What Is Trade School? Definition, Requirements and Types

Trade schools offer a simpler admission process than four-year colleges. You’ll likely need a high school diploma or GED certificate to attend trade school. Applicants to trade schools usually need to be at least 17 years old. Passion for a trade often trumps academic qualifications at trade schools.

If you’re prepared, applying to a trade school close to you won’t be too difficult. You simply need to be aware of the school’s admissions requirements, compile the necessary paperwork, and pay the fees on time. To learn how to apply to a trade school or technical college, continue reading.

A standards-based high school diploma accepted by the student’s state is required for admission to trade schools. It will also suffice to pass a state-issued GED or other state-approved equivalency test. A transcript from the previous trade or technical college you attended must be submitted if you are transferring.

Since each state has its own laws, there may be some variation in the admissions procedures of different schools. But typically, in order to apply to a trade school, you must be at least 16 years old. Some schools or individual programs do have higher age requirements. For instance, many states require applicants for cosmetology, paramedic technology, and health programs to be at least 17 or 18 years old.

Normally, if you want to apply to a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree program at a trade school, you have to take their placement test. Sometimes, if you received high marks on recent exams like the SAT, ACT, or ASSET, those results could be substituted. Your standardized test results will need to be slightly better if you’re applying to an associate’s degree program as opposed to a certificate program.

How to Get Into Trade School

Types of trade schools

The phrase “trade school” can be used broadly to refer to organizations that offer career and technical education (CTE). Although all of these institutions provide technical, career-focused programs in high-demand fields, there may be differences in their organizational structures or particular study areas. Types of trade schools include:

Vocational high school career programs

Some high schools or vocational high schools collaborate with nearby trade schools to offer their students combined career programs. Because of this, high school students can complete the requirements for general education and job training during their junior and senior years. Through these courses, students can gain useful skills, transferable college credits, and a high school diploma as well as a professional certification in their chosen field of study.

Technical schools

Technical schools have a different curriculum from vocational schools that provides a broader academic foundation. They emphasize principles of a student’s field of study rather than just hands-on skill development and include classes like specialized math and science. Technical schools still differ from community colleges or four-year institutions despite providing a wider range of academic courses. Instead of offering courses to fulfill a set number of total credit hours, they offer courses that are tailored to the background knowledge required in particular fields.

Technical institutes

Technical colleges provide courses that instruct students about technology-based trades through practical experience. A career in technology-related fields like information technology, computer science, business, or health science may be pursued by graduates of these institutions of higher learning. The words “institute of technology” or “polytechnic institute” may appear in the names of technical institutions.

Career colleges

Similar to a traditional college or university setting, career colleges offer the same hands-on training as other trade schools, but instead of concentrating on one field or area of study, they may offer programs in multiple trade industries on the same campus.

Career training centers

Before committing to a post-secondary institution, people can test out career paths or practice skills at career training centers, which offer individualized classes and year-round instruction. Credit transfer programs may be offered by some career training centers in collaboration with nearby trade schools.

Military vocational programs

The Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor work together to create military vocational programs. One of these programs may be used by military personnel who intend to transition to civilian life to acquire transferable skills. Each branch of the military has its own vocational program.

Community colleges

Depending on the courses they offer, community colleges—which are frequently regarded as separate entities—may qualify as trade schools. Community colleges may offer associate degree programs, certificates for career tracks, and diploma programs.

What is a trade school?

Postsecondary institutions known as trade schools educate students in technical subjects and prepare them for a range of careers. Trade schools, also referred to as vocational or technical schools, emphasize job-specific training and have few academic course requirements. Compared to other post-secondary institutions like community colleges or four-year universities, trade schools offer the shortest programs. Like other academic institutions, trade schools can be public or private, but many are for-profit enterprises.

People with different work histories and future career aspirations are welcome at trade schools. Qualified candidates for trade school may include:

You can obtain a diploma or a trade certificate by completing a program at a trade school. You could also obtain a two-year associate’s degree in your field, depending on the program.

With a trade school education, you could work in some of the following positions:

Benefits of choosing a trade school

Depending on your needs and career goals, attending a trade school instead of another type of post-secondary institution may be advantageous. Some benefits of attending trade school include:

Short programs of study

Depending on your field of study, trade school programs can range in length, but the majority can be completed in eight months to two years. The shorter the program, the quicker you can advance in your career and gain work experience.

