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Best Online Vocational & Trade Schools

Vocational Career Comparison: Salaries & Job Growth

Many vocational career fields are experiencing significant career growth and increasing demand. The table below details the salary and projected job gains for six popular vocational occupations. Job growth is higher than the national average for each, with some significantly above the average rate.

Occupation National Job Growth (2014-2024) National Median Annual Salary (May 2014)
Medical Billing and Coding Technician 15% $35,900
Paralegal 8% $48,350
Physical Therapy Assistant 41% $54,410
Pharmacy Technician 9% $29,810
Ultrasound Technician 24% $54,330
Veterinary Technician 19% $31,070
EXPLORE ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAMS TO BECOME A PHYSCOLOGIST search programs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Guide to Online Vocational and Trade Schools

There is increasing demand for qualified workers to fill middle-skill jobs, jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree for employment. In fact, the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projects that by 2020 more than 30 percent of all jobs in the United States will require some form of vocational training, with 5 million requiring a postsecondary vocational certificate. Learn more about online vocational and trade schools, the training and degree options, and the benefits of completing a technical education program.

Best Online Vocational & Trade Schools: 2016-2017

Enrolling in a vocational or trade schools is a great step towards entering or advancing a career in a specialized field, whether a student is interested in beauty cosmetology, occupational therapy, or another area of study. A quality program will be accredited, affordable, and able to provide the necessary information to help students excel in their chosen field. Taking into consideration factors like cost, program count and class size, we’ve identified the leading vocational and trade schools for the 2016-2017 school year to help students find the best-fitting school for them. Learn more about these top notch schools below.

rankschool-nameScoreTuition & FeesFinancial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
1East Mississippi Community College99.8378% 3 12:1 27%

Students can choose from over 30 career-oriented programs at East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) through the Career-Technical Division, which may lead to either a certificate or an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. The curriculum will vary, depending on the program chosen, but an AAS degree program at EMCC typically consists of electives, academic classes and courses specific to the occupation, providing a mix of lab, lecture and hands-on experience. Technical and vocational certificates are offered through stand-alone programs, or by completing part of an AAS degree program. Examples of programs offered are cosmetology, nursing, welding and funeral service. EMCC also offers online courses, through EMCC’s eLearning Department.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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2San Juan College99.1428% 7 20:1 13%

San Juan College (SJC) offers over 119 degree programs, including several certificate and Associate in Applied Science degree vocational programs, such as drafting, cosmetology and fire science. These programs take about one to two years to complete, with day, night and part-time options available. SJC also offers online programs in occupational safety, health information technology, medical coding and billing, veterinary technology and physical therapy assistant. SJC students have access to other online programs through Sun Path, a consortium of New Mexico public colleges. Although SJC is a two-year college, students can also earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees on-campus through several partnered state universities.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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3Hutchinson Community College99.1059% 5 15:1 29%

Hutchinson Community College (HCC) is a two-year college with over 75 majors and 250 online courses. HCC also offers several completely online degree and certificate programs, such as criminal justice, health information management, pharmacy technician and paralegal. These online programs are designed to provide flexibility, taking into account a student’s needs and obligations. Some online programs offer both a certificate or associate degree option, with a curriculum consisting of specific career-oriented courses and electives, plus general education requirements for associate degrees. In addition to online degrees, HCC has a wide variety of on-campus degree programs, with online course options.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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4New Mexico Junior College98.9734% 4 18:1 18%

New Mexico Junior College (NMJC) has several online educational opportunities, including certificate and associate degree programs, hybrid courses, and individual online courses, for those wishing to take general education or pre-requisites online. NMJC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer these programs, and degree plans offered by the school are typically AA or AS degrees, although some AAS degree plans are available. The Criminal Justice program is an example of a completely online degree offered by NMJC. This is a full-time program, taking about two years to complete. The curriculum contains a mix of general education, department specific credits, and electives in the student’s area of interest.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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5Tulsa Community College98.7039% 5 17:1 14%

