Vocational Trade Schools in Washington

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Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools in Washington provide career-focused training in high-demand fields such as healthcare, legal services, and emergency services. Learners can earn vocational certificates and degrees to prepare for careers as paramedics, medical assistants, occupational therapy assistants, and dental hygienists. Trade school graduates can also work as electricians, HVAC technicians, paralegals, cosmetologists, and mechanics.

Trade schools offer several benefits over four-year academic programs. Earning a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years, allowing learners to enter the workforce more quickly. Vocational programs often cost less than academic degrees. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009, professionals with an occupational credential had a 4% higher employment rate than professionals with an academic degree.

Many vocational schools offer self-paced or accelerated programs to accommodate busy schedules. A growing number of schools also offer online vocational programs, which can be ideal for working professionals.

This page introduces the top-ranked vocational schools in Washington to help prospective students find the best fit for their career goals. The following sections also include employment and salary data, descriptions of popular vocational programs, and a list of scholarship opportunities for learners at trade schools in Washington.

FAQ

What is the difference between a trade school and a college? Trade schools train students for specific career paths, generally with programs that blend classroom and experiential learning. Many colleges offer both academic programs and vocational programs.
Can trade school credits transfer? Yes. Credits earned at a trade school can transfer to other institutions. Credits earned from a regionally accredited school are the most likely to transfer.
What is the difference between trade school and technical school? Both trade and technical schools offer career-focused programs in areas such as allied healthcare, the skilled trades, and STEM fields. Vocational programs at both types of institutions provide classroom instruction and hands-on training.
How much does a trade school cost? The cost of trade school varies by program. Many trade schools in Washington offer vocational certificate and degree programs that cost less than $4,000 per year, including tuition and fees.

Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Students should check each prospective trade school's accreditation status before applying. Accreditation demonstrates that the institution delivers high-quality educational programs that prepare students to enter the workforce.

To earn accreditation, colleges and universities undergo a rigorous review process by an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the agency evaluates the school's student learning outcomes, academic mission, and faculty qualifications. Accredited schools must undergo regular evaluations to maintain their status.

Credits earned from an accredited school are more likely to transfer to other institutions, and many professional licenses and certifications require candidates to hold credentials from an accredited school. Additionally, only learners at accredited institutions can qualify for federal financial aid.

U.S. schools can hold regional or national accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities typically obtain regional accreditation. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities grants regional accreditation to Washington institutions. 

Trade and vocational schools in Washington often hold national accreditation from specialized agencies, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Approved by the Department of Education, ACCSC accredits more than 650 trade and technical colleges. Similarly, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission grants accreditation to online schools. This resource provides more information about the accreditation process.


Postsecondary institutions in Washington must also hold a license from the Washington Student Achievement Council.

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Vocational Trade Schools in Washingotn

Trade schools in Washington provide focused training that prepares students for specific career paths. By attending a top-ranked vocational program, students can advance their education and increase their earning potential. The ranking below includes the best vocational schools in Washington.

Find Vocational and Trade Schools in Washington

Many schools and programs in Washington offer vocational and trade certificates in various areas of study. Trade schools help learners prepare for careers in Washington's fastest-growing fields. The search tool below can help you find the right program for your goals.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Many trade school programs lead to careers with above-average salaries and strong demand. Salaries for trade school graduates vary depending on the individual's industry, location, and experience.

Graduates of trade schools earn an average of $55,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, salaries vary widely by field and position. For example, professionals in personal care and service occupations earn an average of $32,000 per year, while managers earn average salaries of more than $96,000 per year. Workers in healthcare practitioners and technical occupations earn an average of more than $55,000 per year, while the average salary for healthcare support professionals is about $45,000 per year.

According to BLS data, dental hygienists in Washington earn average salaries of more than $93,000 per year, and respiratory therapists in the state earn an average of nearly $72,000 annually. Washington paralegals earn an average of about $61,000 annually, and the average annual salary of electricians in the state is more than $71,000. Prospective trade school students can research the earning potential for individual occupations when choosing a field and program.


In addition, many occupations for trade school graduates report strong job growth. The BLS projects much faster-than-average job growth for dental hygienists, HVAC technicians, and paralegals between 2018 and 2028. The BLS also projects growth for careers in allied health, the skilled trades, and STEM fields.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Vocational and trade schools in Washington offer certificates and degrees in many high-demand areas. Programs for dental hygienists, mechanics, paralegals, and radiology technicians typically take less than two years. Students can also pursue vocational programs to train for careers as occupational therapy assistants, cosmetologists, HVAC technicians, and pharmacy technicians.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Many trade school programs lead to careers with above-average salaries and strong demand. Salaries for trade school graduates vary depending on the individual's industry, location, and experience.

Graduates of trade schools earn an average of $55,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, salaries vary widely by field and position. For example, professionals in personal care and service occupations earn an average of $32,000 per year, while managers earn average salaries of more than $96,000 per year. Workers in healthcare practitioners and technical occupations earn an average of more than $55,000 per year, while the average salary for healthcare support professionals is about $45,000 per year.

According to BLS data, dental hygienists in Washington earn average salaries of more than $93,000 per year, and respiratory therapists in the state earn an average of nearly $72,000 annually. Washington paralegals earn an average of about $61,000 annually, and the average annual salary of electricians in the state is more than $71,000. Prospective trade school students can research the earning potential for individual occupations when choosing a field and program.


