Trade School: Definition and 15 Best Trade School Jobs

Trade School

For many high school graduates, trade school is a less expensive and more secure road to employment entry and professional advancement than a regular four-year university. Trade schools, also known as technical colleges and vocational schools, concentrate on the specialized job training in high-demand industries, allowing students to obtain meaningful employment promptly after graduation.
This article introduces the top trade jobs, outlining the criteria, income potential, and typical duties and responsibilities for each profession. We’ll also talk about the expected rise of these top trade school jobs.

What Is a Trade School?

A trade school, also known as a vocational school, technical school, or vocational college, is a post-secondary institution that teaches students technical skills that will prepare them for a certain occupation. UEI, American Career College, and Chamberlain University are examples of trade schools. Trade schools can be public or private, but the majority are for-profit enterprises.

A degree in information technology, nursing and health sciences, automotive technician training, and medical assistance can be obtained in a trade school. Program lengths vary, but they commonly range from eight months to two years.

A trade school, unlike a four-year institution, does not award a bachelor’s degree. Upon successful completion of the program, you will often be awarded a diploma or trade certificate. Some programs allow you to acquire an associate degree, which is equivalent to a two-year college diploma.

What Can You Do With a Trade School Diploma?

You can acquire a job directly connected to the field you studied in your vocational school program after completing a trade school program. For example, after finishing a dental assisting program, you can work as a dentist assistant. You can work as a plumber if you complete a plumbing program. Again, these colleges are intended to train you for a specific job.

At A Glance: 30 High-Paying Trades and Salaries

Are you intrigued about the Top 30 Jobs on our list? We thought so, too! These are not only the top-paying jobs on our list, but they are also incredibly rewarding ones. Isn’t the ideal to make a lot of money while still enjoying what you do?

Check out these top trade jobs and how much money you can make!

  • Air Traffic Controller (BLS) – Annual Salary of $130,420
  • Construction Manager (BLS) – Annual Salary of $97,180
  • Elevator Mechanic (BLS) – Annual Salary of $88,540
  • Radiation Therapist (BLS) – Annual Salary of $86,850
  • Margin Department Supervisor ( – Annual Salary of $78,651
  • Multimedia Artist & Animator (BLS) – Annual Salary of $77,700
  • Web Developer (BLS) – Annual Salary of $77,200
  • Logistics Manager (BLS) – Annual Salary of $76,270
  • Dental Hygienist (BLS) – Annual Salary of $76,090
  • Fashion Designer (BLS) – Annual Salary of $75,810
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (BLS) – Annual Salary of $70,380
  • Cardiovascular Technician (BLS) – Annual Salary of $70,380
  • Electric Power Line Installer & Repairer (BLS) – Annual Salary of $68,7030
  • Aircraft Mechanic & Avionics Technician (BLS) – Annual Salary of $66,680
  • Boilermaker (BLS) – Annual Salary of $65,360
  • Radiologic Technologist (BLS) – Annual Salary of $63,710
  • Home Inspector (BLS) – Annual Salary of $62,860
  • Respiratory Therapist (BLS) – Annual Salary of $62,810
  • Court Reporter (BLS) – Annual Salary of $61,660
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant (BLS) – Annual Salary of $60,950
  • Funeral Service Worker (BLS) – Annual Salary of $58,170
  • Electrician (BLS) – Annual Salary of $56,900
  • Food Service Manager (BLS) – Annual Salary of $56,590
  • Plumber & Pipefitter (BLS) – Annual Salary of $56,330
  • Paralegal & Legal Assistant (BLS) – Annual Salary of $52,920
  • Real Estate Agent or Broker (BLS) – Annual Salary of $51,220
  • Geological & Petroleum Technician (BLS) – Annual Salary of $50,630
  • HVACR Technician (BLS) – Annual Salary of $50,590
  • Diesel Service Technician (BLS) – Annual Salary of $50,200
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (BLS) – Annual Salary of $48,820

Trade Schools, Community Colleges, and Universities: What’s the Difference?

When choosing a career route, it’s critical to understand the key differences between trade schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. I’ll go over the main differences between each sort of school here.