Tulsa Community College (TCC), the largest community college in Oklahoma, offers a wide variety of career-oriented certificate and degree programs, including online options. Some of the online programs offered at TCC include accounting, marketing, information technology and hospitality management. For students needing more face time with instructors, blended courses are available, which combine online coursework with campus visits. TCC has articulation agreements with several four-year Oklahoma universities, and many of the online degree programs are considered eligible for transfer. Online students stay connected through Blackboard, the online course management system, and can get technical help through Call2000, TCC’s help desk and IT support system.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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6Crowder College98.3018% 8 15:1 22%

Crowder College Career Institute (CCCI) is a two-year community college with several career-focused certificate and degree programs through various divisions, which include Career and Technical, Business and Allied Health. Certificate programs typically take a year to complete, and associate degrees take about two years, due to general education requirements. Students have the option of on-campus, hybrid and online courses, and several completely online associate degrees are also available. Automotive, accounting, drafting and nursing are a few examples of programs offered at CCCI. Less traditional options include energy efficient building and solar and wind power, offered through the MARET Center, Missouri’s designated renewable energy education center.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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7Barton County Community College98.1671% 5 25:1 30%

Barton Community College offers several online educational opportunities through BARTonline, the college’s virtual campus. In addition to general education and college transfer programs, BARTonline has several online career programs in areas such as business, computers, education, health professions and public safety, corrections and security. Depending on a student’s career goals, certificates and associate degrees are available. Online programs provide access to courses when convenient for the student, with a weekly schedule of assignments to follow. Some programs require students to obtain internships, field experience or clinical time to fulfill degree requirements and to provide real world experience prior to graduation.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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8Metropolitan Community College98.0720% 6 14:1 12%

Metropolitan Community College (MCC) is the largest public higher learning institution in Kansas City, with five campuses and over 130 degree and certificate programs, including vocational certificate and degree programs. These programs take between one and two years to complete, with full-time and part-time options. In addition to on-campus classes, MCC has several alternative educational opportunities, such as online and hybrid courses. Online courses are structured similarly to other classes, with assignments due weekly. Students may take part in streaming online lectures via the internet or television. Students can obtain pre-requisite, general education and degree specific courses required for a certificate or associate degree online.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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9Seward County Community College and Area Technical School97.7976% 3 15:1 32%

Seward County Community College (SCCC) has several online degree options offered through Edukan, a collaborative effort between six western Kansas community colleges that allows SCCC students to earn Associate in Science (AS) degrees through any of the colleges in the group. SCCC also has online degree plans for applied science degrees, which allow students in two-year vocational degree programs to take several required classes online, along with earning their required practicum or internship hours. For example, several medical, computer information technology and criminal justice degree courses are available online that will count towards an AAS degree, and may be transferable to a four-year college.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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10State Fair Community College97.7714% 12 17:1 21%

