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Top 50 Affordable Online Trade Schools

Great Value Colleges - Most Affordable

Postsecondary education is important for career success, especially if you want to earn a decent living. A four-year university is an option, but for many college hopefuls, these programs present considerable financial burdens, not to mention the hefty time investment required for a bachelor’s credential. Fortunately for them, there are other alternatives, including affordable trade schools.

Students interested in convenient job training should consider the increasing number of degree programs and career certification options offered by online trade schools. These programs give individuals the opportunity to build the skills and experience they need to enter a variety of different fields and industries without leaving the comfort of their homes. In this ranking, we explore the top 50 online affordable trade schools.

Rating and Ranking Methodology

Net Price

  • Net Price Below $5,000: 6 points
  • Net Price Below $6,000: 5 points
  • Net Price Below $7,000: 4 points
  • Net Price Below $8,000: 3 points
  • Net Price Below $9,000:  2 points
  • Net Price Below $10,000: 1 point

Early Career Pay

  • Above $47,500: 6 points
  • Above $45,000: 5 points
  • Above $42,500: 4 points
  • Above $40,000: 3 points
  • Above $37,500: 2 points
  • Above $35,000: 1 point

National Recognition as a Top Community College (by Niche)

  • Top 50 Ranking: 4 points
  • Top 100 Ranking: 3 points
  • Top 150 Ranking: 2 points
  • Top 200+ Ranking: 1 point

Ranking the Top 50 Most Affordable Trade Schools Online

To develop this ranking of the 50 most affordable online trade schools, our editors began with an initial pool of 67 trade school programs offering vocational plans of study online. Each of these schools boasted a net price of less than $10,000. We then collected data from various sources, including the National Center for Education Statistics, Niche, and PayScale. Finally, we applied the rating and ranking methodology. In the case of a tie, the more affordable trade school received the higher ranking.

#50 –Riverland Community College

Austin, Minnesota

Website

Early Career Pay: $40,400

Points: 5

Part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Riverland Community College serves its students through three distinct campus locations as well as a large distance learning program. Online options for students who wish to pursue vocational-technical school programs include certificate and degree programs in Web Page Design, Supervisory Management, Social Media Marketing, and Computer Applications, for instance. Riverland Community College is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to offer these online credentials. Niche has recognized the school as one of the best community colleges nationwide.

Net Price: $9,472

#49 –Technical College of the Lowcountry

Beaufort, South Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $40,100

Points: 5

One of the older two-year public schools in our ranking, Technical College of the Lowcountry was first established in 1868. Today, the school serves over 2,000 students per year and offers degree and certificate programs in more than a dozen fields of study. Available trade school programs include certification plans in Aviation Structural Mechanics, Civil Design, HVAC, and Plumbing. Students can also choose from over 100 online courses as well as a dozen certificate and degree programs offered entirely via distance education. TCL is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $8,429

#48 –North Central Missouri College

Trenton, Missouri

Website

Early Career Pay: $41,200

Points: 5

Founded in 1925, North Central Missouri College is a small two-year community college and trade school serving just shy of 2,000 students per year. The school offers certificates, diplomas, and degrees in almost a dozen academic and vocational areas of study. Options include plans of study in Industrial Technology, Agriculture Operations Technology, and Applied Technology. All of the college’s general education courses are available in an online format, and some degree programs can also be completed virtually. North Central Missouri College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Net Price: $8,131

#47 –Jefferson Community and Technical College

Louisville, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $39,900

Points: 5

One of the larger affordable trade schools in our ranking, Jefferson Community and Technical College enrolls over 11,000 students annually. These students can choose from degree and certificate programs in over two dozen fields of study, and flexible scheduling options and online offerings are available. Those interested in vocational-technical school options can elect programs in Applied Process Technology, Heating and Air Conditioning Technology, Plumbing, and Welding Technology, for instance. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited JCTC to award a variety of professional and career credentials.

Net Price: $6,376

#46 –Hazard Community and Technical College

Hazard, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $35,200

Points: 5

One of the smaller members of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Hazard Community and Technical College enrolls just over 3,000 students per year. These students can choose from academic degrees and technical-vocational school certificates in 17 distinct fields of study. These options span subjects such as Automotive Technology, Surveying and Mapping Technology, Heavy Equipment Operations, and Manufacturing Engineering Technology, for example. Many of these programs are offered fully online. HCTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award these credentials on campus and online.