Lower costs

Even most community colleges and four-year institutions can be less expensive than trade schools. Options for financial aid are available for trade schools. You can find out how much money you can get and what kinds of government financial aid you can use by completing the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. Other financial aid options may include federal and private loans, which you must repay, frequently with interest, as well as scholarships and grants that you must repay.

Relaxed admissions requirements

The majority of trade schools allow open enrollment, so you can submit an application at any time. Although you might have to wait to begin your program, it will only be until the start of the following cycle, unlike other institutions with fixed semesters. Compared to other institutions, trade schools typically have more lenient admissions policies. Some may not have specific GPA or standardized test score requirements. This makes it simpler for anyone, regardless of previous education or background, to learn a trade.

Flexible instruction

Trade schools may provide flexible learning options, such as virtual or distance learning or a hybrid option of in-person and online coursework, depending on your program. Some fields make this impossible due to the need for hands-on training to acquire the necessary physical skills. However, trades in technology fields may provide this option.

Learning practical skills

The type of education you receive at a trade school is among its biggest advantages. Instead of studying abstract concepts in trade schools, students learn by performing tasks and working through processes. You will gain knowledge that you can immediately put to use in the jobs you want to do.

Job placement

You can transition quickly from training to a paying job thanks to the foundation of skills you develop in trade school. Trades have clear job descriptions and requirements for the skills needed to perform them. These kinds of listings support the development of trade school programs and make it simpler to understand what jobs you can pursue after graduation.

Common trade school requirements

Depending on state and federal laws, as well as various study programs, different trade schools may have different admissions requirements. Some basic requirements for attending trade school include:

Researching schools and programs

Investigating trade schools in your neighborhood or in a location where you want to relocate and work may be beneficial. By reading evaluations of the school as a whole and its offerings, you can determine the reputation of the institution. You can also ask questions of the school’s former students or present instructors. You can use this research to choose the school or program that best fits your objectives and interests.

Meeting the age and education requirements

The typical minimum age to enroll in a trade school is 16 years old. Some programs may require potential students to be 17. The minimum age requirement for high school and trade school partnership programs may be 14 to accommodate any advanced juniors or seniors.

The majority of trade schools also demand completion of a recognized home schooling program, a GED or an educational equivalency certificate. They waive this requirement for high school to trade school partnership programs because students are attempting to earn both credentials at the same time. However, some situations allow people without a high school diploma and who are not enrolled in a partnership program to still attend.

In 2014, the U. S. Changes to federal laws were announced by the Department of Education, enabling qualified individuals without a high school diploma or GED to enroll in trade schools and qualify for financial aid through the Alternative Career Pathway Program (ACPP). Students must demonstrate their proficiency by passing a basic skills test that has been approved by the federal government or by enrolling in and paying for six course credits through an ACPP to be eligible. While learning a trade, other schools offer program tracks that assist students without a high school diploma or equivalency certificate in getting ready for their GED.

Completing the application process

Numerous institutions accept applications both electronically and on paper, and some may also request supporting materials like transcripts or copies of certificates and diplomas. Before granting admission, some schools may also request that you take a campus tour or meet with an admissions counselor to talk more about your objectives, ideal schedule, or financial needs.

For some programs, your proficiency in reading, writing, and math may be measured by your results on standardized tests. Schools may use these results to admit you or to assist you in selecting the program track that is most appropriate for you. In other circumstances, schools might demand that incoming pupils have prior relevant experience or training in their field. For those pursuing advanced certifications, such as nurses or medical assistants, this is more typical.

Other programs might call for you to finish an apprenticeship prior to, during, or after your academic career. Before enrolling in a full program, some institutions may offer pre-apprenticeship programs to give you a taste of a particular trade and help you gain the skills you’ll need to work there. Depending on the profession you want to pursue, an apprenticeship can last anywhere from one to six years.


Do you need education to trade?

A high school diploma or an equivalent, such as the GED or HiSET exams, is typically required for entry-level positions in the Trades and Careers. By enrolling in a vocational high school or taking vocational courses, you may be able to jumpstart your career.

What is a good trade to learn?

Elevator mechanic, electric lineman, millwright, boilermaker, and construction inspector are some of the easiest trades to learn because you can learn your skills through apprenticeships and on-the-job training and don’t need a degree. Learning a trade also depends on the person’s skills.

How do you get a trade?

Here are some steps you may take to enter into a trade:
  1. Complete high school. A high school diploma or GED is the minimal educational requirement for the majority of trade jobs.
  2. Pick a trade. …
  3. Select an educational program. …
  4. Obtain an apprenticeship. …
  5. Get licensed. …
  6. Become a journeyman.

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