Vocational Trade Schools in South Carolina 2022

Updated August 18, 2022 • 6 Min Read

Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools in South Carolina provide career-focused training in high-demand fields such as healthcare, the skilled trades, and emergency services. Learners can pursue a vocational certificate or degree to prepare for positions as paramedics, medical assistants, and electricians. Trade school graduates can also work as dental hygienists, paralegals, mechanics, and occupational therapy assistants.

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Vocational programs include a blend of classroom and hands-on learning. In addition to coursework, students typically complete clinical, laboratory, or practicum requirements. For example, paramedic studies students generally learn in an ambulance or hospital setting, while mechanics practice their skills in a shop. Many trade schools offer self-paced or accelerated programs that are ideal for working students. Learners can also choose an online vocational program for maximum flexibility.

Earning a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years, compared to four years for a bachelor's degree. This allows students to enter the workforce sooner. Additionally, vocational programs typically cost less than a bachelor's degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, professionals with an occupational credential benefit from a higher employment rate than those with an academic credential.

This page introduces the best vocational schools in South Carolina. The following sections explore career and salary data for graduates, along with scholarship opportunities for trade school students.


What is the difference between a trade school and a college?Trade schools provide career-centered training in fields such as technology, healthcare, and the skilled trades. Colleges typically emphasize academic programs. However, many colleges also offer vocational programs.
How much does a trade school cost?The cost of trade school depends on the institution and program. Many two-year colleges in South Carolina offer vocational programs for less than $4,500 per year.
What are examples of vocational jobs?Examples of vocational positions include medical assistant, paralegal, electrician, and mechanic. Graduates of vocational programs can also become occupational therapy assistants, cosmetologists, and HVAC technicians.
What are the different types of trade schools?Trade schools may specialize in a certain field, such as healthcare or cosmetology. Some schools offer vocational programs in multiple areas.

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Students should check each prospective trade program's accreditation and licensing status before applying. Attending an accredited and licensed school ensures students receive an education that prepares them for the workforce.

Accredited schools must meet high standards. Independent accrediting agencies grant accreditation after an extensive review process. During the review, the accrediting agency evaluates factors including student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic mission. Only schools that successfully complete the process earn accreditation. This resource provides information about the accreditation process.

Attending an accredited school ensures students receive a quality education. Credits earned from an accredited institution are more likely to transfer to other schools, and the requirements for many professional licenses and certifications include a degree from an accredited institution. Additionally, only students at accredited schools can receive federal financial aid.

Schools can hold national or regional accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities typically earn regional accreditation. In South Carolina, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges awards regional accreditation.

Trade and vocational schools in South Carolina often pursue national accreditation from a specialized agency such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Other specialized accrediting agencies include the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which evaluates online schools. Both national and regional accrediting agencies should hold approval from the Department of Education.

In addition to accreditation, postsecondary institutions must hold a state license. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education oversees two-year colleges, technical colleges, and other degree-granting schools in the state.

Vocational Trade Schools in South Carolina

Trade schools in South Carolina offer career training in high-demand fields. Professionals often pursue vocational training to change careers or increase their earning potential. The following list ranks the best vocational schools in South Carolina to help prospective students find the best program for their career goals.

  1. Northeastern Technical College

    Cheraw, SC



    Founded in 1969, Northeastern Technical College is a regional extension of the SC Technical College System. The college divides its programs across four campuses located across the northeastern part of the state. Students can complete some of their courses in an online or hybrid format.

    NETC offers dozens of options at the associate degree and certificate levels. Most associate degrees require 60-64 credits, though several require as many as 84 credits. These programs take four semesters to finish, though part-time students may take longer. NETC's vocational certificates require 18-39 credits, depending on the subject, and take 2-3 semesters to complete.

    Students interested in an apprenticeship can enroll in a three-year program at the Cheraw campus. For example, the associate in machine tool technology lets students gain practical experience and make money while earning their degree. NETC requires applicants to earn a 2.0 GPA during their first year to qualify for the apprenticeship.

  2. Trident Technical College

    Charleston, SC



    Trident Technical College, located in Charleston, educates more than 15,000 students pursuing various associate-level and vocational programs. Some of TTC's more popular programs include hospitality, tourism, culinary arts, law, and engineering technology.

