Vocational Trade Schools in Texas

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Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools in Texas provide career-focused training in high-demand fields like healthcare, the skilled trades, and technology. Graduates can work in roles such as paralegal, medical assistant, electrician, automotive service technician, and dental hygienist. Vocational programs also train cosmetologists, paramedics, chefs, and construction managers.

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Top 10 Vocational Trade Schools in Texas

Rank School Location
1 South Texas College McAllen, TX
2 Dallas College Dallas, TX
3 Lone Star College System The Woodlands, TX
4 Texas State Technical College Waco, TX
5 San Jacinto Community College Pasadena, TX
6 Vernon College Vernon, TX
7 Palo Alto College San Antonio, TX
8 Tarrant County College Fort Worth, TX
9 North Central Texas College Gainesville, TX
10 El Paso Community College El Paso, TX

Vocational programs combine coursework with hands-on training. For example, paramedic studies students train in ambulances and hospitals, while electrician students complete laboratory and practicum training.

Many vocational schools offer self-paced or accelerated options to fit the schedule of busy students. Learners can also consider online vocational programs to maximize flexibility. FIND PROGRAMS By Staff Writer Published on August 10, 2020

Vocational programs offer several benefits over four-year academic programs. For example, a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years to complete, meaning students complete their program and enter the workforce faster than students in four-year programs. As a result, vocational training often costs less than a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, professionals with an occupational credential benefit from a higher employment rate than those with an academic credential, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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


    Trade schools provide job-oriented training for specific careers, while colleges focus on academic credentials. However, many colleges offer vocational programs.

  • What can you learn at a trade school?


    Trade schools combine classroom and experiential learning to prepare graduates for careers in areas like healthcare, technology, emergency services, and the skilled trades.

  • What are examples of vocational jobs?


    Vocational jobs include medical assistant, radiology technician, mechanic, paralegal, paramedic, and cosmetologist.

  • How much does a trade school cost?


    Cost varies by program and school, but in Texas, many community colleges offer vocational programs for under $2,200 per year.

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Prospective trade school students should always check a school’s accreditation and licensing status before applying. To earn accreditation, schools must voluntarily submit to a rigorous review from an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the accrediting agency evaluates the school’s student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic mission. Only schools that meet high standards can earn accreditation. Learn more about the accreditation process here

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For example, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree.

Schools that offer vocational programs may hold national or regional accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities typically hold regional accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges grants regional accreditation to Texas schools. 

Trade and vocational schools in Texas may also hold national accreditation from a specialized agency like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, which accredits over 650 trade and technical schools nationwide. Similarly, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission grants accreditation to online schools. National and regional accrediting agencies should hold approval from the Department of Education.

In addition to accreditation, postsecondary schools need a state license. In Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board maintains a list of approved schools.

Vocational Trade Schools in Texas

Trade schools in Texas can help students advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Our list ranks the best vocational and tech schools in Texas to help students find the right program for their needs.

  1. South Texas College
    Location

    McAllen, TX

    Established in 1993, South Texas College offers associate degrees in traditional and nontraditional vocational majors. STC's students choose where and how they want to learn with five campuses, two education centers, and online learning. The McAllen-based school offers five bachelor's degrees, setting STC apart from other community colleges in Texas. Those seeking two-year options choose associate degrees such as IT, nursing, and electrician technology.

    Students build on their associate degrees with a bachelor's in fields such as nursing and computer and information technologies. STC offers programs not always available at vocational schools in Texas. AS degrees in math, physics, and chemistry prepare learners to transfer to a four-year institution. Enrollees train for a career as a patient care technician or computer maintenance specialist in only a few months. Registered apprenticeships in HVAC, auto service, and industrial maintenance provide paid hands-on learning. STC uses online and hybrid programs to give participants enhanced flexibility.

  2. Dallas College
    Location

    Dallas, TX

    Dallas College operates in seven locations across the state, making it one of the largest trade schools in Texas. Dallas College administers more than 100 career and technical programs in focused sectors so students leave school with skills employers want. Learners choose from more than 300 academic and technical degrees and certificates. The two-year programs focus on majors such as advanced manufacturing, auto body or service technician, electronics technology, and cybersecurity. A strong allied health program includes nursing and radiologic sciences.

