What Are Trade Schools?

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Many people believe that attending a prestigious college or university is the only way to qualify for a promising career in your chosen profession. Because of this, several people fail to consider that a trade school program could be an excellent option for pursuing a post-secondary education.

Some may even be completely unaware of what a trade school is.

Check out this article to discover helpful information about trade schools, and learn the answers to questions like:

What Defines a Trade School?

A trade school is an academic institution that prepares students for jobs that require specialized training. Where most colleges and universities have generalized courses that all students must take, trade schools have career-specific curriculums that focus on one particular skill or industry.

Hands-on instruction is a defining characteristic of trade schools. Although these programs usually have a classroom component that requires traditional textbook learning, there is a much greater emphasis on applying the things you learn in class in workshops, labs, and other simulated or real-world settings.

Schools often partner with local professionals and program directors within their communities. Through these connections, students are able to participate in externships and apprenticeships and gain a more well-rounded understanding of how the skills they learn in class relate to their chosen industries.

What Skills are Taught in Trade Schools?

Trade Schools vs. Vocational Schools

Some people use the terms “vocational school” and “trade school” interchangeably since both institutions offer instruction in a specific skill or career type. However, others believe that there is a slight distinction between the two. For example, some designate trade schools as places that exclusively offer skilled trades programs like:

Vocational schools, on the other hand, prepare students for in-demand careers that require specialized instruction in facilities that resemble job sites. People often consider the following jobs to be vocational careers rather than trades:

Because of this small distinction, some institutions may refer to themselves as “vocational schools,” while others call themselves “career and technical schools.” However, most institutions use “trade school” as a general term that covers all the vocational and skilled trades programs they offer.

What Kinds of Trade Schools are There?

While some trade schools offer several different educational programs, many specialize in teaching one specific skill or preparing students for a particular job field. Depending on your skills, interests, and career aspirations, you might prefer to attend one of the following trade or vocational school types.

Automotive Technology Schools

An automotive technology trade school trains students in vehicle maintenance and auto body repair to prepare them for mechanic careers. While most institutions provide instruction on how to work with automobiles, some may also teach you to repair:

Computer and Information Technology Schools

Trade schools specializing in computer and information technology offer a range of computer programming, software engineering and development, and website development classes. Some may teach particular skills like:

Culinary Arts Schools

Those who attend classes at culinary arts trade schools learn foundational cooking methods, including proper food handling, food safety, and sanitation practices for working in restaurants. Many culinary trade schools also offer instruction in:

Art & Design Schools

Hoping to turn your creative hobby into a career? Consider enrolling in a trade school with an arts and design program. In addition to offering typical art classes that teach drawing, painting, and sculpting skills, many schools have digital and graphic design courses. Other art trade schools may teach:

Allied Health and Nursing Schools

Begin your journey in the healthcare field by attending a nursing or allied health trade school program. Medical billing and coding, phlebotomy, pharmacy technician, respiratory therapy, and medical and dental assisting courses are among the most popular. However, you can also take trade school classes for the following careers:

Beauty Schools

If you want to become a stylist in a salon or spa, you can learn the necessary skills by enrolling in a beauty school program. In addition to learning how to cut, color, and style hair, cosmetology trade school students practice customer service skills to build their client lists. Many beauty school programs also include instruction in:

What Programs do Trade Schools Offer?

Most institutions offer three trade school program types for students to choose from.

  1. Certificate Programs: Certificate programs involve completing nine to 30 credit hours, making them one of the shorter post-secondary education options. Students typically complete these courses in a few months.
  2. Diploma Programs: A diploma program usually encompasses 30 to 72 credit hours and takes roughly 18 months to finish.
  3. Degree Programs: Some trade schools offer degree programs, just like colleges and universities. However, a two-year associate’s degree is usually the highest level of education you can obtain at a trade school.

Some trade schools also offer continuing education programs for students who completed their certificate, diploma, or degree program and need to refresh their knowledge or take additional classes before they can qualify for renewed work contracts and job promotions.

What are the Advantages of Attending a Trade School?

There are several benefits to completing your education through a trade school. Advantages that appeal to most trade school students include:

Shorter Course Lengths

Again, most trade schools offer programs that take less than a year to complete. Because of this, students who earn certificates and diplomas from a trade school can usually qualify for jobs in their chosen profession faster than those who enroll in lengthy four-year programs at colleges and universities.

Lower Tuition Costs

Since trade school programs tend to be shorter, students typically spend less on tuition than they would at a four-year institution. For example, students might pay about $10k per year to attend a college or university, totaling up to $40k or more. While exact trade school costs vary depending on the school you choose and where your location, most programs cost less than $20k to complete.

Hands-On Instruction

Trade schools prioritize practical application in their curriculum, allowing students to practice and perfect their skills throughout their courses. This supervised, hands-on experience can give students an advantage over job seekers who lack this additional training.

Licensing Assistance

While you might be able to get a job immediately after graduating, many vocations and skilled trades require an official certification. For example, even if you’ve already completed an accredited electrician, counseling, or mortuary science trade school program, you may need to pass a state licensing exam before you can qualify for a job in that industry.

Trade schools often prepare students for certification exams using official resources and practice test materials from the necessary licensing agency. Some institutions may also provide application fee waivers so students can take their certification exams free of charge.

How do You Enroll in a Trade School?

Getting into a trade school is fairly straightforward, though each school’s requirements may differ slightly. If trade school sounds like a good fit for you, take the following five steps to enroll:

  1. Find a Trade School Program

Research different trade schools until you find one that works for your schedule and suits your skillset and career goals.

  1. Review the School’s Admission Requirements

Nearly all trade schools require students to have a high school diploma or GED. Aside from that, you may also need to be at least 18 years of age, complete a prerequisite placement exam, or submit copies of your official transcripts and standardized test scores.

  1. Check Trade School Reviews

Read online reviews of your chosen trade school to learn whether graduates and former students enjoyed their time there. If there are multiple complaints about the instructors, curriculum, or requirements, you might want to consider choosing a different school or campus.

  1. Gather the Necessary Documentation

Collect your high school transcripts, ACT or SAT exam scores, and any other required forms you need. Make copies of each document to give to the trade school’s admission department or, if you’re submitting your application online, scan them to create a digital file.

  1. Complete and Submit Your Trade School Application

Fill out the application form for your chosen trade school, providing details about your online or on-campus enrollment preferences, full-time or part-time availability, and financial aid needs.

Once you complete your trade school application, a representative from the school’s admissions department will contact you to discuss the next step in the process. Some institutions may ask you to visit the campus for an in-person interview, while others may simply send you an email confirming your start date.

Are Trade Schools Worth It?

Trade schools are a worthwhile option for anyone looking for an affordable way to complete their education quickly and qualify for a career in their chosen profession. Small class sizes and a strong focus on hands-on instruction also make these programs perfect for students who thrive in attentive, practical learning environments.