Why Choose Trade School?
Trade schools prepare graduates for a specific professional career path, such as dental hygiene, auto repair, or radiology.
Trade schools serve students entering a new field and working professionals who want to develop their careers. Trade programs are typically cheaper and faster to complete than four-year programs.
Most trade school programs take 1-2 years. Some programs enable students to either enter the workforce immediately upon graduation or continue on to earn an associate or bachelor's degree.
Trade schools emphasize practical skills and fieldwork, rather than the theoretical approaches that characterize many four-year colleges. Students often spend a significant portion of their time in workshops, labs, and professional simulation environments.
This focus on professional preparation yields strong career outcomes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, trade school graduates report higher rates of employment and are more likely to hold a job related to their field of study than graduates of academic programs.
Can I go to trade school online?
Do trade school scholarships exist?
Can trade school credits transfer?
When can I apply to trade school?
Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
Accreditation is the process through which colleges evaluate and regulate themselves. Accreditation ensures that schools meet designated academic standards and adequately prepare students for employment after graduation. A school that lacks proper accreditation should be considered disreputable and unworthy of further research.
Accreditation exists in two main forms: regional and national. About 85% of schools hold regional accreditation, but many vocational and trade schools hold national accreditation from agencies such as the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
Community colleges that offer trade and vocational programs typically hold regional accreditation from agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Accreditation becomes particularly important when researching online schools, as prospective students may not be able to visit a campus to determine a school's legimtacy. Fraudulent schools may attempt to pass themselves off as legitimate institutions by presenting professional web design and fictitious accreditation credentials.
When researching trade schools, look for DEAC accreditation, which generally serves as the standard for national accreditation.
Schools offering trade and vocational programs must also typically be licensed either by state or national agencies. In most instances, individual state agencies manage licensing for different professional fields, such as nursing or dental hygiene. However, some private vocational schools may instead be licensed through the state's Department of Education.
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Vocational Trade Schools in North Carolina
This ranking compiles the top vocational schools in North Carolina, highlighting colleges that offer strong professional preparation, flexible education options, and affordable tuition.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
Salaries for trade school professions depend on experience, location, and industry of employment.
Given the variety of career paths available, location can play an even greater role for trade school occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the annual mean wage for all trade school occupations is $55,270, but this figure encompasses a vast selection of careers with varying salaries.
In general, trade school jobs offer strong salaries compared to tuition costs, and many of these careers offer strong projected growth.
For example, the BLS projects the demand for dental hygienists to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028, a rate significantly higher than the national average. The BLS projects the demand for radiologic and MRI technicians to grow 9% during that same period.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Read on to learn more about the most popular fields at vocational and trade schools in North Carolina.
Dental Hygienist Schools
Dental hygienists clean teeth, check for diseases, and educate patients about proper oral care. Many dental hygienists work part time. These professionals typically need an associate degree to enter the field, and most programs take 2-3 years to complete.
According to the BLS, dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of $76,220 in 2019, with jobs in the field projected to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028.
Learn more about how to become a dental hygienist.
Mechanics inspect, repair, and maintain cars and trucks. Mechanics typically need at least a postsecondary certificate or diploma. They usually earn professional certification as part of a vocational program. These programs take about 12 months to complete.
Paralegals assist lawyers in preparing for hearings, trials, and other legal proceedings. They conduct research, investigate cases, organize case documents, draft legal correspondence, and summarize case findings. Paralegals need at least a two-year associate degree, although some positions may require bachelor's degrees.
Unlike many trade professions, paralegals typically do not need licensure or certification. However, some employers may prefer candidates who earn voluntary certification.
According to the BLS, paralegals earned a median annual salary of $51,740 in 2019. Paralegal jobs are projected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028.
Learn more about how to become a paralegal.
Radiology Technician Schools
Radiology technicians perform imaging examinations on patients in several medical settings. They operate and maintain equipment, prepare patients for imaging procedures, and take and store X-ray images.
Radiology technicians usually need at least a two-year associate degree, and they must hold licensure or certification in most states. Most radiology programs lead directly to professional licensure. Some radiologists go on to become MRI technologists after gaining professional experience.
According to the BLS, radiologic and MRI technicians earned a median annual salary of $62,280 in 2019. Careers in the field are projected to grow 9% between 2018 and 2028.
Learn more about how to become a radiology technician.
Financial Aid for Trade School Students
In general, trade schools offer lower tuition rates than four-year colleges. Students also reduce their costs by staying in school for 1-2 years rather than four. However, tuition expenses still add up, and trade school students can explore several options to finance their education, including loans, grants, and scholarships.
All students should complete the FAFSA, which determines eligibility for federal student aid, including loans. Completing the FAFSA gives students access to low-interest federal loans and several grants. Grants do not need to be repaid.
Scholarships function similarly to grants in that they provide funding for higher education that does not require repayment. However, most scholarships maintain eligibility requirements, including a minimum GPA or professional experience. Scholarships may also serve students from specific backgrounds, regions, or schools.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
See below for a sampling of scholarships open to students enrolled in trade schools in North Carolina.
Wells Fargo Technical Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Any North Carolina student in the second year of a two-year educational/technical program can apply. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and academic promise.
North Carolina Community College Foundation Scholarship for Health Careers
Who Can Apply: All students at any North Carolina community college enrolled in an allied health program are eligible.
George W. Ballard Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: North Carolina residents studying air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration at any eligible North Carolina community college can apply.
Amount: Up to 90% of full-time tuition expenses
Golden LEAF Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: North Carolina students attending participating community colleges can apply. Applicants must also demonstrate financial need.
Amount: $750/semester for curriculum students, $250/semester for occupational students
PHCC Foundation Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Students pursuing an approved plumbing, heating, or cooling apprenticeship, certificate, associate, or bachelor's program can apply.