In addition, many occupations for trade school graduates report strong job growth. The BLS projects much faster-than-average job growth for dental hygienists, HVAC technicians, and paralegals between 2018 and 2028. The BLS also projects growth for careers in allied health, the skilled trades, and STEM fields.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Vocational and trade schools in Washington offer certificates and degrees in many high-demand areas. Programs for dental hygienists, mechanics, paralegals, and radiology technicians typically take less than two years. Students can also pursue vocational programs to train for careers as occupational therapy assistants, cosmetologists, HVAC technicians, and pharmacy technicians.

See below for a few popular fields for trade school students.

Dental Hygienist Schools

Dental hygienists conduct examinations and clean patients' teeth. These professionals look for signs of oral diseases and provide preventive care. Dental hygienists report their findings to dentists, and they document treatment plans.

Most dental hygienists hold an associate degree with coursework in anatomy, periodontics, and oral hygiene. Dental hygienist programs also include laboratory and clinical instruction, which helps students gain skills in patient care. According to the BLS, dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of more than $76,000 in 2019. The BLS projects employment for dental hygienists to increase 11% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Dental hygienists need a license. In Washington, the Washington State Department of Health licenses dental hygienists who complete an accredited dental hygiene program, pass the dental hygiene national board exam, and pass clinical examinations.

This list includes the best dental hygienist programs.

Mechanic Schools

Mechanics, also called service technicians, inspect and repair vehicles. They use diagnostic equipment to identify problems, and they repair worn parts and perform maintenance on cars and trucks. Mechanics may specialize in an area such as engine repair, transmissions, or electrical systems.

Many mechanics complete a vocational program in automotive service technology. Students take courses in automotive repair, electronics, and brake maintenance. Learners gain practical training through practicum or laboratory requirements.

After completing a mechanic program, graduates can pursue a specialty certification from an organization such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which offers certifications in areas including engine performance, suspension, and automatic transmissions. Mechanics earned a median annual salary of about $42,000 in 2019, according to the BLS.

This resource provides information about the top mechanic programs.

Paralegal Schools

Paralegals assist lawyers by conducting legal research, drafting documents, and summarizing reports. Paralegals can specialize in an area such as contract law, corporate law, or litigation. These legal professionals also file briefs and appeals with the court.

Learners at vocational schools in Washington can pursue paralegal studies and legal studies programs. Paralegal studies programs typically include coursework in legal writing, business law, legal terminology, and legal research. Paralegals do not need a license or certification to practice, though some employers prefer certified candidates.

Paralegals earned a median annual salary of more than $51,000 in 2019, and the BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 12% from 2018 to 2028.

This page offers additional information about paralegal studies programs.

Radiology Technician Schools

Radiology technicians, also called radiographers, take diagnostic images to help physicians treat patients. They prepare patients for procedures, operate imaging equipment such as X-rays, and evaluate the quality of images. Radiology technicians must follow safety procedures to protect patients and themselves.

Most radiology technicians hold an associate degree with coursework in anatomy, radiation protection, image evaluation, and patient care. Radiology students also complete clinical requirements.

Graduates in the field typically earn professional 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. The Washington State Department of Health licenses radiology technicians.

This guide provides information about the best radiology technician programs.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Trade school students often use financial aid to help fund their education. Learners can apply for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. To receive federal financial aid, students must complete the FAFSA annually. However, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid. Students should understand whether each prospective vocational school meets the requirements for federal student aid eligibility.

Students can also lower the cost of their degree by choosing one of the more affordable vocational schools in Washington. The total cost of a vocational program varies widely by type of school. For example, the cost of tuition and fees at public universities is typically much less than at private universities. However, community colleges generally offer the most affordable tuition rates.

In addition to federal financial aid, trade school students can apply for grants and scholarships from private foundations, government agencies, and professional associations. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment. The following section includes some scholarship opportunities for learners attending Washington trade schools.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

Students attending trade schools in Washington can qualify for many scholarships and grants. Scholarships can help learners reduce the cost of earning a vocational certificate or degree. In addition to the scholarships below, students can research opportunities based on their field or school.

AOFT Washington Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Washington division of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation offers this scholarship to an occupational therapy assistant student in Washington State. Applicants must hold membership with the Washington Occupational Therapy Association.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship
WSEA Vocational Grant

Who Can Apply: The Washington State Elks Association offers this grant to graduating high school seniors pursuing a vocational certificate or degree. Applicants must be attending one of the community colleges or tech schools in Washington.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship
Matsuo Bridge Company, Ltd. of Japan Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The scholarship supports learners studying welding engineering, welding engineering technology, or a related field. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and attend an accredited school. Washington residents receive priority.
Amount: $2,500

Apply for Scholarship
Pride Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Pride Foundation offers multiple scholarships to students who identify as LGBTQ or allies. Recipients must be pursuing a postsecondary education at community college, four-year university, or vocational school in Washington.
Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship
Joseph Darimont Vocational Award

Who Can Apply: The scholarship from the Washington State Elks Association supports one student per year. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 50. Recipients can apply the funding toward the cost of tuition, fees, books, and supplies.
Amount: $1,000

Apply for Scholarship

Additional Education and Career Resources

Washington Association for Career and Technical Education The state's largest professional organization represents educators and staff employed in career and technical education. The organization sponsors an annual conference for members.
Washington Technology Student Association The TSA serves high school students who have completed their technology education or pre-engineering courses and are eyeing careers in fields such as architecture, construction, engineering, graphic arts, manufacturing, or film/video production.
WorkSource - Washington Washington's official state site for career resources provides a resume help/skills center, and the organization hosts state and regional job fairs.
Work That Matters Search listings of official job postings for Washington State governmental agencies and organizations. Listings are sorted by career type, salary and location.

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Trade and Vocational Schools

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