Net Price: $6,044

#45 –Maysville Community and Technical College

Maysville, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $32,600

Points: 5

Founded in 2004, Maysville Community and Technical College enrolls approximately 4,000 students annually. These students can choose to pursue associate degree and certificate programs in one of 13 different fields of study. Trade school programs include those in Fire Science Technology, Culinary Arts, Industrial Maintenance Technology, and Welding Technology. Online courses and programs are also available. MCTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award both academic degrees and professional certifications.

Net Price: $5,793

#44 –College of the Albemarle

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $34,600

Points: 5

Established in 1960, College of the Albemarle is part of the North Carolina Community College System. The school enrolls roughly 2,500 students per year and offers both associate degree programs and technical-vocational school certificates. These offerings span 15 different areas of study and include trade school programs like Marine Diesel Engine Repair, Agribusiness Technology, Aviation Systems Technology, and Computer Integrated Machining. Over a dozen fully online programs are also available. The school holds its institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $5,401

#43 –Lenoir Community College

Kinston, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $32,900

Points: 5

A two-year public school serving Lenoir, Greene, and Jones counties, Lenoir Community College offers academic degrees and vocational certificates in 15 broad fields of study. Examples of available trade school programs include those in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Computer-Integrated Machining, Welding Technology, and Automotive Systems Technology. Online and hybrid options are also available for maximum flexibility. LCC holds its institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.  

Net Price: $5,021

#42 –Colby Community College

Colby, Kansas

Website

Early Career Pay: $41,400

Points: 6

Established in 1964, Colby Community College is a small two-year public school serving just shy of 1,500 students per year. Program offerings include more than 50 different degree and certificate programs in seven broad fields of study. Available trade school programs include options in Wind Technology, Allied Health, Solar Photovoltaic, and Veterinary Office Assistance. Some online trade school programs are also available. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited CCC to offer associate degree programs as well as vocational certificates. It’s been ranked among the top community colleges in the nation by Niche.

Net Price: $8,815

#41 –Craven Community College

New Bern, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,200

Points: 6

First established in 1965, Craven Community College now serves over 3,000 students per year. The school has a robust distance learning program and offers a variety of technical-vocational school programs. Enrolled students can choose from almost two dozen areas of study, including Manufacturing Technology, Computer-Aided Drafting, Esthetics Technology, and Welding Technology, for example. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited the school to award these certificates and degrees. Niche has ranked Craven among some of the best community colleges in America.

Net Price: $7,809

#40 –Frank Phillips College

Borger, Texas

Website

Early Career Pay: $39,400

Points: 6

A small two-year public school, Frank Phillips College enrolls just under 1,500 students per year. Still, the school offers numerous degree and certificate programs in more than a dozen areas of study. Students interested in technical-vocational school offerings may consider programs in Basic Welding, Electronics, and Instrumentation Technology, for example. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has fully accredited Frank Phillips College to award these vocational credentials.

Net Price: $6,905

#39 –Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College

Bowling Green, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,900

Points: 6

A member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College was first established in 1939. Today, it is home to dozens of academic degrees and vocational certificates for students who want to advance their education and improve their employment opportunities. Many of these offerings can be pursued online through the Kentucky Virtual Campus (KYVC). SKYCTC is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Niche has called it one of the best community colleges in America.

Net Price: $6,435

#38 –Western Texas College

Snyder, Texas

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,800

Points: 6

Established in 1969, Western Texas College is now a comprehensive two-year community and technical school with a strong online presence. The school serves over 2,000 students annually, and these students can choose from associate degrees and certification options in twenty different fields of study. Trade school offerings include options in Welding, Electrical Lineman Technology, Petroleum Technology, and Turfgrass & Landscape Management. WTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $6,406

#37 –Georgia Piedmont Technical College

Clarkston, Georgia

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,000

Points: 6

Part of the Technical College System of Georgia, Georgia Piedmont Technical College is home to over 100 degree and certificate programs in 17 broad academic and vocational fields. Specific plans of study include those in Auto Maintenance, Computer System Design, Pipe Welding, and Air Conditioning Maintenance, for instance. Roughly half of the school’s offerings can be completed entirely online. GPTC holds its institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $6,259

#36 –Nashville State Community College

Nashville, Tennessee

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,900

Points: 6

With an enrollment of over 8,000 students each year, Nashville State Community College offers associate degree programs, transfer degrees, and technical certificates in more than a dozen areas of study. Trade school programs include options in 3-D Designs and Graphics, Mechatronics, Industrial Maintenance, Logistics, and Industrial Process Control Technology, for example. Online courses and programs are also available. Nashville State Community College is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $6,168

#35 –Owensboro Community and Technical College

Owensboro, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,500

Points: 6

Part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Owensboro Community and Technical College is a small two-year public school serving just shy of 4,000 students per year. These students can select career certificate and academic degree programs in two dozen fields of study. Students eying trade school programs should consider the college’s offerings in Automotive Technology, Computerized Manufacturing and Machining, Industrial Maintenance Technology, and Electrical Technology, for instance. OCTC is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award these vocational credentials.

