Online Vocational Trade Schools & Degrees

Online Studies in Real-World Career Training
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The demand for skilled and qualified workers in middle skill jobs—those requiring less than a bachelor’s degree—continues to increase. In fact, the Center for Education and the Workforce projects that more than one-third of all jobs in the US will require vocational training for employment by 2020. The following guide provides a high-level overview of vocational degrees and the relevant online learning options in fields ranging from personal care to construction, automotive repair to health care.

Best Online Vocational Trade Schools 2018-2019

2-Year Colleges

Prospective students looking to study a specific career that may prepare them for employment after graduation may benefit from enrolling in an online vocational school. With hands-on learning techniques and areas of study including HVAC training to dental hygiene, many schools now offer vocational programs to meet the high demands of college-bound individuals. To help students choose the right school for them, we analyzed every school with an online vocational school and created a list of the top schools based on factors such as cost of tuition, class size and graduation rates. Learn about the best online vocational schools for 2018-2019 here.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Pamlico Community College $1,824 6 - 72% 18% Yes Yes Yes

Pamlico Community College (PCC) provides a number of resources specifically to online students to ensure success, including an introductory computer course to familiarize students with technology, and a virtual student success center that provides tutoring and other assistance. PCC online courses are identical to those offered on campus, and are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Although the campus is located in North Carolina, reciprocity agreements make it possible for students who live in other states to pursue distance education through Pamlico. Depending on the program, some on-campus participation may be required in addition to online coursework. Included in the range programs are subjects such as accounting, cosmetology, medical assisting, criminal justice, electrical systems technology and business administration. Each program has its own requirements for completion, which will affect the total length of study. A minimum 2.0 GPA is needed in order to graduate.

2 Utica College $19,446 1 82% 44% 97% Yes Yes Yes

While physically located in New York, Utica College reaches students around the world through its online learning system. Students can obtain a bachelor's or certificate in fields including health care, physical therapy, cybersecurity, computer forensics and financial crimes. Some of Utica's online programs are approved to be offered to residents of other states. The college is accredited by the Commission of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and students receive aid in job placement from the faculty, alumni and academic advisers. A student blog and a small student-to-teacher ratio for classes are also designed to help online students. Certain programs may require students to travel to campus for in-person experiences. Program requirements vary, with the total length determined by how many classes students take each semester. On average, students are expected to dedicate 12-15 hours per week for each course.

3 Liberty University $15,105 3 24% 55% 88% Yes Yes Yes

While Liberty University offers a faith-based education, its best known for its highly respected online programs. Over 250 degrees and certificates are offered through the online school, making it one of the largest in the nation. Despite the size of its distance education department, the school still offers high-quality degrees that typically have a specific career outcome. The online associate degree as a medical office assistant is a rolling-admissions program that takes an average of 3 years to complete. But transfer students are eligible to transfer up to 75% of their required credits, so this program can take much less time. Requiring a total of 64 credits, courses are offered in 8-week periods, letting students study at their own pace. Upon graduating with this degree, students will be ready for a career in health care, and they can use their associate degree toward a bachelor's degree if they choose to further their education.

4 University of Florida $4,477 1 46% 88% 29% No Yes Yes

Located in Gainesville, the University of Florida is an important part of the local community. Not only is it a top-producer of career-ready students, but its graduates go on to create their own businesses as well, fueling the local and state economy. While most of its students study at the Gainesville campus, the online school has become a popular choice for those who need flexibility. Among the top online programs in the nation, Florida offers degrees that lead to high-demand careers, like their bachelor's in health education and behavior. This 4-year program can lead down different careers, ranging from environmental health emergency response to environmental health technician. Because the local ecosystem is important, many students will probably end up in a career related to environmental health if they choose to live in the area. Of course, since this is an online program, students from across the nation are eligible, and they can take their career in another direction if they want. Another vocational option is UF's bachelor of science in fire and emergency services, which prepares students for various careers in emergency management agencies.

5 Temple University $15,384 2 52% 71% 83% Yes Yes Yes

Temple University is a large university with over 38,000 students spread over 8 different campuses. With so many students studying towards one of Temple's degrees, its culture embraces the nontraditional ? a big reason why the university has invested in online education. Temple Online is a flexible program meant for students that are currently working and cannot commute to campus. For those with a technical/vocational background, the online bachelor of science in education in career and technical education program may be of interest. This program allows you to take your industry career into the classroom as a teacher. Through the industrial education concentration, students can combine their industry knowledge and occupational experience with an education degree. Graduates will be prepared to teach grades 7-12 on career and technical subjects at 2-year colleges.

