Trade schools in Minnesota prepare learners for high-wage, high-demand careers in diverse sectors. While vocational education prepares students for traditional “shop” jobs, such as plumber, auto mechanic, and electrician, vocational students can also pursue careers that fall under the more modern “voc-ed” umbrella, including jobs in robotics, cybersecurity, and engineering.
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Vocational schools in Minnesota blend classroom learning with hands-on training. For example, learners studying to work as occupational therapy assistants complete clinical training to build hands-on skills in the field.
Students can begin vocational training at the secondary level. They can then pursue one-year diplomas, two-year associate degrees, and short-term certification programs through a variety of trade and tech schools in Minnesota. Many two-year colleges hold articulation agreements with four-year public colleges to facilitate seamless transfer to a bachelor’s program.
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the leading organization representing vocational education in the U.S., underscores that career and technical education (CTE) enhances student outcomes. For instance, recent data show that 87% of Minnesota’s postsecondary CTE students were employed following program completion.
The Carl D. Perkins CTE Act annually provides $1.2 billion in federal funding for vocational education in all 50 states. ACTE and other stakeholders also regularly lobby Congress to maintain and increase funding. In 2019, Minnesota received more than $18 million in Perkins funding for the fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
What is the difference between a trade school and a college?
Trade schools provide career-focused training that prepares students for specific jobs after graduation. Colleges focus more on academic training, covering a larger variety of disciplines.
How much does a trade school cost?
The cost of attending trade school varies by program, but Minnesota community and technical colleges cost around $5,400-$6,000 per year in tuition and fees, on average.
What are examples of vocational jobs?
Examples of vocational jobs include paramedic, occupational therapy assistant, mechanic, and dental hygienist.
What are the different types of trade schools?
Minnesota contains 30 community and technical colleges with a diverse selection of programs leading to certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees.
Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
Students should verify the accreditation status of prospective schools. To receive accreditation, institutions must undergo a voluntary, third-party review process that evaluates factors like faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Schools must regularly repeat the review process to maintain accreditation.
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.
Many schools hold regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation typically applies to nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. Six regional accrediting bodies accredit schools in the U.S. based on where the school is located. The Higher Learning Commission regionally accredits Minnesota schools.
Century College's online and hybrid programs include associate degrees in art, Chinese, and education. This trade school in Minnesota also offers vocational certificates in areas such as cybersecurity and global studies. Online and hybrid learners use D2L Brightspace to access virtual content.
Distance-education students at Century College access valuable career resources at the Career Services and Industry Partnerships Center, such as recent job openings with employers in and around White Bear Lake, a resume toolkit, and interviewing tips. The CareerPlan website provides learners with information about careers, allowing them to set individualized goals.
Application requirements include holding either a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. Learners who enroll early receive a rebate to use on tuition or textbooks. All Minnesota residents pay the same tuition and fees, and many students qualify for one of more than 100 institutional aid programs.
M State's online campus offers degrees in numerous subjects including digital marketing, computer programming, and human resources. Students select a transfer pathway if they plan to earn a bachelor's degree at a different college or university. All online coursework uses an asynchronous curriculum, though some programs include on-campus requirements.
Virtual career services at M State include quick guides that cover resume writing, interviewing, and job fair networking. Students create a CAREERnet account to research the latest job postings. Resources for alumni include resume and cover letter guides.
M State awards credits for prior learning: work experience, military training, and personal accomplishments. The college does not require students with ACT, MCA, or SAT scores to take a placement test. More than 50% of learners do not pay tuition due to the college's generous scholarships and grants.
An excellent trade school in Minnesota for prospective learners who want multiple online options, MWCTC offers online degrees in more than three-dozen fields. Programs such as health information technology, pharmacy technology, and business management lead many students to in-demand careers. The college also offers numerous certificates in the computer science field.
