Vocational Trade Schools in Tennessee

May 26, 2022 • 6 Min Read

Find a program that’s right for you.

Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools offer career-focused programs that develop each student's technical abilities and train them to perform specific tasks required in a skilled profession. Common trade school programs include auto repair, cosmetology, computer programming, and dental hygiene.

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.

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.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

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.

  1. Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Jackson

    Jackson, MI, TN



    One of 27 schools in the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) public college system, TCAT-Jackson offers evening and daytime courses and 12- to 20-month vocational programs in 18 different technical and career fields. Program graduates receive certificates or diplomas.

    TCAT-Jackson's other trade courses and programs include automotive technology, machine technology, welding, and truck driving. This trade school in Tennessee also features programs in computer systems and technology, practical nursing, retail and hospitality technology, and administrative office technology.

    Many TCAT programs offer concentration options and quantify the content learned through student certification in several specific skill areas. For example, the 12-month administration office technology program features options for five program credentials and 13 skill certificates. Electrician students may participate in TCAT-Jackson's apprenticeship program.

    Applicants need a high school diploma or its equivalent, a declared occupational objective, and demonstrated potential to achieve that objective. Depending on the program chosen, additional requirements may apply.

  2. Cleveland State Community College

    Cleveland, TN, TN



    Headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee, Cleveland State Community College (CSCC) runs technical and academic associate degree and certificate programs for students across the arts, humanities, sciences, and trades. Associate degrees typically entail 60-65 credits, while certificates typically range from 12-43 credits.

    CSCC offers several kinds of associate degrees to accommodate various academic interests and career aspirations. Students desiring bachelor's degrees often earn CSCC's transferable associate of arts (AA), associate of fine arts (AFA) in music, or associate of science (AS) degrees. Available AA concentrations include history, psychology, English, or foreign languages. CSCC also offers over 35 AS degrees in healthcare, natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering.

    Meanwhile, CSCC provides associate of applied science (AAS) degrees and technical certificates for students not planning on four-year degrees. Available AAS and certificate fields span disciplines like business, technology, law, and healthcare.

    Applicants new to college usually must submit proof of citizenship, SAT/ACT scores, and official high school transcripts indicating receipt of a diploma or GED certificate.

  3. Walters State Community College

    Morristown, TN



    Founded in 1970 and headquartered in Morristown, Tennessee, Walters State Community College (Walter's State) boasts four campuses and serves nearly 7,000 degree-seekers across ten Eastern Tennessee counties. Walters State's many vocational and academic programs support students pursuing entry-level careers or transferring to four-year colleges.

    Enrollees seeking to enter the workforce quickly usually pursue certificate or AAS programs focused on entry-level career skills preparation. Meanwhile, Walters State also awards various AA, AFA, AS, and Tennessee Transfer Pathways associate degrees. These pathway programs guarantee degree transfer to many public colleges in Tennessee.

    Most Walters State associate degrees entail 41 general education credits and about 21 emphasis-area credits, while certificates typically require 25-38 credits. Some of Walters State's unique programs include a musical theater AFA, a teaching AS, a production horticulture AAS, and an advanced pharmacy technology certificate.

    Walters State offers various distance education opportunities to interested students. Available student services include tutoring, counseling, and career services.

  4. Pellissippi State Community College

    Knoxville, TN



    Based in Knox County, west of Knoxville, Tennessee, Pellissippi State Community College maintains four satellite campuses beyond its Hardin Valley Campus. Founded in 1974 as an engineering school, Pellissippi State today offers academic and career programs in many fields.

    Most Pellissippi State associate transfer degrees and AAS degrees require at least 60 credits. Transfer degrees include more general education courses, while AAS programs prioritize specialized coursework. Meanwhile, Pellissippi State certificate programs provide short-term career training and usually require less than 30 credits to complete.

    The AAS curriculum requires 15 core courses and 45 major courses. AAS degree program options include interior design technology, media technology, water quality technology, and paralegal studies. Pellissippi State boasts a 90% placement rate for career program graduates. Career services and the cooperative education program help Pellissippi State students find jobs.

  5. Columbia State Community College

    Columbia, TN



    Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tennessee, serves nine central Tennessee counties and offers over 70 technical certificate and AA, AS, AFA, and AAS degree programs. Columbia State's AA, AS, and AFA degrees transfer well to other Tennessee colleges, while AAS degrees usually serve students not planning on bachelor's degrees.

    This trade school in Tennessee provides several teaching-related AS degrees in early childhood education, math, and social studies. Other notable program offerings include an AAS in anesthesia technology, a computed tomography technical certificate, a film crew technology certificate, and a nutrition and food science AS degree.

    Columbia State student services include tutoring, disability services, counseling, and TRIO resources for underrepresented students. Distance learners may enroll in online courses at Columbia State and across Tennessee through the TN e-Campus.

  6. Southwest Tennessee Community College

    Memphis, TN



    In 2000, Memphis, Tennessee's Shelby State Community College merged with State Technical Institute at Memphis to become Southwest Tennessee Community College. This large, two-year college maintains two Memphis campuses and several satellite campuses. Southwest grants technical certificates and several kinds of associate degrees. Southwest's degree and certificate programs prepare students for technical careers or further study at four-year colleges.