6 Siena Heights University $24,390 8 72% 53% 99% Yes Yes Yes

A Dominican school with locations across Michigan, Siena Heights University is a 100-year-old institution that produces some of the top graduates in the state. While it has 9 different campuses to study at, some students choose to study through its online school. Currently in its 14th year of online education, Siena Heights' online programs are considered to be among of the top. The school has one of the highest graduation rates for distance learning, and its graduates have a high job placement rate. The online bachelor of applied science (BAS) degree is a great option for those looking for career-oriented education to pursue employment in allied health, technical/industrial, public safety or specialized vocational areas. This is an "inverted major," meaning students must have a qualifying associate of applied science degree which will serve as the foundation towards the BAS.

7 Louisiana State University $8,038 3 76% 67% 57% No Yes Yes

As a top school in the south, Louisiana State University gets a lot of attention for their research and academics. However, its affordability is often overlooked. Over 90% of its students receive some type of financial aid, and most students graduate without any debt. Combine the high-quality education with affordability, and you can see why many students have been attracted to the school's distance education. The online school, which is made up primarily of graduate degrees, but LSU does offer a handful of online undergraduate certificates for those without a college degree. One such example is the human services certificate. This 5 course, 15 semester credit program prepares students to work in a human services role within government, medical and nonprofit fields.

8 St Catherine University $31,042 1 91% 61% 98% Yes Yes Yes

St. Catherine University, based in St. Paul with a second campus in Minneapolis, is one of Minnesota's leading private institutions. One of the focuses of St. Kate's is real-world experience, and many of its degree programs implement this. Because online programs don't offer real-world experience, St. Kates uses hybrid formats, particularly for their vocational programs. For example, St. Kate's radiography degree is a 2-year associate program that prepares students to take the certification exam after graduating. Designed for adult learners, this program is offered in a hybrid format, so students will have to take some of their courses at the Minneapolis campus. To be eligible for this program, students will first need to enroll in pre-radiography where they will complete the liberal arts courses they need to earn a degree. After finishing those, students enter the radiography program and will focus specifically on skills required in the field.

9 Alexandria Technical & Community College $4,768 1 - 64% 33% Yes Yes Yes

One of the top technical schools in the region, Alexandria Technical & Community College is a 2-year college that boasts a high graduation and job placement rate. While it primarily offers degrees that lead to local jobs, ATCC's online school has opened its doors to students from across the nation. As a result, many of the online degree programs are meant to fill careers that are growing in demand across the nation. One of these degrees, the 2-year paralegal program, offers a wide-range of knowledge that can be applied to a paralegal job anywhere. While all the online degree programs are supposed to lead to careers right out of school, some Alex Tech grads choose to transfer into a four-year institution. Because ATCC's 2-year program is widely acclaimed, these associate degrees transfer fairly easily. If students are looking for 2-year programs, ATCC also offers diplomas that can be earned in as little as 1 year.

10 Western Carolina University $3,893 1 41% 59% 68% Yes Yes Yes

Located about an hour from Asheville, Western Carolina University is a local leader in offering career-oriented programs, some of which can be completed entirely online. Because the degree programs at WCU are meant for students looking for immediate employment, most popular options are technical programs. The online emergency medical care degree is one such program. It's a degree completion program that requires students to have previous paramedic experience. The goal is to teach working paramedics who want to further their education and career. Another popular program, the bachelor's in engineering technology - technical operations is a part-time degree program that requires some on campus study. Unlike the EMC degree, the ETO degree is 4-year, although non-working students should be able to complete their degree in less time. Along with their major, students can specialize their education with a minor or certificate.

11 University of Wisconsin-Stout $7,014 1 88% 55% 18% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Wisconsin-Stout is a polytechnic school with the primary goal to make students prepared for a career after earning their degree. To prove their success, UW-Stout's employment rate after graduation is an impressive 98.2%. Many of these positions are in the local community, although graduates - particularly from its online programs - find positions all over the nation. UW-Stout's online bachelor's degrees are all degree completion programs, so students should have the proper course credit/associate degree prior to applying. Because students are required to come in with previous credit, all the bachelor's degree programs are accelerated. For example, the bachelor's in career, technical education and training only requires 2 years of full-time, online study. It also requires 4,000 hours of work experience. After earning this degree, previous students have gone on to work in vocational fields such as automotive technology, building construction, machine technology and dental assistanting, to name a few examples.

12 Concordia University-Wisconsin $27,640 2 63% 62% 98% Yes Yes Yes

Based on Lutheran faith, Concordia University Wisconsin has gained a local reputation for producing highly-employable graduates. The school boasts an impressive 90% job placement rate, with many students finding positions in nearby cities right after graduation. To help produce job-ready candidates, Concordia has begun offering certificates and degree programs online, letting nontraditional students gain vocational training and education with greater flexibility. The certificate in paralegal studies is one such option. Offered partially online, this 21 credit program prepares students for careers as paralegals, legal assistants or court clerks and focuses key industry topics such as ethics, critical thinking, and legal research and writing.