State Fair Community College (SFCC) has over 260 online courses, along with a few completely online degree and certificate programs. In addition to AA degrees, students can earn online career-focused professional certificates or AAS degrees, which prepare students for employment upon graduation. Examples include certificate and degree programs in medical assisting and a business management degree program. SFCC also has several career-oriented programs in hybrid format, allowing students to experience face-to-face classroom time with the flexibility of online courses. Air Force personnel can complete their Community College of the Air Force general education degree requirements online through SFCC’s General Education Mobile (GEM) program.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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11Southwest Virginia Community College97.2958% 5 24:1 32%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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12Panola College97.2224% 4 18:1 20%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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13Pamlico Community College97.1311% 4 9:1 67%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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14Sinclair College96.8128% 3 15:1 17%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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15Cincinnati State Technical and Community College96.4511% 5 15:1 16%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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16Western Nebraska Community College96.2460% 2 15:1 23%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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17Central Texas College95.9213% 4 18:1 14%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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18Madisonville Community College95.5122% 3 14:1 30%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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19Central Georgia Technical College95.30N/A 7 15:1 31%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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20Atlanta Technical College95.1433% 3 16:1 24%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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21Three Rivers Community College94.9917% 8 24:1 17%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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22Gateway Community and Technical College94.859% 4 12:1 34%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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23Grayson College94.5020% 2 18:1 19%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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24Fayetteville Technical Community College94.401% 4 20:1 7%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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25North Dakota State College of Science94.2531% 3 12:1 47%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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26Itawamba Community College94.2052% 1 19:1 26%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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27Bluegrass Community and Technical College93.952% 4 16:1 18%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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28Spokane Community College93.9314% 3 17:1 26%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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29Kansas City Kansas Community College93.9222% 1 13:1 20%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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30Great Falls College Montana State University93.9011% 3 18:1 17%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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31Georgia Piedmont Technical College93.78N/A 7 17:1 20%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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32Pitt Community College93.7811% 2 17:1 13%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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33Moraine Park Technical College93.6914% 3 15:1 35%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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34Cowley County Community College93.5544% 2 23:1 29%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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35Holmes Community College93.4837% 1 18:1 25%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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36Northwest Mississippi Community College93.1226% 1 23:1 18%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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37Ozarks Technical Community College93.024% 4 23:1 20%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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38Tyler Junior College93.0217% 2 21:1 15%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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39Edgecombe Community College92.948% 3 26:1 12%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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40Navarro College92.8926% 2 17:1 16%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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41Central Piedmont Community College92.803% 2 19:1 12%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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42Shoreline Community College92.7319% 2 17:1 26%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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43Northeast Iowa Community College-Calmar92.4212% 3 14:1 29%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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44Surry Community College92.3911% 1 17:1 24%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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45Tallahassee Community College92.1813% 1 24:1 33%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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46Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas92.0916% 1 16:1 22%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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47East Arkansas Community College92.0615% 1 16:1 12%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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48Oconee Fall Line Technical College92.01N/A 3 11:1 37%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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49Indian Hills Community College92.007% 2 17:1 21%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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50Volunteer State Community College91.8310% 2 21:1 16%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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rankschool-nameScoreTuition & FeesFinancial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
1Washburn University99.7958% 5 14:1 34%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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2University of Southern Mississippi99.0874% 3 17:1 50%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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3Siena Heights University98.5199% 21 11:1 43%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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4Weber State University97.8250% 7 21:1 45%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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5Fort Hays State University96.9972% 2 17:1 41%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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6Western Carolina University96.2167% 2 16:1 48%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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7University of Mississippi95.9061% 2 18:1 60%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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8St Petersburg College95.2423% 6 22:1 N/A
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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9Florida International University95.0648% 3 26:1 49%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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10Indiana State University95.0475% 3 20:1 43%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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11East Carolina University94.7750% 2 18:1 58%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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12Northern Arizona University94.5766% 2 18:1 49%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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13Southern Polytechnic State University94.191% 4 21:1 37%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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14North Carolina Central University94.1681% 1 15:1 43%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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15Western Kentucky University93.8937% 3 18:1 50%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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16Tiffin University93.5992% 2 18:1 33%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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17Northern State University93.4067% 3 18:1 46%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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18Hodges University93.3837% 4 15:1 18%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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19Utah Valley University93.0633% 2 22:1 17%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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20Liberty University92.8578% 3 18:1 46%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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21Oregon Institute of Technology92.7363% 2 19:1 48%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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22Hampton University92.3947% 3 9:1 59%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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23University of Massachusetts-Lowell92.0759% 3 18:1 54%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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24Oklahoma State University-Main Campus92.0173% 1 20:1 62%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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25The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio91.83N/A 2 7:1 N/A
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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26SUNY College of Technology at Canton91.6516% 2 17:1 32%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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27College of Southern Nevada91.5920% 2 24:1 N/A
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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28Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology91.5087% 2 15:1 57%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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29University of Michigan-Ann Arbor91.3747% 2 12:1 91%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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30University of North Dakota91.2430% 4 19:1 52%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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31Old Dominion University91.1841% 2 20:1 49%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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32California State University-East Bay91.1252% 2 27:1 41%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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33Wichita State University90.6065% 1 18:1 41%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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34Morehead State University90.5870% 1 18:1 43%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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35Ferris State University90.5063% 1 16:1 53%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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36University of Massachusetts-Amherst89.9560% 1 17:1 70%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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37University of North Carolina at Charlotte89.8734% 1 19:1 53%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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38Clarion University of Pennsylvania89.8211% 2 19:1 48%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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39South Dakota State University89.7753% 1 17:1 56%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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40William Woods University89.69100% 1 10:1 49%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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41Central Washington University89.6771% 1 19:1 53%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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42University of Louisiana at Monroe89.5356% 1 21:1 37%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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43Clarkson College89.2559% 1 11:1 N/A
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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44University of Cincinnati-Main Campus89.1854% 1 18:1 62%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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45Clayton State University89.188% 1 18:1 28%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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46The University of Alabama89.0853% 1 21:1 67%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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47Pennsylvania College of Technology88.869% 2 18:1 40%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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48Granite State College88.67N/A 1 12:1 50%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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49East Tennessee State University88.2615% 1 18:1 41%
  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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50Virginia Commonwealth University88.1241% 1 17:1 56%
  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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Find Online Vocational and Trade Schools

