Vocational schools in Michigan serve thousands of students each year who are seeking a career-focused education. As early as high school, students can pursue a career that combines their talents and passions with industry-specific skills training and education. Trade schools may lead to an associate degree, a diploma, or a certificate.
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Michigan trade schools include public schools and private colleges. Trade school programs often offer training for the state’s growing industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and construction. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 74% of graduates from technical and trade school programs find work in their field, compared to 53% of graduates with academic credentials. FIND PROGRAMS By Heather Mullinix Published on July 14, 2020
Trade school programs include a mix of classroom and experiential training. For instance, learners in occupational therapy assistant programs complete clinical training to build hands-on skills. Michigan offers many resources to help students meet their educational and career goals through the Michigan Talent Investment Agency.
This guide ranks the best vocational schools in Michigan. It also covers other important information for prospective students, such as scholarship opportunities for trade school students and common careers and potential salaries for graduates.
What is the difference between a trade school and a college?
Trade schools provide career-focused training, focusing on the skills necessary for a specific job. Colleges emphasize academic training, which incorporates courses in a variety of disciplines.
What can you learn at a trade school?
Vocational schools in Michigan offer hundreds of career training opportunities, many of which are aligned with in-demand jobs throughout the state. Trade schools offer training in areas such as allied health, technology, and cosmetology.
What are examples of vocational jobs?
Examples of vocational jobs include electrician, cosmetologist, occupational therapy assistant, paralegal, and paramedic.
What are the different types of trade schools?
Michigan’s system of community colleges includes 28 schools offering a variety of technical and vocational programs in areas like allied health, technology, and the skilled trades.
Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
Prospective students should ensure that any school they attend holds accreditation and state licensure. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to factors like student learning outcomes, academic rigor, and faculty qualifications.
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.
With so many vocational schools in Michigan, students may need help selecting the school that best meets their needs. Learners can use the following ranking to help them find programs aligned with their interests and goals.
With its newly remodeled automotive lab, the Washburn University Institute of Technology's Auto Service Technician program provides students with both classroom and hands-on learning opportunities as they learn about the maintenance and repair of engines, brakes, transmissions and electrical systems in various types of vehicles. The program can be completed in 2 semesters by full-time students, or in 4 semesters by part-time and high school students. Upon completion, students will earn a 52-credit hour technical certificate and be eligible to pursue an associate or more advanced degree.
Salina Area Technical College's Automotive Technology program prepares students for careers as general mechanics, brake specialists, transmission specialists, specialists in electronic systems and others. Students receive a personal tablet computer upon enrollment, and have the option of earning a technical certificate (53 credits) in 4 semesters or an Associate of Applied Science degree (68 credits) in 5 semesters. In addition to classroom and on-campus shop work, students also work in real-world situations as part of their education. While classes must be attended in-person, free online tutoring is available.
Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CTCC) has anautomotive programthat prepares students to service all types of vehicles upon graduation. This 60-credit program is generally completed in 4 semesters based on a full-time schedule (15 or more hours per semester). Students who complete the entire program earn a technical diploma (the highest credential for the program), and may take the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification test. The program itself, as well as all of its instructors, are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
Arkansas State University's automotive program offers 2 options for students to gain entry-level skills as auto mechanics. They can earn a technical certificate in Automotive Systems Repair over the course of 2 semesters and 48 credits, or an Associate of Applied Science in Workforce Technology with an emphasis in automotive systems repair with 1 additional semester and 12 credits. ASU emphasizes hands-on training, and uses a curriculum developed by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) to lead to National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. Some core courses may be taken online; however, the majority of students' time is spent in the on-campus shop.
Lake Area Technical Institute's (LATI) Automotive Technology program emphasizes hands-on training to prepare students for future careers as service technicians, transmission specialists and auto shop managers. This 18-month program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), and instructors hold certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Graduates may also go on to complete a Light Duty Diesel Technology program; for this option, students earn their ASE certifications in Automobile and Light Truck over a summer session, or enroll for a third year of study (9 months), culminating in an AAS degree in addition to ASE certification.