Net Price: $5,883

#34 –Ashland Community and Technical College

Ashland, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,500

Points: 6

One of the smaller online trade schools in our ranking, Ashland Community and Technical College enrolls approximately 2,500 students annually. The school offers a variety of associate degrees and career certificate programs spanning 14 different areas of study. Trade school programs include plans of study in Computerized Manufacturing, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, and more. The college’s online programs are offered in partnership with the Kentucky Virtual Adult Education (KYVAE) initiative. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has fully accredited ACTC to award these credentials.

Net Price: $5,733

#33 –Hopkinsville Community College

Hopkinsville, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,100

Points: 6

A smaller online trade school, Hopkinsville Community College has an annual enrollment of fewer than 3,000 students. Even so, the school offers numerous degree and certificate programs across 14 different fields of study. Students interested in trade school programs can consider the school’s options in Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, Construction Technology, Engineering and Electronics Technology, and Truck Driver Training. The school also offers online classes and programs in collaboration with Kentucky Virtual Campus. HCC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award professional certificates and degrees.

Net Price: $5,556

#32 –Somerset Community College

Somerset, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,300

Points: 6

Somerset Community College was established in 2002, and today it serves almost 6,000 students annually. The school offers a variety of degree and certificate programs in 15 distinct fields of study. Trade school programs include options in Air Conditioning Technology, Aviation Maintenance Technology, Construction Technology, and Digital Printing Technology, for instance. Many of these programs include online components and distance learning options. SCC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $5,481

#31 –Big Sandy Community and Technical College

Prestonsburg, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,500

Points: 6

Founded in 2003, Big Sandy Community and Technical College currently serves over 4,000 students in Prestonsburg, Paintsville, Hager Hill, and Pikeville, Kentucky. The school is a member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and offers degree and certificate programs in 15 different fields of study. For students pursuing trade school careers, the options include plans of study in Collision Repair, Diesel Technology, Surveying and Mapping Technology, Construction, and more. Distance learning options are available for some programs. BSCTC has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $5,398

#30 –Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College

Shell Lake, Wisconsin

Website

Early Career Pay: $40,900

Points: 7

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is a small public community college serving less than 3,000 students annually. Despite its small size, the college offers an impressive array of degree and certificate programs in numerous career and technical fields. Some of its online trade school programs include those in Business Graphics, Health Information Technology, Web and Software Development, and Medical Coding. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited WITC to award these technical-vocational school credentials. The school has also been ranked among the 75 best community colleges in the nation by Niche.

Net Price: $9,968

#29 –Northcentral Technical College

Wausau, Wisconsin

Website

Early Career Pay: $41,400

Points: 7

Northcentral Technical College serves over 6,000 students through six different campuses throughout northcentral Wisconsin. The school offers fully online associate’s degrees, career certificates, and technical diplomas in dozens of different areas. Some of these include Entrepreneurship, Supply Chain Management, Industrial Environmental Engineering, Manufacturing Fundamentals, and Project Management. The school holds its institutional accreditation to award these credentials by The Higher Learning Commission. Niche has ranked it among the 70 best community colleges in the country.

Net Price: $9,073

#28 –Morgan Community College

Fort Morgan, Colorado

Website

Early Career Pay: $45,600

Points: 7

Part of the Colorado Community College System, Morgan Community College is a small two-year school serving just over a thousand students each year. Still, the school offers an impressive array of technical certificates and academic degree programs spanning ten distinct fields of study. Students interested in trade school careers can consider the school’s offerings in Electromechanical Technology, Welding, and Automotive Collision Repair, for example. MCC holds its institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission.

Net Price: $8,474

#27 –James A. Rhodes State College

Lima, Ohio

Website

Early Career Pay: $43,100

Points: 7

Established in 1971, James A. Rhodes State College currently serves over 4,000 students annually. These students have a variety of degree and certificate programs to choose from, and options span two dozen different academic and career fields. Examples include Digital Media Technology, Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Web Programming, and Mechanical Engineering Technology. Many online and hybrid programs are offered through the school’s Center for Distance and Innovative Learning. Rhodes State is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.  