Trade School Programs

Trade school programs are the shortest, lasting from a few months to up to two years. Many vocational schools are for-profit enterprises, as opposed to community colleges and four-year institutions. The goal of trade schools is to provide students with hands-on experience that is closely relevant to a specific job. After completing a program, you can earn a diploma or certificate, study for a licensing exam, or work as an apprentice or journeyman in a skilled trade. The majority of admissions are open enrollment.

There is no extracurricular activity or on-campus culture at trade schools. Students only need to attend their classes to receive professional training.

Community Colleges

After two years, community institutions give associate degrees. The majority of community colleges are public, however, there are some that are private and are known as junior colleges. Some community colleges, like trade schools, award diplomas or certificates to students who complete a program that prepares them to work in a certain sector, such as cosmetology or nursing. Admission is generally open enrollment: high school graduates and students aged 18 and up are welcome.

Community colleges are typically the least expensive of all college alternatives. In 2022, the average tuition and fees for a year at a public two-year college for in-district students were $3,800, while the average tuition and fees for a year at a public four-year college for in-state students were $10,740. A trade school degree (1-2 years) costs an average of $34,740.

Students at community colleges have more social opportunities than students at trade schools. However, students at two-year universities have fewer possibilities than those at four-year colleges. Community colleges frequently offer sports teams, clubs, and on-campus residents, although many community college students commute and are only at school for their studies.

You can also transfer from a two-year community college to a four-year university. Many students begin at a community college and later transfer to a four-year university. If you choose this route, make certain that the courses you take are transferable and that you are performing the necessary work to be qualified to transfer.

Four-Year Colleges

Four-year colleges can be either public or private, with the vast majority being non-profit.

A bachelor’s degree is awarded after successfully completing a program at a four-year college. When compared to degrees from trade schools and community colleges, this is the most adaptable and highest degree available. Bachelor’s degree holders earn more than individuals with associate degrees or trade school certificates. In addition, bachelor’s degrees are required for the school to graduate or professional schools such as law school, medical school, or dental school.

Although four-year universities offer pre-professional majors and programs, the emphasis is on gaining academic knowledge.

Four-year colleges provide students with the most social changes. Varsity sports, intramural sports, campus clubs, fraternities, sororities, guest speakers, campus traditions, and a higher percentage of students who live on or near campus are available.

The Advantages of Choosing a Trade School Over a Four-Year College

Going to a trade school has certain undeniable advantages.

The most obvious advantage of attending a trade school is that it takes less time to complete. Almost all trade school programs may be completed in under two years. Meanwhile, a community college degree typically takes two years to finish, whereas a standard four-year college degree typically takes at least four years to complete, with many students needing a fifth or sixth year to complete their degrees.

Less time in school allows you to gain more job experience and advance in your career more quickly. Furthermore, if you are not enrolled in school, you will not be required to pay for those additional years of college tuition and may be required to take out fewer student loans.

Another benefit of trade schools is the hands-on training you will receive for a specific job. Many four-year colleges and programs at four-year colleges place a greater emphasis on intellectual learning rather than job training. For example, if you have a degree in philosophy or theater, you could have trouble obtaining a job that is closely related to your major. The emphasis at a trade school is on learning the skills that you will use in your job after you graduate.

Similarly, because the purpose of a vocational school is to learn the skills needed for a specific job, it may be simpler to find a job in that industry at first. Furthermore, many trade school programs are focused on sectors with a high need for workers.

There are also profitable jobs available with a trade school diploma. In 2020, the median income for dental hygienists was $77,090, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the median beginning wage for four-year college graduates in the class of 2020 was $55,260.

Finally, attending a trade school eliminates the need to worry about the typical college application process. Because the applicable standards for a trade school are far less stringent, if you opt to attend one, you will not have to invest the time or money associated with four-year college applications. You will not be required to take the SAT/ACT. You won’t have to be concerned about your grades. So, you won’t have to worry about joining clubs solely to boost your college applications.

The Drawbacks of Attending a Trade School

While vocational schools have some advantages, they also have considerable disadvantages, especially when compared to traditional four-year universities.

Despite the financial benefits of attending a trade school, college graduates earn more money on average than trade school graduates. According to College Scorecard, the pay after attending American Career College in Los Angeles ranges from $16,663 to $43,426 depending on the subject of study. In comparison, the compensation after attending UCLA ranges from $18,498 to $110,878. Even after adjusting for the extra time spent in school, the average UCLA graduate will come out ahead financially.