13 University of Missouri $8,286 1 75% 71% 64% No Yes Yes

The University of Missouri is one of the top schools in the state. With over 30,000 students and 300,000 alumni, graduates of the school will get access to an extensive network, an edge that could help them secure a local position. This could be important to students who are looking to earn an online vocational degree. Most of the vocational bachelor's degrees offered online are degree completion, meaning students would need to have previously earned credit to enroll. For example, students who want to earn a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy would need 30 credits before they can apply for the program. Students in this particular degree program have success, with 100 percent of their graduates getting a career after graduation. There are tons of online programs for students to explore, some of which are geared toward industries in Missouri that have a growing demand for labor.

14 Mississippi College $15,800 1 49% 54% 99% No Yes Yes

A private school with Baptist roots, Mississippi College is one of the top schools in the area for online graduate studies. However, Mississippi College also offers online options for undergraduate students. The best option for students interested in vocational studies would be the online degree in paralegal studies. This 4-year degree is offered entirely online, and students are allowed to study at their own pace while earning the degree. Transfer credits are also welcomed, so students that have previous experience could feasibly earn this degree in just a few years of study. While students who do earn a degree online can continue their education, each degree is designed to prepare students to immediately step into a professional role. The curriculum for all of Mississippi College's degrees places an emphasis on liberal arts, so students will get a wide-ranging education that goes beyond their field of interest.

15 South Seattle College $3,393 15 - - 8% Yes Yes Yes

Located in the heart of the city, South Seattle College offers a variety of degrees that are focused on workforce placement. Among these programs are the technical degrees and certificates, which are an assortment of associate degrees that can be applied toward a bachelor's degree. There are 2 main types of associated degrees at South Seattle: an associate of applied science (AAS) and an associate of applied science transfer (AAST), the latter being a degree that is designed with students that want to transfer in mind. For students that are looking for a quick way to earn a technical degree, an AAS is the best option. These 2-year degrees are offered through a hybrid of on campus and online learning, and they support careers that are growing in the Seattle area. Popular options include the aeronautical technology and wine studies degrees, both of which are relevant for local industry.

16 Southern Utah University $5,774 1 72% 43% 82% Yes Yes Yes

A school primarily for undergraduate students, Southern Utah University is structured to help get students into a new career upon earning their bachelor's degree, minimizing the amount of education required. For students that don't have the flexibility to study on campus, SUU offers online programs, as well as hybrid programs that can be completed both on campus and online. One of the more successful online programs is the bachelor's in accounting, and nearly all graduates of this 4-year program are employed right after earning their degree. In addition to being prepared to take the CPA exam, accounting students can also choose to further their education even more and earn a Master of Accountancy with just 15 extra credit hours of study (also available entirely online). Students interested in vocational programs should be prepared to study in a hybrid format since only a few bachelor's degrees are offered entirely online.

17 North Dakota State University-Main Campus $6,924 1 93% 58% 41% Yes No Yes

A national leader in sciences and career development, North Dakota State University is a Fargo-based land-grant school with a large undergraduate class. Because distance education is a popular option in the state, NDSU has instituted an online school to help students complete their degrees or earn certificates to bolster their education. Many of the programs can be completed in a hybrid format, blending on-campus and online courses. With proper planning, students can even accelerate their education through this format, completing their degree in less than the traditional 4 years. One such vocational program is the veterinary technician degree, a customizable program that lets students choose from different minors and focuses to prepare for a specific career path.

18 Tarleton State University $3,900 1 50% 47% 50% Yes Yes Yes

Tarleton State University is part of the Texas A&M University system, and while many of its students study on campus, the newer online program has emerged as one of the fastest growing parts of the school. The online school offers more than 20 degree options, all of which are designed for busy students that want to advance their current career. Tarleton also makes it easy for students to apply their previous education to their next degree. For example, students with an associate degree from a vocational trade school can apply their credits toward a bachelor's in health profession technology. The amount of transfer credits that Tarleton accepts varies. The bachelor's in manufacturing and industrial management, for example, allows students to transfer up to 84 credit hours, meaning they would only have to earn 36 credits - roughly one year's worth of study - online.

19 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College $28,932 2 73% 46% 96% Yes Yes Yes

Bringing over 40 years of distance education and online learning experience, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has created an adaptable online program that fits each students' specific needs. The vocational programs at SMWC tend to place a strong emphasis on liberal arts. This is because of the school's history as a Catholic institution, improving students' all-around education. While some core courses that are not related to the specific degree program may be required, SMWC still does an excellent job of teaching in any given field while preparing students for a future career. One example is their paralegal studies program, available as a bachelor's or associate degree. Students studying toward a bachelor take such courses as legal research and communication, but the major program only requires 51 credits, meaning students should anticipate taking roughly 70 credits in other areas. This bachelor's program is offered entirely online, except for one lower division course that is offered in hybrid format.