Net Price: $7,735

#26 –Southwest Tennessee Community College

Memphis, Tennessee

Website

Early Career Pay: $39,900

Points: 7

Founded in 2000, Southwest Tennessee Community College enrolls over 9,000 students per year through two campuses in Memphis, TN. The school’s offerings include certificates and degrees in a dozen different areas of study. Trade school programs include those in Architectural Design Technology, Electrical Engineering, Graphic Arts Technology, and Culinary Arts. Online courses and programs are offered through TN eCampus. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited the school to award these vocational and professional credentials.  

Net Price: $5,373

#25 –Seward County Community College

Liberal, Kansas

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,900

Points: 7

Established in 1967, Seward County Community College now serves almost 2,000 students with two-year degree options as well as certificate and trade school programs. Areas of study include Machine Tool Technology, Pre-Engineering, Automotive Collision Repair, and Drafting and Design Technology. The school’s partnership with Edukan enables students to complete some courses and programs online. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited SCCC to award both academic and vocational credentials. Niche has ranked the school among some of the top community colleges in the country.

Net Price: $6,982

#24 –Mid Plains Community College

North Platte, Nebraska

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,100

Points: 7

A small two-year college in southwest Nebraska, Mid-Plains Community College offers over 25 different trade school programs. Options span two-year degree and certificate programs in subject areas like Graphic Design and Visual Communication, Classic Car Restoration, Welding Technology, and Dental Assisting, for example. Some individual courses as well as entire degree programs such as the AS in Criminal Justice, for example, are offered entirely online. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited MPCC to award these on-campus and online credentials. Niche has identified the school as one of the best community colleges in the United States.

Net Price: $6,812

#23 –Volunteer State Community College

Gallatin, Tennessee

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,600

Points: 7

Volunteer State Community College is a comprehensive two-year public school that serves over 9,000 students each year. The school offers more than a hundred different academic and vocational programs spanning a dozen different fields of study. Trade school students can choose from associate of applied science degrees and technical certificates in subjects such as Mechatronics Technology, Fire Science, Dental Assisting, and Veterinary Technology. Online and hybrid options are available for some programs through the school’s Office of Distributed Education. Vol State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $5,731

#22 –Wayne Community College

Goldsboro, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $39,100

Points: 7

With a total enrollment of just over 3,000 students, Wayne Community College is a two-year public school offering more than 140 academic and trade school programs. Enrolled students can choose from degree and certificate offerings in over a dozen different areas of study. Vocational-technical school options include those in Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, Computer and Simulation, Transportation, and Agriculture and Natural Resources, for instance. Fully online courses and programs are available. Wayne Community College is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $5,701

#21 –Henderson Community College

Henderson, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,700

Points: 7

One of the smallest community colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Henderson Community College enrolls approximately 1,500 students each year. Still, the school offers an impressive number of academic degree and certificate programs in ten different areas of study. For students interested in pursuing trade school careers, options include plans of study in Logistics and Operations, Welding Technology, Agriculture, and Industrial Maintenance Technology, for example. The college has a robust distance education program, which offers more than a thousand online courses as well as full certificate and degree programs that can be completed entirely online.  The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited the school to offer these credentials online and on campus.

Net Price: $5,637

#20 –Elizabethtown Community and Technical College

Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,100

Points: 7

Established in 2004, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College now serves more than 6,000 students each year. As part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, the school offers two-year associate degree programs as well as career certificates and diplomas in over two dozen distinct fields of study. Options for technical-vocational school students include plans of study in Computerized Manufacturing and Machining, Electrical Technology, and Welding Technology, for example. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited ECTC to award these professional and academic credentials.

Net Price: $5,468

#19 –Pitt Community College

Winterville, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,700

Points: 7

Pitt Community College is one of the most comprehensive schools in our ranking in terms of online trade school programs. The school also has a fairly large student body, serving over 8,000 students per year. For career-minded students, Pitt is home to certificate and degree programs in vocational areas like Industrial Management Technology, Advertising & Graphic Design, and Nuclear Medicine Technology. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited the school to award these vocational credentials on campus and online.

Net Price: $5,128

#18 –Vance-Granville Community College

Henderson, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $35,600

Points: 7

A member of the North Carolina Community College System, Vance-Granville Community College serves just over 3,000 students per year. The school offers associate degree and certificate programs in over a dozen fields of study. Technical-vocational school offerings include options in Carpentry, Industrial Wiring, Robotics and Machine Design, and Basic Welding, for example. Online classes, virtual course components, and fully online degree programs are also available. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited VGCC to award these credentials.