    Technical certificates require one or two semesters to complete. Interesting certificate program offerings include customs brokerage, industrial motion control technology, laboratory phlebotomy technology, and logistics/transportation management. Meanwhile, Southwest's two-year AAS vocational degree programs include graphic arts technology, nursing, architectural design, and biotechnology.

    Southwest also provides TTP associate degrees in most arts, humanities, social science, and physical science disciplines. These degrees transfer well toward four-year degrees in corresponding subject areas.

    This trade school in Tennessee engages with local business and other community groups by providing various resources and programs. Southwest offers open access admissions and scholarships for qualifying students.

  7. Roane State Community College

    Harriman, TN



    Founded in 1969, Roane State Community College serves over 6,000 students at its nine campuses in Eastern Tennessee. Roane State offers two-year transfer and career associate degrees in many disciplines, including art, drama, and music; business, economics, and management; education; and engineering and technology. Legal and criminal justice, health sciences, and environmental sciences disciplines also offer both transfer and career associate programs.

    Meanwhile, this vocational school in Tennessee also provides transfer degrees in communication, computer science, science and mathematics, and social science. Students seeking a shorter educational path may earn career certificates in health sciences, education, engineering and technology, and computer science. Certificate programs usually involve 26 credits, spread across two semesters.

    Roane State offers six online programs, including a general associate transfer degree, three AAS degrees, and two certificates. Roane State enrollees may utilize university services such as career counseling, learning support, and job placement. Applicants should explore Roane State Foundation scholarships and other financial aid options.

  8. Chattanooga State Community College

    Chattanooga, TN



    Founded in 1965 as Tennessee's first technical school, Chattanooga State Community College (ChattState) in Chattanooga, Tennessee now offers over about 70 technical degree and certificate programs and several transfer degrees. These programs span areas including business, engineering and information technology, humanities and social sciences, and maths and physical sciences. ChattState also provides health sciences and TCAT trades certificates and degrees.

    Many of ChattState's AA, AFA, AS, and AS in teaching degrees align with TTP curricula and transfer easily to four-year colleges and programs. Meanwhile, ChattState AAS programs provide career-preparation for entry-level jobs in fields including criminal justice, nursing, engineering, and business. ChattState's TCAT diplomas and certificates also offer skills-based vocational education for jobs such as motorcycle and marine technician, administrative office professional, cosmetologist, and commercial truck driver.

    ChattState maintains an open-access admissions policy and offers many of its programs in online formats accessible to distance learners.

  9. Northeast State Community College

    Blountville, TN



    Headquartered in Blountville, Tennessee, Northeast State Community College also houses campuses in Kingsport, Gray, Johnson City, and Elizabethton. This comprehensive Tennessee technical school offers vocational programs for trades job-seekers, plus transferable academic associate degrees for aspiring bachelor's program students. Associate degree programs usually consist of about 63 credits, while vocational certificates involve around 27 credits.

    Northeast State offerings include over 130 AA, AS, AAS, and certificate programs. AA degree focus areas include advertising, religious studies, theater, and sociology. AS options include media, healthcare, engineering, and sports and leisure. Northeast State also runs AAS programs in areas including aviation, computer information, healthcare, and industrial technologies. Technical certificates cover topics such as chemical process operations, entrepreneurship, combination welding, and early childhood education.

    Northeast State participates in Tennessee's TN e-Campus, which offers interactive, asynchronous online courses and support services for distance learners.

  10. Volunteer State Community College

    Gallatin, TN



    Volunteer State Community College, located near Nashville in Gallatin, Tennessee, provides courses and programs to education seekers interested in career credentials and training or transfer to four-year schools. To these ends, Vol State awards technical certificates, AAS degrees, and several transferable associate degrees.

    Certificate areas offered include architectural design, logistics, retail management, and culinary arts. AAS programs include occupational therapy assistance, law enforcement, business, and electrical engineering. Vol State's AS, AA, and AST transfer degree programs span focus areas such as English, social work, geography, and finance.

    Close to a major music industry hub, Vol State also offers relevant certificate programs in music technology, photography, and design and graphics; an AFA in music; and an AAS in visual communications.

    Distance learners can choose from several online and hybrid courses, as well as programofferings through Vol State and the TN e-Campus.

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.
Amount: $1,000

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.
Amount: $2,000-$10,000

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.
Amount: Varies

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.
Amount: $1,000-$2,000

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

Tennessee Association for Career and Technical Development Comprehensive resource for prospective students providing an overview of CTE programs available in Tennessee, conferences, and opportunities for student involvement.
Tennessee Board of Regents A centralized resource to find and compare higher education institutions in the state – six universities, 13 community colleges, and 27 colleges of applied technologies.
Tennessee Career Center 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.
Tennessee Department of Education - Career & Technical Education 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.
Tennessee Nurses Association Resources for nurses working in Tennessee such as continuing education, advocacy, networking events, and access to the latest industry news.

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.

See All Posts

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.

Shape your future with an online degree

Connect with a community of peers, and find a program that will allow you to continue your education in a fast and flexible way.