Best Accredited Online Vocational Trade Schools 2023

Online trade schools offer certificate, associate, and bachelor's degree programs in many of today’s fastest-growing professions. Discover flexible and convenient options to gain practical skills and training for in-demand careers.

Updated October 17, 2023

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Career and technical education (“CTE” for short) schools educate around 12 million Americans each year. If you want to advance your career, you may enroll in an online trade, vocational, or career college that provides specific instruction for your intended profession.

Like other postsecondary institutions, online CTE schools are accredited by independent or federal agencies based on the effectiveness of their programs.

Can You Do Trade School Online?

Yes, you can attend vocational schools online. But how does it work exactly?

Online trade schools blend virtual coursework with practical, hands-on training. These programs prepare you for popular roles like licensed practical nurse, HVAC technician, plumber, and electrician.

Some trades may require additional training in the form of an apprenticeship.

To enroll in an online vocational certificate program or associate degree program, you'll need a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some trade schools also accept the HiSET.

If you don't have a high school diploma or equivalent credential, consider taking GED prep classes, which many community colleges offer at little to no cost.

Did You Know?

  • Trade schools often have fewer admission requirements than universities.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a whopping 44% job growth for wind turbine service technicians from 2021-2031.
  • The median annual salary for professionals with some college was $40,000 in 2020.
  • By 2028, there will be more than 3 million job openings in skilled trades!
  • Many tradespeople eventually run their own businesses or operations.

Why Take Online Trade Courses?

  • Most trade programs take just 1-2 years, allowing you to enter the workforce quickly.
  • You'll gain in-demand skills through practical, hands-on training.
  • Online tech schools can grant you balance and flexibility in your schedule.
  • Trade programs often have smaller class sizes that mean more 1-on-1 instruction.
  • Online trade schools are usually more affordable than traditional in-person programs.
  • Many trade careers are in demand and growing quickly.

Featured Online Vocational Trade Programs

Here, we rank the best online trade schools based on factors such as cost, student outcomes, and overall academic quality.

Top 5 Accredited Online Trade Schools

Read About Our Methodology Here

  1. West Kentucky Community and Technical College

    Paducah, KY



    Located in Paducah, WKCTC offers online vocational trade degrees, diplomas, and certificates in several in-demand fields.

    The school offers several associate degrees in fields like computer and information technology, logistics and operations management, and medical information technology. The school also offers a unique degree or certificate in marine technology, preparing students for life on the water. Students seeking other certificate programs for fast employment can choose from the same fields as those above but graduate from the program in just a few months.

    Most students complete the school's 39- to 43-credit diploma programs in about one year. Notable choices include medical information technology, computer-aided drafting and design, and business administration systems.

    Students applying to associate programs ideally possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Diploma and certificate choices require students to submit a completed application for the college.

    WKCTC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Clovis Community College

    Clovis, NM



    Located in Clovis, New Mexico, CCC offers several online vocational trade degrees and certificates. Students can complete course requirements 100% online with no residency requirements.

    Online degree and certification options include several in business administration, paralegal studies, behavioral science, and computer information systems. Associate degree programs require about 60 credits each to complete. Students can complete the certificate of completion programs in about a few months to a year of study. Notable choices include a certificate of achievement in income tax preparation, certificate of achievement in fundamentals of game design, and certificate of completion in legal assistant studies.

    The school prefers students to possess a high school diploma to apply for associate degree programs. For certificate of achievement choices, students must submit a completed application and take placement tests. The school offers counseling and advising services for online students and does not require standardized tests to begin the admission process.

    CCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Central Community College

    Grand Island, NE



    Serving students in Grand Island, Nebraska, CCC offers several online certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs. Students outside of Nebraska must reside in an authorization reciprocity state to attend.

    Students can complete associate degrees in a variety of fields such as business administration, health information technology, and early childhood education. In addition, the school offers information technology certificates like Cisco networking and business-related certificates like logistics or entrepreneurship. The school also offers year-long diploma programs for students exploring career choices in similar fields.

    Students do not need a high school diploma or GED to apply, but the school prefers students to submit them for placement purposes. Standardized tests or placement exams can help students that need to complete general education courses.

    CCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College

    Shell Lake, WI



    Located in Shell Lake, WITC offers 37 online associate degrees, certificates, and technical diplomas, offering students a jumpstart in in-demand fields.

    Students can choose one of 11 associate degrees, including accounting, early childhood education, health information technology, and medical and administrative professional. The school also offers certificates in customer service, management, group childcare essentials, and tax preparer assistant. Learners can also participate in technical diplomas with concentrations such as drafting technician, medical billing specialist, office technology assistant, or office support technician. Students wanting to work in childcare settings can choose a one-year technical diploma in childcare services, completing the first year of the associate degree for fast employment.

    The school offers credit for prior learning and a generous transfer credit policy. Applicants do not need a high school diploma, but possessing one makes the placement process easier.

    WITC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

    Valdosta, GA



    Located in Valdosta, Wiregrass offers online degrees, diplomas, and technical certificates, allowing students to complete courses without coming to campus.

    Students can begin with certificates in fields like child development specialist, technical specialist, and fire officer. Students can complete most certificates in a matter of months. Some departments also offer diploma choices — including fire science technology and accounting — allowing students to specialize further with a one-year program. Full associate degrees include fire science technology, accounting, business management, and criminal justice technology. The programs follow the same structure as on-campus classes, but most happen asynchronously.

    Students do not need a high school diploma or GED to apply but need to send transcripts of any completed school work. Wiregrass is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Tech Schools

Accreditation can help ensure that an online trade school offers the same educational quality as a traditional program. Your trade school must also hold accreditation so that you can qualify for professional certification and receive federal financial aid.

Potential employers will want your trade school to hold accreditation too. Accreditation verifies that the curriculum meets certain professional standards.

Some trade school accreditors to look for include:

What Types of Online Trade Programs Can You Do?

  • Diploma or Certificate

    You'll learn a specific skill or trade and gain certification for professional work, often in a year or less.

  • Associate Degree

    This two-year degree offers a more comprehensive education and sets you up to pursue a bachelor's degree.

  • Apprenticeship

    A structured work experience program that includes education and training so you can become a certified professional.

  • Licensure or Certification Prep

    A trade course that specifically prepares you for state licensure or professional certification.

How Much Do Online Vocational Schools Cost?

Annual tuition and fees for online trade schools range from $4,000-$16,000.

What you spend will depend on the type of school, the program length, and whether you qualify for financial aid or in-state tuition.

You can minimize debt by applying for institutional grants and scholarships. You should also fill out the FAFSA to see if you're eligible for federal funding.

Budget for additional expenses as well, like technology fees, books, uniforms, and lab equipment. For example, if you're training to become a practical nurse, you'll likely need to buy scrubs.

Some online trade school graduates will need to get a state license or certification after graduating, which can cost money. In California, for instance, electricians must pay $175 in exam and licensure fees.

Certification fees vary by organization, with many offering member discounts.

1. Auto Mechanic

Auto mechanic programs will teach you how to perform maintenance, identify problems, and complete vehicle repairs. By completing an online trade school program, which takes an average of six months, you may earn a higher entry-level salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for auto mechanics is $46,880.

Featured Auto Mechanic Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

In their auto mechanic programs, you may take coursework in diagnostic equipment, vehicle steering repairs, and brake systems.

2. Construction Management

If you’re interested in learning about materials, planning, and processes in construction projects, you will have to complete an online postsecondary degree in construction management.

Common coursework includes project scheduling, structural analysis, decision-making, and risk analysis, depending on the level of your coursework. You may earn an associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree in construction management.

Your degree level and experience influence the type of job you can pursue and the amount you’ll earn.

3. Culinary Arts

Culinary arts degree programs often have specific tracks, such as baking and pastry arts, food service management, or applied food studies.

Online trade schools often offer associate or bachelor’s degree programs in culinary arts that take one to four years to complete.

Chefs and head cooks earn a median salary of $50,160 per year (BLS, May 2021).

4. Cosmetology

If you’re looking for a job as a hairstylist, nail technician, esthetician, or makeup artist, a CTE certificate program or associate degree in cosmetology might be for you.

Depending on the services you want to offer, you could take courses in safety and hygiene, makeup application, or cutting, styling, and coloring hair during your program.

Barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists earn a median annual salary of $29,680 (BLS, May 2021).

5. Dental Hygiene

Aspiring dental hygienists often complete certificates or associate degrees in preparation to assist dentists.

After completing the program, you will enter a field where these services are in demand. Dental hygienists clean teeth, conduct oral health inspections, and educate patients.

Featured Dental Hygiene Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Some dental hygienists eventually complete the master’s or doctoral degrees necessary to become dentists.

6. Electrician

Many aspiring electricians attend trade schools online to complete a certificate or associate-degree-granting electrician program. In addition to completing programs that take six months to four years, electricians often need hands-on experience for state licensure.

Featured Electrician Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Electricians earned a median salary of $60,040 (BLS, May 2021).

7. HVAC Technician

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technicians can earn up to $71,940 in some areas of the United States. Many aspiring HVAC technicians complete certificates or associate degrees at online technical schools in six months to two years.

Samples courses include domestic appliances and cold water AC, basic electricity, and fundamental HVAC maintenance.

Featured HVAC Technician Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Some HVAC technicians complete their training at career, technical, or community colleges, while some opt for five-year apprenticeships.

8. Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy helps sick or injured patients improve their quality of life. Aspiring occupational therapy aides may enroll in trade certificate programs online, while occupational therapy assistants must complete associate or bachelor’s degrees. Occupational therapists need master’s or doctoral degrees.

Featured Healthcare Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Occupational therapy assistants earn a median annual wage of $61,520 (BLS, May 2021).

9. Paralegal

Lawyers ask paralegals to conduct research, interview clients, and review legal documents, among other tasks.

Aspiring paralegals may choose to complete an online certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree program ranging from three months to four years. Coursework in these programs includes legal research and writing, legal document preparation, and employment law.

Featured Paralegal Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Though some colleges offer paralegal certificate programs, the associate degree in paralegal studies is the minimum industry standard.

10. Paramedic

Many aspiring paramedics complete online certificate or associate degree programs that help them build their skills beyond what they learned as emergency management technicians (EMTs).

These programs take one to two years to complete. EMTs and paramedics earn a median annual salary of $36,930 (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Healthcare Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Common course topics in paramedic programs include practical skills, hospital practice, and field internships.

11. Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists to dispense medicine and keep records. To prepare for this career, aspiring practitioners start online trade certificate programs or associate degrees in pharmacy technology.

Featured Pharmacy Technician Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Certificate programs take around one year to complete, while associate degrees take two. The median annual salary for pharmacy technicians is $36,740 (BLS, May 2021).

12. Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants work under licensed physical therapists to create and monitor patient mobility plans.

To become a physical therapy assistant, you will need to complete an associate degree. Many students prefer online trade schools so they can finish their degrees on their own time.

Featured Physical Therapy Assistant Programs

Some physical therapy assistant programs offer accelerated options that let you finish your degree in fewer than two years.

13. Radiology Technician

If you’re interested in using diagnostic equipment to identify patient issues, you may decide to pursue a radiology tech program at a trade school online.

To become a radiology technician, you need a minimum of a two-year degree and state licensure. Many radiology technicians pursue additional degrees and certifications.

Featured Healthcare Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Radiologic Technologists and Technicians earned a median annual salary of $61,980 (BLS, May 2021).

14. Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapists improve patients’ breathing issues. To prepare for this career, many aspiring professionals pursue two-year associate degrees at online tech schools.

Students in these degree programs take courses on cardiorespiratory diseases, integrative systems physiology, and mechanical ventilation.

Respiratory therapists earned the highest annual salaries in Washington, California, Alaska, New York, Hawaii, and D.C.

15. Veterinary Technology

Veterinary technicians typically earn certificates or associate degrees that prepare them to help veterinarians with tests, surgeries, and pet care. During your program, you might take classes like veterinary dentistry, veterinary anesthesiology, and veterinary pharmacology, among other requirements.

Featured Veterinary Technology Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians earn a median annual salary of $36,850 (BLS, May 2021).

What Careers Can Online Tech Schools Prepare You For?

You can pursue a variety of careers by attending a trade or vocational school. Online trade schools offer programs for hands-on roles, from automotive technician to paralegal.

Here are some of the fastest-growing trades over the next decade, according to the BLS.

