Why Choose Trade School?
Trade schools offer career-focused programs that prepare graduates for specific occupations. Students graduate with workplace-ready skills in a variety of trades such as aviation mechanics, plumbing, or cosmetology.
Similar to vocational and tech schools, trade schools offer programs that typically take 1-2 years to complete. Some offer two-year associate degrees but most offer certificate and diploma programs that learners can complete sooner.
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Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that 51% of undergraduate credentials awarded in 2015 consisted of sub-baccalaureate programs, which include trade school certificates and diplomas. Graduates with occupational credentials also experience lower unemployment rates than their counterparts holding academic credentials, such as a four-year bachelor's degree.
Recognizing the role that trade school graduates play on the national economical stage, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education maintains several funding programs for students pursuing vocational or technical programs. Many vocational schools offer programs in new career pathways, such as industrial automation technology, alongside programs in traditional skilled trades, such as welding and collision repair.
Use this guide to learn more about trade school programs, specifically about vocational schools in Missouri. It contains important information regarding accreditation, financial aid, and careers and salaries for trade school graduates.
|Can I get financial aid for trade school?||Yes, trade school students can explore financial aid packages from the U.S. Department of Education just like students in four-year programs.|
|Are scholarships available for vocational students?||Many states maintain scholarship and grant programs specifically for trade school enrollees who reside in the state.|
|When can I apply to trade school?||Most trade schools require applicants to be at least 16 years old. However, this varies by state and field of study.|
|How long does trade school take?||Most trade school programs take fewer than two years to complete.|
Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
A voluntary process, accreditation attests to the quality and rigor of a school's academic programs. Accreditors review factors including an institution's finances, governance and administration, and operational sustainability.
Degree-granting nonprofit public and private institutions apply for regional accreditation. Vocational and trade schools as well as sectarian and for-profit schools apply for national accreditation. A third type, programmatic or specialized accreditation, reviews specific programs instead of entire schools. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process in the United States.
The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to schools in Missouri and in 18 other states. The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges grants national accreditation to trade and vocational schools across the U.S. ED and CHEA recognize the Distance Education Accrediting Commission as the main accreditor for online schools.
Accreditation matters for two main reasons: First, only students enrolled in accredited schools qualify for federal financial assistance. Second, most schools accept transfer credits only from accredited institutions. Moreover, professional arenas that require licensure or certification prior to practice often also require the completion of a program from an accredited school.
Keep in mind that a school's license to operate does not mean it holds accreditation. A license indicates that a school meets the state's minimum requirements to operate as a learning institution and offer academic programs. Accreditation reviews and attests to the quality of those programs.
Vocational Trade Schools in Missouri
Missouri offers career and technical programs in several growth-oriented fields such as agriculture, health sciences, business, and technology and engineering. The list below ranks some of the best vocational schools in Missouri according to several key aspects including accreditation, financial assistance options, and program variety.
Dating back to 1915 Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City was Missouri's first community college. Today, MCC offers 125 associate degrees and certificates to its 16,000 students. The college's career and technical education programs prepare graduates for the workforce. At MCC, industry business partners review vocational curricula to make sure they provide job-ready skills.
MCC offers vocational training in high-demand local industries like healthcare, industrial production, and technology. Students can earn a degree in engineering technology, energy technology, industrial electricity, or major appliance technology. Other degree options include dental assisting, nursing, emergency services, and surgical technology. Certificate programs in automotive technology, construction management, and industrial technologies provide short-term training focused on technical skills.
The college also works with companies to sponsor apprenticeship programs, where students gain on-the-job training while completing classroom instruction. Students who complete an apprenticeship can enroll at MCC to earn an associate of applied science in industrial technology.
Located in Springfield, Ozarks Technical Community College promotes accessibility, innovation, and opportunity through its technical programs. The college's technical education division offers 23 affordable vocational programs focused on high-demand fields.
