Trade School is a type of educational institution, which, depending on the country, may refer to either secondary or post-secondary education designed to provide trade education, or technical skills required to perform the tasks of a particular and specific job. In the case of secondary education, these schools differ from academic high schools which usually prepare students who aim to pursue tertiary education, rather than enter directly into the workforce.

With regard to post-secondary education, Trade Schools are traditionally distinguished from four-year colleges by their focus on job-specific training to students who are typically bound for one of the skilled trades, rather than providing academic training for students pursuing careers in a professional discipline. While many schools have largely adhered to this convention, the purely vocational focus of other trade schools began to shift in the 1990s “toward a broader preparation that develops the academic” as well as technical skills of their students.

Trade School

A trade school (also known as a technical schoolis a postsecondary educational institution designed to train students for a specific job in a skilled trade career. Most importantly, a trade school offers hands-on training to prepare students for actual work in their chosen field. Trade school programs are entirely concentrated on relevant job training.

For example, someone who is interested in becoming a welder may have never welded before. Where can someone learn how to weld? A trade school would provide a lab where students can practice in a setting that prepares them for the job.

Trade School Definition

A trade school offers highly focused training programs specifically designed to prepare students for a job in the skilled trades. Trade schools focus on developing students’ technical abilities in skilled and mechanical trades. Mechanical trades work generally involves building, maintaining, operating, or fixing some sort of mechanical system.

what are trade schools
what are trade schools

Think of a blacksmith, a welder, a construction worker, a car mechanic, or an HVAC technician. These are all skilled trades professionals. “Skilled” means that special skills need to be developed in order to do the job not anyone can do it. A trade school gives students the knowledge needed in order to start a career in a field that requires technical expertise and hands-on experience, like welding or HVAC.

Trade School Jobs

Going to school for four years after high school to obtain a bachelor’s degree isn’t for everyone, especially if you have a particular eye for a more technical trade. While education is a key factor in earning a decent living these days (very few occupations require only a high school diploma these days), there are different types of educational institutions out there, such as trade schools.

Elevator Mechanic

Someone needs to install, repair, and maintain elevators (read: doors, cables, control systems, etc.). And elevator mechanics actually have a good occupational outlook with high earning potential. If you’re good with your hands and ready to power up some tools, there are tons of escalators, dumbwaiters, wheelchair lifts, moving walkways, and other equipment that could use your help. Only one percent of elevator mechanics are women, but the projected growth rate from 2014 to 2014 stands at 13 percent, so there’s room for improvement in that gender breakdown, according to the BLS.

Median Annual Salary: $77,580
Typical Education Required: High School Diploma and Apprenticeship

Web Developer

A web developer is a skilled programmer who specializes in World Wide Web applications, as well as other applications that are run over HTTP from a web server to a web browser (Read: a lot of coding involved). While most web developers eventually go on to obtain bachelor’s degrees, it is possible to get started with an associate’s degree and work experience instead. The projected annual growth rate from 2014 to 2024 is 27 percent, according to the BLS, which leaves room to improve the gender breakdown of 19 percent female to 81 percent male, too.

Median Annual Salary: $57,662
Typical Education Required: Associate’s Degree

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

A diagnostic medical sonographer administrates ultrasounds and prepares patients for procedures by reviewing and processing their images. They’re typically highly satisfied workers, most of whom are women (97 percent), according to the BLS. The projected growth rate of this job from 2014 to 2014 stands at 24 percent.

Median Annual Salary: $51,832
Typical Education Required: Associate’s Degree


Electricians do indeed have to undergo apprenticeships for as long as college and university (four years), but that’s because they require a license to do their jobs. That said, that apprenticeship training is paid, which means that it’s more financially feasible than a lot of colleges and universities. Electricians read blueprints and then install, repair and maintain wiring, control systems, and other electrical components. Unfortunately, the job field as a lot of work to do with regard to gender equality, as it’s 99 percent of males.

trade school career
trade school career

Median Annual Salary: $50,740
Typical Education Required: High School Diploma and Apprenticeship

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapist earns decent money by working with oncologists in hospital settings. They administer radiation for cancer treatments, which does require a license they can obtain after getting an associate’s degree. The projected annual growth rate of the job is 14 percent from 2014 to 2014, according to the BLS.

Median Annual Salary: $66,823
Typical Education Required: Associate’s Degree

HVAC Technician

An HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) technician works with, well, heating, venting and air conditioning equipment. They’re responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining that equipment, which typically means that they need two years of education post-high school and on-the-job training through an apprenticeship. Again, this field is 99 percent male, but there BLS projects that the growth rate between 2014 and 2024 will be 14 percent.

