Vocational Trade Schools in Wisconsin

ASO Staff Writers
Updated September 5, 2023
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Why Choose Trade School?

Trade schools in Wisconsin provide career-focused training in areas like allied healthcare, the skilled trades, and technology. Potential jobs for trade school graduates include medical assistant, electrician, paralegal, cosmetologist, and paramedic.

During a vocational program, students take classes and gain hands-on training in their field. Students in paramedic studies programs, for example, practice their skills in an ambulance or hospital setting, while dental hygienists complete clinical and laboratory requirements. Many trade and vocational schools offer self-paced, accelerated, or online options, which appeal to students balancing school with work or family responsibilities.

Vocational programs offer several benefits over four-year academic programs. Earning a vocational certificate or degree generally takes 1-2 years, meaning students can graduate and enter the workforce faster than students in four-year programs. As a result, trade school students often save money on their credential compared to a four-year degree. Professionals with an occupational credential also benefit from a higher employment rate than those with an academic credential, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Our list ranks the top vocational schools in Wisconsin to help prospective students find the best fit for their needs. This page also provides career and salary data for various trade school occupations as well as scholarship opportunities for trade school students.


Accreditation and Licensing for Trade Schools

Prospective trade school students should always check a school’s accreditation and licensing status before applying. Accredited schools meet high standards for educating students. To earn accreditation, schools must undergo an extensive review from an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the accrediting agency evaluates the school’s student learning outcomes, academic mission, and faculty qualifications. Schools that earn accreditation must regularly repeat the review process to maintain their status. 

Students benefit from accreditation 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.

Many types of schools offer vocational certificates and degrees. These schools may hold regional or national accreditation. Community colleges and four-year universities typically pursue regional accreditation. In Wisconsin, the Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to schools.

Vocational and trade schools generally pursue national accreditation from a specialized agency like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, which grants accreditation to over 650 trade and technical schools nationwide. Other accrediting agencies include the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which evaluates online schools.

In addition to accreditation, postsecondary schools also need a license from the state. The State of Wisconsin Educational Approval Program provides a list of licensed schools.

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Vocational Trade Schools in Wisconsin

Trade and vocational schools in Wisconsin blend classroom and experiential training to prepare graduates for in-demand careers. By choosing a top-ranked vocational program, professionals can advance their education and increase their earning potential. Our list ranks the best vocational schools in Wisconsin to help students find the right fit for their needs.

Northcentral Technical College
LocationWausau, WI

For more than 100 years, Northcentral Technical College has educated and trained workers in central Wisconsin. The school offers 190 programs that include two-year associate degrees and one- and two-year technical diplomas. Students interested in transferring to a four-year college use NTC's liberal arts transfer program, an associate degree that requires 60-70 credits. The transfer program's pre-major disciplines include business, economics, and health and science.

Learners seeking to enter the workplace right out of college choose from an extensive catalog offered by one of the top trade schools in Wisconsin. Options include the AAS in dental hygienist, AAS in manufacturing engineering technology, and an associate degree in IT with six tracks. Students attending local high schools begin their college education through NTC's dual-enrollment program.

Another option for high school juniors and seniors, a two-year youth apprenticeship program, integrates academic and technical instruction with at least 450 hours of paid, on-the-job learning. Students can also engage in apprenticeship training in fields such as industrial electrician, software development, and machining.

Western Technical College
LocationLa Crosse, WI

Western Technical College provides students with the essential training needed to begin or advance careers in one of several disciplines. Western's degrees either provide the academic background for the first two years of college or focus exclusively on skill development. The 100 programs include two-year degrees in accounting, architectural technology, criminal justice, and building construction and cabinetmaking.

With as few as 12 credits, students can earn a certificate in desktop publishing or another specialization. Alternatively, in less than a year students earn a technical diploma as early childhood professionals. Other technical diplomas include basic welding and diesel and heavy equipment technician. Many of the certificates and diplomas can transfer to associate degrees, giving learners a pathway to a two-year degree at one of the best technical schools in Wisconsin.

Western's apprenticeships ensure that participants leave the program with in-demand skills in fields such as plumbing and machining. Support services include peer tutoring and YWCA childcare services.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
LocationGreen Bay, WI

Founded in 1912, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College enrolls about 27,000 students each year. The Green Bay college delivers more than 200 academic and technical programs on three campuses and at five regional centers. The degrees, diplomas, and certificates fall into 13 clusters, including IT, business, architecture and construction, and health sciences. Cutting-edge associate degrees cultivate workers for fields such as solar energy, gerontology, and nuclear technology.

