Types of Trade Schools

in the classroom

This section covers the types of trade schools, their program offerings, and the kinds of classroom instruction they can provide for students.

Vocational Schools

A vocational school focuses on hands-on instruction, offering various trade school programs tailored to help students learn more about their prospective industries, including any required safety procedures.

These trade schools typically have a shorter duration than a college program, often taking a few months or up to two years.

This allows students to enter the workforce quickly and focus on their specific skill of choice. Upon completion, students typically receive industry-relevant credentials, like a diploma, certificate, or associate degree.

Some examples of vocational schools include plumbing and carpentry trade schools, where students will be taught blueprint reading and other relevant skills.

These also include cosmetology schools, where students learn skills like how to style hair and apply makeup. There are also colleges that offer massage therapy training.

GOOD TO KNOW: Community or four-year colleges often offer culinary programs, or individuals can enroll in a specific culinary school.

Technical Schools

Technical schools are specialized trade schools that provide hands-on training for jobs in technical fields and industries. At these colleges, students may learn how to read blueprints and other relevant skills.

They offer comprehensive engineering, computer programming, and electronics programs, focusing on in-depth knowledge and hands-on training.

Technical schools emphasize modern technology and its applications, ensuring students are well-prepared for their future careers.

GOOD TO KNOW: Students can prepare for a job in the criminal justice system by pursuing criminal justice programs, focusing on criminology, constitutional law, criminal investigation, and research methods.

Business Schools

Business schools provide students with specialized instruction for people interested in pursuing careers in the business world.

These trade schools offer programs tailored to the corporate sector to help students learn the knowledge and skills required for success in various business-related roles.

The business-focused curriculum may include accounting, finance, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, and human resources courses.

Art and Design Schools

An art and design school is a specialized school that fosters creativity and innovation in individuals passionate about artistic expression.

These trade schools offer diverse programs that cater to students’ interests and employment goals, allowing them to explore various disciplines.

Health Care Schools

A healthcare school is a specialized institution that prepares students for careers in the healthcare industry.

These trade schools offer comprehensive programs in various disciplines, including nursing, medical assisting, radiologic technology, dental hygiene, and pharmacy technology.

The focus is on healthcare-centric instruction, hands-on training, and specialized tracks. The job outlook for healthcare professionals is particularly promising, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Duration of Programs in Trade Schools

The duration of trade school programs significantly impacts the educational pathways for professionals. These programs range from quicker courses to a comprehensive two-year associate degree.

Short-Term Programs

There are types of trade schools that offer short-term trade programs that provide a quick and focused route to acquiring specific skills and qualifications.

These programs are developed to prepare students for entry-level positions in various industries in a relatively short time, typically from a few weeks to several months.

The benefits of short-term programs include quick entry into the workforce, cost-effectiveness, specialized education, hands-on learning, and longer-term schooling or job advancement.

Long-Term Programs

Long-term programs in trade schools offer comprehensive educational pathways that teach students extensive skills that’re relevant in their chosen fields.

These programs typically require applicants to spend one to two years or more finishing the program.

Graduates of long-term programs typically earn higher-level credentials, like an associate degree.

NOTE: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 2% growth in the employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers from 2021-2030 due to aging US infrastructure.

Factors Influencing Program Duration

The duration of most trade school programs is influenced by various factors. The following section will discuss factors affecting your trade school stay.

Type of Program

The specific program or field of study you choose significantly determines program duration. Short-term trade schools programs, such as medical assisting or welding, typically last a few months to a year.

Program Complexity

The complexity of the skills and knowledge required for a particular profession can influence program duration. 

More complex fields like healthcare or engineering often have longer programs to ensure students learn all the prerequisite skills more thoroughly.

Licensure or Certification Requirements

Some professions require individuals to obtain licenses or certifications to practice legally.

Meeting these requirements may extend the duration of the program as students must fulfill additional educational and testing criteria.

Credit Hours

Programs may be structured based on the credit hours required for graduation.

Longer programs often have a higher credit-hour requirement due to the depth of the curriculum.

Clinical or Practical Training

Programs that involve extensive clinical or practical training, like healthcare or the culinary arts, typically have longer durations to ensure students learn and gain the necessary hands-on experience.

Earnings Potential of Trade School Graduates

This section discusses how much a trade school graduate can earn after completing a program.

Average Earnings by Trade

Trade school graduates’ earnings potential varies based on their specific trade or vocational field.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

Nursing is one of the highest-paying fields among trade school graduates. RNs typically earn competitive salaries due to the critical nature of their work.

The median annual wage for registered nurses in the US was $81,220 in 2022.

Dental Hygienists

A dental hygienist plays a crucial role in oral healthcare. They clean teeth, study patients for signs of oral diseases, and familiarize patients with proper oral hygiene.

A dental hygienist can earn an average of $81,400, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Electricians are skilled professionals who install, maintain, and repair or replace wiring.

Their expertise, which includes electrical theory and electrical systems, is frequently in demand, and they can earn $60,240 on average.


Plumbers are essential for ensuring the proper functioning of water and sewage systems, and they can also do road construction if need be.

Their specialized skills can lead to stable and well-paying careers, with earnings in the range of $60,090 and above.


Welding is a skilled trade with various applications in various industries, from manufacturing to construction. Experienced welders can command wages of $47,540 or higher.

NOTE: As the trades above demonstrate, you don’t need to have attended college to earn a decent wage. Skilled tradespeople can earn significantly more depending on their chosen fields.

Highest Paying Trades

Trade school graduates often have high-paying options due to their specialized skills. Here are some of the high-paying trades available to tradesmen and professionals.

