Vocational Trade Schools in Pennsylvania

A technical education is a great way to open up a new pathway in your career. Pennsylvania has trade schools that offer a variety of programs in a range of industries.

May 26, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools in Pennsylvania offer career-focused training in fields like healthcare, skilled trades, technology, and legal services. Trade school jobs include medical assistant, electrician, paralegal, physical therapist assistant, and paramedic. Vocational programs also train cosmetologists, chefs, dental hygienists, and respiratory therapists.

Pursuing a vocational certificate or degree helps professionals increase their earning potential and begin careers in high-demand areas. During a vocational program, students build career-ready skills in the classroom and through laboratory or clinical requirements.

Vocational programs offer several benefits compared to four-year academic programs. Earning a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years, meaning students finish their program and enter the workforce faster. As a result, vocational training typically costs less than a bachelor's degree.

In addition, professionals with an occupational credential benefit from a higher employment rate than those with an academic credential, according to 2009 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Many trade schools offer self-paced or accelerated options designed for busy students, and a growing number provide online vocational programs that maximize flexibility.

Our ranking lists the best vocational schools in Pennsylvania to help prospective students find the right fit to reach their career goals. This page also provides career and salary data for trade school occupations, introduces popular vocational programs, and lists scholarship opportunities for trade students in Pennsylvania.

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FAQ About Vocation and Trade Schools

What is the difference between a trade school and a college?

Trade schools provide job-oriented training for careers in healthcare, the skilled trades, construction, and other fields. Colleges generally focus on academic programs, although many also offer vocational programs.

What can you learn at a trade school?

Trade schools educate students in areas like allied health, technology, and the skilled trades. Specialized trade schools offer training in cosmetology and the culinary arts.

What are examples of vocational jobs?

Vocational jobs include careers in the skilled trades like electrician, HVAC technician, and mechanic. In the allied health field, vocational jobs include medical assistant, occupational therapy assistant, and respiratory therapist. Other occupational jobs include paralegal, cosmetologist, and paramedic.

How much does a trade school cost?

The cost of vocational programs varies depending on the program length and school. Trade school students can research the most affordable vocational programs, including public community colleges with vocational programs.

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Prospective trade school students should always check a school's accreditation and licensure status before applying. By avoiding non-accredited, non-licensed schools, also known as diploma mills, students can make sure their vocational training prepares them for the workforce.

Accredited schools meet high standards for educating students. To earn accreditation, colleges and universities voluntarily submit to a rigorous review from an independent, nonprofit accrediting agency. During the review, the accrediting agency measures the school's student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and graduation requirements.

Even after earning accreditation, schools must repeat the review process to maintain their status. Learn more about the accreditation process.

Choosing an accredited school helps students. Credits earned from an accredited institution are more likely to transfer, and only students at accredited schools can receive federal financial aid. Accreditation continues to matter after graduation. Many professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree.

In Pennsylvania, schools that offer vocational programs may hold regional or national accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities often hold regional accreditation. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education grants regional accreditation in Pennsylvania.

Trade and vocational schools in Pennsylvania often pursue national accreditation from specialized accrediting agencies like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, which awards accreditation to over 650 trade and technical schools. Similarly, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission grants accreditation to online schools. Accrediting agencies should always hold approval from the Department of Education.

In addition to accreditation, postsecondary institutions should hold a license to operate in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Education approves technical schools, community colleges, and universities in the state.

Vocational Trade Schools in Pennsylvania

Trade schools in Pennsylvania offer vocational training for careers in high-demand fields. By choosing a top-ranked vocational program, professionals can advance their education and increase their earning potential, often in under two years. The following list ranks the best vocational schools in Pennsylvania.

  1. Bucks County Community College

    Newtown, PA



    Founded in 1964, Bucks County Community College currently enrolls about 7,500 students and offers more than 90 associate, occupational, and certificate programs. Areas of study include cinema video production, health science, business analytics, and biotechnology. This vocational school in Pennsylvania also offers Educational Enrichment Programs that keep students informed about matters such as diversity and women's issues.