Students at OTC can earn a degree in automotive technology, construction technology, or industrial systems technology. The technical college also offers programs in culinary arts, emergency medical services, and allied health fields. Certificate programs train students in auto collision repair, diesel technology, manufacturing technology, dental assisting, and surgical technology.
OTC's apprenticeship program trains students in the skilled trades. Learners gain managerial and technical skills as a carpenter or construction craft laborer. For students seeking a flexible schedule, the college also offers online courses with multiple start dates.
With multiple locations in western Missouri, State Fair Community College enrolls nearly 5,000 students. The college's vocational programs include professional certificates and associate degrees. Designed for career advancement in vocational fields, these programs prepare students for the workforce in under two years.
The career and technical education programs at SFCC blend classroom instruction with hands-on experience. The college offers programs in healthcare, engineering, construction, and technology. With a degree in medical assisting, nursing, or occupational therapy assisting, students can enter the healthcare field. SFCC also offers degrees in automotive technology, industrial maintenance, marine technology, and welding technology.
SFCC offers a registered apprenticeship program allowing students to complete job-related courses while gaining experience. Apprenticeship training programs prepare students for careers in multiple Missouri industries and last 1-5 years. In addition to on-campus courses, the college offers 260 online classes.
Established in 1963, Jefferson College enrolls 4,000 students from its Hillsboro-based campus. A public community college, Jefferson College reports a 95% job placement rate for graduates, making it one of the best trade schools in Missouri. The college offers technical career programs, as well as customized business and industry training for students seeking career advancement.
At Jefferson College, students pursue degrees in applied technology, computer integrated manufacturing, and emergency medical technology. The college also offers programs in culinary arts and healthcare. Jefferson College also offers certificates in automotive technology, radiologic technology, welding technology, and HVAC technology.
Students with apprenticeship training can earn an associate of applied science at Jefferson College. The program grants credits for on-the-job training. Prospective students submit an online application and send transcripts to the college. Jefferson College accepts ACT results or offers placement tests. Applicants then work with an enrollment specialist to complete the process.
A public community college in Cottleville, St. Charles Community College offers associate degrees and certificates in career and technical fields. The college also provides workforce training and professional development opportunities for students. Nearly all SCC students work while attending school, and the college offers online and hybrid programs in addition to its on-campus classes.
SCC offers multiple programs in manufacturing, healthcare, and the skilled trades. Students can earn a degree in emergency medical science, health information management, or nursing. The college also offers degrees in general technology, manufacturing technology, and the skilled trades. Certificate programs include medical assisting, welding, and medical billing and coding.
The college supports students through tutoring, technology, and career services. Students can receive online career advice, learn about job openings, and connect with local employers through career services. SCC uses an open admission policy and admits students with a high school diploma or equivalent.
Since its establishment in 1962, more than 1.2 millions students have enrolled at St. Louis Community College, making it the largest institution of higher learning in the area. The college offers nearly 80 career programs that prepare students for the workforce.
At STLCC, Students can study baking and pastry arts, biotechnology, computer integrated manufacturing, or engineering science. The college also offers degrees in clinical laboratory technology, dental hygiene, emergency medical services, and respiratory care. Focused vocational programs train students as paramedics, paralegals, life science lab assistants, and dental assistants. Students can also enroll in unique programs like the robotics and automation certificate.
Academic advisors help students choose a vocational program, career path, and design an academic plan to reach their professional goals. The college's workforce solutions group works with local businesses to provide corporate education and professional development. STLCC also offers online classes.
A community college in Southwest Missouri's Ozark region, Crowder College opened in 1964. Today, the college enrolls more than 5,000 students and offers vocational and industrial training programs. Students can earn a degree in growing fields like alternative energy, healthcare, or construction trades.
The unique agribusiness technology programs at Crowder let students specialize in agronomy, horticulture, or livestock production. By blending agricultural and business training, the programs prepare graduates for the workforce. Students can also earn a degree in automotive technology, advanced manufacturing, or construction technology. Crowder's healthcare programs include options in paramedic science, occupational therapy assisting, and pharmacy technology.