Net Price: $3,836

#17 –Eastern Gateway Community College

Steubenville, Ohio

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,600

Points: 7

A large two-year public school, Eastern Gateway Community College serves nearly 14,000 students in and around Steubenville and Youngstown, Ohio. The school provides education and training in over a dozen different areas of study, including business, health, engineering, and public service, for example. Many of the required courses for these programs are offered online, and fully online certificate and degree programs are also available. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited the school to award these academic and career credentials.

Net Price: $3,446

#16 –Central Georgia Technical College

Warner Robbins, Georgia

Website

Early Career Pay: $33,800

Points: 7

Founded in 1962, Central Georgia Technical College is a member of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). It is one of the larger two-year vocational-technical schools in our ranking, serving over 8,000 students across eleven counties. Students interested in trade school programs can choose from degree and certificate offerings in areas of study such as Welding and Joining Technology, Aviation Maintenance Technology, Cabinetmaking, and Construction Management, for instance. Many of the courses required for these programs are also offered online. CGTC holds institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Niche has identified it as one of America’s best community colleges.

Net Price: $2,325

#15 –Trinity Valley Community College

Athens, Texas

Website

Early Career Pay: $42,700

Points: 8

Established in 1946, Trinity Valley Community College now enrolls over 4,000 students annually. The school’s two-year degree and certificate programs span 15 different fields of study and include numerous options for those students interested in pursuing trade school careers. Online options are abundant and include fully online AAS degrees and career certification programs in Management Information Systems, Legal Assistant Technology, Medical Office Management, and Computer Science Technology, for example. TVCC holds its institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $7,306

#14 –Rio Salado College

Tempe, Arizona

Website

Early Career Pay: $44,200

Points: 8

One of the most populous online trade schools in our ranking, Rio Salado College serves over 18,000 students per year. The school is a member of the Maricopa County Community College District and offers more than 130 career certificates and diplomas as well as associate’s degrees in 22 different fields of study. Technical-vocational school offerings span industries like Construction, Carpentry, Plumbing, and Electrical Technology, for instance. Online students can also choose from over 600 courses offered via distance education. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Net Price: $6,836

#13 –Clovis Community College

Clovis, New Mexico

Website

Early Career Pay: $40,800

Points: 8

Founded in 1991, Clovis Community College enrolls over 3,000 students each year. The two-year school offers associate degree programs and vocational/technical certificates in more than two dozen areas of study. Online programs are available in fields like Paralegal Studies, Computer Information Systems, Criminal Justice, and Business Administration. CCC is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to award credentials both on-campus and online.

Net Price: $5,996

#12 –Gateway Community and Technical College

Florence, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $40,300

Points: 8

Gateway Community and Technical College was established in 2002, making it one of the newer online trade schools in our ranking. The school offers nearly 250 plans of study in 16 distinct different subject areas. Students with aspirations of trade school careers can choose from programs in Air Conditioning Technology, Computerized Manufacturing and Machining, Diesel Technology, and Industrial Maintenance, for example. For maximum flexibility, online students have four different scheduling options to choose from as they complete the requirements for their credentials. GCTC holds institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $5,918

#11 –West Kentucky Community and Technical College

Paducah, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,000

Points: 8

Founded in 2003, West Kentucky Community and Technical College is one of the newer vocational-technical schools in our ranking. Part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, the school serves approximately 6,000 students annually. In terms of online trade schools, the college has a relatively substantial distance learning program. Students can choose from online certificate and degree programs in Logistics and Operations Management, Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, Medical Information Technology, and Marine Technology. WKCTC is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Niche has ranked it among the top 300 best community colleges in the nation.

Net Price: $5,440

#10 –Madisonville Community College

Madisonville, Kentucky

Website

Early Career Pay: $39,800

Points: 8

Established in 1968, Madisonville Community College is a member of the Kentucky Community College System. The school offers scores of degree and certificate programs in a dozen distinct areas of study. Students interested in pursuing trade school careers may consider options in Advanced Integrated Manufacturing, Air Conditioning Technology, Health Science Technology, and Welding Technology. MCC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award these vocational credentials. Niche has ranked it among the best community colleges in the nation.

Net Price: $5,304

#9 –Copiah-Lincoln Community College

Wesson, Mississippi

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,800

Points: 8

Copiah-Lincoln Community college is a two-year public school offering associate’s degrees and vocational programs to students in Southwest Mississippi. Its Career and Technical Education Division offers nearly 40 different options for students interested in pursuing a trade school career. These include paths in Manufacturing, Construction, Transportation, Human Sciences, and more. Distance learning options are available for select programs. Co-Lin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It has been ranked among America’s best community colleges by Niche.