MWCTC provides online students with invaluable job-hunting resources that include a job board, resume critiques, and informational podcasts and videos. The Career Services website also contains links to information regarding Minnesota career trends and top jobs throughout the state.
General admission requirements include a GED equivalent or high school transcripts, FAFSA results, and a modest application fee. MWCTC does not use a GPA cutoff for transfer credit and asks transfer learners to take a placement test if they lack mathematics or English credits. Lastly, the college's Our Opportunities website highlights the latest institutional scholarships, and most scholarships award $250-$500.
HTC offers dozens of online degrees and certificates in growing trades that include culinary arts, cyberdefense, and fire protection technician. Over 80% of learners study part time, making this technical school in Minnesota an excellent choice for working students. Also, 99% of HTC alumni find a position relating to the degree or certificate they earned.
Career Development's advisors connect students with resume reviews, practice interviews, and alumni mentors. They also help learners research local internship opportunities.
HTC's admissions process involves student success advising, financial aid, placement testing, and orientation. New learners make advising appointments through the college's e-services portal. Additionally, new learners need only submit the HTC Foundation General Scholarship application to apply for all institutional aid programs.
From its Brainerd and Staples campuses, CLC offers online students seven online degrees in topics such as agricultural science, computer information technology, and viticulture. Many distance-education learners earn an associate for transfer. Additionally, all online courses use D2L-Brightspace software to deliver course content and facilitate communication among students and professors.
CLC proudly participates in the TRIO Upward Bound program to offer free academic support to first-generation and low-income college students. Additionally, the Veterans Resource Center provides both academic and career resources to veterans transferring back to civilian life.
Enrollment steps include applying online, submitting financial aid forms, and taking placements tests. This trade school in Minnesota charges a slightly higher tuition rate to online and hybrid learners, but distance-education students can apply for institutional scholarships.
At Ridgewater, learners choose from 15 online programs that include associate degrees in activity direction, administrative assistance, and legal assistance. Available programs include two certificates -- early childhood and early childhood special education. Also, all distance-education courses use an asynchronous curriculum, making this Minnesota technical college a superb choice for learners who work full time.
For online students, Ridgewater's Career Services website provides helpful resources such as a job board, CareerForce workshops, and individualized coaching. These tools help 94% of recent graduates find a job soon after earning a degree.
Ridgewater accepts GED scores, and new learners with a minimum 22 ACT score do not take the ACCUPLACER exam. Other admission steps include attending orientation and applying for financial aid. Finally, students with 2.0 GPA who take six credits each semester qualify for institutional scholarships.
NCTC offers 29 online degrees and certificates that include dietetic technician, early childhood and paraprofessional, and welding technology. Distance education at this trade school in Minnesota uses asynchronous learning, and each course undergoes a peer-review process to ensure academic rigor. Some courses require proctored exams at an authorized testing center.
Student Career Success professionals provide learners with links to top job sites, career-hunting tips, and resume and cover letter guides. NCTC's dedication to learners' success after graduation results in an impressive alumni job-placement rate.
Some new students who live near one of NCTC's five campuses attend a SOAR Day to complete registration, while other online learners speak with an advisor over the phone. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin residents pay the in-state tuition rate. NCTC awards multiple program-specific scholarships to eligible students.
SCTCC's online learners choose from seven online degrees. The college designed two of the online degrees -- business and psychology -- for transfer students. Other degrees include finance, medical coding, and health information technology. Online courses also feature tremendous flexibility, allowing students to fit studying around their busy schedule.
Whether preparing for a career or transfer, many students benefit from the Center for Academic Success (CAS), which provides tutoring and counseling resources. Some learners also use Tutor.com at no charge to receive help with many academic subjects. Other CAS services include test proctoring, academic workshops, and course resources; students enjoy access to many of these resources 24/7.
Application steps include submitting FAFSA results and completing placement testing. SCTTC's online courses charge a higher per-credit tuition rate than on-campus courses. This vocational school in Minnesota awards financial aid to 80% of its learners.