Crowder also provides focused certificates for automation robotics technicians, solar energy and wind energy technicians, and industrial maintenance technicians. Students in career and technical programs qualify for scholarship opportunities at Crowder. The college also supports students with career assessments, advising, and professional development services.
A four-year public institution, Missouri Western State University offers associate degrees and certificates. Founded in 1915, Missouri Western enrolls 5,000 students on its St. Joseph campus. Missouri Western grants vocational degrees through its College of Business and Professional Studies and the School of Nursing and Health Professions.
At Missouri Western, students can earn a degree in construction engineering technology or manufacturing engineering technology. These programs incorporate hands-on learning through internships, part-time jobs, and research projects. Students practice on state-of-the-art equipment to build their skills. The university also offers vocational degrees for legal assistants and physical therapist assistants. These programs prepare graduates for careers in the legal and healthcare fields.
Prospective students submit academic transcripts, test scores, and an application. At Missouri Western, 97% of first-time freshmen receive financial aid. The university also offers in-state tuition rates to qualified students.
From its St. Louis campus, Ranken Technical College offers career and vocational programs focused on workforce needs. Ranken students receive three hours of hands-on training for every hour of classroom instruction. By prioritizing practical experience, Ranken trains students for their future careers.
Ranken offers vocational programs in multiple high-demand areas, including the automotive, construction, electrical, technology, and manufacturing industries. Students can pursue a degree in building construction technology, electrical automation technology, or industrial technology. The college also offers programs in precision machining, major appliances, and information technology.
Ranken's certificate programs train students in solar photovoltaic technology, home energy auditing, and electrical automation technology. The college reports strong demand for graduates and helps prospective students learn more about their interests and potential career paths. Ranken graduates work as electrical designers, machinists, carpenters, and business owners.
Located in Grundy County, North Central Missouri College dates back to 1925. A public community college, NCMC enrolls 1,750 students. The college offers vocational degrees and certificates that prepare students for their chosen career. Many programs offer fully online options to fit the schedule of busy students.
NCMC's vocational degrees include options in applied technology, industrial technology, and fire science. The college's healthcare programs train students in diagnostic medical sonography, emergency medical technology, and nursing. Students can also prepare for careers as a medical assistant, medical laboratory assistant, occupational therapy assistant, or physical therapy assistant.
In addition to associate degrees, the college's vocational certificates train students in agriculture operations technology, industrial maintenance, livestock management, and manufacturing.
Prospective students submit an application and provide transcripts. The career services department helps students write a resume, prepare for interviews, and identify internship and job opportunities.
A two-year college, Missouri State University-West Plains enrolls 1,800 students. As part of the state's public university system, 90% of students receive financial aid. The university offers online and on-campus programs, including vocational degrees and certificates.
At Missouri State-West Plains, students can earn a degree in culinary and hospitality management, enology, or viticulture to prepare for careers in the hospitality or culinary fields. The university also offers technology-focused degrees in advanced manufacturing technology, alternative energy, general technology, and technology management. In the healthcare field, students can train in nursing, health information management, or medical coding. Students can also pursue a certificate in agriculture, wine, or alternative energy.
The career development center at Missouri State-West Plains helps students identify their interests and skills, develop career goals, and identify internship and employment opportunities. Prospective must students submit an application and transcripts that show ACT scores.
A community college in Union, East Central College offers innovative programs that prepare students for the workforce. Students at ECC choose a pathway to focus their studies and gain the skills needed for their chosen career. Learners can choose from one-year certificates and two-year degrees in career and technical fields, making ECC one of the best vocational schools in Missouri.
In ECC's vocational programs, students use cutting-edge technology to pursue degrees in precision machining, industrial engineering technology, or welding. ECC also offers degrees in medical laboratory technology, paramedic technology, building construction, and the culinary arts. Certificate programs in automotive technology, health information management, and industrial engineering offer focused, short-term workforce training.
