
Mechanics, also known as service technicians, inspect and repair cars and trucks. They use diagnostic equipment to identify problems, repair worn parts, and perform maintenance to keep cars running smoothly. Mechanics must also explain mechanical problems and repairs to clients.
Vocational programs train students in automotive repair, electronic systems, and transmission repair. Students also complete hands-on training to build their skills. After completing a vocational program, professionals can earn certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence to demonstrate expertise in areas like brakes, electronic systems, and engine repair.
Nationally, mechanics earn a median pay of $42,000 per year. In Illinois, mechanics do not need a license to practice, but some employers may prefer to hire certified mechanics.
Learn more about mechanic programs.
Paralegals help lawyers by conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, and assisting lawyers during trial. Paralegals may also investigate cases and arrange evidence for attorney review. They may specialize in areas like corporate law or litigation.
Many paralegals complete a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies. During a paralegal studies program, students complete coursework on topics like legal research, corporate law, contract law, and legal writing. Paralegals do not need to hold a license to practice.
Learn more about paralegal programs.
Radiology Technician Schools
Radiology technicians perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. They prepare patients for procedures and use imaging equipment to take images for physicians. Radiology technicians must follow safety procedures and keep detailed records.
Vocational schools in Illinois offer associate programs for radiology technicians. During these programs, students take classes on topics like anatomy, patient care, radiation protection, and image evaluation. They also complete clinical training to strengthen their skills.
After completing an associate degree, graduates often pursue certification from an organization like the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency licenses radiology technicians in the state. Radiology technicians earned a median annual income of over $62,000 in 2019, with faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028.
Learn more about radiology technician programs.
Financial Aid for Trade School Students
Trade school students can pursue financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their education, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. To receive federal financial aid, students must submit the FAFSA every year. However, only students at accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid programs.
Choosing an affordable trade school can also help lower the cost of a vocational certificate or degree. Illinois public universities charge nearly $14,000 per year in tuition and fees, on average, while private universities cost over $32,000 per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In contrast, Illinois community colleges cost under $4,000 per year.
Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The next section introduces scholarship opportunities for trade school students.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
Students attending trade and vocational schools in Illinois can take advantage of many scholarship opportunities. Private foundations, government agencies, and professional organizations all offer scholarships for students pursuing a vocational certificate or degree. In addition to the following scholarships, students can research opportunities based on their field or school.
Community Foundation of Northern Illinois Scholarships
Who Can Apply: This foundation offers more than 90 scholarships, including scholarships for trade school students. Eligibility requirements vary by scholarship.
Who Can Apply: The Illinois Real Estate Educational Foundation grants scholarships to students pursuing real estate training. Applicants must be Illinois residents.
Amount: Up to $2,000
Who Can Apply: Offered by the Anhelo Project, this scholarship funds undocumented students attending a university or vocational training program in Illinois. Students must be enrolled full time at an accredited school with a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Edwardsville Community Foundation Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Edwardsville Community Foundation awards over 50 scholarships each year to students in the school district. Many scholarships support students attending trade schools in Illinois.
Amount:Up to $1,500
Who Can Apply: Offered by the Northern Suburban Special Education District Foundation, this scholarship funds students who receive special education services. Recipients can use the scholarship to attend vocational schools in Illinois.
Additional Education and Career Resources
Business Professionals of America - Illinois
Helps students develop sound business and professional skills for their future careers. The Illinois chapter hosts conferences and other events for members and elects officers each year.
Future Business Leaders of America - Illinois Chapter
Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL) is the oldest business student organization in the world. The Illinois chapter hosts a number of events and activities specifically for business students and leaders throughout the year.
Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) - Illinois Chapter
Partnered with STEM premier to provide resources for those involved in healthcare and related fields. Supports the objectives of health professionals, including nurses and nurse assistants.
Illinois Association of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)
Formerly known as the future homemakers of America, this organization helps students become better leaders within their families and communities. Students learn invaluable life skills to manage a household effectively and contribute to their community in positive ways.
Illinois Community College Board
State coordinating board for all community colleges in Illinois and also administers the Public Community College Act to ensure area community colleges are best serving the community. Features resources for students, including financial aid information and events.
Illinois Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA)
This state-approved organization helps students become academically prepared, professionally responsible, and community oriented with skills development opportunities, conferences, and other special events.
Illinois State Board of Education
Features a comprehensive listing of Illinois schools, learning standards, and agency programs. Also lists news updates about results from statewide assessments and other information affecting educational programs throughout the state.
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