Students interested in career and technical education have a variety of academic choices, from trade schools to community colleges. Finding the right school is the first step in preparing for a vocational career field. Prospective students can use the search tool below to find and review online vocational and trade schools to locate a program of study that fits their academic and professional needs.

Tuition:
Student Population:
School Type:

Expert’s Guide to Online Trade Schools

  • Did You Know
  • 42 percent of Americans work in middle-skill jobs

  • The unemployment rate for those with a two-year occupational degree is only about 4 percent

The top-6 careers in projected growth % (2014-2024) can all be entered through vocational training

  • Wind Turbine Service Technicians 108% 4.8K New Jobs
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants 43% 14.1K New Jobs
  • Physical Therapist Assistants 41% 31.9K New Jobs
  • Physical Therapist Aides 39% 19.5K New Jobs
  • Home Health Aides 38%348.4K New Jobs
  • Commercial Divers 37%1.6K New Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, National Education Association

Vocational Training FAQs

What exactly is vocational training?

Vocational training, known as Career and Technical Education (CTE), is a form of instruction that prepares students for work in a specific career field that does not require a bachelor’s degree for employment. CTE programs focus on professional skill development and technical knowledge over academic learning.

Where is vocational training offered?

Career and technical education is traditionally provided by career schools, also known as technical or trade schools, as well as community and junior colleges. The programs of study are career-specific and can typically be completed in two years or less. Below is an overview of where prospective students can take vocational classes or earn vocational credentials.

Community Colleges

Community colleges serve the non-traditional student through both academic and vocational training programs in fields ranging from health care to construction.

Technical/Career Schools

Career schools offer a variety of vocational training that result in certificates, diplomas and—in some cases—formal degrees.

Four-Year Universities

Private and public four-year universities typically offer vocational training in the form of professional development courses and certificate programs of study.

Adult Workforce Centers

Adult workforce centers are operated by local counties or cities, providing vocational training programs for in-demand jobs in the area.

Regional Training Centers

Formed by partnerships between local government and higher education institutions, regional training centers offer a selection of vocational programs.

Industry Associations

Industry associations, such as the Independent Electrical Contractors, offer apprenticeships and industry-specific vocational training.

Job Corps

Job Corps is a federal training program that provides free vocational training to students between the ages of 16 and 24.

Military Training Programs

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor have partnered to create a variety of vocational training programs that are specific to each branch of the military.

How do vocational schools compare to traditional universities?

Both traditional universities and vocational schools offer students a variety of educational programs. The major difference is the type of training provided. While traditional universities focus on a broader, theoretical academics, the training at vocational schools is skill-based and designed around a specific vocation or professional field.

Online vs. Campus Vocational Training

Whether in automotive repair, heating and air conditioning, or home health care, students in these programs develop specialized skill sets tailored to those fields of work. In an effort to provide their students greater flexibility and choice of study, many career schools have begun to launch both fully-online and partially-online programs. Although similar in curriculum, online and campus-based programs have significant differences. Below is an overview of the learning experience at online vocational and trade schools.

What tools and technologies can online students expect to use?

Although specific tools vary by program, online programs require students to have a computer, steady Internet connection and up-to-date office and web browser software. Below is a list of four other common forms of online learning technologies used in vocational programs.

Online learning management system

Learning management systems are online platforms where students access their course materials, submit assignments, and participate in class activities.

Turnitin

Turnitin is an online plagiarism detection service where students submit their papers, which are reviewed against a database of web pages that check for plagiarism.

Web conferencing

Web conferencing provides for online collaboration and allows students to communicate with each other, host meetings, and connect with instructors.

Discussion boards

Online discussion boards are used to foster student interaction, allowing them to respond to each other’s work and hold discussions about course materials.

How are hands-on training and clinical experiences integrated into online programs?