    Many students take advantage of tutoring services, peer mentorship, and academic counseling at the Academic Success Center. Other student services include career exploration and advising, disability resources, and IT assistance for online and on-campus enrollees. Many students who plan to transfer to four-year institutions request assistance from personnel trained to help with course selection, class scheduling, and internship or workplace training opportunities.

    Many students interested in becoming electricians explore the college's electrical apprenticeship program. The four-year program offers online and on-campus classes and focuses on solar and other renewable energies. Bucks also offers a culinary apprenticeship with an emphasis in either foods or pastry.

  2. Lehigh Carbon Community College

    Schnecksville, PA



    Established in 1966, Lehigh Carbon Community College enrolls an average of 10,000 credit-seeking students each year, with an additional 4,500 more noncredit enrollees. LCCC offers more than 90 programs of study across seven academic areas. Students pursue an associate degree, occupational certificate, or specialized diploma in fields like science and engineering, manufacturing, and design.

    Student support services at LCCC include one-on-one tutoring, supplemental instruction, multimedia learning tutorials, and various resources for students with learning or physical disabilities. The Career Development Center provides an online database of internship and job opportunities exclusively for LCCC students. LCCC operates the Cougar Cabinet Food Pantry for students dealing with food insecurity issues.

    This technical school in Pennsylvania offers a tool and die machinist apprenticeship certificate. The two-year program includes coursework and training in drafting and design, manufacturing processes, and various tooling elements.

  3. Community College of Allegheny County

    Pittsburgh, PA



    Classes began at the Community College of Allegheny County in 1966 with an initial enrollment of 1,505 students. Today, CCAC admits more than 25,000 credit-seeking students each year and offers over 160 programs across six academic areas. Students can pursue an associate degree or occupational credential in fields like industrial art and design, data analytics, radiation therapy technology, and facilities maintenance.

    Student services include academic, career, and personal counseling, individual and group tutoring, job search assistance, and accommodations and other resources for students with a learning or physical disability.

    This Pennsylvania technical college maintains articulation agreements with several senior institutions throughout the region to help CCAC graduates transfer smoothly to four-year programs. CCAC also offers 30 certificate and degree programs entirely online and an additional 39 programs mostly online. CCAC currently offers apprenticeships in fields like carpentry, ironworking, and plumbing.

  4. Community College of Philadelphia

    Philadelphia, PA



    Community College of Philadelphia enrolls over 23,000 students pursuing associate degrees and occupational credentials across six fields of study. CCP offers online programs in several fields including business, technical studies, and entrepreneurship.

    This trade school in Pennsylvania helps students pay for their education through scholarships and various tuition assistance programs. Students returning to college after a two-year absence with a minimum of 30 transferable credits from another accredited institution meet the criteria to apply to the My Degree Now scholarship, which covers tuition and fees.

    Community College of Philadelphia offers an apprenticeship in early childhood education. Many full-time childcare workers with a certificate in child development apply to the two-year program, which leads to an associate degree in early childhood education.

  5. Butler County Community College

    Butler, PA



    Founded in 1965, Butler County Community College offers more than 75 career, transfer, and certificate programs. Fields of study include nursing and allied health, machine tool technology, and human resource management. Approximately 70% of BC3 students enroll in associate degrees for transfer. The college serves more than 3,100 students each year.

    In addition to articulation agreements that facilitate the transfer of BC3 graduates to four-year institutions, the college maintains degree completion partnerships with several senior colleges and universities. Partnership agreements allow BC3 students to earn a bachelor's degree while remaining on campus.

    BC3 offers an apprenticeship technology program designed primarily for industrial workers in the metalworking trades. Students who complete the program earn a workplace certificate from the college.

  6. Northampton County Area Community College

    Bethlehem, PA



    Northampton County Area Community College enrolled 846 students when it opened in 1967. Today, more than 35,000 students enroll in credit and noncredit programs at NCC's three campuses. The college awards associate degrees, occupational certificates, and professional diplomas in over 100 fields of study. Unique among trade schools in Pennsylvania, NCC offers on-campus student housing.

