Trade schools are local places of learning that let you train for a career fast. Think of them as an alternate form of college. Immediately after high school, you can enroll in a program, be trained, and leave career-ready. Often, training can be completed in as few as 6-10 months, depending on the program. For example, CDL truck driving has one of the quickest training times: just 3-6 weeks!
By the time your friends seeking bachelor degrees are starting their sophomore year of college, you could already be working, making an average pay of $31,530-$51,420 (bls.gov), or more. Read on to learn more about going to trade school after high school.
How Trade School Works
If you think sitting through lectures in high school is boring, then a trades training program may come as a breath of fresh air. The majority of trade school is hands-on learning. You will spend class practicing the techniques of your career. And other than 1-2 general classes like English or math, you won’t have to take any credits in subjects that aren’t in direct relation to your line of work.
Typically, most training programs start in the books as you learn the fundamentals. As the weeks progress and learning gets more advanced, you will spend less time in the classroom and more time in workshops. You may even have an externship, where you work at a real company, for real clients. Sometimes, that perk turns right into your first full-time job after graduation.
Popular Trade School Programs
Trade school can prepare you for hundreds of industry roles in dozens of industries. Here’s a sampling of some popular careers, average pay, and program lengths. All pay is listed as the 2019 annual average pay from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls.gov.
- Cosmetologist: $31,350 | train in as few as 10 months
- Dental assistant: $41,170 | train in as few as 10 months
- Welding: $45,190 | train in as few as 10 months
- Diesel mechanic: $48,500 | train in as few as 10 months
- HVAC technician: $51,420 | train in as few as 6 months
Explore an extensive collection of trade jobs information through our career guides.
How To Get In To Trade School
One of the cool things about trade schools is that they start classes frequently. That means once you’ve decided on a career, you typically can begin training in the weeks shortly after, instead of waiting for one of two semesters to begin.
The trade school admission process can be much less intense than that of a four-year university. Usually, you won’t have to write an admission essay or even deal with housing, but it’s best not to delay applying, because classes in high-interest areas like trucking, dental assisting, and HVAC can fill up fast.
Main requirements include:
- Be at least 18 years of age. Some schools allow 16- and 17-year olds with signed guardian permission.
- Have a high school diploma/GED. There may be some flexibility here too, as some schools offer a combination of diploma completion plus career training.
Once you apply to a school, the admissions team will walk you through the necessary steps to begin training. These may include that you:
- Provide them with appropriate documents: license, birth certificate, high school diploma or its equivalent, and/or proof of recent vaccinations may be needed.
- Apply for financial aid.
- Take any placement tests, if necessary. For example, if you’re going into medical coding and are already a fast typist, you may be able to place out of lower-level courses.
After you are fully enrolled, you’ll get a class schedule and a list of books/tools to purchase. Some schools include these with your tuition. If you’re attending on-campus, schools can provide you with a tour and introduction to instructors. Online students may have a similar orientation, just done digitally. Then, it’s simply a matter of waiting for the first day of class and showing up!
Paying For Trade School
A nice benefit of trade school is the cost may be much less than if you attended a four-year university. Some entire training programs, like an online HVAC technician certificate, cost as low as $699, but on average, the total cost of trade school programs before financial aid is $33,000.
Financial aid can significantly reduce the cost of attending trade school. The financial aid department will direct you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as your first step. Read about getting scholarships, grants ,and student loans in our financial aid guide.
Veterans can use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at many trade schools, as well. And if you have a current job or can work a local gig while you attend school, ask your company if they provide any help toward school costs. Amazon, Home Depot, Starbucks, and many more provide various forms of tuition assistance.