The general studies transfer certificate consists of 31-33 credits of core courses, and it qualifies transfers to enter UW-Green Bay or UW-Oshkosh as a sophomore. One of the best vocational schools in Wisconsin, NWTC ensures that all associate degrees transfer to at least one, four-year institution. The school accomplishes this through arrangements with more than 40, four-year colleges across the region. NWTC manages a strong apprenticeship programs in fields such as masonry and plumbing.

Moraine Park Technical College
LocationFond du Lac, WI

Moraine Park Technical College provides an entryway to more than 100 careers. Students study on campuses in Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, West Bend, and through the school's virtual campus. In two years, students earn degrees in fields like business management, nursing, and criminal justice. MPTC's strong IT program offers an associate degree with multiple tracks. Certificate programs include CNC set-up/operator, healthcare leadership, and early childhood administrative credentials.

Many programs offer online learning, making MPTC one of the best trade schools in Wisconsin for virtual learning. Notable MPTC on-campus programs include boot camps in robotic welding and production assembly. Apprenticeships give learners hands-on training in fields such as carpentry and cosmetology.

Some MPTC credits transfer to University of Wisconsin colleges and other institutions. Affordable tuition and MPTC foundation scholarships ensure learners graduate with less debt than their four-year counterparts.

Milwaukee Area Technical College
LocationMilwaukee, WI

At Milwaukee Area Technical College, 34,000 students enroll in 170 programs, with 90% enrolling part time. Students learn on one of four campuses, including downtown Milwaukee. They choose from two-year degrees and short-term technical diplomas and certificates. MATC programs fall into seven academic and career pathways, including healthcare and STEM fields. The school's top five programs based on enrollment include nursing, dental hygiene, and a four-year transfer degree.

Students interested in paid training can choose one of 14 apprenticeships. Online learning gives students a flexible option to earn credentials at one of the best trade schools in Wisconsin. Students achieve their goals with academic assistance such as tutoring at the math, writing, and science centers. Online tutoring accommodates the needs of those unable to attend in person. MATC facilitates a seamless transfer to a program at one of 35, four-year college partners. Through MATC Promise, eligible students earn free tuition. The school reports that 90% of graduates find employment within six months.

Gateway Technical College
LocationKenosha, WI

Gateway Technical College was the nation's first publicly funded technical college. Gateway serves students on nine campuses and centers in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties. About 21,000 learners enroll in the college's 70 training programs. Majors include criminal justice studies, business management, and IT with several specializations.

Learners interested in technical degrees choose from a robust selection that includes automotive technology and electronics. A unique urban farming certificate combines technical and entrepreneurship skills so participants can effectively cultivate profitable urban gardens.

Other short-term options include the 34-credit small business entrepreneurship technical diploma, which students can earn online.

Employers and Gateway partner to develop the workforce through apprenticeships. One of the best trade schools in Wisconsin for on-the-job training, Gateway offers apprenticeships in the service, construction, and industrial trades. The school's low-cost tuition and payment options help students afford their education.

Mid-State Technical College
LocationWisconsin Rapids, WI

Part of a 16-school technical college system, Mid-State Technical College operates campuses in Marshfield, Adams, Stevens Point, and Wisconsin Rapids. The college focuses on high-demand fields in the region, preparing learners for well-paying jobs. Students learn in state-of-the-art classrooms from faculty with industry experience.

Mid-State's 60 hands-on programs lead to associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates. The programs cover sectors such as health sciences, architecture and construction, and business and administration. Students interested in honing technical skills choose from several degrees and short-term credentials. Options include welding, electrical power engineering, and automotive technology. One of the best Wisconsin technical colleges for transfer students, Mid-State offers the university transfer liberal arts program leading to an AA or AS.

Mid-State apprenticeships offer paid training and an entrypoint into a career such as plumbing or IT development. Comprehensive support services such as tutoring and career services help learners achieve their goals. The school reports that 94% of graduates find employment within six months of graduation.