20 Hampton University $21,552 3 65% 58% 67% Yes Yes Yes

Hampton University has a rich history, stretching back to their past as one of the nation's top institutions for African-Americans. Since its founding over 100 years ago, Hampton has expanded into more nontraditional areas of study, including online learning. The online school at Hampton offers degrees and certificates that are meant to give students an edge in the workplace, helping them advance their career. One example is their certificate in paralegal studies, a 30 credit-hour program that takes most students just one year to complete. By studying through Hampton's unique nine-week courses, students earning a certificate in paralegal studies, can supplement their current education or use their credits toward a bachelor's in paralegal studies. The certificate program culminates with an internship, as do many of the 20 online programs at Hampton.

21 Vaughn College $22,740 6 - 57% 86% Yes Yes Yes

With a focus on engineering, technology, management and aviation, Vaughn College offers a variety of online courses and degree options for students in various locations. Online courses mirror the schedule offered on campus, and students can choose from traditional, 16-week fall and spring semesters or from 2 summer sessions each lasting 6 weeks. The total length of each program varies. Students can complete certain degrees or certificates completely online. Students interact with faculty and peers through online video streaming, but can access course materials at any time. Programs include associate and bachelor's degrees in aviation maintenance; airport management; electrical, electronic or mechanical engineering; as well as certificates in safety management, airport or airline management and composite manufacturing. Degrees earned online are equivalent to those earned on campus. Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

22 William Woods University $22,230 1 70% 53% 100% Yes Yes Yes

William Woods University emphasizes practical, career-focused education to help students at various educational levels. Those looking to pursue an online vocational degree have one option at William Woods -- the online Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies. In this program, students learn various skills and knowledge that will help them succeed in the legal field, including the American legal system, legal research and writing, and legal interviewing and investigation. After completing the 14-course sequence, graduates will be prepared for employment in law firms, corporate companies, governmental agencies and organizational settings. Alumni have also gone on to careers in energy, finance, health care and gaming. To be consider, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, a 2.5 GPA, ACT of at least 19 or SAT of at least 900, and must have graduated in the top 50% of their class.

23 National University $13,016 1 - 50% 4% Yes Yes Yes

National University has over 20 years of online education experience, building its online programs for adult learners and military members. Over 90 degree choices are available entirely online, ranging from 2-year programs to graduate degrees. Some of the online programs, like the Bachelor of Science in Construction Management, prepare students for a career in high-demand fields immediately after earning their degree. To earn the BS in construction management, students must complete 180 quarter units, some of which is expected to be transferred from another institution. If students don't have previous credit, they can complete some of the general electives through individual online courses. Of the 180 units, 45 will need to be completed on campus, like the senior capstone project. All online courses are offered in 4-week periods, giving students flexibility with their studies.

24 Hutchinson Community College $2,688 4 - 33% 66% Yes Yes Yes

Primarily an institution that provides students with individual online courses, Hutchinson Community College does offer some 2-year programs entirely online. Online vocational associate degrees are available in health information management and paralegal studies. Along with these associate degrees, Hutch also has 8 online certificates that lead to jobs in high-demand fields. Because HCC primarily focuses on individual online courses, students have flexibility with when they begin studying. Online courses follow the same schedule as on-campus courses, but online students aren't required to begin on the same start date. Online courses can be started anytime, as long as students end the course at the same time as every other student. Learning is facilitated by giving students one-on-one access to faculty. These courses are designed for working students who want to further their career, so even the busiest students should be able to find a way to complete courses toward an associate degree.

25 Drexel University $48,660 2 75% 68% 97% Yes Yes Yes

With over 25,000 students in attendance, Drexel University is one of the largest private universities in the nation. Drexel also has a large online school where students receive the same quality education as on-campus students. Vocational programs are popular choices at Drexel Online, and some degrees and certificates have multiple options. For example, the certificate in medical billing and coding can be completed in either a 24- or 18-credit hour format. The main difference between these 2 programs is that the 18-credit program is best for students that have some prior experience with medical billing and coding. A flat tuition rate per credit is charged for this certificate. Courses are offered 4 times a year in 10-week formats, so students can easily complete this certificate in less than a year. After completing the program, students will be qualified to sit for multiple national certification exams.

