Students who enroll in trade or vocational schools are a diverse group. Many learners are high school graduates who are not ready to embark on a four-year educational journey. Professionals who are changing careers or want to refresh their skills also enroll in vocational programs.
Trade school programs typically take under two years to complete. Graduates enter the workforce sooner, equipped with the necessary skills and training to accomplish the tasks required for a specific occupation.
Some vocational programs include courses that can transfer to a four-year degree. However, keep in mind that colleges and universities often follow strict transfer policies. Be sure to ask about the type of trade school credits that a prospective four-year institution accepts.
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that 51% of all undergraduate credentials awarded in 2012 were in the sub-baccalaureate level, including trade school diplomas and certificates. As such, vocational education is an integral part of the current educational landscape in the United States.
|What is trade school?||A trade school is an educational institution that offers skill-focused programs related to a specific professional field such as practical nursing, welding, or culinary arts.|
|Can I go to trade school online?||Most online vocational programs use a hybrid delivery format. Students complete some aspects of the program off campus while also completing on-campus practical instruction.|
|Can trade school credits transfer?||Trade school credits earned at accredited institutions can transfer to schools with the same level or type of accreditation. Students may be required to complete additional steps to transfer credits to an institution with a different kind of accreditation.|
|How long does trade school take?||Most trade school programs take under two years to complete.|
Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process in the United States. They make sure accreditors maintain and apply the established standards of academic quality throughout the accreditation process.
Nonprofit private and public institutions usually seek regional accreditation, while for-profit career-focused schools typically pursue national accreditation. Some accreditors review specific programs instead of entire institutions.
The ED and CHEA recognize the Distance Education Accrediting Commission as the main accrediting organization for distance learning, which includes online schools and programs. It is important to remember that a license is not the same as accreditation. A license simply means a school meets the minimum state-mandated qualifications to operate. Accreditation attests to the quality of education offered by an institution.
The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) acts as the main accreditor for trade schools and is recognized by the ED in this role. The ACCSC accredits institutions that offer academic programs specifically designed to educate students for trade, technical, or occupational careers.
The ED channels federal student aid packages only through accredited institutions. This holds true whether you plan to enroll in a degree-granting or a career-focused school. The type of accreditation an institution holds also affects your ability to transfer credits from one school to another. As a rule, a regionally accredited institution only accepts transfer credits earned at a school holding the same type accreditation.
Vocational Trade Schools in Tennessee
In addition to the accreditation status of a school or program, be sure to find out about other important aspects such as retention and completion rates, online or on-campus options, and any available scholarship or grant programs.
The following section includes a list of top-ranked vocational schools in Tennessee. Although the list does not cover all the trade schools in Tennessee, it is a good place to begin the search.
|Rank||Logo||School||Tuition||# of Online Programs||Acceptance Rate||Graduation Rate||Financial Aid||Credit For Experience||Placement Service||Counseling Services||Description & Additional Information||Toggle|
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|1||Roane State Community College Harriman, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 9||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 17%||Financial Aid 7%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
At Roane State Community College, students can study in the fields of allied health sciences, nursing, medicine, art, drama, music, business, economics, management, communication, computer science, education, engineering and technology, environmental, legal and criminal justice, science and mathematics, and social science. Most of the fields of study offer varying pathways for completion including transfer degrees for AA and AS students and career certificates. Aside from the main campus in Roane County, there are eight locations in the surrounding counties. Roane State has men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as baseball and softball teams. Job placement for 2013 Roane State graduates was 97 percent and placement in previously reported years was 97-98 percent.
|2||Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 21||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 8%||Financial Aid 9%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
Chattanooga State Community College offers a variety of two-year degree options in fields including business; engineering and information technologies; humanities and fine arts; mathematics and sciences; nursing and allied health; and social and behavioral sciences. Each field offers a wide array of specific focus areas such as anthropology, dental hygiene, biology and theater arts. There are 50 career programs, three university parallel degrees, and 20 certificate programs. The college offers specialized paths for high school students: Collegiate High, Early College, SAILS, STEM School and Tech-Track. The college has four campuses in Chattanooga and three sites in surrounding counties. It boasted a 96 percent placement rate and a 96-100 percent Licensure Pass Rate in 2013.
|3||Southwest Tennessee Community College Memphis, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 19||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 6%||Financial Aid 9%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
Students can find more than 100 two-year AA, AS and AAS programs and 23 technical certificates at Southwest Tennessee Community College. Fields of study at the college include, but are not limited to: general education; accounting; architectural engineering; automotive technology; computer information technology; fire science; graphic arts technology; paralegal studies; radiologic technology; teaching (K-6 and Pre K-3); and more. The school has two main campuses and four centers in the Memphis area and boasts a 97 percent job placement rate. Southwest Tennessee Community College also has a rigorous honors program that encourages students to engage in community service.