    Many vocational students pursue an associate of applied science, which requires 60-70 credits taken over 4-5 semesters. TTC often requires learners to gain practical experience. For example, the associate of applied science in industrial maintenance technology sets specific experience requirements during students' first year. Learners also complete 12-17 credits in a specialty field.

    Charleston's large tourism industry also makes tourism, hospitality, and culinary arts excellent fields of study. Most of these options only come as certificate programs, which require 15-20 credits. While TTC offers some courses online, vocational certificate students should anticipate completing all their credits onsite.

  3. Midlands Technical College

    West Columbia, SC



    Columbia-based Midlands Technical College primarily focuses on preparing learners for a career immediately after graduation, though some students transfer into four-year programs. MTC's excellent location and relationship with Fortune 500 companies helps connect graduates to potential jobs.

    MTC combines on-campus and online courses, allowing learners to choose a format that fits their needs. The technical college offers some certificates, such as the criminal justice vocational certificate, entirely online. Others, like the entrepreneurship certificate, require some on-campus courses, though several courses run online or in a hybrid format. Regardless of how students complete courses, MTC's certificates require at least 27 credits.

    MTC also offers an array of vocational associate degrees, most of which blend on-campus and online learning. However, some programs, including the building construction associate degree, require many in-person courses. Most of MTC's associate degrees require 60 credits or more, and students finish these programs in 4-5 semesters when studying full time.

  4. Greenville Technical College

    Greenville, SC



    With over 100 programs that lead directly to a career or a transfer into a four-year institution, Greenville Technical College provides Greenville residents with plenty of vocational options. Like other South Carolina technical colleges, GTC uses both onsite and online courses, letting learners complete some theory courses and lectures from a distance.

    Popular vocational degree and certificate fields include criminal justice and aviation construction. Both options give learners varying flexibility levels. The associate of applied science in criminal justice runs either entirely online, entirely on campus, or as a hybrid. This 60-credit program leads to careers in law enforcement, private investigation, rehabilitation, and corporate security.

    GTC offers aviation construction and corresponding specialties, such as aircraft maintenance and aviation fundamentals, in both vocational certificates and associate degrees. The certificates require 30 credits, typically completed over two semesters. The vocational associate degrees, due to their highly technical nature, require 90 credits or more completed over a three-year period.

  5. Florence-Darlington Technical College

    Florence, SC



    Based primarily in Florence but with six campuses across the region, Florence-Darlington Technical College educates thousands of vocational students in the region. To reach even more learners, FDTC offers courses and entire programs online.

    Many of FDTC's vocational associate degrees and certificates occur entirely online, on campus, or as a hybrid. The school offers most fields of study at both the associate and certificate level, though requirements for each vary. For example, FDTC's associate degrees require 60-84 credits while the certificates require no more than 40 credits.

    While some programs allow for online study, others emphasize onsite practice. Like other certificate programs at FDTC, the cosmetology certificate leads to South Carolina licensure. To meet state requirements, learners must log at least 1,500 hours of experience. Other programs, like the associate in accounting, set minimum grade requirements for core courses.

  6. Technical College of the LowCountry

    Beaufort, SC



    Technical College of the Lowcountry teaches roughly 5,000 students in the Beaufort area each year, serving as the local leader in postsecondary education. With three campuses in the region and a robust online catalog, TCL reports a 92% graduation rate.

    TCL offers vocational certificates and associate degrees not found at many other vocational schools in South Carolina. Each program covers a range of topics. For example, the architectural design technician certificate explores 3-D, mechanical, electrical, and HVAC. Learners earn 34 credits to complete this certificate. Most certificates require around 30 credits and take 2-3 semesters to complete.

    Some programs allow students to learn online. The associate in criminal justice technology embraces online courses, and students can complete the entire 66-credit degree online. Full-time learners finish the criminal justice technology program in four semesters.

  7. York Technical College

    Rock Hill, SC



    York Technical College is an important economic and workforce developer for the York, Lancaster, and Chester counties. One of the main South Carolina technical schools, York Tech uses an open admissions policy and educates approximately 7,000 for-credit students each year.

    Vocational programs mix in-class lectures and discussions with experiential learning. While some students take advantage of the low tuition to complete a transfer or bridge program, others complete one of the dozens of vocational associate degrees or certificates. Most of the technical college's associate of applied science degrees take two years to complete and require at least 60 credits. Students must earn a "C" grade or higher in all courses to graduate. If a program leads to a position that requires licensure, learners must complete a clinical experience as part of their curriculum.

