Best Online Vocational and Trade Schools 2021

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Online vocational and trade schools train learners for a specific job. These schools may offer numerous options, allowing students to explore different career paths. Many programs take under one year to complete, so prospective learners can start working as soon as possible.

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Dental assistants who graduate from a vocational school online program earn a median $41,180 annual salary, comparable to the national median for all workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the need for these professionals to grow 7% from 2019-2029, outpacing the national average.

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Questions to Answer When Choosing a Trade School


  • What types of vocational schools are there?

    Prospective students can explore vocational schools and local community colleges offering vocational programs. Some high schools also offer these programs to students uninterested in a traditional college education.


  • What are examples of vocational skills?

    Vocational programs train the next generation of cosmetologists, cooks, and auto mechanics. Other programs qualify students to work as a paralegal or carpenter.


  • What vocational jobs are in demand?

    In-demand and high-paying vocational jobs include electrical repairman, plumber, and nuclear technician. Web developers and computer specialists earn a higher-than-average salary.


  • What do you need to get into vocational and trade school?

    Typical online vocational and trade schools require applicants to possess a high school or GED diploma. Other admissions steps may include taking a placement test that assesses English and math skills.


Why Attend a Vocational or Trade School?



Besides preparing for a new career, attending an online vocational and trade school may feature numerous benefits. Consult an admissions or academic advisor to learn more.

Learn Asynchronously
Many online programs feature an asynchronous curriculum, allowing students to schedule their education around other responsibilities.
Gain Hands-On Experience
Students gain hands-on experience by completing a practicum or internship with a local company. This work allows learners to build skills while exploring potential employers.
Network
Learners in a trade school online program network with like-minded peers. These relationships may lead to positive career benefits, such as hearing about a job opening before other applicants.
Finish Quickly
Many trade school online programs take 12 months or fewer to complete. Graduates enter the workforce sooner than their peers who enroll in a two- or four-year school.
Earn More
Online vocational and trade schools feature programs aligning with in-demand and high-paying careers. Students work with a career counselor to research salaries and industry trends.

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Vocational and Trade School Specializations



Online vocational and trade schools may offer numerous specializations in different employment fields. Prospective students should note that some schools use other names for their specializations, including programs, diplomas, certificates, or tracks. These terms do not affect learning outcomes, and schools may use them interchangeably.

The following descriptions highlight just a few specializations available to prospective students. Keep in mind that the academic experience and graduation requirements vary among schools. Visit a school’s website or speak with an enrollment counselor to learn more about how a program trains learners for a career.


  • Automotive Technology

    Automotive technology coursework emphasizes air conditioner repair and wheel alignment best practices. Class topics may include automotive technology, hybrid maintenance and repair, and diesel equipment safety courses. The learning experience blends the virtual classroom with some on-campus experience working with cars.

    Top programs prepare graduates to pass the Automotive Service Excellence Exam, while others qualify alumni to become smog check technicians. Typical job sites for graduates include dealerships and repair facilities.


  • Cosmetology Operator

    A cosmetology operation program prepares students for licensure in their home state. Online coursework trains learners to cut and style hair, perform skincare treatments, and operate a salon. Other graduation requirements may include completing an externship at a local salon.

    Like other online vocational programs, cosmetology operator programs provide the academic flexibility students need to attend school while working full or part time. Full-time learners finish the program in just 40 weeks.


  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography

    The BLS projects the need for diagnostic medical sonographers to grow 12% from 2019-2029. Learners in an online vocational and trade school enter this growing field by earning a diagnostic medical sonography certificate. Core courses include vascular scanning, ultrasound physics and instrumentation, and sectional anatomy for medical imaging.

    Other graduation requirements include completing up to four clinical experiences working under experienced sonographers. Professionals must then pass the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers Exam to practice.


  • Legal Administrative Assistant

    Legal administrative assistant programs require coursework in accounting, mathematics in business, and advanced legal litigation. Other courses convey in-demand technology skills, such as word processing and spreadsheets. Online vocational and trade schools may require additional instruction in resume writing and interviewing techniques.

    Alumni may work as a legal secretary or administrative assistant. Graduates use their skills to keep track of documents, perform bookkeeping, and manage lawyers’ meeting schedules. Some recent graduates and experienced professionals apply their education toward an associate of arts in paralegal studies.


  • Wind Turbine Service Technician

    Both recent high school graduates and experienced technicians increase their employability by earning a wind turbine service technician certificate. Required coursework includes industrial electricity, the principles of fluid power systems, and safety at height and rescue.

    BLS data indicates wind turbine service technicians make more than the U.S. median salary. Earning potential and 61% projected job growth make the certificate an attractive option. Other potential benefits include earning a high salary in a state with a relatively low cost of living.