    The Center for Career Development helps students with course and major selection, career exploration, and job searches after graduation. The center provides information on internship and apprenticeship opportunities within the community and prepares students for workplace requirements and responsibilities. The Learning Center at NCC provides online and in-person tutoring, academic coaching, and research assistance. Trained professionals offer academic, career, and personal counseling. NCC offers a variety of accommodation and assistive services for students with learning or physical disabilities.

  7. Montgomery County Community College

    Blue Bell, PA



    Montgomery County Community College began in 1964 and currently offers a comprehensive curriculum that includes over 100 associate and certificate programs. Many students pursue an associate degree or occupational credential in 59 areas of study including creative arts, engineering and technology, and organizational leadership. Montco also offers career training programs, adult and continuing education classes, and personal enrichment opportunities.

    Many students earn college credits for professional knowledge, military training, and other types of learning outside the classroom. Montco offers eight associate programs that students complete without any campus visits. Online programs offer several starting dates throughout the year and include asynchronous and synchronous classes.

    The college maintains transfer partnerships with over 30 four-year public and private institutions throughout the region including La Salle, Temple, and Villanova universities. Many graduates of a Montco associate degree program begin their study at these schools as third-year students.

  8. Luzerne County Community College

    Nanticoke, PA



    Luzerne County Community College enrolled 836 students when it formally opened in 1967. Today, LCCC admits close to 5,000 students annually and offers over 95 associate and certificate programs. LCC offers 25 associate degrees for transfer. Approximately 62% of LCCC students enroll in transfer programs, while the remaining 38% enroll in occupational programs.

    Students pursue a transfer or occupational program in one of 12 areas of study including mathematics, computer science, and pre-engineering; culinary arts and pastry; and applied technology. The college currently offers 11 online associate degree programs in fields such as computer information systems, business management technology, and criminal justice.

    The Counseling and Advising Center at the college offers academic, career, crisis, and personal counseling. Additional student resources include tutoring services, career exploration, course and major selection, and job search assistance.

  9. Harrisburg Area Community College

    Harrisburg, PA



    The oldest community college in Pennsylvania, Harrisburg Area Community College admits over 17,400 students to for-credit programs and an additional 8,300 enrollees to noncredit programs. HACC offers more than 100 programs in 11 fields of study, including legal and public safety, trades and technology, business and hospitality, and engineering technology.

    This technical school in Pennsylvania maintains articulation agreements with over 65 senior colleges and universities throughout the state, which helps students to transfer to a four-year institution where they pursue a bachelor's degree. Many transfer students with an associate degree in a STEM discipline apply for a $20,000 scholarship opportunity at East Stroudsburg University.

    Students enjoy access to an array of support resources, including academic advisement, career exploration, tutoring services, and job search and application assistance.

  10. Pennsylvania Highlands Community College

    Johnstown, PA



    Opening in 1993 as Cambria County Area Community College, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College enrolls close to 2,800 students and offers associate, certificate, and diploma programs across seven areas of study. Students pursue a degree for transfer or occupational credential in fields like sustainable agriculture, information security and analysis, and medical coding and billing. This trade school in Pennsylvania also offers workforce development courses, adult and continuing education classes, and personal enrichment programs for students and members of the larger community.

    The college maintains several online programs in business management, entrepreneurship, and paralegal studies. PHCC maintains articulation agreements with over 36 four-year colleges and universities throughout the state. These agreements facilitate the transfer process for PHCC graduates. Some of these institutions include Penn State, Geneva College, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The college holds a Transfer Fair every year when representatives of four-year colleges and universities come to the campus to discuss their transfer requirements with students.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Many trade school careers provide strong salaries and job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports much faster-than-average projected job growth for dental hygienistsparalegals, and HVAC technicians between 2018 and 2028.

The salary for trade school careers varies depending on the industry and location. Overall, technical and trade school occupations pay an average annual salary of around $55,000.

On the lower end, personal service occupations pay under $33,000 per year, while on the high end, management occupations earn over $96,000 annually. In the healthcare field, healthcare practitioners with vocational training make $55,000 per year and healthcare support occupations earn $45,000 per year.