Nuclear Technicians

Nuclear technicians play a critical role in the nuclear energy industry. They’re responsible for monitoring and maintaining nuclear equipment and conducting radiation tests.

Due to the specialized nature of their work, nuclear technicians can earn high salaries of $100,240 or more per year.

Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers are experts in installing, maintaining, and repairing elevators and escalators.

Their work is essential in residential and commercial buildings, and they can earn a yearly salary of $99,000 for their specialized skills.

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

These professionals manage operations and ensure electricity distribution. Their expertise is in demand, and they’re paid $97,570 annually.

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists work in healthcare; they administer radiation therapy and educate patients with cancer and other medical conditions.

Due to the specialized skills required for radiation therapy, these therapists are paid $89,530 a year.

Construction Managers

While not strictly a trade, construction managers oversee projects, ensuring they are completed on time and within budget.

Experienced construction managers can earn $101,480 per year in the construction industry.

Factors Influencing Earnings

Understanding the factors that significantly impact the earnings potential of trade school graduates is crucial for those considering vocational instruction.

Trade or Occupation

The choice of trade or occupation is among the most significant factors influencing earnings. Some trades offer higher average salaries due to the specialized skills and demand for professionals in these fields.


Experience plays a vital role in earning potential. Individuals with more years of experience can command higher salaries in many trades. As trade school graduates gain practical knowledge and skills, their earning potential typically increases.

Certifications and Licenses

Many trades require individuals to obtain industry-specific certifications or licenses. These credentials can lead to higher earnings as they demonstrate competence and expertise in the field.

Geographic Location

Earnings can vary significantly by region and location. High-cost-of-living areas often have higher average salaries to offset the increased expenses. Trade school graduates may find working in areas with strong demand for skills more financially advantageous.


The industry in which trade school students work can impact earnings. For example, healthcare professionals in hospitals earn higher salaries than those in private practices or clinics.

Fastest Routes to Completion in Trade Schools

Here are some ways to fast-track your trade school journey and start working faster.

Accelerated Programs

Accelerated programs in some types of trade schools offer a fast track by condensing the conventional college or four-year colleges and training timeline.

Most programs offer a streamlined curriculum, intensive learning, shorter duration, full-time commitment, and cost efficiency.

These are ideal for those seeking to enter the workforce quickly, allowing them to start their careers sooner than most colleges would normally allow.

Accelerated programs prioritize hands-on training and skill development, making graduates highly employable upon graduation.

Online Trade Schools

Online trade schools offer a flexible and accessible route to vocational education and career readiness.

These trade schools provide a wide range of programs and courses designed to teach students specialized skills and industry-specific knowledge from the convenience of their homes.

The best online schools enable students from various locations to access high-quality vocational education.

Part-Time vs Full-Time Programs

Unlike a traditional college, there are types of trade schools that offer part-time and full-time programs for vocational education, each offering unique advantages and considerations.

Full-time programs offer accelerated completion and intensive learning.

Part-time programs cater to busy schedules, allowing students to maintain a balanced lifestyle by accommodating work, family, and educational responsibilities.

They can also reduce financial burden, reduce stress, and allow for skill development over time.

Lucrative Industries for Trade Skills

Understanding which industries are lucrative today can boost your earning potential and improve your career advancement opportunities.

Construction Industry

The construction industry is lucrative for individuals with trade skills due to its high demand and diverse specializations.

The industry encompasses various projects, from residential homes to public works.

Skilled professionals in various trades, like carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, masonry, HVAC, and welding, are in constant demand.

They can advance from apprentices to supervisory or managerial roles, with corresponding increases in income.

Health Care Industry

The healthcare industry is a lucrative and recession-resistant sector for trade skill practitioners due to its sustained growth, diverse specializations, and consistent need.

Trade professionals play critical roles in patient care, facility management, and the smooth operation of healthcare systems.

The industry also offers job security due to the constant need for medical services and care.

Information Technology Industry

The Information Technology (IT) industry is a lucrative and expanding field for trade skill practitioners due to its rapid technological evolution, technological convergence, and industry demand.

IT professionals must implement, maintain, and troubleshoot new technologies, ensuring ongoing job opportunities.

Career progression is possible, with entry-level positions advancing to more advanced roles.

Diplomas, certifications, and associate degree programs can prepare students for entry-level jobs in IT in 6-24 months.

Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing industry, a vital part of the global economy, offers numerous opportunities for trade-skill professionals.

Its diverse range includes automobiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and aerospace components.

The industry maintains a steady demand for skilled workers.

Various specialized trades thrive, including machinists, welders, CNC operators, quality control inspectors, and industrial maintenance technicians.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the kind of career you can expect after attending the different types of trade schools here.

What Are the Benefits of Attending a Trade School?

Trade schools provide specialized skills training, cost-effective tuition, and job placement assistance.

They also prepare students for immediate employment.

How Do I Choose the Right Trade School?

Choose the right trade school by researching program fit, the tuition cost, and accreditation.

You can also visit the campus and look for the school’s successful alumni for an example of your potential career after completing a program.

Can I Attend a Trade School Online?

Yes. Many types of trade schools offer online programs or courses, allowing students to learn and acquire trade skills remotely.

What Are the Highest Paying Trades?

High-paying trades include nuclear technicians, elevator installers, power plant operators, radiation therapists, construction managers, air traffic controllers, commercial pilots, and oil and gas drillers.

How Long Does It Take To Complete a Trade School Program?

Unlike a conventional college, trade school programs can range from weeks to a few years, depending on the trade and desired level of expertise.


This quick guide has covered lots about vocational education, encompassing vocational, technical, business, art and design, and healthcare schools.

Embrace the potential that trade schools offer, and align your aspirations with your passions for a fulfilling career enriched with expertise and financial stability.

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