    Vocational certificates focus heavily on experience and require fewer classroom courses. Most certificates require 30 credits and take 2-3 semesters to complete.

  8. Horry-Georgetown Technical College

    Myrtle Beach, SC



    A two-year, public technical school in South Carolina and part of the extensive technical college system, Horry-Georgetown Technical College offers over 65 programs for learners interested in entering the workforce. As an important educator in the Horry and Georgetown counties, HGTC offers vocational programs that lead to in-demand jobs in the region.

    HGTC's vocational programs take 2-6 semesters to complete, depending on the program and students' enrollment status. Most certificates require no more than 30 credits completed over several semesters. The associate of applied science degrees, including the unique associate of applied science in sports tourism and recreation management, require 60 credits or more.

    Learners study onsite in Conway, Georgetown, or Grand Stand. HGTC offers many programs online or in a hybrid format, including the associate in sports tourism and recreation management.

  9. Central Carolina Technical College

    Sumter, SC



    Originally a public technical education center, Central Carolina Technical College hosts one of the largest student bodies of all South Carolina technical colleges. Like other vocational schools in South Carolina, CCTC offers multiple associate of applied science degrees and certificates on campus and online.

    Most of CCTC's vocational programs consist of certificates. The certificates require up to 40 credits and take 2-3 semesters to complete. These certificates often require significant hands-on experience, so students must complete most of the program onsite. Many of CCTC's vocational certificates lead to high-employment regional positions, such as automotive technology and human services.

    The vocational associate degrees require 60-84 credits with most requiring fewer than 68 credits. Typically completed in two years, the associate degrees meet accreditation and organizational approval in their respective fields. For example, the paralegal associate degree holds American Bar Association approval. Students must complete all core associate degree courses with a "C" grade or better.

  10. Aiken Technical College

    Graniteville, SC



    Aiken-based Aiken Technical College strives to be the region's top option for higher education. The public, open-door technical college teaches over 3,000 learners annually consisting mainly of working students who take advantage of the college's online options.

    Some of ATC's top vocational programs lead to region-specific positions. For example, the school's nuclear programs students learn at nearby nuclear power plants, gaining practical experience to supplement in-class or online courses. The associate of applied science in radiation protection technology requires 70 credits. Most vocational associate degrees require 60 credits or more. Full-time students can finish their associate degrees in two years.

    Vocational certificates, like the nuclear fundamentals certificate, typically require 25-36 credits, depending on the focus. Students pursuing a vocational associate degree in radiation protection technology can also complete the nuclear fundamentals certificate before graduating.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Many occupations for trade school graduates offer above-average salaries and strong demand. After completing a vocational program, individuals can pursue roles in fields such as healthcare, the professional trades, legal services, and technology.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for dental hygienists, HVAC technicians, and paralegals to increase much faster than average from 2018 to 2028. Other fields with strong job growth projections include allied health and the skilled trades.

Earning potential for trade school graduates varies based on the individual's industry and location. The average salary for trade school occupations is about $55,000 per year, according to the BLS. While occupations in personal care and service pay below-average salaries, earnings for management professionals are above average.

In addition to industry, salaries vary by position. For example, healthcare practitioners earn an average salary of about $55,000 per year, while the average annual salary for healthcare support professionals is about $45,000.

Location also impacts earning potential. In South Carolina, paralegals earn about $46,500 per year, while respiratory therapists earn an average of more than $56,500, according to BLS data. The average salary for occupational therapy assistants in the state is about $61,000 per year, while HVAC technicians earn an average of $45,000 per year. Students considering trade schools in South Carolina can research the earning potential in their field when choosing a program.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Trade school programs can prepare graduates for careers as dental hygienists, mechanics, paralegals, and radiology technicians. Many trade schools offer programs in allied health fields, the skilled trades, STEM fields, and cosmetology. While earning a vocational certificate or degree, students receive practical training in their field.

This section explores popular vocational programs.

Dental Hygienist Schools

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

Dental hygienists typically hold an associate degree with coursework in dental anatomy, periodontics, and oral hygiene. Programs in the field also incorporate laboratory and clinical instruction.

According to the BLS, dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of more than $76,000 in 2019. The BLS projects this occupation to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than average. In every state, dental hygienists must hold a license to practice. In South Carolina, the Board of Dentistry licenses dental hygienists.