Fastest-Growing Trades
Jobs Median Annual Salary (2021) Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)
Nurse Practitioners $123,780 40%
Wind Turbine Technicians $56,260 44%
Ushers $24,440 41%
Motion Picture Projectionists $29,350 40%
Restaurant Cooks $30,010 37%
Data Scientists $100,910 36%
Athletes and Sports Competitors $77,300 36%
Information Security Analysts $102,600 35%
Statisticians $96,280 31%
Sports Officials $35,860 32%
Web Developers $78,300 30%
Source: BLS

How to Find Good Online Trade Schools: 5 Features to Look For

With so many online trade schools to choose from, it's important to know the features you'll use to compare programs. Here are the top five qualities to look for.

1 Accreditation

Most schools list their accreditations on their websites, but you can also contact the admissions office directly.

Different trades tend to have different accrediting bodies. For example, dental schools use dental-specific accreditors.

You can find a list of legitimate trade school accreditors on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's website.

2 Nonprofit Institution

A nonprofit college gets its funding from tuition, the government, and endowments. This means that funds go back to the school itself so it can provide a strong educational experience for students.

Many trade and vocational schools are for-profit colleges advertising lower tuition rates. But take caution when considering for-profit schools — they're often pricier than community colleges, leading more students to take out federal loans.

For-profit schools are also notorious for offering a lower-quality education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for-profit colleges have an average graduation rate of just 29%, whereas private nonprofit colleges have a graduation rate of 68%.

Opt for a nonprofit trade school when possible, but if you're considering a for-profit college, ensure it has accreditation and solid retention and graduation rates.

3 High Retention and Graduation Rates

Online trade schools' retention and graduation rates can tell you how successful students are.

Retention rate refers to the percentage of students who remain enrolled in a school after their first year. The more students who choose to remain at a trade school, the more likely that the school provides a satisfactory experience.

Graduation rate, in contrast, is the percentage of students who complete a program. A high graduation rate means more students have successfully finished their programs.

Many online vocational schools post their retention and graduation rates on their websites.

4 Promising Career Outcomes

One way to evaluate online trade schools is to examine their career outcomes. You're more likely to find employment in a high-quality trade program.

A good trade school will also offer career resources. That may mean connecting you with apprenticeships, hosting job fairs, and providing resume support.

5 Satisfied Alumni

Reaching out to alumni is a great tool for learning more about the quality of trade schools' online programs. Alumni can provide real insight into the courses, faculty, and projects a vocational school offers.

Try connecting with trade school graduates through LinkedIn or by asking professionals in the field where they went to school.

Search for Online Vocational Schools by State


Frequently Asked Questions About Online Trade Schools

Can you do vocational training entirely online?

Most online vocational schools offer a hybrid structure in which you take classes online and get hands-on training through in-person labs and internships.

The online options available to you will depend on the trade you're studying. Some skills, like welding and auto mechanics, must be taught in person, whereas other vocations, like web programming and paralegal, can adapt to online learning more easily.

Is vocational school the same as trade school?

The terms "vocational school" and "trade school" are often used interchangeably.

By definition, vocation means trade or profession. Trade school is more commonly used to refer to hands-on professional training programs, whereas vocational school can refer to any career-based educational program.

Some schools may differentiate the two terms or have their own way of defining them.

Do online trade schools accept financial aid?

Yes, many online trade schools accept financial aid. You can use federal financial aid like loans and grants to attend trade school. That said, the school must be accredited in order for you to be able to use any federal aid.

You can also apply for private student loans and independent scholarships.

What is the easiest trade?

While the easiest trade for you will depend on your passions, skills, and interests, many consider HVAC technician and truck-driving trades to be relatively easy to learn.

You may prefer mechanical trades like becoming an electrician because you have a more analytical style of thinking. Or, you may prefer a more creative trade like cosmetology, which gives you more freedom to think outside the box.

What are the highest-paying vocational jobs you can get?

Some of the highest-paying trade jobs include construction manager, radiation therapist, dental hygienist, electrical engineering technician, aircraft technician, boilermaker, construction and building inspector, and electrician.

High-paying vocational jobs can earn you nearly $100,000 a year!

Next Steps

Recommended Reading

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.

See All Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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