In addition, four-year universities typically provide more significant financial help. West Coast University in Anaheim, California has an average cost of $39,100 after financial help. Meanwhile, the average in-state student fee at CSU Long Beach, a California State University, is $9,622.

Furthermore, attending a vocational school will deprive you of the usual college experience. There is no significant on-campus culture at trade schools, and social interaction is minimal. A four-year college allows you to join clubs, attend campus parties, attend sporting events, participate in Greek life, and live in dorms with your classmates. For many people, the college provides pleasant memories and allows them to build long-lasting friendships.

Outside of the classroom, you will do the majority of your learning at a traditional institution. You can attend lectures by well-known politicians and scholars, and you can socialize with students from all around the world.

The emphasis at a trade school is on the job preparation you receive within the classroom, and that is essentially the end of your education.

Read Also: Online School Business: Best Easy Ideas & How to Start Guide

Furthermore, traditional colleges provide a more broad, well-rounded education. Again, the education you receive at a trade school is nearly entirely focused on preparing you for a certain job. In a typical college, you’ll have general education requirements that will expose you to a large range of disciplines, and even in many majors, you’ll learn about a wide range of themes.

I majored in American Studies at college, which is an interdisciplinary subject focusing on the United States. I was able to take classes that counted toward my degree in sociology, education, religion, history, psychology, and political science. Aside from my degree, I was able to take classes in human biology, anthropology, statistics, and Spanish.

Traditional universities take pleasure in not only educating you for a specific job but also in teaching you critical thinking skills and informing you so that you can have a constructive impact on the society outside of your profession.

Finally, a typical college degree provides more job freedom. Trade schools educate you for extremely specific jobs, while a bachelor’s degree can get you a wide variety of jobs regardless of your major.

If you study medical assisting in a trade school, your program will only prepare you to be a medical assistant. If you decide you want to do something different or are unable to find a job as a medical assistant, your vocational school diploma will be worthless.

A four-year college degree, on the other hand, opens up many more job prospects. Jobs in sales, education, and consulting are available to four-year college graduates with a wide range of majors. With a four-year college degree, you can also attend graduate school and professional schools such as medical school and law school. With more education and higher degrees, you can expect to earn more money and have more job security.

How to Choose the Best Trade School for You

Once you’ve made the decision to attend a trade school, the next step is to determine which school is ideal for you. There are three major phases to accomplishing this:

#1. Confirm if the trade school offers the program you choose.

Nothing else matters if the school does not offer the program you seek, therefore this is your first step. If you’re looking for a certain program or certificate, check sure the school provides it so there are no surprises when you finish. You can also inquire with the school’s admissions counselors about which jobs the program will qualify you for.

#2. Confirm that the trade school has a good reputation.

It is critical that the school you attend has a high reputation so that those who hire you will have faith in the program you completed. You should examine your school’s accreditation, as well as check online reviews and speak with current and previous students to determine if they would suggest the school and program. Unfortunately, there are numerous vocational schools that exist primarily as credential mills and will take a large amount of your money without providing you with a solid education. Avoiding this will be easier if you conduct your research early on.

#3. Confirm that you can manage the costs and schedule.

Finally, be sure you can afford the tuition (or receive the appropriate financial help) and that the times the sessions are offered work with your schedule. The school should also be able to estimate how many hours per week you should devote to the program, and you should ensure that you can manage that workload or look into part-time choices. The Pureland Supply Vocational and Skilled Trade Scholarship is one option. Every year, at least one $500 scholarship is given to a student enrolled in a trade or vocational school. Typically, the deadline is in early May.

How to Make an Application to a Trade School

The majority of trade schools have a straightforward application process. Most colleges’ websites have a simple online application, or you can call the school for admissions information. Furthermore, there are no application deadlines. You can apply at any time, but you may need to wait until the start of your desired program before enrolling.

In addition, after completing the application, you may be required to interview or talk with an admissions representative. These chats are intended to be informative and to direct you to the program that is best for you.

