Online Vocational Trade Schools and Degrees 2021

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Vocational trade schools and degrees help workers attain in-demand skills for a specific career, enhancing their salary potential. One vocational certificate program, electrical and electronics installation and repair, trains students for a job with a median $59,080 annual salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for these positions will decline 1% in 2019-2029, implying a tighter job market. Applicants may need to advance their education before applying to open positions.

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Top 5 Online Vocational Trade Schools and Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Madison Area Technical College Madison, WI
2 Siena Heights University Adrian, MI
3 Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology Flushing, NY
4 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY
5 Hampton University Hampton, VA


  • Is vocational school the same as trade school?

    Vocational and trade schools give learners the same educational opportunities, despite the difference in name. Many offer online vocational certificates and diplomas. Some schools refer to the latter as degrees.

  • What trade makes the most money?

    On average, dental hygienists made more money than other trade workers in 2020. Other lucrative job titles include web developer, electrician, and plumber.

  • How long does it take to graduate from trade school?

    The vast majority of online vocational certificates and diplomas take fewer than two years to complete. Many students studying full time graduate in less than one year.

Best Online Vocational Trade Schools and Degrees 2021

  1. Madison Area Technical College

    Madison, WI

    Madison Area Technical College offers more than 180 trade school programs. MATC also provides liberal arts majors. The college operates eight separate Wisconsin locations, with campuses in Madison, Fort Atkinson, Portage, Reedsburg, and Watertown.

    MATC's cost per credit is one of the lowest among Wisconsin's two-year colleges. MATC provides learners with apprenticeships, which help students develop hands-on skills that make them more attractive job applicants for employers. Approximately 98% of learners who complete Madison College's apprenticeships find full-time employment after graduation.

    Distance learners can receive online advising through MATC. MATC offers credit for prior learning. The college's scholarships provide $15 million in funds to more than 40,000 students.

    MATC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. Siena Heights University

    Adrian, MI

    Founded in 1919, Siena Heights University welcomes working students from diverse backgrounds and offers 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. The university's 55-acre main campus overlooks downtown Adrian, Michigan. SHU awards degrees online and from eight additional centers throughout Michigan. SHU also offers several career-focused programs, making it one of the nation's best online trade schools.

    One of only a dozen Dominican Catholic universities in the country, SHU serves approximately 2,300 learners. The university provides individualized attention through a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. While not required, SHU invites learners to attend Mass on Sundays throughout the academic year.

    SHU accepts applications from transfer students with 12 credits of previous coursework and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. Prospective students who do not meet these prerequisites must apply as freshmen and submit official high school transcripts or GED scores and official ACT or SAT scores.

    SHU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology

    Flushing, NY

    Located adjacent to LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, Vaughn College helps learners gain skills required for engineering, technology, management, and aviation careers. Besides undergraduate and graduate degrees in these fields, the college also offers certificate programs in aircraft dispatch and maintenance and air traffic control.

    Vaughn provides individualized attention to more than 1,600 learners through a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Vaughn's online courses last 16 weeks in the fall and spring and six weeks in the summer.

    Vaughn strongly recommends an interview with an admissions counselor for all applicants. Candidates who apply for the aircraft operations degree must complete admissions and financial aid interviews. Vaughn accepts transfer credits from applicants with a minimum GPA of 2.0.

    Vaughn is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  4. Eastern Kentucky University

    Richmond, KY

    Located in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University offers liberal arts degrees and professional training in various fields. Established in 1906, this student-centered regional university also provides degrees in business, computer science, and paralegal studies.

    Designed for working professionals, EKU offers online programs in convenient eight-week class formats, earning a place among the nation's best online trade schools. An advisor works with each distance learner to design a suitable course load each semester. Online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Admission requirements for online learners include official undergraduate transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.

    EKU offers the Selective Merit Aid or Reduced Tuition (SMART) program to eligible undergraduate applicants.

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

  5. Hampton University

    Hampton, VA

    Hampton University offers technical, liberal arts, and graduate programs. The university's surrounding area near Hampton, Virginia, features historical sites, beaches, and industrial enterprises. A historically black university, HU serves a diverse student body from 49 states and 35 nations and territories.

    Hampton U Online expands the university's offerings, providing 16 undergraduate programs, nine graduate degrees, and two certificate programs in paralegal studies and human resource management. Prospective students can try out an online course on the university's Blackboard platform for free.

    The university accepts transfer credits from learners with a minimum 2.0 GPA. HU offers an attractive transfer policy for active-duty military students, who can transfer up to 60 credits toward a program.