Lakeshore Technical College
LocationCleveland, WI

Lakeshore Technical College is one of the best trade schools in Wisconsin for career programs and customized training. About 10,000 students attend the institution each year, taking classes on the main campus in Cleveland, at learning centers, and community education locations. About 70, two-year and one-year programs empower learners with career skills in several fields.

Traditional career paths lead to degrees in fields such as accounting, manufacturing management, nursing, and culinary arts. Some of the school's recent additions include the ophthalmic medical assistant diploma and nuclear technician associate degree. Technical options include associate degrees in dairy herd management and auto collision repair and refinishing. Enrollees complete apprenticeships in 11 construction and industrial career areas.

Students who want to create their own degree find the individualized technical studies associate degree a complementary option. Since learners receive credit for work and educational experiences, the completion time frame varies. About 1,000 students use LTC to fill in gaps in their basic education.

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
LocationFennimore, WI

Located in Fennimore, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College administers programs in 15 career clusters. Students receive training in fields such as IT, agronomy, the building trades, and patient care. Southwest Tech's university transfer - liberal arts degree transfers to public and private colleges in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Learners can seamlessly transfer other programs to Southwest Tech's partner institutions, including Bellevue University and Cardinal Stritch University.

The school's apprenticeships train electricians, plumbers, and mechatronics technicians. Learners who complete a registered apprenticeship can return to college to earn the 60-credit journeyworker AAS, which provides academic recognition for their technical expertise. Instructors use eight- and 16-week formats to deliver fully online degrees and other programs.

Learners can access needed support services such as tutoring, mental health counseling, and financial resource management online.

One of the best vocational schools in Wisconsin for affordability, Southwest Tech offers grants and scholarships to help reduce education costs.

Fox Valley Technical College
LocationAppleton, WI

Founded more than 100 years ago, Fox Valley Technical College focuses on high-tech occupational training to address the needs of an evolving workplace. The school's more than 200 programs focus on health sciences; engineering technologies; and agriculture, horticulture, and natural resources. The largest cluster of FVTC programs -- business, management, and finance -- includes associate degrees in banking and finance and business management.

Partnering with Lakeshore Technical College, FVTC offers several programs, including the AAS in broadcast captioning and AAS in wind energy technology. Students complete many of these courses at FVTC and others online or in an interactive video classroom.

FVTC's selection of apprenticeships make the college one of the best trade schools in Wisconsin. Besides traditional apprenticeships, such as plumbing and electrician, students can pursue newer FVTC options such as an operating engineer apprenticeship. Learners can fast track their careers with a diploma or certificate earned in less than a year.

Career and Salary Outlook for Trade School Graduates

Many trade school careers offer above-average salaries and strong demand. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects much faster-than-average job growth for dental hygienists, paralegals, and HVAC technicians between 2018 and 2028. 

The salary outlook for trade school graduates varies by factors like industry and role. On average, trade school occupations pay around $55,000 per year. Some fields, like personal care, pay below-average salaries, while others, like management occupations, pay over $96,000 per year, on average.

Location also affects potential salary. Wisconsin salary data shows that respiratory therapists in the state make over $64,000 per year, while radiology technicians earn more than $60,000 per year, on average. 

Prospective trade school students should research the earning potential and job growth in their specific field.

What Kinds of Trade School Programs Are Available?

Trade schools in Wisconsin prepare students for careers in healthcare, the skilled trades, technology, and other high-demand fields. This section introduces some popular trade school programs in Wisconsin. In addition to these programs, prospective students can research opportunities in areas like emergency services, cosmetology, and engineering technology.

Financial Aid for Trade School Students

Choosing an affordable trade school can help students save money on their education. Wisconsin’s public universities charge around $8,500 per year in tuition and fees, on average, while private universities cost over $33,000 per year. In contrast, Wisconsin community colleges charge under $4,500 per year, on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Trade school students can also apply for financial aid to help lower the costs of their education, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. Students can qualify for federal financial aid by submitting the FAFSA every year. However, only students at accredited institutions can receive federal aid. 

Unlike loans, grants and scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The next section introduces some scholarship opportunities for trade school students.

Scholarship for Trade School Students

Students attending vocational and trade schools in Wisconsin qualify for many scholarship opportunities. The state government, private foundations, and professional organizations all award scholarships and grants to trade school students. In addition to the following opportunities, learners can find scholarships based on their field or school.

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