Trade schools are not considered selective, and the majority of them are open enrollment. The majority of institutions and programs do not need you to take the SAT/ACT or write an essay. Furthermore, trade schools will not demand recommendations or take into account your extracurricular activities while deciding on admission.

How much does it cost to attend a trade school? Given that you aren’t normally spending four years in school to gain a trade degree or certificate, the expense of learning a specific trade is substantially lower. Of course, it varies depending on the trade, but trade school expenses can range from $10,000 to $50,000, with an average cost of roughly $33,000.

Is it Possible to Attend a Trade School Online?

YES! The education sector is rapidly shifting toward online learning! (With thanks to Covid-19.) It all depends on the type of trade education you seek; however, you can enroll in an online program for a variety of practical job opportunities!

Are there any vocational schools in my area? The number of trade schools has grown tremendously throughout the years. The demand for a faster path to well-paying employment is at an all-time high, and public and private trade colleges have emerged as the answer! Because most states have vocational schools, chances are you’ll be able to find a trade program close to where you live.

The Top Vocational Trade Schools

#1. Washburn University of Technology

Type of School: Public

Programs available30

Washburn Tech, based in Topeka, Kansas, offers career-oriented programs in carpentry, diesel technology, and electrical technology. Programs range in length from 0.5-2 years. Evening classes are available for students. Over 90% of grads find jobs immediately after graduation.

Prospective students must apply online and complete a placement exam. They provide authentic transcripts from high school or college. Seniors in high school must submit a recommendation form. Recruiters assist incoming students with enrolling in classes and developing an academic plan. The Kansas Promise Scholarship is available to Kansas residents.

Higher Learning Commission accreditation

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? : Yes, they do.

#2. Pamlico Community College

Type of School: Public

Programs available: 37

PCC serves students in Grantsboro, North Carolina. On-campus programs are available at the college, including dental laboratory technology. Human services technology and medical office helping are two further examples. Students can obtain an associate degree or a certificate. Most students complete their studies in 1-2 years. Some programs offer hybrid learning or nighttime classes.

Prospective students must submit an application as well as their FAFSA results and high school transcripts or GED scores. Candidates for an associate degree complete English and math placement examinations. Learners must submit a single scholarship application by August 10 in order to be evaluated for 11 institutional scholarships.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has granted accreditation to this institution.

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? : No, they do not.

#3. Cox College

Programs available: 9

Cox College trains both new high school graduates and seasoned healthcare professionals. Students can acquire an AS degree in nursing, radiography, or medical assistance. These associate degrees take two years to complete. Courses are available on campus in Springfield and Monett, Missouri. Degree candidates can also take classes at night or on weekends.

Prospective students must have a passing GED score in order to apply. A 2.0 GPA is required for high school grads. Applicants must submit either their ACT or SAT results. The cost of tuition per credit hour varies depending on the degree. FAFSA data, a one-page essay, and references are required for students to apply for institutional scholarships.

Higher Learning Commission accreditation

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? : Yes, they do.

#4. Technical College of the Salina Area

Type of School: Public

Programs available: 37

SATC students have the option of learning solely on campus or in a hybrid manner. Auto collision and refinishing techniques are among the program possibilities. Students may also pick commercial truck driving or diesel technology as a career path. A technical certificate or an associate degree can be obtained by students. Free tutoring and an online library database are among the student services available.

SATC provides a virtual tour. Incoming students who do not have ACT or SAT scores take the ACCUPLACER. Despite the fact that SATC is a public school, the college does not charge out-of-state tuition. The financial assistance page explains how to apply for the Kansas Promise Scholarship and other group scholarships.

Trade School FAQ’s

Is it expensive to go to trade school?

Tuition for trade schools varies depending on the school and program. A trade school education costs around $33,000 on average. To put this in context, that is around the cost of a single year’s tuition at a four-year college.

What is an example of a trade school?

UEI, American Career College, and Chamberlain University are examples of trade schools.

Is trade school cheaper than college?

Trade schools are frequently less expensive than traditional institutions – and trade school graduates have less student loan burden. Because of the high cost of traditional education, students are looking for alternatives, such as trade school.

What are the requirements for trade school?

Trade schools are frequently less expensive than traditional institutions – and trade school graduates have less student loan burden. Because of the high cost of traditional education, students are looking for alternatives, such as trade school.

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