Median Annual Salary: $42,886
Typical Education Required: Postsecondary Non-degree Award


A boilermaker assembles, installs, repairs and maintains large containers or vessels that are designed for holding liquids or gases (Think: closed vats, steam boilers, and boiler furnaces). Little to no prior work experience is required, but they must go through an apprenticeship. There were 17,200 job openings in 2016, which means that boilermakers are very much in demand.

Median Annual Salary: $62,260
Typical Education Required: Apprenticeship

Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist’s job entails (but is not limited to) cleaning teeth, taking X-rays and educating patients on their oral hygiene. Dental hygienists actually routinely rank among the most satisfied workers, and the BLS projects a growth rate for the job of 19 percent between 2014 to 2024. Most dental hygienists are female (97 percent).

Median Annual Salary: $54,175
Typical Education Required: Associate’s Degree

Aircraft Mechanic

An aircraft mechanic is mostly responsible for inspecting, repairing, maintaining and even overhauling airplane and helicopter engines, as well as other important systems. There were 149,500 job openings in 2016, and it’s growing at a rate of five percent, according to the BLS, which is about as fast as average. No education is quite necessary, though the on-the-job experience is usually preferred.

Median Annual Salary: $61,260
Typical Education Required: None


Very few women are plumbers (it’s a 99 percent male-dominated industry), but the BLS projects a 12 percent growth rate by 2024 for anyone interested. A plumbing license through an apprenticeship is required, and varies state by state, though the job remains largely the same across the board. It includes installing, repairing and maintaining plumbing pipes in homes and other buildings.

Median Annual Salary: $50,048
Typical Education Required: High School Diploma and Apprenticeship

Crane Operator

A crane operator “operates mechanical boom and cable or tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machines, or products in many directions,” according to the BLS. Crane operators mostly work in Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Florida. That said, states like New York, New Hampshire, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Alaska pay the highest for crane operators. State certification and/or licensure are often required, though it varies.

Median Annual Salary: $55,690
Typical Education Required: Certification

Wind Turbine Technician

Wind turbines to generate electricity are growing in popularity as the world moves toward energy efficiency. Wind turbine technicians are, therefore, evermore needed to install, inspect, repair and maintain these wind turbines. The field is growing at a projected rate of 96 percent, which is much faster than the average.

Median Annual Salary: $53,880
Typical Education Required: Postsecondary, Nondegree Award

Construction Manager

Construction managers plan, oversee and handle the coordination of construction and maintenance activities (read: budgeting and scheduling) related to building projects. While most construction managers do go on to get their bachelor’s degrees, many can start out with an associate’s degree and years of on-the-job experience. The more experience and schooling they have, the more income they can earn.

Median Annual Salary: $91,370
Typical Education Required: Experience and, Eventually, a Bachelor’s Degree

Fashion Designer

A fashion design creates original clothing designs and fashion accessories for their own brand or another that they represent. Like construction managers, most fashion designers do go on to get a bachelor’s degree in fashion design especially from prestigious schools where other fashion designers have graduated from before. That said, getting started designing clothing and accessories doesn’t necessarily require schooling.

Median Annual Salary: $67,420
Typical Education Required: Experience and, Eventually, a Bachelor’s Degree

Respiratory Therapist

A lot of respiratory therapists have bachelor’s degrees, as well, but all that’s really necessary is an associate’s degree to provide entry to the field. Respiratory therapists work directly with both children and adults who have respiratory issues. They perform diagnostic tests and treatments.