MCTC offers dozens of online programs with many unique options that include addiction counseling, Arabic, and Somali. Using D2L Brightspace, learners complete coursework at convenient times. Additionally, this trade school in Minnesota provides students with dozens of technology guides that cover typical software students use to learn and communicate with peers and professors.
Preparing for a career at MCTC involves career assessment, career exploration, and experiential learning. Career Services (CS) provides all three and offers virtual advising sessions for distance-education students. The CS website also features links to the best job-preparation websites, including My Next Move and CAREERwise.
Admission requirements include submitting high school transcripts or GED scores, watching orientation videos, and applying for financial aid. The college charges much less in tuition than the nearby University of Minnesota, making it affordable for in-state learners. Students can apply for institutional scholarship opportunities.
Riverland's multiple hybrid programs make it an excellent technical school in Minnesota for students who live near the college's Austin, Owatonna, or Albert Lea campuses. Fully online programs include web development, supervisory management, and administrative assistance. Additionally, most associate degrees require 60 credits, while certificates require 18-20 credits.
Riverland's counselors offer students academic planning guidance and links to top job-hunting websites. Many new learners start a job hunt by using GPS Lifeplan to take a self-assessment and research different career paths.
Submitting ACT or SAT scores exempt some students from taking placement tests. New degree- and certificate-seekers speak with an advisor before registering for courses.
SCC offers dozens of online courses each semester, allowing students to earn a degree or certificate in a hybrid format. Courses cover a variety of topics that include accounting, consumer science, and phlebotomy. Additionally, this trade school in Minnesota provides all distance-education students free access to Tutor.com.
SCC's career development and counseling advisors offer individualized sessions through Zoom or over the phone. Students enjoy 24/7 access to resources like resume-writing tips, internship guides, and interviewing skills primers.
Prospective students do not pay an admission fee and must submit GED scores or high school transcripts. Many new learners make an appointment to videoconference with a financial aid advisor. Additionally, incoming students apply for all institutional aid opportunities by submitting the SCC Scholarship Application. High school graduates who hold a minimum 3.75 GPA receive a full-tuition scholarship automatically.
HNCC online degrees include liberal arts, business administration, and finance management. Career-minded students choose a certificate in fields such as computer information systems and computer science. Additionally, this Minnesota technical college offers students in-depth advice about online learning.
HNCC's Counseling and Career Center (CCC) offers many online resources for job-seekers, such as internship opportunities, virtual career fairs, and leads on local jobs. Other CCC services include resume-writing video tutorials, guides, and workshops. Students make a counseling appointment by phone or email.
Many prospective students take an online course demo to familiarize themselves with the distance learning experience. Freshman applicants submit transcripts or GED scores and FAFSA results. Students who need financial aid should apply for scholarships by the May 15 deadline.
MRC's online academic opportunities include associate degrees in business, business operations and management, and teacher's assistant. Although learners can complete all coursework entirely online, some programs require an in-person internship. MRC maintains relationships with multiple Minnesota public universities, allowing students to transfer to a bachelor's-completion program seamlessly.
Resources on MRC's Career Center (CC) website include the latest job openings, resume-writing advice, and career interest inventories. Many students also explore links to the best job-hunting websites, such as Monster and CareerBuilder. CC also advertises internship and career opportunities near MRC's Virginia and Eveleth campuses.
Enrollment steps for freshmen include taking placement tests and providing FAFSA results. Many online learners need to complete on-campus orientation. Though online students pay more tuition than on-campus students, the university offers dozens of scholarship opportunities for in- and out-of-state learners.
MSC Southeast offers dozens of online programs. The college's 35 degrees and certificates include bookkeeping, CAD drafting technologies, and health unit coordination. Some online degrees require one or more hybrid courses on MSC Southeast's Red Wing or Winona campuses.
Career Services provides learners and alumni with career exploration resources, such as cover letter writing and job interview preparation guides.