Location also influences salaries. In Pennsylvania, BLS wage estimates report that electricians earn $68,000 per year and paralegals make over $55,000 annually. In the allied health field, occupational therapy assistants earn around $57,000 per year, dental hygienists earn just under $68,000 per year, and physical therapist assistants make around $55,000 per year.

Students considering trade schools in Pennsylvania can research salary and job growth data for their specific field.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Trade school programs prepare students for in-demand careers in allied health, skilled trades, legal services, and emergency services. For example, graduates work as dental hygienists, paralegals, and radiology technicians. A vocational certificate or degree combines classroom learning and fieldwork to prepare graduates for the workforce.

This section introduces some popular trade school programs. In addition to these programs, prospective students can research vocational programs for electricians, cosmetologists, engineering technologists, and construction managers.

  • Dental Hygienist Schools

    Dental hygienists provide preventive dental care and examine patients for signs of oral diseases. They apply treatments to protect teeth, take dental X-rays, and report findings to dentists. Dental hygienists also educate patients about oral hygiene.

    Vocational schools in Pennsylvania train dental hygienists in associate programs. During these programs, students take courses in dental health, periodontics, and oral pathology. Dental hygienists also complete clinical and laboratory training.

    The BLS reports that dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of over $76,000 in 2019, with much faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028. In every state, dental hygienists need a license. The Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry licenses dental hygienists.

    Learn more about dental hygienist programs.

  • Mechanic Schools

    Mechanics inspect and repair cars and trucks. Mechanics use computerized diagnostic equipment to identify problems, examine critical parts in a vehicle, and repair or replace worn parts. They also perform basic maintenance and explain automotive problems to clients.

    An automotive service technology certificate or associate degree prepares graduates for mechanic jobs. During these programs, students take courses in engine performance, automotive repair, and electronic systems. They also complete fieldwork.

    In 2019, mechanics earned a median annual salary of around $42,000. Pursuing certification from an organization like the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence can help mechanics demonstrate specialized training in areas like automatic transmissions, diesel engines, and brakes.

    Learn more about mechanic programs.

  • Paralegal Schools

    Paralegals help lawyers prepare for trials and manage cases. They conduct legal research, write legal documents such as contracts, and assist lawyers during trials. Paralegals can also file briefs and appeals with the court. Some paralegals specialize in an area like corporate law or litigation.

    Many paralegals earn a vocational certificate or degree in paralegal studies. During these programs, students take courses in legal writing, contract law, legal research, and corporate law. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who complete professional certification.

    Paralegals benefit from strong job growth. The BLS projects much faster-than-average job growth in the field from 2018 to 2028. In 2019, paralegals earned a median annual salary of over $51,000.

    Learn more about paralegal programs.

  • Radiology Technician Schools

    Radiology technicians, also called radiologic technologists, use diagnostic imaging equipment like X-rays to take images. They prepare patients for procedures, position patients to capture the correct image, and evaluate images for quality. Radiology technicians must also follow safety procedures to protect patients.

    Most positions require an associate degree in radiography. During these programs, students take courses in patient care, anatomy, radiation physics, and image evaluation. Most programs also incorporate clinical work.

    Pennsylvania does not require a professional license for radiologic technicians. However, most radiology technicians earn certification from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. BLS data shows that radiology technologists earned a median annual salary of over $62,000 in 2019, with faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028.

    Learn more about radiology technician programs.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Financial aid in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs helps trade school students pay for their certificate or degree.

The federal financial aid program awards loans and grants to qualifying students. Applicants must complete the FAFSA to receive federal financial aid, and only certain schools meet Department of Education requirements to distribute federal aid.

Unlike loans, scholarships and grants support students financially with no obligation to repay the award. Students pursuing career and technical training can apply for scholarships to make their program more affordable. The following section introduces scholarships for trade school students.

Additional Education and Career Resources

Comprehensive job search database for Pennsylvania residents. Search by location, company, job title, or category. PACTA promotes quality CTE in the state by providing support to vocational educators. Includes information on the vocational programs that students can enroll in, careers that graduates can pursue, and the instructional methodologies used by those who provide CTE in the state. This site has information on the main industries in Pittsburg.

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org 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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