Median Annual Salary: $59,710
Typical Education Required: Associate’s Degree

trade school
trade school

Trade School Programs

  • Accounting
  • Addictions/Substance Abuse
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Adult Education
  • Advertising
  • Aircraft Mechanic
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Anesthesia Technician
  • Animal Care
  • Animation
  • Appliance Repair
  • Architecture
  • Arts & Humanities
  • ASE Certification
  • Audio Production
  • Auto Body
  • Automotive
  • Automotive Mechanic
  • Automobile Restoration
  • Aviation
  • Baking & Pastry
  • Barber
  • Beauty
  • Brewing Science
  • Bridal Consulting
  • Business
  • Business Administration
  • Business Management
  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Carpentry
  • CDL
  • Christian Studies
  • Cloud Computing
  • CNC Machining
  • Collision Repair
  • Commercial Diving
  • Commercial Maintenance
  • Communication Studies
  • Computer Information Technology
  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Security
  • Computer Technician
  • Computers / Information Technology
  • Conference Management
  • Construction & Building
  • Construction Management
  • Cosmetology
  • Cosmetology Instructor
  • Counselor Training
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Criminal Justice
  • Culinary
  • Culinary Arts
  • Database Administrator
  • Dental Assistant
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Design
  • Dialysis Technician
  • Diesel Mechanic
  • Digital Media Design
  • Dog Training
  • Drafting
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Education
  • EKG Training
  • Electrician
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Environmental
  • Event Management
  • Fashion Design
  • Fashion Marketing/Merchandising
  • Film & Video Production
  • Financial Planning
  • Fitness & Nutrition
  • Flight Training
  • Floral Design
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Funeral / Mortuary
  • Gardening & Landscape Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Gunsmithing
  • Hair Stylist
  • Harley-Davidson Repair
  • Health Care
  • Health Care Management / Health Services Administration
  • Health and Medical
  • Heavy Equipment
  • High Performance Engines
  • High School Diploma
  • History
  • Home Automation
  • Home Inspection
  • Homeland Security
  • Hospitality
  • Hospitality Management
  • Hotel Management
  • Human Resources
  • Human Services
  • HVAC/R
  • Industrial Maintenance
  • Industrial Technology
  • Information Technology
  • Interior Design
  • International Business & Trade
  • Internet Marketing
  • Jewelry Repair & Goldsmith
  • Journalism
  • Landscape Design
  • Laser Technician
  • Legal Assistant
  • Legal and Criminal Justice
  • Locksmithing
  • LPN / LVN
  • Makeup Artist
  • Manicurist
  • Marine & Watercraft
  • Marketing
  • Massage Therapy
  • MBA
  • Mechanical Engineering Technician
  • Media Arts
  • Medical Administrative Assistant
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Billing & Coding
  • Medical Lab Technician
  • Medical Office Administration
  • Medical Office Specialist
  • Medical Receptionist
  • Medical Technology
  • Medical Transcription
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Motorcycle Repair
  • Music Production & Recording Arts
  • Nail Technician
  • Networking & System Administration
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Office Administrator
  • Optician
  • Paralegal
  • Paramedic / Emergency Medical
  • Patient Care Technician
  • Performing Arts
  • Personal Trainer
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Phlebotomy
  • Photography
  • Physical Therapy Aide
  • Plumbing
  • Police / Law Enforcement
  • Political Science
  • Private Detective
  • Project Management
  • Property Management
  • Psychology
  • Public Relations
  • Racing Engines
  • Radio/Television Broadcasting
  • Real Estate
  • Registered Nurse
  • Religious Studies
  • Renewable Energy
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Restaurant Management
  • RN to BSN
  • Science
  • Skin Care
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Social Sciences
  • Social Work
  • Software Development & Engineering
  • Solar Energy
  • Sommelier
  • Sports Medicine
  • Sports & Recreation
  • Sterile Processing
  • Surgical Technologist
  • Sustainable Business
  • Teaching
  • Technical
  • Trades
  • Truck Driving
  • Ultrasound Technologist
  • Underwater Welding
  • Veterinary Technician
  • Video Game Design
  • Video Production
  • Visual Arts
  • Visual Communications
  • Vocational Nurse
  • Web Design and Development
  • Wedding Consultant
  • Welding
  • Wind Energy
  • Wine Specialist
  • WritingX-Ray/Radiologic Technicia
  • trade school classroom
    trade school classroom

How do trade schools work?

Most programs that trade schools offer are in high demand in the workforce. Trade schools like Rockford will prepare students with the essential skills and hands-on training so they are ready for the work field when they graduate. It costs the average American $127,000 to earn their bachelor’s degree.

How long is a trade school?

How Long is a Trade School? As mentioned earlier, one benefit of a trade school is the speed to a diploma or degree. Traditional colleges and universities generally take four years to complete, although it can take longer depending on the student’s course load.

What is considered a vocational school?

A vocational school is a career-focused school that prepares and trains students for specific occupations. Vocational schools also called trade schools, technical schools or career schools offer a number of advantages to students.

Which are vocational subjects?

Vocational courses and classes are available in many different career fields, such as health care, computer technology, office management, and skilled trades. These courses are offered by career colleges, vocational schools, trade schools, and community colleges.

What are examples of vocational skills?

Examples of Vocational Skills
  • Electrician. Electricians install and maintain wiring and equipment for power, communications and computer systems.
  • Truck Driver. If you like to see new places, driving a tractor-trailer or large truck may appeal to you. …
  • Hair Stylist.
  • Medical Records Technician.
  • Emergency Medical Technician.