Prospective students complete a four-part application process that includes submitting the online application, taking a placement test, providing transcripts, and registering for courses. The scholarship committee considers each applicant's professional goals, GPA, and financial need.
RCTC's 13 online academic programs include degrees in coding specialist, cancer registry management, and administrative office professionals. Many students also complete an online certificate in topics such as communication studies. RCTC also provides distance-education learners with numerous success tips that cover online learning best practices.
Many online learners take advantage of the virtual career resources this trade school in Minnesota offers, such as ISEEK -- a job-preparation guide that helps Minnesota residents achieve career success. Students make a counseling appointment online or by calling the Career Center.
Admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED scores. Some programs maintain additional admission requirements. Both in- and out-of-state students pay the same low tuition rate. Additionally, RCTC awards hundreds of $200-$5,000 scholarships each year. Learners submit only one application for all financial aid opportunities.
Some of FDLTCC's online associate degree programs include American Indian studies, geographic information systems, and nursing. This technical school in Minnesota also offers certificates that lead many graduates to in-demand careers, such as chemical dependency counseling and clean energy technology. Students also enjoy access to independent web resources that cover math and computer science topics.
Students planning for a career enjoy access to FDLTCC's career videos, and many learners who live near the college's Cloquet campus attend on-campus career seminars. Online Career Center resources include GPS LifePlan, an intuitive software program that helps users prepare for a career, additional education, and financial success.
The FDLTCC admissions process involves paying a small fee, submitting standardized test scores, and attending new student orientation. Some courses cost more than the standard per-credit rate. Members of a Native American tribe may qualify for financial aid through the American Indian College Fund.
ATC's online associate degrees include administrative office specialist, medical office specialist, and legal assistant. ATC also offers multiple online certificates, such as health technology and health unit coordinator. Additionally, online learners use D2L Brightspace and enjoy access to the college's technology help desk any day of the week.
Career/Employment Services advisors assist students with resumes and cover letters, starting a job search, and interview preparation. Students at this trade school in Minnesota also enjoy access to CollegeCentral software to search for the latest job openings and create a professional portfolio. Many learners make counseling appointments over email.
ATC's admission checklist includes taking the ACCUPLACER exam, submitting FAFSA results, and completing orientation. Lastly, students at least one-fourth Native American can apply for the $4,000 per-year Minnesota Indian Scholarship. Other students may qualify for the Wallin Educational Partners Scholarship.
LSC offers numerous online degrees for undergraduates, such as business administration, fire science and administration, and paralegal studies. Many career-minded learners earn a certificate in one of eight areas, such as cybersecurity and production technologies. Prospective online students can review LSC's guide to online learning and take a sample course for free.
Career Services (CS) professionals at this Minnesota technical college provide students with interest assessments, career-research tools, and virtual advising sessions. CS also reviews students' resume and cover letter at no additional charge.
Prospective students apply for the fall or spring semester, and admission materials include transcripts or GED scores, as well as FAFSA results. LSC charges online learners less in fees than on-campus students. Finally, scholarship opportunities award $2,500 to eligible applicants.
At SPC, learners choose from a variety of hybrid, synchronous, and online courses in areas such as business, child development, and pharmacy technician certification. This trade school in Minnesota also offers 13 transfer AA degrees in areas such as English and business management. Online students use Zoom and D2L Brightspace to communicate with other classmates and professors.
Career Services (CS) offers virtual appointments for on-campus and distance-education learners. Online resources include job exploration assessments and guides, career readiness tools, and links to job boards. The CS website also contains information about how to network at a career fair.
SPC offers guaranteed admission to applicants who either graduated high school or passed the GED. The college uses the same tuition structure and rates as other Minnesota community colleges and trade schools. Students apply for institutional scholarships at two points throughout the year.
DCTC's online AAS and AS degrees include accountant, business administration, and marketing design specialist. The college also awards online certificates, such as human resource development and small business accounting. Additionally, this vocational school in Minnesota does not currently offer online courses or degrees to residents of 26 states.