26 Eastern Kentucky University $8,568 6 86% 45% 51% No Yes Yes
27 South Dakota School of Mines and Technology $7,340 1 85% 56% 67% No Yes Yes
28 Southwest Virginia Community College $4,133 1 - 37% 61% Yes Yes Yes
29 Central Washington University $5,907 1 80% 56% 67% No Yes Yes
30 North Seattle College $3,393 8 - - 19% Yes Yes Yes
31 McNeese State University $5,147 1 64% 45% 34% Yes Yes Yes
32 Drury University $24,750 2 70% 64% 83% No Yes Yes
33 Franklin Pierce University $31,500 1 81% 46% 99% Yes Yes Yes
34 Washburn University $7,644 1 - 38% 64% Yes Yes Yes
35 Oakland University $12,923 1 86% 51% 68% No Yes Yes
36 Florida Gulf Coast University $4,191 1 56% 52% 24% No Yes Yes
37 State University of New York at Canton $6,470 2 83% 33% 85% Yes Yes Yes
38 Indiana State University $8,546 1 86% 41% 68% Yes Yes Yes
39 Champlain College $38,560 2 70% 57% 96% Yes Yes Yes
40 Garden City Community College $1,824 9 - 31% 44% Yes No Yes
41 Barry University $28,800 1 62% 37% 95% Yes Yes Yes
42 Cerro Coso Community College $1,288 2 - 25% 1% Yes Yes Yes
43 Irvine Valley College $1,104 1 - 44% - Yes Yes Yes
44 Madison Area Technical College $3,911 18 - - 14% Yes Yes Yes
45 Mountain Empire Community College $4,133 3 - 38% 51% Yes No Yes
46 Western Kentucky University $9,912 1 94% 54% 41% No Yes Yes
47 Valdosta State University $4,181 1 65% 41% 7% Yes No Yes
48 Northshore Technical Community College $3,214 1 - 31% 9% Yes Yes Yes
49 Wentworth Institute of Technology $31,840 1 71% 63% 97% No Yes Yes
50 Barton Community College $2,304 1 - 29% 69% Yes Yes Yes

Online Vocational School Search Tool

Prospective students interested in exploring educational options, planning their academic futures, and finding the right type of training necessary to pursue a career can use the search tool below to learn more about vocational schools that meet their personal, professional, and academic needs.

Degree Level
School Type

Online Vocational Trade School Subject Map

Vocational career training prepares students to enter specific career fields that require specialized skill sets, such as automotive repair, medical assisting, and heating and air conditioning installation and repair. In order to serve the needs of their students, vocational education providers—including community colleges, technical schools, and trade schools—have launched online programs that offer alternative learning methods to meet the needs of those students. Below is an overview of some major fields of study and different degree options available to prospective vocational students.

Medical Support

Health care is one of the largest occupational fields in the country and medical support—a specialized branch of careers—employs approximately 4 million people nationally. Even though the majority of these roles are vocational in nature, they are critical to delivering high quality patient care in every sector of the health industry—from nursing to dental care. Prospective students can select from a spectrum of vocational certificate, diploma and associate programs that can be completed in as few as a few months and up to two years of study.

Medical Transcription

Online medical transcription programs are designed to teach students the fundamentals of transcribing healthcare documents. Traditionally offered as a certificate, these programs can be completed in as little as four months to one year of study. Curriculum covers topics ranging from HIPPAA regulations to body systems technology, pharmacology to healthcare documentation. Students gain practical skills in transcribing medical records in different specialties, such as cardiology, internal medicine, pathology, and urology. Graduates are qualified to pursue careers as medical transcriptionists and pursue certification after meeting professional experience requirements.

Medical Billing and Coding

Medical billing and coding programs cover major topics including the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, ICD-CM Coding and Current Procedural Terminology. Offered as either a career diploma or certificate, medical billing and coding programs typically require between 10 months and one-year of full-time study to complete. Students take courses in topics such as medical terminology, medical office procedures and health insurance. Graduates of these programs can sit for the AAPC Certified Professional Coder examination and pursue a range of professional opportunities such as coding specialist or medical biller.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy tech programs are career-focused, teaching students about the core concepts of pharmacy operations, from verifying and preparing medications to dispensing medications to patients. The goal of these career diploma programs is to prepare students to sit for national certification examinations, including the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) or the ExCPT Pharmacy Technician certification. Curriculum is directly tied professional knowledge and skill development, covering courses in pharmacology, pharmaceutical measurements and calculations, and medication safety. Upon graduation, students can pursue a variety of career avenues, including pharmacy clerk or pharmacy technician.

Patient Care

Since 2010, nearly 1 million jobs in health care have been created, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While many associate patient care with nurses and doctors, the field is much more broad, encompassing multiple vocational career avenues in areas such as radiology, nursing, and diagnostic imaging. Education options are just as varied, spanning short multi-week programs to full two-year associate degree programs.

Radiology Technology

Radiology tech requires the completion of a two-year associate degree. In these programs, students develop career skills in radiographic imaging. Coursework covers topics such as body positioning, examination techniques, radiographic biology, radiation safety and human anatomy. Graduates of these associate degree programs are traditionally qualified to sit for the Radiography Certification Examination from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. After completing their education, students can move into entry-level positions such as radiologic technologist, X-ray technologist, and radiologic technician.

Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapy students can complete an online Associate of Occupational Science in respiratory therapy or an Associate of Science in respiratory therapy. These two-year programs are designed to prepare graduates to sit for certification examinations from the National Board for Respiratory Care: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Curriculum is divided between online coursework and clinical instruction and includes topics such as anatomy and physiology and advanced career-focused classes in topics including respiratory procedures, cardiopulmonary diagnostic testing and critical care monitoring. Graduates are qualified to pursue entry-level employment as respiratory therapists.