|4||Cleveland State Community College Cleveland, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 4||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 13%||Financial Aid 21%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
At Cleveland State Community College there are degrees offered in several different schools of study. In the humanities and social sciences field, students can specialize in areas such as art, criminal justice, political science, history, sociology and teaching. Math and science offers students specializations in agriculture, natural science, pre-medical technology and pre-computer science. Business and technology offer the most degree and certificate options ranging from office administration to industrial technology. Finally, health, wellness and nursing lets students study exercise science, nursing, and to become an emergency medical technician. Many of the programs offered are a part of the Tennessee Transfer Pathway and the the college also offers an honors program. The total job placement rate across all fields of study for 2013 graduates was 92.77 percent.
|5||Dyersburg State Community College Dyersburg, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 4||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 7%||Financial Aid 32%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
Students who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree can transfer all credits earned at Dyersburg to any college or university in Tennessee. Those who choose to immediately enter the workforce will be well prepared — 92 percent of DSCC alumni are employed within a year of graduating. Students can choose from dozens of concentrations within seven focus areas. Although the campus does not contain dormitories, the Office of Student Services maintains a list of housing referrals. Students can choose from one of three locations: the Dyersburg campus, the DSCC Jimmy Naifeh Center at Tipton County and the DSCC Gibson County Center located in Trenton.
|6||Nashville State Community College Nashville, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 10||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 12%||Financial Aid 1%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|7||Volunteer State Community College Gallatin, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 12||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 16%||Financial Aid 10%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|8||Walters State Community College Morristown, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 8||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 15%||Financial Aid 20%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|9||Jackson State Community College Jackson, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 5||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 10%||Financial Aid 5%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|10||Pellissippi State Community College Knoxville, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 7||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 22%||Financial Aid 3%||Credit For Experience Yes||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|11||Northeast State Community College Blountville, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 7||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 13%||Financial Aid 14%||Credit For Experience No||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|12||Remington College-Nashville Campus Nashville, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 7||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 65%||Financial Aid 72%||Credit For Experience No||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
|13||William Moore College of Technology Memphis, TN||Tuition||# of Online Programs 1||Acceptance Rate -||Graduation Rate 88%||Financial Aid -||Credit For Experience No||Placement Service Yes||Counseling Services Yes||
Find Vocational and Trade Schools in Tennessee
Several high schools in Tennessee offer career and technical education programs so that students can earn a vocational certificate or college credits as they work toward their high school diploma. At the postsecondary level, students can earn vocational certificates and associate degrees at technology centers and community colleges.
Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 6% of jobs require the completion of a postsecondary non-degree credential. Workers with this level of education earned a median annual salary of $37,690 in 2017. Most vocational schools offer these types of programs in several professional arenas.
Vocational schools in Tennessee can lead to lucrative degrees. For example,the BLS shows that electrical and electronics repairers earn a median annual wage of $78,410. This exceeds the median annual salary of $37,690 for all other occupations.
Some states also hire more trade school graduates than others. The five states that hire the highest number of workers with postsecondary non-degree education include Indiana (196,740), Tennessee (190,390), Alabama (130,840), Louisiana (129,370), and Iowa (108,690).
Completing a postsecondary non-degree program offered by accredited vocational schools can open the door to lucrative occupations.
What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?
Vocational schools offer non-degree training programs in diverse occupational fields. NCES data shows the most popular areas of study include health sciences (36%), business and marketing (17%), and consumer services (8%).
Explore the vocational programs listed below, keeping in mind that they comprise only a sample of trade school offerings.
- Electrician Schools
Electricians need good eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, the ability to travel to job locations (including construction sites), and accurate vision. Most students can complete a certificate in electrical technology in a few months. Diploma or associate programs usually take 1-2 years.
You can also explore apprenticeship programs offered by trade unions or privately owned businesses. A paid apprenticeship pairs a student with a master electrician who provides practical on-the-job training. Most electrician apprenticeships last for four years, although some may take longer.
States require electricians to be licensed, which typically includes on-the-job training hours. As such, many electrician programs include an internship or practicum component.
The BLS projects a 10% growth rate for jobs in this sector from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the 5% growth rate for all other occupations. Additionally, electricians earn a median annual salary ($56,180) that is higher than the average national average.
- HVAC Training Schools
HVAC training can take 6-24 months to complete, depending on the type of program you choose to pursue. You can also elect to become a HVAC professional by completing a paid apprenticeship.
The industry recognizes different levels of certifications. HVAC professionals with under one year of experience usually start by earning the industry competency exam certification, which measures baseline competency and knowledge.
As they gain experience in the industry, HVAC practitioners can pursue several professional certifications. Most states require HVAC professionals who handle or dispose of toxic materials to be certified.