Net Price: $4,990

#8 –Richmond Community College

Hamlet, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,200

Points: 8

Richmond Community College is a small two-year public school offering career certificates and academic degrees in nearly a dozen different areas of study. It has a robust distance learning program, and one-third of all classes offered through the school are conducted online. Students interested in vocational-technical school credentials can consider the college’s offerings in Electrical Systems Technology, Mechatronics, Industrial Maintenance, and Welding Technology, for instance. RCC is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award these degrees and certificates. Niche has named it one of the best community colleges in the U.S.

Net Price: $4,705

#7 –West Georgia Technical College

Waco, Georgia

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,900

Points: 8

A member of the Technical College System of Georgia, West Georgia Technical College serves just over 7,000 students annually. These students can choose from numerous degree and certificate programs in 16 distinct fields of study. For those interested in technical-vocational school offerings, the college offers options in Commercial Truck Driving, Precision Machining and Manufacturing, Electrical Construction and Maintenance, and Culinary Arts. The school’s online education center also offers several instructor-assisted online career training programs for students who desire distance education options. WGTC holds its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Net Price: $3,535

#6 –Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson, Kansas

Website

Early Career Pay: $37,900

Points: 9

Established in 1928, Hutchinson Community College is a two-year public community college offering a variety of online technical-vocational school options. Examples include programs in Paralegal Studies, Business Administration Technologies, Healthcare Coding, and Information Management, for example. Multiple emphases and concentrations are also available for some programs. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited HCC to award these trade school programs online. Niche has ranked the school among the top 20 community colleges in the United States.

Net Price: $7,698

#5 –Holmes Community College

Goodman, Mississippi

Website

Early Career Pay: $36,200

Points: 9

Holmes Community College was founded in 1911, and today, it serves well over 5,000 students each year through three distinct campuses. For career-minded students, the school offers technical-vocational school programs in areas such as Industrial Mechanics & Maintenance Technology, Collision Repair, Technology, Massage Therapy, and Practical Nursing, for example. HCC’s trade school programs include on-campus, hybrid, and fully online options. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has accredited the college to award both certificates and two-year degrees. Moreover, Niche has ranked the school among the 60 best community colleges nationwide.

Net Price: $5,723

#4 –Columbus State Community College

Columbus, Ohio

Website

Early Career Pay: $40,800

Points: 9

A large two-year public school, Columbus State Community College serves over 27,000 students each year. These students can choose from numerous associate degree programs and technical-vocational school certificates in 18 broad fields of study. For those interested in pursuing trade school careers, options include plans of study in Alternative Energy, Carpentry, Construction, and Facilities Maintenance, for example. A variety of online learning options are available, including synchronous and asynchronous classes. CSCC is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer these traditional and virtual credentials. It’s been called one of the country’s best community colleges by Niche.

Net Price: $5,532

#3 –Stanly Community College

Albemarle, North Carolina

Website

Early Career Pay: $39,700

Points: 10

Part of the North Carolina Community College System, Stanly Community College offers nearly a dozen online trade school programs. Areas of study include Agribusiness Technology, Human Services Technology, Information Technology, and Criminal Justice Technology, for instance. Some hybrid options are also available. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited SCC to award both certificates and associate’s degrees. The school has also been ranked among the top 100 community colleges in the country.

Net Price: $5,453

#2 –Shoreline Community College

Shoreline, Washington

Website

Early Career Pay: $48,800

Points: 11

One of the larger online trade schools in our ranking, Shoreline Community College serves nearly 6,000 students annually. Its substantial online learning division ensures students have the maximum level of convenience and flexibility as they learn skills necessary for employment after graduation. Program options include certificate and degree programs in Health Data Analysis, Purchasing and Supply Chain Management, Supplier Relations and Logistics, and Criminal Justice. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited SCC to offers this variety of vocational and academic credentials. Niche has named it one of the best community colleges in America.

Net Price: $6,733

#1 –Southwest Mississippi Community College

Summit, Mississippi

Website

Early Career Pay: $38,800

Points:11

Established in 1908, Southwest Mississippi Community College is a member of the Mississippi Virtual Community College. The school’s distance learning program offers courses primarily online, but it also requires at least one proctored exam per class. For students interested in trade school careers, the college offers a variety of programs through its Division of Career and Technical Education. Some of these options include programs in Diesel Equipment Technology, Welding and Cutting, Commercial Truck Driving, and Carpentry, for example. Southwest Mississippi Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Niche has ranked the school among the top 20 community colleges in the nation.

Net Price: $5,201

Benefits of Trade School Online

Students who choose to enroll in a reputable online trade school—sometimes referred to as a technical school, community college, or vocational school—will enjoy the many benefits of a quality distance learning experience. We’ll discuss some of these advantages in detail.