Mitchell Technical Institute's Diesel Power Technology AAS degree prepares students for careers as mechanics, service technicians or field technicians specifically for machinery in the agriculture industry. Graduates may also work in sales at agricultural power equipment dealerships. Students will learn the fundamentals of power trains, hydraulics, air conditioning and electrical systems, and will participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience. The degree requires 76 credits taken over 5 semesters. Various scholarships are available.
Brigham Young University-Idaho's Automotive Technology Program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and offers students several options. On-campus students may obtain bachelor's degrees in either automotive engineering, advanced vehicle systems or automotive technology (requiring 120 credits over 4 years), or obtain an associate degree in automotive technology (64 credits). Students must take at least one course online; those interested in pursuing their studies completely online may choose BYU's Auto Service Technology Certificate. Students in this program learn skills such as diagnosis and repair, maintenance, and automotive operation; credits earned can be applied toward a full automotive degree or translated directly into the workplace as a service adviser or technician. The certificate program is composed of 17 credits, with each course worth 2-3 credits.
High school students and adult learners interested in becoming entry-level automotive technicians may apply to the automotive technology program at Cabell County Career Technology Center. High school students spend half a day in class over 2 years, for a total of 1,080 hours, while adults can attend evening classes over 2 years for a total of 1,200 hours. Students spend the majority of their time in the lab. The high school program teaches 4 core courses (Fundamentals of Automotive Technology, Basic Engine Concepts, Brake Systems, and Suspension and Steering Systems); the adult program has additional subject areas. Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education with approval by the West Virginia Department of Education, students are able to earn hours to become certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). A student services coordinator assists with services such as job shadowing and job placement.
The Diesel Mechanics program at Alexandria Technical Community college uses both classroom and lab work to prepare graduates for work on construction and agricultural equipment, as well as truck repair and maintenance. Students can obtain an AAS degree with the completion of 108 credits over 2 years, or the Diesel Mechanics diploma with 99 credits over the course of 2 years. Many scholarships are available to students through ATC's various industry partnerships. Graduates go on to jobs as diesel technicians, fleet mechanics and field service technicians.
In Mesalands Community College's Power Technology program, students may earn an Associate of Applied Science in either automotive technology or diesel technology with 61 credit hours, or an applied science certificate in either field with 37 credits. Programs provide students with the fundamentals and knowledge to service and repair vehicles pertaining to their specialization. Certificates can take as little as 6 months to 1 year to complete, while AAS degrees take 2 years or 4 semesters.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
Many in-demand careers offer job satisfaction and above-average earnings without requiring an expensive or time-consuming degree. Professional trade occupations offer a median income of $54,000 and make up more than 545,000 jobs in Michigan, with more than 47,000 job openings each year.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation reports that businesses continue to expand their operations in the state thanks to business-friendly policies and a coordinated talent program developing a skilled workforce. In-demand fields include medical device manufacturing, cybersecurity, healthcare, and composite materials manufacturing. Michigan also remains at the center of global automotive manufacturing and leads the nation in information technology job growth.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Trade schools in Michigan prepare graduates for positions in diverse fields, such as healthcare, technology, and the skilled trades. The following sections outline just a few of the many types of trade schools.
Dental Hygienist Schools
Dental hygienists work in dental practices under the supervision of a dentist. They provide hands-on patient care, examining gum health, taking dental x-rays, and cleaning patients’ teeth.
They also explain procedures and offer educational information on oral health.
Schools may offer an associate degree in dental hygiene. Most programs take two years to complete. Typical courses include anatomy and physiology, dental radiography, and dental science. Many
programs require clinical practice, placing students in dental offices to observe and provide patient care.
Students seeking a mechanic diploma from a trade school in Michigan can specialize in areas like automotive repair, diesel engine repair, industrial machinery, or aviation maintenance. These
programs require 1-2 years of study, depending on the program focus.