    Many students earn a certificate in advanced manufacturing/mechatronics technology, computer-aided design operator, or EMT basic in just one or two semesters. The school boasts more than 20 years of online education. Faculty teach about two dozen academic and vocational degrees in online or hybrid format. Many residents sign up for a construction or chef apprenticeship to help pay for tuition.

  3. Lone Star College System
    Location

    The Woodlands, TX

    Founded in 1972, the Lone Star College System remains the largest community college in Texas. LSC serves the northern portion of Greater Houston and beyond. About 88,000 students study on seven campuses and at several satellites. Many choose virtual learning as their primary format or as a supplement to on-campus studies. Associate degrees cover majors as diverse as accounting, music, and automotive technology.

    Faculty design the AA specifically for transfer to a senior college, allowing learners to choose a general track or one of five specializations. LSC offers three bachelor's programs: nursing; cybersecurity; and energy, manufacturing, and trades management. Certificates prepare enrollees for a career in a short amount of time.

    As one of the most innovative tech schools in Texas, LSC Online administers 30 e-learning programs. Learners interested in apprenticeships receive paid training in one of four fields: machining, mechatronics, cybersecurity, or petroleum service.

  4. Texas State Technical College
    Location

    Waco, TX

    Texas State Technical College trains workers to meet the needs of a high-tech global economy. Students attend classes on one of 10 campuses, including Waco, Marshall, or North Texas. They earn associate degrees in fields such as robotics, building construction, and electromechanical technology. The school's wind energy technology program trains technicians skilled in the operation and maintenance of wind turbine systems.

    TSTC, one of the largest tech schools in Texas, continues a long tradition of training pilots. Students in the AAS in airport pilot training prepare for certification as a flight instructor as they learn on top-notch equipment at the nation's largest airport operated by an educational institution. Students save money on a four-year degree when they enroll in TSTC's academic core and transfer to a senior college. Short-term certificates give learners in-demand skills in fields such as HVAC technician or vocational nursing. TSTC Online offers the academic core and many other programs fully online.

  5. San Jacinto Community College
    Location

    Pasadena, TX

    San Jacinto Community College ranks among the top 10 best community colleges in the nation, according to the Aspen Institute. The school operates five campuses, 12 local extension centers, and more than 200 degrees and certificates. Those interested in an associate degree commit to 18-24 months, training in fields like auto tech, business management, criminal justice, and health information management.

    San Jac offers unique programs such as the AAS in cancer data management and AAS in maritime transportation. Apprenticeships with companies such as Dow Chemical give learners the option to acquire in-demand skills while earning an income. One of the most innovative vocational schools in Texas, San Jac offers flexible learning through the virtual college's online and hybrid programs. Through the Promise Scholars program, eligible high school seniors in the Pasadena ISD enjoy free tuition and fees for up to three years at San Jac.

  6. Vernon College
    Location

    Vernon, TX

    At Vernon College, students enroll in associate programs leading to AA, AS, and AAS degrees. The AA and AS serve as transfer degrees to senior colleges. The school's AAS options like automotive technology, business management, and farm and ranch management cater to students interested in training for a career.

    In addition to the school's position as one of the best tech schools in Texas, Vernon College continues to prepare the next generation of teachers. The AA in teaching leads to initial Texas teacher certification. About 24 certificate programs include HVAC, health information management, and medical assisting.

    Local students use Vernon College's dual enrollment program to earn college credits while they meet high school graduation requirements. Students use Career Coach, a web-based tool, to access labor market data and begin planning their careers.

  7. Palo Alto College
    Location

    San Antonio, TX

    Part of the five-school Alamo Colleges District, Palo Alto College serves residents in San Antonio and surrounding counties. The AA and AS respectively align with the first half of a BA and BS. For each degree, students complete required general education in disciplines such as math, creative arts, and communication, leaving limited room for specialized training. Prospective students interested in career training choose the AAS, developing specialized skills in fields as diverse as administration, industrial technology, and process technology.

    One of the best trade schools in Texas, PAC offers a comprehensive catalog of certificates. Many students earn a certificate in bill and account collection, data entry, or logistics management in as little as two semesters. Many certificates require a longer time commitment, including the three-semester veterinary certificate or four-semester cyber-defense and operations level 2 certificate. PAC manages a robust virtual college that offers degrees such as the AA in teaching. PAC's competitive tuition and scholarships help students afford their education with less debt.