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

Vocational Degrees Available Online

Prospective students select from numerous vocational certification programs. They base their decision on personal interests, salary potential, and the professions’ projected growth.

  • Medical Billing

    An online certificate in medical billing trains students for an entry-level position in the healthcare field. Some programs prepare learners to take the American Health Information Management Certified Coding Associate examination.

  • Paralegal Studies

    Paralegal studies certificate- and diploma-seekers hone critical thinking and communication skills. Top vocational trade schools and degrees require a capstone course where students prove mastery of different paralegal topics.

  • Real Estate

    Real estate online certificates allow students to specialize in residential or commercial real estate or 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 trade schools and degrees offer tools and services that help people from numerous backgrounds access higher education. These tools include intuitive content management systems (CMS), asynchronous learning, and hands-on training.

  • Online Content Management Systems

    Two popular CMSs include Blackboard and Canvas. These software suites allow students to access course materials, contribute to discussion forums, and communicate with professors. They feature the resources learners need to complete assignments, such as tests and quizzes. Students who lack online learning experience access helpful videos and guides covering functionality and troubleshooting. A school’s information technology department also assists learners with problems or questions.

  • Asynchronous Learning

    Traditional on-campus students attend courses and take assessments on a set schedule. Educators refer to this practice as synchronous learning. Asynchronous learning allows students to view lectures, complete coursework, and take tests at convenient times. Asynchronous learning provides a tremendous benefit to students with other responsibilities outside of school, such as working or raising children. As a result, asynchronous learning makes a college education possible to learners who could not otherwise get one.

  • Hands-on Training

    Although online vocational certificate programs offer convenience, students preparing for some careers need hands-on training to succeed on the job. Vocational trade schools and degrees partner with local employers to give students experience resembling internships. Supervisors provide direct feedback and submit progress reports to students’ professors.

How to Evaluate Online Vocational Programs

When deciding among trade school programs, research each institution’s accreditation, admission requirements, and support services. Further, learn how to evaluate online vocational programs by asking these questions:

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. If you attend an unaccredited program, you could become ineligible for professional licensure, financial aid, transfer credits, or even employment. Verify online trade schools’ accreditation by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) list of accrediting agencies.
Is the school licensed?
Most states require trade schools and career colleges to obtain certification or licensure to offer programs. Receiving licensure also means that the institution meets specific standards. Typically, a state agency manages licenses for trade school programs, and the 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 call for a high school or GED diploma, while other schools may require specific SAT or ACT scores, prerequisite courses, or even previous industry experience. Ask your desired career college or technical school about their minimum entry requirements. Alternatively, you can visit your local library to look up information about the school.
Does the curriculum offer practical instruction?
When researching online vocational courses, check the curriculum online to confirm that the program offers practical instruction. This is especially important if you plan to pursue a degree or certificate in a field requiring hands-on experience. Online technical schools should offer some practical instruction to help students gain vital skills and stand out among job candidates.
Does the school offer support services?
Online trade schools should offer distance learners the same support services as on-campus students. Note that these services — e.g., online tutoring, financial aid assistance, career placement — vary among schools. Online support remains vital to distance learners since they cannot physically access campus offices. Contact your institution to see which support services it offers.

How College Accreditation Works

Vocational and Trade Training Resources

A variety of resources, including government agencies and professional associations, support vocational students. With that in mind, consider this list of career databases, employment profiles, student aid information, and career planning services:

  • Association for Career and Technical Education ACTE is a nationwide association advocating for vocational education and supporting students in their academic endeavors.

  • CareerOneStop The Department of Labor sponsors CareerOneStop, an online hub offering prospective vocational students career planning tools, profiles of vocational careers, and a database of local training programs.

  • Employment and Training Administration Through, the Employment and Training Administration offers an online search tool for vocational students seeking opportunities in their local area.

  • Federal Student Aid An office of the ED, Federal Student Aid is a one-stop informational hub concerned with all things federal financial aid. It offers a breakdown of the types of aid available and instructions for applying for said aid.

  • Job Corp Job Corps provides free career and technical education programs to individuals age 16-24. Through a blend of classroom- and real-world instruction, students develop employability and vocational skills.

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

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook The BLS maintains this handbook featuring profiles of more than 800 careers. It includes an overview of each career's responsibilities, educational requirements, and employment growth projections.

  • Perkins Collaborative Resource Center Prospective certificate- and diploma-seekers visit PCRN's website to learn more about career and technical education programs, as well as work-based learning opportunities throughout the United States.

Popular Resources

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.

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