The Career and Transfer Resource Center (CTRC) helps learners and alumni prepare for a career by offering mock interviews, an internship board, and employer networking resources. The CTRC website also features a transfer credit checklist worksheet.
DCTC recommends that prospective online and on-campus learners attend a Tuesday campus visit session before registering for courses. All incoming students also submit FAFSA results and complete an orientation session.
At PTCC, students select one of three online certificates: manufacturing foundations technologies, production technologies, and welding technology. These programs require 8-30 credits and take one year or less to complete.
As online certificate-seekers learn new skills and prepare for career advancement, they explore the latest job opportunities on the PTCC's Career Services (CS) website. Other vital CS services include resume templates, guides, and examples. Learners also receive a resume and cover letter critique.
PTCC does not charge an application fee, and applicants who possess standardized test scores do not take a placement test. Also, the college accepts applications on a rolling basis, and prospective students apply up to two weeks before a program starts. Additionally, many Minnesota residents qualify for institutional scholarships.
NTC's online associate degrees include business, administration assistant, and medical coding. This technical school in Minnesota offers 12 online certificates in areas such as community health worker, and administrative business specialist. Like many two-year colleges in the state, NTC offers online programs through Distance Minnesota.
NTC Career Services website includes Handshake, a dynamic software platform that features job and internship opportunities. Many students also use eFolio to create a work portfolio for prospective employers. Additionally, many students who live near NTC's Bemidji campus participate in a federal work-study program to gain professional experience.
NTC's application process involves three simple steps: submitting the online application, providing high school transcripts or GED scores, and requesting undergraduate transcripts from a previous college, if applicable. NTC charges a flat per-semester tuition rate to full-time students, and all Foundation Scholarships use a single application.
HCC's online educational opportunities include courses in drawing, biology, and U.S. history. The college offers approximately 90 fully online courses and 50 hybrid courses each semester, allowing students to complete most academic requirements remotely. Some courses require that learners take exams at an approved proctoring center.
Counseling Services (CS) advisors help students plan a course schedule and research potential jobs. Other CS resources include conflict resolution assistance, and a food closet.
Prospective freshmen submit an application fee alongside high school or GED transcripts. Some programs include additional admission requirements. Lastly, the Hibbing Community College Foundation Scholarships use a single form and application deadline in the spring semester. Many in-state students qualify for other financial aid opportunities.
At ARCC, students earn an online associate degree in accounting, liberal arts, or creative writing. Fully online certificates include business computer applications and business generalist. This Minnesota technical college offers online learners access to SmartMeasure, a unique program that measures a user's online learning strengths and weaknesses.
Students preparing for career success enjoy access to ARCC's job readiness services, such as online guides, a job board, and personalized career counseling. The federal TRIO program also helps students thrive academically. TRIO offers free tutoring services to learners from a disadvantaged background.
The ARCC's simple application steps include in-person or virtual academic advising. The college awards multiple scholarships each year, and students in a STEM field can apply for the Access STEM Scholarship.
Accelerated learners and those planning to transfer to a four-year school should research IHCC's online associate degrees. Degrees include anthropology, gender and women studies, and criminal justice. Many students also explore certificates, such as emergency medical services and childcare teaching.
IHCC's Career Center (CC) website features a job board, internship opportunities, and an interview guide. Students also enjoy access to other informational resources on resume and cover letter writing, as well as job-searching strategies. The CC website also highlights the latest work-study programs for learners who live near Inver Grove Heights.
Brightspace Orientation offers a sample online course for students to try before applying. New students need to submit FAFSA results in order to access institutional financial aid opportunities. Each scholarship requires a separate application. Some scholarship applications require students to write an essay.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2017, the median salary for full-time, year-round workers with some college but no degree was $35,000, while those with an associate degree earned $38,850. However, salaries for trade school graduates vary significantly by factors like location, experience, and industry. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of $76,220 in 2019.
