How To Apply to Trade Schools

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Many people consider trade school programs to be simpler and more efficient than the lengthy courses at traditional colleges and universities. Along with offering focused classroom instruction and hands-on training that prepares you for the workforce faster, vocational schools let students complete their education in less time and for less money than they would at most four-year institutions.

Applying to a trade school is usually easier than applying to a private university or college. Once you find a trade school near you and decide whether a skilled trade, technology, criminal justice, business, construction, or other program is right for you, use this guide to learn about the process of enrolling in a trade school.

What to Know Before Applying

Do Your Research

Even if a local community college or trade school seems promising, there are several things you need to research before you choose to enroll.

Along with making sure the institution has the career-specific program you’re looking for, you’ll want to learn whether you’ll have to take full-time, in-person classes or if they offer part-time or online courses that work for your busy schedule.

You should also take a more in-depth look at the trade school you want to attend by browsing the institution’s website and researching the following information:

  • Accreditation – Employers, certifying agencies, and state boards often require applicants to receive their education or formal training from a nationally accredited college or trade school.
  • Length of Program – Some programs take less than a year to complete, which is excellent for those who want to join the workforce as soon as possible.
  • Certificate vs. Degree Programs – Your chosen career may require a certificate or an associate degree, so make sure the school you choose offers the proper credentials.
  • Application Fees – Trade schools typically have low-cost application fees. However, these may add up when applying to multiple institutions.
  • Tuition Rates – Affordable tuition is one of the many benefits of going to trade school, so check to see what type of assistance or payment plans they offer.
  • Employment Assistance – Consider prioritizing trade schools that help students find employment immediately after graduation.
  • Student Reviews – Read online reviews to see what past students thought about their education and how it contributed to their success.

Check Admission Requirements

Although trade school admission requirements vary by intuition and state, they tend to be much simpler to meet than the standards for getting into a traditional four-year college. Applicants must have either a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent before enrolling in most vocational schools.

Those who lack these credentials must pass a standardized state-administered exam to receive a GED.

Trade school admission requirements might differ depending on the program as well. Some institutions only accept students who maintained a 2.0 GPA or higher in high school.

A vocational school specializing in one field of study, such as a medical assistant or truck driver school, may also require candidates to have prior work experience or documentation like a driver’s license or first aid certification.

Age Requirements

In most cases, aspiring students must be at least 17 to apply to a trade school. However, this requirement varies across different states, institutions, and programs. For example, a cosmetology school may accept 17-year-old students, while a healthcare career college may only allow legal adults who are 18 or older to enroll.

Underage applicants may need to submit a letter of parental consent or a release letter from their high school along with their enrollment forms.

On the other hand, your high school might offer post-secondary classes for those pursuing certain occupations like automotive technology or culinary arts. Taking these courses can give you a leg up when applying to trade schools in the future.

Test Scores

Earning a high ACT or SAT score is often one of the most essential steps in getting into a prestigious four-year university.

When it comes to getting into a trade school, most institutions use placement exams and aptitude tests to determine whether a student would succeed in their chosen courses. Most trade schools use these tests to evaluate an applicant’s basic math and reading comprehension skills.

Placement tests are especially important for students who are hoping to pursue specialized, potentially dangerous career paths after completing their education. Your local trade union might work with trade schools to proctor aptitude tests in:

Applicants who already took the SAT or ACT and received good scores may be able to use them to substitute for a placement exam.


There are several documents you’ll need to submit in order to complete a trade school application. Along with a copy of your high school diploma or GED certificate, your ACT or SAT score report, and any letters of recommendation, admissions offices may ask for academic transcripts from high school or another post-secondary education.

Tuition Cost & Financial Aid

Tuition rates for vocational, trade, and technical schools are usually thousands of dollars lower than the cost of a college or university education. Even so, you’ll need to compare prices across different institutions to determine which ones you can afford.

Luckily, many trade schools offer multiple financial aid opportunities, including loans, scholarships, grants, and affordable monthly payment plans.

Academic advisors at certain trade schools may even be able to reduce the cost of your education by examining your transcripts, job history, or military service record. Depending on your skills and experience, you may be able to test out of certain classes while still earning credits toward your certificate or degree.

Applying to a Trade School Online

After researching different trade schools in your area, choosing an educational program, comparing program lengths and tuition costs and gathering the necessary documents and fees, you’ll be ready to submit a trade school application to your chosen institution.

Most community colleges and vocational schools have an online application process, which is faster and easier than filling out mail-in forms.

Go to your chosen trade school’s website to find out where you can apply. Be mindful of application deadlines and double-check to make sure that you have all the forms the school requires.

From there, you can follow the online instructions that show you where to input your information, upload your documents, and submit your trade school application.