Virtual learning environments at online vocational and trade schools are complemented with practical, in-person education experiences. Although it varies by the program of study, hands-on training typically takes two forms: local practicums/externships and local learning intensives.

Students are traditionally required to receive approval for a local preceptor and site placement for their area of study, allowing them to complete their professional training in their local region. In learning intensives, students attend campus for in-person classes specific to their area of study. These may last from one day to several weeks. For example, students in an online pharmacy technician program may receive training through the school’s partnership with a local pharmacy, while a student in an online veterinary technician program may have to find their own local animal clinic to complete an externship.

Am I a good candidate for online vocational training?

There are numerous factors to consider when thinking about enrolling in a vocational program. Is it the right career field? Does my learning style work with online classes? Below is a list of five items to decide if online vocational training is the right for you.

  • You want to enter the workforce more quickly
  • You want to spend less on your postsecondary education
  • You want specialized training for a specific career field
  • You want practical, hands-on instruction
  • You want flexibility in class scheduling, pace of instruction, and location

Types of Online Vocational Training Programs

Vocational training programs vary from certificate programs that last a few weeks to multi-year, comprehensive associate degrees. Below is an overview of the major types of training available at the vocational level.

Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship is a form of training that partners a student with a licensed, supervising professional in a trade. Apprentices complete both formal on-the-job training and classroom-based instruction to learn their trade and earn a license in their field of work. These fields of work are usually regulated professions (e.g. plumbing, electricians). Although the time varies by profession, apprenticeships generally last between two and six years. For example, electrician apprentices traditionally complete five years and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training before qualifying to sit for their state’s licensing examination.

Certification/Licensure Prep

Certification/licensure programs can be completed in a few weeks to several months. Curriculum is concentrated around areas of study (e.g. computer programming, accounting, nursing, etc.) and include classes that develop specific skills and/or prepare students to sit for licensing/certification examinations.

Diploma/Certificate

Vocational diplomas and certificates are short-term programs of study that prepare an individual to work in a specific field, such as cosmetology, C++ programming, or auto repair. Depending on the academic concentration, programs can last from as little as a few weeks to 18 months or longer. Students can use the diplomas and certificates as an educational ladder to an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Associate Degree

Associate degrees are offered by technical/trade schools and community colleges. In general, there are two types of associate programs: applied science and academic transfer. Applied science fields allow students to specialize their studies in a vocational area, such as HVAC. Academic transfer degrees (Associate of Arts/Associate of Science) provide a more general education that is designed to serve as a transitional step to completing a four-year degree. Associate degrees traditionally require two years of study to complete.

Identifying Quality Online Trade Schools

Making an informed decision about which online vocational and trade school to attend is paramount for future career success. Below is a list of several factors to consider prior to enrolling in a vocational training program.

  • Is the school accredited?

    Attending an accredited program is important as many vocational careers are licensed at the state level and require graduation from an accredited school.

  • Is the program licensed and approved?

    States regulate technical and career training programs and may require the school to hold a state license to operate legally in the state.

  • Is the curriculum career focused?

    Online curriculum should offer career-specific, technical training in a similar fashion to their campus-based counterparts.

  • Does the program offer student support?

    Online students should have the same access to career services, financial aid, and academic support as campus-based vocational students.

  • Are the faculty experienced and qualified?

    Online instructors should be qualified in their field of study and have professional, industry experience.

Program Focus: OTA Associate Degree

Occupational therapy assistant programs (OTA), including online/hybrid programs, are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. The curriculum of OTA programs is generally divided into online classes, in-person laboratory sessions, and immersive learning fieldwork experiences. The fieldwork courses provide students with real-world practice in different healthcare settings, working with patients facing an array of issues, from physical disabilities to psychosocial problems.

Students traditionally complete between 60 and 66 credit hours of study to earn their associate degree, which requires approximately 18 to 24 months to complete. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the national certification examination from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Common Courses

OTA programs expose students to both general education coursework and specialized curriculum specific to the occupational therapy practice. Topics range from human anatomy and physiology to movement in human performance. Below is a sample list of courses commonly offered in occupational therapy assistant degree programs.

  • Occupational Therapy Foundations

    In this course, students are introduced to the occupational therapy profession, including its history, ethics, and underlying philosophy. Students gain an understanding of therapeutic intervention across the lifespan.