The BLS projects a 13% growth rate for HVAC jobs from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the 5% growth rate projected for all other occupations. HVAC technicians also earn an annual median salary of $48,730, which is higher than the average annual median salary of $39,810.
- Dental Hygienist Schools
Most dental hygienist programs take at least two years to complete, especially ones offered at four-year and even two-year colleges. However, programs offered at specialized dental hygienist schools take significantly less time.
These programs offer a career-driven curriculum and provide consistent practical training. Students graduate from the program with real-world skills they can readily apply to the workplace.
States require dental hygienists to be licensed before they can practice. They must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. However, to sit for the exam, students must show proof that they completed an accredited dental hygiene program. The ED recognizes the Commission on Dental Accreditation as the only approved accreditor for dental hygiene education programs.
According to BLS data, dental hygienists earn almost twice the median annual salary for all workers ($76,220 versus $39,810). At 11%, the projected growth rate for jobs in this field far exceeds the 5% projected growth rate for all other occupations from 2018 to 2028.
- Mechanic Schools
Mechanic certificate programs at most vocational schools take 12 months to complete. You can also opt to complete an apprenticeship in this field. Apprenticeships take longer, but they are paid positions, so you can earn while you learn.
A minimum of two years of on-the-job training typically qualifies you to take one or more of the exams administered by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. Passing the exam earns you an automotive service excellence (ASE) certification.
Automotive service technicians and mechanics earn an annual median salary of $42,090. The BLS projects little to no growth for jobs in this sector between 2018 and 2028.
- Physical Therapy Schools
It usually takes 1-6 months to complete a physical therapy certificate or diploma at a vocational school. Common courses include workplace health and safety, physical therapy treatments, and medical terminology.
These credentials qualify graduates for entry-level work as a physical therapy aide. Typical duties include cleaning equipment, helping patients during treatment, and clerical tasks.
Completing a two-year associate program qualifies graduates for physical therapy assistant positions. Most states require physical therapy assistants to be licensed, and they still have to work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.
Physical therapy aides and assistants earn a median annual salary of $48,990. The BLS projects a 26% growth rate for jobs in this field between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the projected growth rate of 5% for all other occupations.
Financial Aid for Trade School Students
Whether you plan to enroll in a trade school, a two-year community college, or a four-year university, your search for financial assistance begins with the FAFSA.
Trade school students with demonstrable financial need can qualify for the Pell Grant. The Career Training Smart Option Loans from Sallie Mae offer competitive interest rates and no prepayment penalty for vocational school students. The loan can cover tuition, books, and other school-related expenses like housing or a laptop.
Find out if your prospective school participates in any federal student assistance program earmarked specially for trade school enrollees. Remember, you can only apply for federal grant monies if your school is accredited. Specific schools and some specialized programs administer scholarships from private donors who are keen to support students pursuing a career in a particular field.
Begin your search for financial assistance with the scholarship and grant opportunities below.
Scholarship for Trade School Students
The information you include in your FAFSA helps schools determine your eligibility for any type of financial assistance. You must submit the form for every year that you apply for aid. In your search for funding assistance, be sure to include scholarship programs from local chapters of trade unions, organizations that serve minority populations, and special interest groups.
- AWS Welder Training Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The American Welding Society accepts applications from students who plan to pursue a welding training program offered by a trade school or community college. Applicants must submit their applications through their AWS District.Apply for Scholarship
- Executive Women International ASIST (Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship serves adults facing economic, physical, or social challenges that make it difficult for them to pursue their education. Local chapters process applications, with the national organization choosing the recipients.Apply for Scholarship
- Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractor (PHCC) National Association Educational Foundation Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: The PHCC extends this scholarship opportunity to students enrolled in a trade school or community college plumbing and heating/cooling program, as well as those completing an apprenticeship. Professionals seeking to upgrade their skills can also apply to the program.Apply for Scholarship
- Tennessee Student Assistance Award
Who Can Apply: The TSAA accepts applications from Tennessee residents who have been accepted by an eligible postsecondary institution, including trade or vocational schools. Recipients can enroll full time or part time.Apply for Scholarship
- Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be Tennessee residents for at least one year prior to enrollment in a certificate or diploma program at trade or vocational school within the state. This is a need-based grant.Apply for Scholarship
Additional Education and Career Resources
Comprehensive resource for prospective students providing an overview of CTE programs available in Tennessee, conferences, and opportunities for student involvement.
A centralized resource to find and compare higher education institutions in the state – six universities, 13 community colleges, and 27 colleges of applied technologies.
Job seekers can view job listings, access the resource room equipped with computers and staff to assist, obtain career guidance, learn about training opportunities, and take a skills assessment.
An overview of CTE options available to high school students, including programs of study, application to enroll in a CTE program, industry certification options, and latest news and statistics.
Resources for nurses working in Tennessee such as continuing education, advocacy, networking events, and access to the latest industry news.