Learn more about dental hygienist programs.

Mechanic Schools

Mechanics, also known as automotive service technicians, inspect and repair cars. They use diagnostic tools to identify problems, conduct repairs to keep vehicles running smoothly, and explain automotive problems to clients. Mechanics also perform basic care and maintenance.

Mechanics often earn a vocational certificate or degree in automotive service technology. These programs include classes in engine repair, brake maintenance, and automotive service. Students also complete laboratory or practicum requirements.

Graduates of automotive service programs can pursue a professional certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Specialty certification areas include automatic transmissions, electronic systems, and engine performance. Mechanics earned a median annual salary of about $42,000 in 2019, according to BLS data.

Learn more about mechanic programs.

Paralegal Schools

Paralegals draft legal documents, conduct legal research, and assist lawyers during trial. They also file briefs and appeals with the court, investigate the facts of cases, and take affidavits to build evidence. Some paralegals specialize in an area such as corporate law or litigation.

Learners can pursue paralegal studies or legal studies programs at vocational schools in South Carolina. While earning a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies, students take classes in legal writing, contract law, legal research, and corporate law.

According to BLS data, paralegals earned a median annual salary of more than $51,000 in 2019. The BLS projects a 12% job growth for paralegals from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Although paralegals do not need certification, some employers prefer certified candidates.

Learn more about paralegal programs.

Radiology Technician Schools

Radiology technicians use equipment to take diagnostic images of patients. They position each patient to capture the necessary images and review the image results with a physician. Radiology technicians must follow safety procedures to protect patients.

Careers in radiology technology generally require an associate degree with coursework in anatomy, patient care, radiation physics, and image evaluation. Students also complete clinical requirements. Graduates in the field typically pursue certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

According to the BLS, radiology technicians earned a median annual salary of more than $62,000 in 2019. In South Carolina, radiology technicians need a license from the South Carolina Radiation Quality Standards Association.

Learn more about radiology technician programs.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Students can pursue various types of financial aid to pay for a vocational certificate or degree. Federal financial aid programs support students through loans, grants, and work-study opportunities. To receive federal financial aid, applicants must submit the FAFSA annually. Only learners at accredited schools can qualify for federal aid.

In addition to federal financial aid, students attending trade school can apply for private loans, scholarships, and grants. Scholarships and grants are ideal forms of funding, since they do not require repayment.

Students can also reduce the cost of a vocational program by choosing an affordable school. For example, the average cost of tuition and fees at South Carolina public universities is about $12,500 per year, while private universities cost nearly $25,000 per year. On the other hand, South Carolina community colleges charge about $4,500 per year in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

Students attending trade schools in South Carolina can qualify for many scholarships and grants. Learners can apply for scholarships from private foundations, government agencies, and professional organizations. In addition to the following opportunities, students can research scholarships based on their field or school.

South Carolina Higher Education Tuition Grants

Who Can Apply: The state government provides tuition grants for full-time students attending qualifying independent colleges. Applicants must submit the FAFSA.
Amount: Up to $3,600

Apply for Scholarship

ANSWER Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Mothers of school-age children in certain South Carolina counties can apply for this scholarship. Recipients must attend an accredited institution full time and must be pursuing a four-year degree in any discipline or a two-year degree in an eligible field.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Essay Contest

Who Can Apply: Candidates submit an online application and a 500-word essay about an inspirational African American person. Applicants must attend an accredited college.
Amount: $3,500-$5,000

Apply for Scholarship

Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The foundation awards scholarships to women who demonstrate financial need. Applicants must attend a qualifying accredited school in the South. Learners in the medical, nursing, and allied health fields can qualify for funding.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

SAWF Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Southern Automotive Women's Forum offers scholarships to women studying a STEM field, including learners attending trade and tech schools in South Carolina. Candidates who demonstrate an interest in the automobile industry receive preference.
Amount: Up to $5,000

Apply for Scholarship

Additional Education and Career Resources

Advance CTE - South Carolina

Information and resources for career and technical education students including available career clusters, financial aid, and types of programs.

SC Works - Online Services

A one-stop shop for job seekers to connect with employers in South Carolina. Includes a job search database, resume help, and information on training and education services.

South Carolina Nurses Association

Offers information on continuing education and professional development, and provides job postings from throughout the state.

South Carolina Technical College System

A network of colleges that provides students with education targeted to meet the needs of the state's industries.

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