The career services office at ECC helps students explore career opportunities, build career-oriented skills, and connect with potential employers. ECC also partners with local business and industry to design training programs.
Moberly Area Community College operates a main campus in Moberly and five satellite campuses. MACC offers programs in over 40 areas, ranging from four-month certificates to two-year degrees. The college developed its vocational programs to train students for the workforce.
MACC offers programs in fields like manufacturing, agriculture, and technology. Students can earn a degree in advanced manufacturing technology, mechatronics, or agriculture technology at MACC. The college also offers allied healthcare training for medical laboratory technicians, licensed practical nurses, surgical technologists, and certified medication technicians.
Students benefit from career and academic planning at MACC. The college's workforce development staff helps students build the skills needed for their chosen field. The college reports a high percentage of employment for its career and technical education graduates. Prospective students submit an application, transcripts, and complete the ACT test. They can also take a placement exam to gain admission.
Located in Park Hills, Mineral Area College dates back to 1922. Today, the college prioritizes flexibility, creativity, and quality in its programs, including vocational degrees and certificates. MAC's career and technical education programs build the knowledge and skills needed for many career paths, making it one of the top trade schools in Missouri.
The vocational programs at MAC include degrees in automotive technology, construction building technology, and electrical technology. Students can pursue a manufacturing or design specialization in the engineering technology degree. The college also offers programs in HVAC technology, industrial maintenance, and the skilled trades. Students interested in healthcare can train as a medical laboratory technician, paramedic, or physical therapist assistant.
MAC supports students through academic and career advising. The career services office helps students learn about employment trends and job outlooks, identify the skills and educational requirements for different occupations, and find job opportunities.
A two-year college in Linn, State Technical College of Missouri specializes in technical education. State Tech offers more than 35 programs that provide advanced technical training for traditional and emerging fields. As a result, State Tech ranks among the best Missouri technical colleges.
State Tech educates students in more than 50 labs, including machine shops, automotive service bays, and health science labs. The college offers unique programs in automation and robotics, aviation maintenance, electric power generation technology, and nuclear technology. Students can also train in powersports technology, civil engineering technology, or industrial electricity construction.
The college's health science programs include dental assisting, medical radiologic technology, and physical therapist assisting. In the transportation field, State Tech offers programs in automotive collision technology, diesel technology, and automotive technology. The college's career services program connects students with employment opportunities and reports a 99% placement rate for graduates.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
Since trade schools prepare students for work in diverse professional arenas, trade school graduates earn a range of salaries. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows an average annual salary of approximately $55,000 for vocational school careers.
Some workers with a trade school education earn more than professionals who complete two-year associate degrees. For instance, electrical and electronics repairers earned a median annual salary of $78,410 in 2019, while nuclear medical technologists earned $75,660.
The BLS also projects robust growth rates between 2018-2028 for several jobs in the trade sector, including plumbers and pipefitters (14%), HVAC technicians and installers (13%), and electricians (10%). The projected growth rates for these jobs exceeds the 5% projected growth rate for all other occupations.
Job location also influences career options and salary levels. The five states hiring the highest number of trade school workers include Indiana (196,740), Tennessee (190,390), Alabama (130,840), Louisiana (129,370), and Iowa (108,690). Students with a vocational school certificate stand a better chance of being hired in these and other states that have plenty of jobs in the skilled trade sector.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Responding to current market demands, technological advances, and various socioeconomic factors, trade schools have begun offering programs in a variety of emerging professional arenas as well as in traditional skilled trades. See below for some programs available in many trade schools in Missouri and in other states.
Many vocational schools offer construction management programs that take two years to complete. Students enroll in classes in cost estimating, project management, and building construction methods and materials.
States do not require construction managers to secure a license prior to practicing. However, just like in other fields, a certification often improves job prospects. The Construction Management Association of America administers several certification programs that are widely recognized in the field.
