If you have decided that college isn’t for you, then trade schools are something worth considering. Finding a trade school near you is important since most do not offer on-campus housing like a traditional college.
Fortunately, you are likely to find a trade school near your current location for most types of trades. These schools are growing in demand, and give people great job prospects after receiving your certificate of completion.
Finding a trade school is a little different than identifying the best 4-year colleges. That’s because most trade schools don’t offer on-campus living, and therefore, location is more important to most applicants. The good news is that many great trade schools can be found within driving distance of most people homes.
The first step in finding a trade school should start right here by searching for those that are in your area. We recommend searching first by State to make sure you don’t miss any schools. From there you can narrow the search down to more specific locations.
Most trade schools are reputable, but as with all businesses, some are not, so you want to be on the look-out. Being a part of our list is the first step in ensuring a school is legitimate, but there are the other things you should consider before committing.
Also, try to understand the average debt and ability to pay that debt back based on projected future earnings. This can be a good indicator of whether the school is a good investment. Look at the details of a particular school on our site and you will find the average annual salary ten years post-graduation. That’s a good data point to see if a degree is worth the cost.
Programs – Your first job is to determine if the school has the right program. There are lots of options out there in the popular trades, so make sure to shop around. Not all schools programs are created equal, and you want to know what you’re getting. This is a job that’s easier to do if you have access to people already working in the industry. Talk to as many people as you can that do the job you want to do, and see what trade schools they attended.
Completion Rate – This is a great metric to help you understand the quality of attendees and the school itself. Trade schools with high completion rates typically have high performing students and have excellent instructors. Make sure you have first validated the school is well respected in the industry. If not, the program might just be cranking out certificates but not holding students to any standards of quality. Industries in which those trade schools operate are quick to sniff out those operations.
Job Placement – If the completion rate is high, along with job placement, you can start to feel confident. Again, don’t necessarily take the schools word for it. Do your best to find actual graduates or current attendees who can tell you their experience with finding jobs. After all, this is one of the most critical factors in your ability to get payback on the investment you make.
Salary Levels – How much you will earn is another large piece of the payback equation. As you talk with recent graduates, try to get a feel for what their earnings potential is, and if they have had any trouble paying student loans or other debts incurred for school.
Facilities – You need to take a tour of the trade school facilities to evaluate its quality. Most of these trade schools are privately run, and the level of investment in facilities can vary greatly. Pay special attention to the quality of equipment, and any other tools applicable to the trade. Take pictures if necessary and talk to people already in the trade to evaluate if the school has up to date equipment.
Also, pay attention to classrooms and any other facility related quality issues. Ideally, you will see modern facilities with a decent amount of investment put into them.
Staff/Instructors – The best way to get an idea of instructor quality is to sit in on some classes you will be attending. Couple that with an understanding of the instructor’s credentials, and you should have a good idea of quality. If you can, speak directly with other students and get an idea of how satisfied they are with the instructors.
Direct Student Feedback – Not only do you want feedback on instructors but the overall experience. Talk to as many current and former students as possible. Current students can give you a good idea of the overall vibe and quality of the program. Former students are critical for understanding the level of success you might achieve after graduation. If both groups have positive things to say, that’s a significant credit to the trade school.
Location – Be smart about the location and don’t over commit to a long commute. Having too far a distance to travel can result in missed classes and overall difficulty completing school. If the perfect school has been identified but is a long distance away, consider relocating for the short-term while you attend. It can be well worth it if that means you successfully get through school without the stress of long commutes every day.
If eliminating commutes is not possible, which is sometimes the reality, be realistic about the commitment. People commute long distances every day for work and school but go in with the knowledge of the commitment you will need.
Cost– While trade schools are typically a more economical choice, you do need to look at the overall cost of attendance. Make sure you understand the frequency of payments and any fees that might apply above standard tuition. This includes books, equipment, uniforms, and any other miscellaneous costs.
The costs of trade school vary dramatically between the types and location of the school. For instance, the price of a beauty school can run between $5,000 and $20,000, and that’s all within one trade.
That is why it’s critical for you to understand what your likely earnings potential is after getting a certificate. If you are going to a top school that gives you excellent earnings potential, it may be worth the extra cost. On the other hand, if there is little difference in earnings regardless of the school, then it might be more sensible to go with the lower cost school.
Applying for traded school is typically much easier than for a traditional college. Often you will only need to fill out an online application, and submit that with other supporting documentation.
Depending on the trade school, various levels of education may be required to apply. Specialized schools may require an associate’s degree or other types of previous schooling. Most trade school will consider applicants if they have a high school degree.
After applying, you may be required to take an initial exam to test essential skills. Again, this depends entirely on the school and may be more difficult for more specialized schools.
You should always take time to consider all your options. Often, traditional and community colleges will have similar programs to trade schools. This gives you flexibility and more places to search for the schooling you want.
Looking for apprenticeships is also a good option for someone looking at trade school. Many of the trades have great apprenticeship programs where you can learn while on the job. This gives the added benefit of putting some money in the bank while you learn.
There are a lot of things to think through before you attend a trade school. First and foremost, make sure you genuinely have a passion for that type of work. These schools will give you specific skillsets, and once you have a certificate, your opportunities will be focused in that area.
Once you decide what type of trade school is best, finding a trade school nearby is typically best since most do not offer on-campus living situations. Make sure you visit whichever trade school you are planning to attend and make sure you are comfortable with its facilities, staff, and other things we’ve discussed here.
Lastly, do your best to find people who’ve attended the trade school. There’s no better data point to rely on than actual people’s experience. Find those who are currently attending, as well as those who’ve already graduated. Get a sense of their happiness, and success after attending the trade school.
If you do your homework, and truly enjoy the trade, you have a high likelihood of finding an excellent trade school, and beginning your journey to a new career.