Paramedic vocational training is typically offered via hybrid programs—programs that include both in-person and online instruction. This instruction involves didactic (online classes), clinical and field practice. Students are typically assigned to a local clinical setting to complete required clinical hours (usually more than 300). In these settings, students can apply their didactic knowledge and gain clinical experience. The field internship is a proctored, experiential learning requirement where students complete real-world tasks under direct supervision to prepare for their day-to-day responsibilities. Students can enter into entry-level work as an emergency management technician (EMT) after graduation or pursue additional training to qualify to work as a paramedic.

Technology & Skilled Trades

Middle skill jobs—those that require postsecondary education, but not a college degree—not only account for the most jobs in the country, but are some of the fastest growing fields as well. According to Economic Modeling Specialists, approximately 2.5 million middle skill jobs are expected to be created. An expansive employment field, students can enroll in a variety of programs, such as construction, cosmetology, auto repair, information technology, plumbing, and more.


Cosmetology programs provide students with fundamental training in the basics of hair, skin and nail care. Students develop product knowledge, study the theory of hair styling techniques, learn about manicure and pedicure methods and build communication skills to work with clients. Blending online instruction with in-person lab training, the study of cosmetology can prepare graduates for an array of professional opportunities in each specialization. To work professionally, graduates must meet state licensing requirements, which also typically includes an examination.


HVAC/R online career diploma programs provide students with a central understanding of how to inspect and repair heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems in both homes and commercial properties. Graduates are traditionally eligible to take EPA certification examinations, which are required for any professional handling refrigerants. Curriculum is broad in scope, reviewing not only the core concepts in heating and cooling systems, but advanced instruction in system design and installation, green technology systems, and absorption systems. After graduation and passing the EPA examination, students may pursue entry-level employment as HVAC/R technicians.

Help Desk

Help desk technician programs concentrate in two areas: conflict management skills and technical knowledge. Graduates of these programs are trained to help IT customers, troubleshoot hardware, software, and network problems, and install computing systems. Curriculum covers the basics of the profession, including classes in topics such as an introduction to computer support, computer hardware fundamentals and troubleshooting. After completing the program, students may choose to take certification examinations, such as the HDI-Desktop Support Technician certification and pursue entry-level employment in occupations such as desktop technician or customer support representative.

Online Vocational Certificates, Diplomas and Training

Vocational certificate and diploma programs are not considered degrees, but an award conferred by an educational institution after the student completes a formal postsecondary program of study. Program length varies tremendously: Some certificate programs require only a few weeks of study, while others may take up two years to complete. Example career areas that fall under this umbrella include emergency medical technicians, nursing aides, and hairstylists.

Program Spotlight: Online Medical Assistant Diploma

Online diploma programs in medical assisting are designed to prepare students for career opportunities in patient care support and management. Medical assistants perform a variety of clinical, administrative and laboratory tasks in health care settings, such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. Depending on the institution, diploma programs may require between 50 and 60 credit-hours of study to complete and typically include a clinical externship conducted in the student’s local area.

Medical Assistant Courses

Course Description
Medical Terminology

In this course, students study medical language, including spelling, pronunciation, word roots, and suffixes. Students apply this knowledge when studying major body systems, such as the nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.

Medical Coding

This class covers the basics of medical coding principles, including a review of health insurance policies, claims, and terminology.

Anatomy and Physiology

This class provides students with an in-depth examination of the human body, its body systems, tissues, and structure.

Medical Office Management

In this course, students explore the operation of a medical office, along with the role and responsibilities of the medical assistant. Subjects covered range from private information privacy to appointment scheduling, administrative tasks to managing patient charts.

Skills Learned
  • Clinical skills (e.g. phlebotomy, administer medication, conduct electrocardiograms)
  • Knowledge of medical billing and coding practices
  • Administrative skills (e.g. scheduling appointments)
  • Demonstrate understanding of scope of the medical assistant’s role
Future Opportunities
  • Clinical medical assistant
  • Certified medical assistant
  • Administrative medical assistant
Online Vocational Associate Degrees

Associate degrees generally require at least two years, but no more than four years of full-time of academic coursework. While associate degree programs are career-specific, they also usually include general education requirements as well. Example vocational career paths at this level include respiratory therapist, dental hygienist, and electronic technician.

Program Spotlight: Online Associate of Science in Electronics Technology

An online associate degree program in electronics technology provides graduates with specialized knowledge of analog and digital electronics that positions them to follow a wealth of career avenues in fields ranging from power plant operations to communications, engineering to manufacturing. Students are typically expected to complete between 60 and 66 semester credit hours over two years to earn their degree.

Associate of Science in Electronics Technology Courses

Course Description
Computer Architecture

This course covers topics revolving around computer design, including the study of digital systems, computer interface design, and memory system organization.

