Trade schools, sometimes known as vocational schools, offer fast-paced programs that culminate in a skill or trade, usually within two years or less. Depending upon the program chosen, students might earn a certificate, diploma or degree. Trade school can also prepare students to take licensing exams or become a journeyman or apprentice in a skilled trade.
Online trade schools and programs
Trade schools differ from college programs in that they require a much shorter period of study, and students graduate with a marketable skill that may allow them to enter the workforce immediately. Trade schools can be public, private or for-profit. Courses are often a blend of the science behind the job and the hands-on training necessary to become proficient in the required skills.
Online trade schools and programs are available for some of these programs, including that of paralegal or interior designer. Other trades, such as truck driver or auto mechanic, require hands-on training and as such, might be offered as an on-campus program or as a hybrid, with some courses taught online while others are taught in a classroom setting.
When choosing a trade school, make sure the institution is reputable with a history of employed graduates. Before settling on a trade school, take the time to check out the facilities, learn who will be teaching the courses and how the program performs, including the completion rate, placement rate and average cost. Students who might want to transfer their credits to a college or university in the future should make sure that their particular program credits will be accepted by the college of their choice.
It is also important to ensure the school and program are licensed and accredited. This can be checked through two reliable sources: The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, or through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database. Trade schools should have accreditation information available upon request.
It might also help to check into complaints that might have been made against the school; this can be done by contacting the local attorney general's office. Speak with former and current students, if possible, to get a sense of how satisfied they are with the experience.
Careers after trade school
The potential careers available to students who graduate from trade school are just as varied as the programs themselves. There are many different trade schools with various focuses of study; trade schools can provide the education and training for the following careers, among many others:
- Truck drivers
- Hair stylists
- Massage therapists
- Interior designers
- Medical assistants
- Electronics technicians
Trade schools generally provide the basic skills and knowledge necessary to move into these types of professions, but extensive on-the-job training might still be required. For instance, interior designers might graduate with a wealth of knowledge, but their skills can be honed by experience over time.
Most students can enter trade school after they have earned their high school diploma or GED. Depending upon the particular trade school, there could be other admissions requirements, such as entrance exams. Financial aid may be available for some trade schools. To learn more about what financial aid options might be available, check with the admissions officer at the school of your choice.
DOE, Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/
Council for Higher Education Accreditation http://www.chea.org/
DOE, Federal Student Aid - Learn about your college and career school options, http://studentaid.ed.gov/prepare-for-college/choosing-schools/types
FTC, Consumer Information - Choosing a Vocational School, 2012 http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0241-choosing-vocational-school
National Association of Attorneys Generals http://naag.org/