  8. Tarrant County College
    Location

    Fort Worth, TX

    Tarrant County College District operates five campuses and several educational centers in Tarrant county. The school offers both academic and career training associate programs. Students on the academic track choose programs such as the AS in chemistry, AS in engineering, and AS in mathematics -- all transfer options. Those interested in a career right out of college choose the AAS, which offers a comprehensive portfolio of majors such as paralegal studies, dental hygiene, and criminal justice.

    Those interested in vocational education choose from a variety of technical fields such as automotive collision repair. The school's certificates ensure learners need not spend more than a year training for a new career.

    TCC Connect doubles as a weekend college and the institution's virtual arm for e-learning. Support programs for all students include the federal TRIO program, academic tutoring, and study abroad opportunities.

  9. North Central Texas College
    Location

    Gainesville, TX

    Located in Gainesville, North Central Texas College specializes in affordable, high-quality education delivered on six campuses. The school offers two-year academic degrees -- AA, AS, and AAT -- as well as certificates that students complete in a shorter time frame. The AA, AS, and AAT serve as transfer options to senior colleges, giving students the general education and electives they need for the first two years of a bachelor's program.

    AAS degrees focus less on academics and more on the specialized skills students need to enter the workforce. The AAS includes majors in cybersecurity, network technology, business management, and accounting. Certificates such as accounting, engineering technology, and criminal justice often transfer directly into an associate degree program. Enrollees in health science programs -- nursing, EMS, radiology, and surgical technology -- benefit from real-world experience in simulation labs at NCTC.

    One of the best vocational schools in Texas, NCTC offers construction apprenticeships on some campuses. In general, the available degrees vary at each NCTC campus.

  10. El Paso Community College
    Location

    El Paso, TX

    El Paso Community College is one of the best tech schools in Texas. With more than 130 programs from which to choose, EPCC offers students the training they need for many of the region's well-paying professions. Many students earn a degree or certificate on one of five campuses or through the school's virtual college.

    The AA offers programs of study in fields such as English, accounting, philosophy, and criminal justice. The AS offers programs of study in fields such as chemistry, mathematics, and biological sciences. Both the AA and AS seamlessly transfer to bachelor's degrees at four-year colleges. The AAS provides hands-on training and career development in one of many fields, including technical options such as automotive technology and computer-aided design.Certificates train students for entry-level careers in EMT, law enforcement, and vocational nursing in less than a year. A unique border health issues certificate empowers enrollees with the skills they need to address the unique needs of the U.S./Mexico border community.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

The career and salary outlook for trade school graduates varies by location, industry, and experience, but trade school careers pay an average of around $55,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Careers in personal services pay under $33,000 per year, on average, while management occupations pay more than $96,000 annually.

In Texas, BLS wage data shows above-average incomes for many trade school occupations. For example, occupational therapy assistants in the state earn over $67,000 per year, on average, and paralegals make over $54,000 per year. 

Many trade school careers also offer strong job growth projections. For example, the BLS projects jobs for dental hygienists, HVAC technicians, and paralegals to grow much faster than the national average between 2018 and 2028.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Trade school programs prepare students for jobs like dental hygienist, paralegal, and radiology technician. By blending classroom and hands-on training, these programs provide the knowledge and skills necessary for the workforce.

In addition to the following popular trade school programs, prospective students can research programs for aspiring professionals such as electricians, cosmetologists, paramedics, and medical assistants.


  • Dental Hygienist Schools

    Dental hygienists conduct dental examinations and provide preventative care for patients. They look for signs of oral diseases, apply treatments to protect teeth, and report their findings to
    dentists. Dental hygienists also educate patients about oral hygiene.

    An associate degree is the minimum education requirement for careers as a dental hygienist. During a dental hygienist program, students complete laboratory, clinical, and classroom requirements,
    including courses in periodontics, anatomy, and dental hygiene. 

    The BLS reports that dental hygienists earned a median annual income of over $76,000 in 2019, with much
    faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028. These professionals need a state license to practice. The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners
    licenses dental hygienists in the state.

    Learn more about dental hygienist programs.