Circuit Analysis

This class introduces students to voltage and related topics of resistance, power and current. Students learn about the fundamentals of circuit analysis, how to use industry tools, and best practices for circuit testing and measurements.

Digital Design

This class serves as an introduction to digital systems, including their analysis and design. Subjects of study range from number systems to Boolean logic, algebra to specific digital components (e.g. SSI and MSI).

Electronic Design

This class provides students with fundamental instruction in planning and designing electronic circuits. Students gain an understanding of how to translate theory into hands-on applications of circuit design.

Skills Learned
  • Ability to analyze DC and AC electronics and circuits
  • Knowledge of embedded systems
  • Problem solving techniques
  • Communication skills
  • Digital electronics design
Future Opportunities
  • Electronics Technician
  • Electrical Engineering Technician
  • Calibration Technician
Online Bachelor’s Vocational Degrees

Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of vocationally focused programs at the bachelor’s degree level is limited. However, there are options available to students interested in completing a longer series of courses that include general education classes. Examples of these longer, vocational-focused subjects include paralegal studies, dental hygiene, and vocational education—for students that want to become vocational educators and instructors. Four-year degrees generally require students to complete 124 to 128 semester credit hours of study divided between general education classes, core curriculum, major requirements, and electives.

Program Spotlight: Online Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies

Course Description
Introduction to Paralegal Practice

This course provides a high-level overview of the role of paralegal and offers a review of the legal system, paralegal practice, and professional ethics.

Civil Litigation

This class serves as an introduction to the foundational concepts of civil ligation, including procedure, and covers the role of the paralegal in civil lawsuits.

Legal Research and Writing

In this course students develop the basic writing, analysis, and research skills necessary to draft legal correspondence.

Commercial Law

This class offers a comprehensive look at commercial law and the paralegal's role, covering topics such as the Uniform Commercial Code and drafting commercial law correspondence.

Skills Learned
  • Develop and implement legal research plans
  • Writing and communication skills
  • Ability to draft well-written legal correspondence
  • Skills to apply legal concepts in different areas of law
  • Knowledge of paralegal ethical obligations
Future Opportunities
  • Paralegal/Legal Assistant
  • Law Clerk
  • Claims Adjuster
Online Vocational Master’s Degrees

Vocational degrees do not exist at the graduate level. With that said, there are multiple vocational career paths that transition naturally into continued education in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Below is a list of example vocational careers areas that have natural progression into advanced studies.

Medical Assisting

Master of Science in Nursing

Electronics Technology

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering


Master of Science in Construction Administration

Respiratory Therapy

Master of Science in Respiratory Care Leadership

Pharmacy Tech

Master of Science in Pharmacology

Financial Aid for Online Education FAQs

Financing a vocational education can be daunting, if not challenging for many students. Below is a list of commonly asked questions regarding paying for an online vocational program.

Is financial aid available?

Yes. Financial aid is typically available for schools that qualify under the Title IV Federal Financial Aid program. The type of financial aid depends on the qualifications of the students and eligibility requirements for state, federal or other sources of financial aid. This includes Federal Direct Loans, Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants.

Are scholarships available for vocational students?

Yes. Students in two-year vocational or CTE programs may qualify for both needs- and merit-based scholarships. Scholarships are available from a variety of sources, including community organizations, professional associations, businesses, and vocational schools themselves. For example, Universal Technical Institute, a school that offers training in auto service and mechanical repair, has provided approximately $15 million in scholarships to students in 2015.

Where can students find information about scholarships?

Scholarship information is available from a variety of sources, including scholarship websites such as FastWeb and Unigo, media publications including US News and World Report and Peterson's, and professional associations such as ASHRAE (HVAC) and businesses such as Express Scripts (Pharmacy Technician).

Are other supplementary funding sources available?

Yes. Depending on the institution, students may be eligible for funding from additional programs including the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the Trade Adjustment/Realignment Act) (TAA/TRA), or vocational rehabilitation. The WIA is a government-sponsored program that provides funding to individuals who are unemployed (or underemployed) so they may develop career skills. TAA/TRA is a program that sets aside funds to provide training to individuals who lost their job because it was moved overseas. Vocational rehabilitation funding programs are designed to support the education of individuals who experience employment barriers because of a mental or physical handicap.

Learn more about funding an online education with our financial aid guide.

The Tools That Make Vocational Study Online Possible

Vocational careers are largely hands-on, practical occupations. So, how does that translate to online learning? The amount of learning a student completes online actually varies by program. Some programs, such as medical transcription, can be completed entirely online. Others, such as medical assisting, require a combination of online and in-person study. Below is an overview of the tools and methods used by vocational institutions to train students.

Online Content Management Systems

Online courses take place in online learning platforms. These platforms allow students to access their course materials at any time, communicate with other students and the instructor, submit assignments, and participate in discussion sessions. Example content management systems include Blackboard and WebCampus.

