Trade schools and degrees help workers build skills and increase their salaries. For example, students may earn certification to work in electrical installation and repair. Graduates work in jobs earning a median annual salary of $59,080.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects these jobs will decline by 1% from 2019-2029. This means a more competitive market. Applicants may need to pursue more education before applying to open positions.
Top 5 Online Vocational Trade Schools and Degrees
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Correspondence Courses vs. Online Courses
Is vocational school the same as trade school?
Vocational and trade schools give learners the same educational opportunities. Many offer online vocational certificates and diplomas. Some schools refer to the latter as degrees.
What trade makes the most money?
According to the BLS, electrical workers enjoy the highest median wage out of all positions that do not need a degree. Other lucrative jobs include ship engineers and insurance appraisers.
How long does it take to graduate from trade school?
Most online vocational certificates and diplomas take less than two years to complete. Many students studying full time graduate in less than one year.
Vocational Degrees Available Online
Prospective students select from several vocational certification programs. These decisions depend on personal interests, salary potential, and the professions’ projected growth.
Online certificates in medical billing train students for an entry-level healthcare jobs. Some prepare learners for the American Health Information Management Certified Coding Associate exam.
Paralegal studies certificate- and diploma-seekers hone critical thinking and communication skills. Top vocational programs include capstone courses. Students in these courses prove mastery of different paralegal topics.
Real estate online certificates offer specializations in residential and commercial real estate. Students can also concentrate in finance and investment. Admission requirements may include a two- or four-year degree and prior industry experience.
The Tools That Make Vocational Study Online Possible
Vocational programs offer tools and services for students from different backgrounds. These tools include intuitive content management systems (CMS), asynchronous learning, and hands-on training.
How to Choose Online Vocational Programs
Prospective students should research each trade school’s accreditation, admission requirements, and support services. Further, learn how to assess online vocational programs by asking these questions:
How College Accreditation Works
- Is the school accredited?
- A school’s accreditation remains vital to your future. An institution receives accreditation when it meets an accrediting agency’s standards. Students who attend non-accredited programs may not qualify to get a license. They may also be ineligible for financial aid, transfer credits, or employment. Students should visit the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) list of accrediting agencies. This list helps learners verify online trade schools’ accreditation status.
- Is the school licensed?
- Most trade schools and career colleges must hold certification or licensure. Licensure indicates that an institution meets specific standards. State agencies usually manage licenses for trade school programs. ED handles these credentials for private vocational schools. Contact your institution and ask which state agency handles licensing. Then, contact the agency to verify.
- What are the admission requirements?
- Admission requirements vary among online trade schools. Some institutions may ask for a high school or GED diploma. Others may need specific SAT or ACT scores. Applicants may need prerequisite courses or previous industry experience. Ask your desired career college or technical school about their entry requirements. You can also visit your local library to look up information about the school.
- Does the curriculum offer practical instruction?
- Check each program’s curriculum online to confirm that the program offers practical instruction. This is important if you plan to pursue a degree or certificate in a field that needs hands-on experience. Practical instruction helps students gain vital skills and stand out among job candidates.
- Does the school offer support services?
- Online trade schools should offer distance and on-campus learners the same support services. These services may include online tutoring, financial aid help, and career placement. Offerings vary among schools. Online support is vital to distance learners, since they cannot visit campus offices. Contact your institution to see which support services it offers.
Vocational and Trade Training Resources
A variety of resources, including government agencies and professional associations, support vocational students. These resources include:
Association for Career and Technical Education
This national association advocates for vocational education and supports students in academics.
The Department of Labor sponsors CareerOneStop. This online hub offers career-planning tools and profiles of vocational careers. It also features a database of local training programs.
Employment and Training Administration
This search tool is available through Apprenticeship.gov. The Employment and Training Administration offers this tool for vocational students. It helps students find local opportunities.
Federal Student Aid
Federal Student Aid is an office of the ED. This one-stop informational hub covers all things federal financial aid. It offers a breakdown of the types of aid available and instructions for applying for said aid.
Job Corps provides free career and technical education programs to individuals age 16-24. Students enjoy a blend of classroom- and real-world instruction. They also develop employability and vocational skills.
National Career Development Association
NCDA keeps a list of online resources and tools to help students plan their careers. Learners also use NCDA to locate appropriate training and find career opportunities.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
The BLS maintains this handbook featuring profiles of more than 800 careers. The handbook details each career's responsibilities, educational requirements, and employment growth projections.
Perkins Collaborative Resource Center
Aspiring students visit PCRN's website for information on career and technical education programs. The website also covers work-based learning opportunities throughout the United States.
Best Online Vocational Trade Schools and Degrees 2021
West Kentucky Community and Technical College
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.
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
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.
Wiregrass Georgia Technical College
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.