Automotive mechanics often work in service departments of dealerships or independent repair shops, repairing and maintaining passenger vehicles. Auto mechanics must obtain certification from the Michigan Secretary of State. The BLS reports that these professionals make an average salary of $43,980.
Diesel engine mechanics specialize in the upkeep repair of commercial trucks and heavy equipment. They may work with commercial fleets, dealers, or specialty repair services. Diesel mechanics
make an average salary of $47,650. Aviation mechanics may work for airlines or airport operators. This specialization requires certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. Aviation mechanics make an average salary of $57,410.
Industrial machinery mechanics work in manufacturing facilities, ensuring equipment operates properly. These professionals typically make $19-$30 per hour.
Paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys with case management, legal research, and office efficiency. These professionals typically hold an associate degree. Paralegal students take
courses in areas like criminal justice, legal research, and legal writing. Students may also take part in hands-on projects or find internships with local law practices.
Michigan does not require licensure for paralegals. Paralegals, however, must work under the supervision of a licensed attorney. The BLS reports a median annual salary of $51,740.
Trained to perform diagnostic imaging tests, radiology technicians may work in hospitals, medical groups, or imaging facilities. These professionals may pursue an associate degree or
certificate. Students take classes on topics like patient safety, anatomy, and image evaluation. Instruction includes classroom lectures and clinical training.
Michigan does not require state licensure for radiology technicians, but some specializations require additional training and certification, such as mammography and MRI technology. The BLS projects jobs for radiology technicians to grow 9% between 2018 and 2028.
Students can access multiple financial aid resources to help pay for their trade school education, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. To qualify for federal financial aid, students must submit the FAFSA every year. However, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal aid.
The federal Pell Grant program assists students in paying for their postsecondary education, with a maximum award of $6,345 in the 2020-21 school year. This need-based program considers the cost of a student’s selected institution, enrollment status, and the expected family contribution.
States, schools, and philanthropic organizations may also use FAFSA information to determine financial awards. Because some programs offer funding on a first-come, first-served basis, students should submit the FAFSA as soon as possible.
Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The following section outlines several scholarship opportunities for students at vocational schools in Michigan.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
Scholarships may award recipients based on factors like need, academic record, and community involvement. The following list outlines several of many scholarship opportunities for trade school students in Michigan.
Clarence A. 'Buck' Iles Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship goes to graduating high school seniors pursuing postsecondary training in any building trade. Applicants must live in Saginaw County. The Saginaw
Community Foundation manages the scholarship program. Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Students graduating from qualifying Michigan high schools with a 3.71 GPA or higher may apply for this renewable scholarship program. Selection criteria includes
extracurricular and community activities, leadership, and academic achievement. Amount: Up to $10,600 over four years
Who Can Apply: Students from Washtenaw County with Type I diabetes may apply for this scholarship managed by Diabetes Scholars. Students may use their award at trade and
vocational schools. Applicants must submit recommendations from physicians and teachers or counselors. Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: Children of workers killed or severely injured in workplace accidents may apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be 17-22 years old and enrolled in a
university, college, or vocational school in Michigan. Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: The Tiderington family of Saginaw County established this scholarship fund in 1996 for students seeking a vocational career. Applicants must live in Saginaw
County and submit an essay and recommendations. Amount: Varies
Michigan Association for Career and Technical Education
Information about vocational and trade programs in Michigan at the secondary and postsecondary level.
Michigan Center for Career & Technical Education
An overview of CTE programs in Michigan.
Michigan Department of Education
Information for students, parents, and educators about Michigan’s career and technical education standards in each career industry. Provides a list of adult education opportunities and community
Pure Michigan Talent Connect
Job search database for all Michigan residents. Includes resources to explore careers based on skills and training, as well as special resources for skilled trades jobs.
Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency
Serving Wayne County, students and parents can find information about vocational and trade program curriculum, financial aid and direct information on earning a trade degree in Wayne County.
Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.