  • Therapeutic
    Processes

    This class teaches students about strategies used to promote a client’s adaptation to disability, including assessing a patient’s daily living skills physically, cognitively, and physiologically.

  • Adaptive
    Technologies

    Through this class, students learn about the use computers and technology used in occupational therapy settings, including adaptive equipment, orthotics, cognitive rehabilitation software, and environmental control systems.

Steps for Success

To become successful, OTA students need to not only develop personal traits and professional skills required by the field, but also learn how to leverage and employ those traits and skills when working with clients in different healthcare settings. Here are five ways students can succeed in their OTA programs.

Develop good communication skills.

Students should work on their communication skills, developing an ability to speak clearly and authoritatively to patients and their families.

Exhibit professional behavior.

Students should demonstrate professional behavior by showing up to school and clinical practicums on time, communicating in a professional manner, and completing assignments in a timely manner.

Build an organized schedule.

Students should develop an organized patient schedule, have a way to contact patients, understand their patient’s treatment needs, and develop a system to take regular notes.

Be an active participant.

Students should be an engaged participant in their own learning process, researching treatment interventions on their own, leveraging program resources, and asking questions of their instructors.

Take an individualized approach.

Each patient is different and students should consider the physical, emotional, and social context of each patient when conducting assessments and treatment approaches.

Popular Online Vocational Programs

Online learning is well-suited to vocational fields of study because it provides working professionals greater flexibility in their scheduling, seamlessly integrates experiential learning, and allows students the opportunity to study at their own pace. Through specific skill building instruction, vocational programs prepare students for direct entry into a career field. Below is a list of some of the most popular online vocational programs available today.

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Medical Billing and Coding Technician

Online medical billing and coding schools provide students with an understanding of the fundamentals of the main coding manuals, including ICD-10 and HCPCS, and CPT, preparing them to work in hospitals, medical offices and insurance organizations.

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Paralegal

Online paralegal training programs offer comprehensive curriculum that prepares graduates to work in a variety of legal settings, from contract law to criminal law. Topics of study include legal research and writing, ethics, law office etiquette, pleadings and discovery, and legal technology.

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Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistant programs blend coursework in the fundamentals of physical treatment techniques, along with hands-on clinical instruction in physical therapy interventions. Coursework ranges from kinesiology to rehabilitative motion and prepares students to sit for their state licensing examination after graduation.

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Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technician training programs prepare graduates for careers as pharmacy technicians or clerks. Curriculum covers the fundamentals of pharmacy operations, such as preparing and dispensing medication to patients. Graduates are qualified to take national certifications, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination.

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Ultrasound Technician

Ultrasound technician programs combine classroom-based instruction in sonographic principles and anatomy and physiology along with a clinical externship. Students learn how to create diagnostic images and record diagnostic data, preparing for examinations from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

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Veterinary Technician

Online veterinary technician programs help students develop a diverse range of skills required to practice in a range of animal health settings, from working with livestock to assisting veterinarians in a private clinic. Curriculum broadly covers topics such as radiology, anesthesia, animal health, laboratory examinations, and dentistry.

Vocational & Trade School Online Resources

A wealth of resources, ranging from career databases to academic program profiles—are available to students interested in vocational and trade school training. Examples include:

  • Association for Career and Technical Education

    The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACET) is a national education association that supports career education through legislative action, advocacy for funding for CTE programs, and professional development activities for CTE educators.

    CareerOneStop

    An effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop is an online career resource that includes vocational career profiles, educational and career planning tools, as well as a searchable database of vocational training programs throughout the country.

    Employment and Training Administration

    The Employment and Training Administration is an office of the U.S. Department of Labor and provides a list of state-based websites with apprenticeship information, which can be used by vocational students looking for local vocational and apprenticeship opportunities.

  • National Career Development Association

    The National Career Development Association offers professional development resources, including online employment networks, salary databases, self-assessment tests, career boards, and other tools—such as academic program information—that can help vocational students find the right training program in their area.

    The Job Corps

    Administered by the US Department of Labor, Jobs Corps is the country’s largest provider of technical and career education program to students between the ages of 16 and 24. Students gain vocational skills through a combination of classroom- and practical-based instruction.