A two-year construction management program usually qualifies graduates for entry-level positions. Companies are increasingly looking for experienced construction management practitioners with a four-year degree. From 2018-2028, the BLS projects a 10% growth rate for jobs in this sector for bachelor-trained construction managers.
Students pursuing a mechanic certificate program at a trade school typically graduate after 12 months of continuous enrollment. Mechanic programs often include an internship or job shadowing component. Alternately, students can opt to enroll in a mechanic apprenticeship program offered by a trade union or a large company. Apprenticeships take longer to complete but offer compensation.
Graduates of a mechanic program can sit for one or more of the exams administered by the National Institute For Automotive Service Excellence to earn the automotive service excellence (ASE) certification. Test-takers need a minimum of two years of on-the-job training or experience prior to taking the ASE exam.
Automotive service technicians and mechanics earned an annual median salary of $42,090 in 2019, which is slightly higher than the annual median wage for all workers ($39,810).
According to the BLS, dental hygienists earned an annual median salary of $76,220 in 2019. Moreover, the projected growth rate of 11% for jobs in this sector exceeds the projected growth rate of 5% for jobs in other professional arenas.
Most dental hygienist programs at trade schools require at least two years of enrollment. Students receive extensive hands-on training to develop the skills they need in the workplace. Dental hygienists are required by state to obtain a license before starting their practice and must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Only students who graduated from a dental hygienist program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation can sit for the exam.
Ultrasound technicians, also referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers, can usually earn a certificate in the field within 12-18 months. Vocational schools offering this type of program often require applicants to possess experience and formal training as an allied health professional. Several community colleges and four-year universities offer associate and bachelor's degrees in the field, as well.
States do not require ultrasound technicians to be licensed in order to practice. However, many employers prefer applicants to hold at least one certification from a recognized organization such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Certification usually requires completing an ultrasound technology program that combines classroom instruction and at least one year of hands-on practical training. Only graduates of an ultrasound technician program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) can sit for many of the certification exams.
Financial Aid for Trade School Students
Completing a trade school program costs less than pursuing a four-year degree. Not only are the programs shorter, but vocational schools often do not have large overhead expenses to maintain. However, for trade school students who still need financial assistance, the first step usually involves completing the FAFSA.
Schools and organizations that administer grants and scholarships rely on an applicant's FAFSA information to determine their eligibility for financial assistance. Scholarship programs typically award applicants who meet measurable criteria such as high academic performance, artistic talent, or athletic abilities. Grant programs, often channeled through schools and organizations, focus on other factors such as a student's social, economic, and ethnic qualifications.
Trade school students can also apply to federal student loan programs, which offer lower interest rates and payment deferment options. Some loan programs do not require student borrowers to start paying back while they are still in school.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
Missouri supports the education and career objectives of its trade school students, as evidenced by the scholarship and grant opportunities outlined below. Many trade schools in Missouri provide students with an excellent starting point in their search for financial assistance.
Who Can Apply: The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (DHEWD) accepts applications from high school students and those enrolled in their first
postsecondary program at a vocational school or two-year community college.
Who Can Apply: ASRT administers several scholarship programs for allied health students including those pursuing an ultrasound technology program from a trade or vocational
school, community college, or four-year institutions.
Who Can Apply: The Missouri DHEWD opens this financial aid opportunity to adults pursuing a certificate, credential, or degree in a designated high-need area in the state.
Recipients must reside in Missouri for at least three years after completing their program.
Amount: Pays remaining tuition and fees not covered by other scholarship or federal student and program
Who Can Apply: The scholarship accepts applications from students enrolled in a plumbing and heating/cooling program at a vocational school as well as students in an
apprenticeship program. Professional plumbers seeking to update their knowledge and improve their skills can also apply.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must submit an essay answering three questions listed on the application form. SDMS accepts applications only from students pursuing a
CAAHEP-accredited program in diagnostic medical sonography or cardiovascular technology.