Keep Your Day Job

Online trade schools are often highly flexible options for working adults who need a steady income stream while they’re working to advance their career opportunities. Often, these trade schools for adults feature an asynchronous content delivery method that enables students to complete their coursework on their own schedules. This means you have the option of working full-time and studying during your off-hours.

Take Care of Your Family

If you have small children, online trade schools will allow you to work towards your credentials while also raising a family. These technical-vocational school programs often include part-time tracks for students who need a lighter course load or don’t have time to commit to a full-time program of study.

Enter An In-Demand Field

Online trade schools often have their ear to the ground in terms of which industries are hiring. In turn, they’ll craft their program offerings to align with the most in-demand career fields. This takes the guesswork out of choosing a career path that will lead to quick employment after graduation. In addition, online vocational schools will also offer career services to their students, including resume and job search assistance, internship opportunities, and even job placement services.

Graduate Debt-Free

The College Board estimates tuition costs for a public four-year university to be approximately three times more than that of a two-year technical or vocational school. Of course, that’s not to mention costs associated with room and board for students who elect a traditional on-campus experience. Moreover, many community colleges offer tuition-free trade school programs, meaning that students have the potential to graduate completely debt-free.

Disadvantages of Online Trade Schools

Online trade school isn’t for everyone, though. Some students perform better in a traditional classroom setting. Even for those who prefer remote learning, there are some drawbacks to attending a vocational school program online.

Less Hands-On Training

Although advancements in virtual learning have made it possible for many online learning experiences to be interactive, it’s still not feasible to replicate every hands-on experience in an online environment. When it comes to trade school, many of the skills you’ll learn will be practical skills that might be learned best by doing, as opposed to watching. Some online trade schools handle this challenge by scheduling on-campus labs or workshops. These more traditional components may be optional or required, depending on the school and program.

Time Management Challenges

You may have heard the adage “with much freedom comes much responsibility.” When it comes to online learning, this phrase couldn’t hold truer. While online trade schools afford students the flexibility they need to schedule their coursework on their own terms, they also present unique challenges for students who lack good time management skills or who aren’t particularly self-disciplined. If you decide to enroll in a technical-vocational school program online, be prepared to set your own schedule for completing assignments and meeting the deadlines you set for yourself with little oversight from your professor.

Decreased Engagement

A lot of what makes a college course so stimulating for many on-campus students is the high level of interaction that takes place amongst their classmates and professors. Online programs, no matter how technologically advanced, simply can’t replace the dynamics of an in-person encounter or discussion. For many online students, this can result in less engagement and decreased interest in the subject matter. If you anticipate a less interactive environment becoming a problem for you, you may want to consider hybrid or on-campus trade school programs instead.

Types of Online Trade Schools

Not all online trade schools are the same. While there may be more similarities than differences, it’s important to take the time to consider what distinguishes one vocational school from another. This will help you make the best choice when it comes to your training and your future career.

Hybrid Versus Fully Online Trade Schools

Some community colleges and technical-vocational schools offer their trade school programs via a hybrid learning model. This means they blend elements of on-campus classes with online meetings.For many students, this format makes school more convenient and flexible while still maintaining high levels of interactivity and engagement. Hybrid models are also ideal when a program includes a hefty hands-on learning component. If you’re considering a hybrid trade school, keep in mind that the percentage of on-campus meetings versus online requirements can vary significantly from school to school. For example, some programs may be 90% online while others can be comprised of less than 50% virtual learning experiences.

Of course, fully online trade school programs offer the maximum amount of flexibility and convenience. These options present other challenges, however, that have nothing to do with scheduling. If you opt for a 100% online vocational school, be prepared to work independently and set your own learning goals and assignment deadlines, for example.

Part-Time Versus Full-Time Online Vocational Schools

When choosing an online trade school for your career preparation, you’ll need to decide whether you want to attend classes on a part-time or full-time basis. This is a big decision as it will dictate how much of your time you’ll need to devote to your studies and how quickly you’ll earn your vocational credentials. With a part-time program, you can spread out your coursework so that it’s not so time-consuming in the short-term. This will free up your schedule for other responsibilities such as work and home obligations. However, it will take longer to fulfill your program requirements in the long-term.

On the other hand, a full-time online trade school will require more time and energy in the short term. It may even require that you clear your schedule altogether. This could mean quitting your current job or finding a caregiver for your children. The payoff will be that you will earn your credentials in less time than you would had you chosen a part-time trade school program. In many cases, full-time trade school programs can be completed in just one year or even less.