Since many occupations fall under the vocational education/CTE umbrella, learners should research the job outlook and salary information for their intended career. Prospective students can search the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the BLS for career information such as median pay, entry-level education requirements, and job growth projections.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Trade schools in Minnesota can lead to diverse careers in areas such as healthcare, technology, and the skilled trades. The following sections outline information on trade schools for dental hygienists, mechanics, radiology technicians, and paralegals, but students can also research trade schools that prepare them for many other types of careers.
Dental Hygienist Schools
Dental hygienists work under the supervision of licensed dentists. They take X-rays, clean patients’ teeth, screen
for oral diseases, and keep records. These professionals typically need at least a certificate, but many employers prefer an associate degree. They also need a state license to practice from the Minnesota Board of Dentistry.
According to the BLS, dental hygienists made a median annual salary of $76,220 in 2019. The top-paying
industries for this occupation include home healthcare services, $88,010; dentists’ offices, $74,970; and outpatient care centers, $73,690. For more information on dental hygienist schools, visit Accredited Schools Online.
Today’s auto technician needs to master both traditional mechanics and electronic components to repair increasingly sophisticated vehicles. Vocational schools in Minnesota offer auto technician
programs that lead to technical diplomas and associate degrees.
Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers by completing various tasks, such as conducting case research, filing court briefs, and drafting legal documents. Paralegals typically need at
least an associate degree. Some employers may also require paralegals to hold professional certification.
Radiology technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging scanners to perform diagnostic tests on patients. These professionals typically hold at least an associate degree. The best schools
hold accreditation from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Radiology technologists also need a license to practice. The Minnesota Department of Health oversees
radiology technician licensure.
Students attending community and technical colleges in Minnesota can pursue financial aid opportunities, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. To qualify for federal financial aid, learners must submit the FAFSA every year. The federal government offers a variety of scholarship, grant, loan, and work-study opportunities, such as the need-based Pell Grant.
Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The following section outlines several scholarship opportunities for trade school students in Minnesota.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
Many public organizations, private companies, and government agencies offer scholarships for students based on factors like financial need, academic merit, and identity. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for students attending trade schools in Minnesota.
Minnesota State Grant Program
Who Can Apply:
Minnesota students from low- to moderate-income families may qualify for state grant funding to pay for their vocational education. To apply, students must
hold Minnesota residency and submit the FAFSA.
Who Can Apply: U.S. citizens planning to attend an accredited postsecondary college by the fall of 2026 qualify for this opportunity. Applicants must submit an essay outlining
why education matters to them. Amount: $5,000
Minnesota Power Foundation 'Positively Powerful' Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This foundation provides dozens of need-based scholarships for students pursuing an associate or bachelor’s degree in STEM fields such as industrial technology
and electrical engineering. Requirements vary by scholarship. Amount: $1,000-$2,000
American Association of Colleges of Nursing and Hurst Review Services Scholarships
Who Can Apply:
Learners interested in attending nursing schools in Minnesota may qualify for a joint scholarship from these two organizations. Pre-licensure students must
plan to attend an AACN member school to qualify.
Who Can Apply: Current Minnesota high school students planning to attend a two-year, four-year, or vocational school qualify for this opportunity. Candidates must submit an
essay response to a prompt. Amount: $2,000
Minneapolis Public Schools - Career and Technical Education Department
Information about CTE courses available at seven Minneapolis high schools and program descriptions. Includes details about various gateway programs of study and a list of resources for students.
Minnesota Department of Education - Career and Technical Education
Provides contact information for state and technical education professionals and updates about CTE programs around the state.
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Provides resources for job seekers and data about the state of the Minnesota economy with job guides and an economic trends magazine.
Online resource for high school graduates wishing to advance their careers. Includes tips for finding the right school, exploring education options, paying for education, and student success
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.