Asynchronous Learning

Online vocational instruction is traditionally delivered in an asynchronous format, which means students control the pace, determine when they log-in to the online learning platform, and complete assignments according to their schedule.

Instructional Materials

Although students can access their materials online, many programs—such as HVAC diploma programs—mail students printed learning materials, study guides, and textbooks.


Online vocational programs require students to have a computer and Internet access to complete their work. Technology requirements vary by educational institution.

Hands-on Training

Complementing the online, concept-based instruction are field practicums and externships. Practicums and externships are in-person, experiential training sessions that provide students an opportunity to develop professional skills beyond the classroom. Programs such as medical assisting, radiography, and cosmetology are just a few examples of the types of vocational programs that require experiential learning. Typically, students work with their educational institution to find a local placement to complete their training, such as in a hospital, laboratory, or private business.

How to Evaluate Online Vocational Programs

Because vocational training is career-specific, choosing the right educational institution is paramount to achieving future employment success. Making sure the online program offers the proper mix of rigorous academic and skill-based instruction, as well as personal and professional support services allows students to make an informed decision about which program to choose. Below is a checklist of factors to consider prior to enrolling in a vocational program of any type.

  • Is the school accredited?

    Accreditation is an indicator of the school’s quality. It means the school has invested efforts to adhere to academic standards and training guidelines established by accrediting agency. Because not every vocational school is accredited, students should check the US Department of Education’s list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies.

  • Is the school licensed?

    Many states require technical and/or career colleges to be licensed to offer vocational courses and programs. In fact, some states even require the school to hold a license to operate legally. Check with the state’s Department of Education to see if the vocational provider holds a valid and active license. Another resource is to check with the school directly and ask which state agency handles educational licensing.

  • What are the admission requirements?

    Different schools may require different admissions requirements for the same program of study (e.g. medical assisting). Prior to enrolling, students should review the admissions process and required documentation? Does the school require students to hold a high school diploma or have previous industry experience? Are they required to take prerequisite courses? Do they need to submit standardized test scores?

  • Does the curriculum offer practical instruction?

    Before enrolling, students should review the online program’s curriculum. Just like their campus-based counterparts, online programs should provide students with practical skill development in that specific field. For example, the courses in an online medical billing certificate program should teach students about medical terminology, medical coding, and health insurance.

  • Does the school offer support services?

    As an online learner, access to academic and career services is important. Students should ensure their program offers assistance to online students, not only with standard services—such as tutoring or financial aid services—but career placement assistance to find a job after graduation.

  • Are faculty members qualified?

    The academic background and professional experience of the school’s faculty is another indicator of program quality. For a specific field of study (e.g. pharmacy technician or HVAC training), students should review their potential instructor’s experience in that area. Do they have industry knowledge? Do they hold specialized training or certifications? How long have they been teaching in online settings?

Vocational & Trade Training Resources

There are a variety of resources available, from government agencies to professional associations, to support vocational students. Below is a list of some of these resources, including career databases, employment profiles, student aid information, and career planning services.

  • Association for Career and Technical Education

    Commonly known as ACTE, the Association for Career and Technical Education is a nationwide association that is dedicated to advocating for vocational education and supporting students in their academic endeavors.

  • CareerOneStop

    Sponsored by the Department of Labor, Career One Stop offers a variety of resources to prospective vocational students include career planning tools, a list of profiles of vocational careers, and a database of local training programs.

  • College Navigator

    College Navigator is a database of information about any postsecondary institution and its programs, including vocational schools. Students can learn about a variety of items, such as tuition, enrollment rates, and programs offered.

  • Employment and Training Administration

    Through its ApprenticeshipsUSA program, the Employment and Training Administration offers a list of state apprenticeship websites-useful for vocational students seeking opportunities in their local area.

  • Federal Student Aid

    An office of the US Department of Education, Federal Student Aid is a one-stop informational hub about all things federal financial aid, including a breakdown of the different types of aid available and instructions for applying for aid.

  • My Next Move

    My Next Move was developed by the National Center for O*NET Development and is an interactive tool for individuals researching career options. They can browse industry profiles, learn about the skills, tasks, and salaries of a particular career, and even receive personal career suggestions.

  • National Career Development Association

    The National Career Development Association maintains a list of online resources and tools that users can leverage to plan a career path, locate appropriate training, or find career opportunities.

  • Occupational Employment Statistics

    Managed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics is a database of wage profiles and estimates for more than 800 occupations-allowing users to learn more about the earning potential of a specific career path.

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook

    Also maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Occupational Outlook Handbook includes profiles of more than 800 careers, including an overview of the career's responsibilities and tasks, educational requirements, and employment growth projections.

  • The Job Corps

    The Job Corps provides no-cost career and technical education programs to individuals between the ages of 16 and 24. Through a blend of classroom- and real-world instruction, students develop both employability and vocational skills.