Types of Online Trade School Programs

Just as there are differences amongst different types of trade schools, so too are there variations among these schools’ educational offerings. Generally speaking, there are two options here: industry certificate programs and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree programs.

Industry Certificate Programs

Industry certificate programs are popular trade school offerings because they offer the potential of a high return after just a brief investment of time and energy. These options can typically be completed in a year (or even less). They provide highly-targeted instruction in a specific industry sub-field and prepare students for immediate employment after graduation.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degrees

Aside from industry certificate programs, the other option for online trade school students is an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree plan. These 60 credit-hour degree programs require twice the time investment but also provide a more comprehensive education in your chosen industry. In some cases, an associate’s degree may be required for your desired occupation.

Curriculum for Online Vocational Schools

When you enroll in an online trade school program, you can expect a very different type of curriculum than you would experience at a four-year university. Typically, undergraduate bachelor’s degree programs require that students take certain general education courses. These classes provide an overview of fundamental academic subjects like the humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and more. These classes aren’t necessarily specific to a student’s major area of study.

Vocational school programs, on the other hand, do not require these general education classes. Instead, they feature a highly focused curriculum that provides specific training in a specialized field of study. Students learn only the skills and information necessary for a successful career in the industry of their choice.

In-Demand Trade School Careers

Trade school careers tend to be those that survive, even in tough economic times. Still, some trade school programs lead to more optimistic job prospects than others. Below, we list the top technical-vocational school careers in terms of projected job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Wind Turbine Technician
  • Medical Assistant
  • Phlebotomist
  • Massage Therapist
  • Health Technologist/Technician
  • Ophthalmic Medical Technician
  • Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic/Installer
  • Audio and Visual Equipment Technician
  • Psychiatric Technician/Aide
  • Dental Assistant
  • Skincare Specialist
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technician
  • Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Each of these occupations is associated with an employment increase of over 10% between 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS.

Lucrative Trade School Jobs

There is a stereotype that graduates of trade school programs make significantly less than graduates of bachelor’s degree programs. This isn’t always the case, though. In fact, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, over 28% of associate’s degree holders make more than the average salary associated with a bachelor’s degree. Below, you will find some of the highest-paying trade school careers, according to 2019 projected salary reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technician
  • Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Aircraft Mechanic and Service Technician
  • Court Reporter
  • Fire Inspector/Investigator
  • Insurance Appraiser
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Web Developer

Each of these positions reported a mean annual wage of over $60,000 in 2019.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Affordable Online Trade Schools

Most students who are considering online trade schools have a number of different questions. This is normal, but you’ll want to find as many answers as possible before you make the decision to enroll. Below, we present some common questions trade school students have along with some general information about technical-vocational schools and their offerings.

Q: How expensive is online trade school?

A: On average, trade school is the least expensive option for students who desire a quality postsecondary education. Still, the cost of trade school can vary widely. All of the affordable online trade schools featured in our ranking boast tuition costs of less than $10,000 per year.

Q: How long does it take to complete online trade school programs?

A: Completion times can vary depending on the school you choose as well as the technical-vocational school credential you elect to pursue. Most Associate of Applied Science degrees can be completed in two years while certificate programs can be finished in a year or even less.

Q: How do I locate trade schools near me?

A: To find trade schools nearby, check out the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator tool. Alternatively, use your location as a search term in Google along with “trade school.”

Q: Are online trade schools legitimate?

A: The majority of them are, yes. To be sure of an online trade school’s credibility, check into their accreditation status. These schools should be regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Some specific trade school programs are also accredited by a programmatic accreditor and/or approved by an industry-specific professional association.

Career Questions Related to Online Trade School Programs

Q: What is the earning potential for an online trade school credential?

A: Your salary potential will vary widely depending on a number of different factors. Some of these include your exact degree type, your employer, and your job duties. Keep in mind, too, that your pay will likely increase as you gain experience in the field.

Q: Are vocational school credentials in demand?

A: The demand for technical-vocational school credentials will vary by industry and occupation. Some of the jobs currently associated with high growth rates can be found in the fields of HVAC, healthcare, and wind energy, for example.

Q: Can I work full-time while pursuing a technical-vocational school credential?

A: Definitely. Many online trade schools cater to students with busy schedules, including working adults. If you do keep your day job, you may want to consider options such as part-time tracks and asynchronous content delivery for maximum flexibility with your studies.

Q: Do all trades require a trade school certificate/degree?

A: No, but an increasing number of industries are requiring these credentials. Moreover, a trade school program can set you up for job success and increase the likelihood for promotions and advancements in the future.

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