Scholarships for Vocational and Trade Students



Scholarships make vocational school online programs more affordable by reducing learners’ reliance on government and private loans. Typical application requirements include a satisfactory GPA and financial need. Some scholarships ask applicants to submit an essay and a recommendation letter.


  • American Quarter Horse Association Dogwood Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Graduating high school seniors and current college students with a minimum 3.0 GPA may qualify. Other eligibility criteria include AQHA membership.

    Amount: $5,000

    Explore Here

  • Society of Vacuum Coaters Foundation Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: The SVC Foundation promotes the next generation of vacuum coating professionals with these competitive scholarships. Students must study full time. Recipients use the award to pay for any education-related expenses.

    Amount: Up to $5,000

    Explore Here


Best Online Vocational and Trade Schools 2021



See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. San Juan College
    Location

    Farmington, NM

    San Juan College offered only evening classes when it opened in 1956. Today, SJC educates more than 15,000 students every year. Learners can take classes on four campuses, including the main location in Farmington, New Mexico.

    San Juan College delivers nine fully online associate degrees. Online students can earn an associate degree in business administration, psychology, health information technology, occupational safety, physical therapist assistant, or veterinary technology.

    Many of the online trade school's distance programs offer accelerated pathways that save students time and money. Accelerated options are ideal for working professionals who intend to transfer to a four-year school or change careers. For example, students can earn an associate in business administration degree with an accompanying business management certificate in 16 months.

    Online students can access career services, including resume assistance and career assessments. SJC maintains an open admissions policy and is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. New Mexico Junior College
    Location

    Hobbs, NM

    One of the best online technical schools in the Southwest, New Mexico Junior College delivers two-year degrees and career training programs. Learners can study online or at the flagship 243-acre campus in Hobbs.

    Ideal for working professionals, NMJC offers fully online associate degrees in business, computer information science, criminal justice, and energy technology. Before beginning an online program, students can take a self-assessment to determine whether distance learning is right for them. Academic counselors help students design individualized academic plans.

    Online learners complete 31 general education credits in subjects including composition and rhetoric, communication, fine arts, math, and laboratory science. Transfer students must complete at least 15 credits through NMJC to receive an associate degree.

    The New Mexico Junior College Foundation offers a variety of scholarships to applicants with a minimum 2.0 GPA. NMJC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Metropolitan Community College
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Metropolitan Community College, one of the top online technical schools in Nebraska, delivers more than 100 programs. The school maintains eight locations and enrolls more than 25,000 students.

    The college's online degrees and certificates are ideal for working professionals who need flexible scheduling options. MCC's online offerings include associate degrees in accounting, business, computer technology, criminal justice, health information management, and office technology.

    Learners can also pursue academic and career certificates in customer service representative, financial studies, and general management. Academic advisors and counselors help online learners plan their educational pathways. MCC maintains transfer agreements with four-year schools to help graduates enroll in bachelor's programs.

    Learners pursuing an associate degree complete 40 general education credits. Students can apply for more than 125 scholarships. MCC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. State Fair Community College
    Location

    Sedalia, MO

    Founded in 1968 with 436 students, State Fair Community College maintains seven locations and a virtual campus. Today, SFCC enrolls more than 4,700 learners. The college delivers online programs through Canvas and offers more than 260 online classes.

    Students can earn a fully online associate degree in business management, health information technology, or healthcare specialist. Each program comprises 60-64 credits and prepares students to enroll in a four-year program or immediately enter the workforce. One of the leading online trade schools for healthcare students, SFCC offers online certifications in pharmacy technician, nurse aide, and medical coding.

    Learners can complete their program fully online or in a hybrid format. Students who choose to take some in-person classes can study in Boonville, Clinton, Eldon, Lake of the Ozarks, Sedalia, or Warsaw. SFCC also delivers courses at Whiteman Air Force Base.

    The college provides online technical support and tutoring, and distance learners can access more than 500,000 digital library resources. SFCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Southwest Virginia Community College
    Location

    Cedar Bluff, VA

    Established in 1927, Southwest Virginia Community College is one of the best online trade schools for busy learners. The college offers more than 80 programs and delivers on-campus and online classes.

    Learners can pursue affordable, fully online associate degrees in administrative support technology, accounting, administration of justice, business management, early childhood education, and psychology. The college also offers online certificate programs in fields including medical records, health sciences, and legal studies.

    SVCC delivers online courses asynchronously through Canvas, allowing learners to access assignments and discussions at their convenience. Some students, such as those who live in Tazewell or Buchanan County, may qualify for tuition-free learning.

    Online students can communicate with advisors through email, phone, and chat. Learners can also access online tutoring and digital library resources. SVCC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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