  • Mechanic Schools

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

    Automotive technology certificates and degrees prepare mechanics for the workforce. During an automotive technology program, students learn about engine repair, automotive servicing, and brake
    maintenance. Programs also incorporate laboratory or practicum requirements to build hands-on experience.

    After completing a program, mechanics can pursue professional certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which
    offers specialty credentials in areas like electronic systems, engine performance, and automatic transmissions. Mechanics
    earned a median annual income of around $42,000 in 2019.

    Learn more about mechanic programs.


  • Paralegal Schools

    Paralegals assist lawyers by conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, and researching laws and regulations. They may also investigate the facts of a case, summarize reports for
    lawyers preparing for trial, and file briefs and appeals with the court. 

    Vocational schools in Texas offer paralegal studies degree and certificate programs. During a paralegal studies program, students take classes on topics like legal research, corporate law,
    contract law, and legal writing. Some paralegals also pursue professional certification to stand out in the job market.

    The median annual pay for paralegals and legal assistants exceeded $51,000 in 2019, and the field
    benefits from much faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028.

    Learn more about paralegal programs.


  • Radiology Technician Schools

    Radiology technicians take diagnostic images using equipment like x-ray machines. They prepare patients for imaging procedures, position patients to capture images, and evaluate image quality.
    Radiology technicians must follow safety procedures.

    Most radiology technicians hold an associate degree. During an associate program, prospective radiology technicians study topics like radiation physics, patient care, and pathology. Programs
    also incorporate hands-on training through clinical requirements. After earning their degree, many graduates pursue certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

    BLS data shows that radiology technicians earned a median annual pay of over $62,000 in 2019, with faster-than-average projected job growth between 2018 and 2028. In every state, radiology
    technicians need a license to practice. The Texas Medical Board licenses radiology technicians.

    Learn more about radiology technician programs.


Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Trade school students can pursue financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their education, such as loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. To qualify for federal financial aid, students must submit the FAFSA every year. However, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal aid.

In addition to pursuing financial aid, trade school students can research the most affordable programs to lower the cost of their education. For example, Texas public universities charge over $8,500 per year in tuition and fees, on average, while private universities cost more than $32,000 per year. In contrast, Texas community colleges charge around $2,200 per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

Students attending vocational schools in Texas can pursue scholarship opportunities from private foundations, government agencies, and professional organizations. The following list outlines several of many scholarship opportunities for vocational students in Texas.


  • The Community Foundation of West Texas

    Who Can Apply: Students in the South Plains area can apply for over 100 scholarships through The Community Foundation of West Texas. Requirements vary by scholarship.
    Amount: Varies

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Amarillo Area Foundation

    Who Can Apply: This foundation administers multiple scholarships that fund students from the Amarillo area. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the scholarship and the
    institution attended.
    Amount: Varies

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Texas Education and Training Voucher Program

    Who Can Apply: This program funds former foster children attending a postsecondary institution, including certificate and two-year programs.
    Amount: Up to $5,000

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Maximum Independence Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students living in North Texas can apply for this scholarship. Recipients must demonstrate at least 15 hours of community service and enroll as a first-time
    student in a vocational trade school or college.
    Amount: $1,000

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Stars Scholarship Fund

    Who Can Apply: This fund grants awards to part-time and full-time students pursuing a degree at a community college. Students must demonstrate a minimum 2.7 GPA and live in
    South or West Texas to qualify.
    Amount: Varies

    Apply for Scholarship


Additional Education and Career Resources


  • Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) National organization dedicated to helping youth and adults advance in their careers. Provides resources for professional development in any field and listing of associations by state and region.

  • Career Colleges and Schools of Texas Information about scholarships and membership opportunities for those interested in completing a program at a licensed career school or college in Texas.

  • Directory of Licensed Career Schools and Colleges Maintained by the Texas Workforce Commission, this is a comprehensive database of licensed career schools and colleges in every city and town in Texas. The online tool makes it easy to search for schools and review courses.

  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Career Development Information about guidelines and expectations for career training programs under the Texas Education Code. Includes guidelines for both middle schools and high schools. Maintained by the Texas Education Agency.

  • Texas Workforce Commission Provides tools for exploring educational opportunities with Texas CARES and tips for finding the right career school or college. Also covers financial aid options for vocational school students.

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