Trade School Jobs | What is a Trade School?

Is trade school right for you?

Trade School Jobs | What is a Trade School?

Trade School Jobs

Have you ever wondered if there are any options after high school other than college and working? Contrary to popular belief, there actually are a wide variety of programs and professional training tracks that you can choose from. Trade schools, for example, are a great option for those lucky graduates who happen to know exactly what jobs they want to do. We asked Ashley Parker, media relations manager for the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), to fill us in on exactly what is a trade school and what trade school jobs might be available.

What exactly is a trade school?

Also known as a technical school, a trade or vocational school offers students educational opportunities in specific career fields. A trade school equips students with job-specific technical skills, core academic skills in order to function in the workplace and in routine daily activities, and employability skills (such as critical thinking and responsibility) that are essential in any career area.

There are 16 “career clusters,” or groupings of trade school jobs options, available for students to pursue. These include: agriculture, food and natural resources, architecture and construction, arts/AV technology & communications, business management and administration, education & training, finance, government and public administration, health science, hospitality and tourism, human services, information technology, law, public safety, corrections and security, manufacturing, marketing, STEM, transportation/distribution and logistics.

Where are these programs offered?

Career and Technical Education (CTE) prepares both youth and adults for a wide range of careers and further educational opportunities. These careers may require varying levels of education — including industry-recognized credentials, postsecondary certificates and two-and four-year degrees. CTE is offered in middle schools, high schools, area career and technical centers, community and technical colleges, and other postsecondary institutions.

What is the ultimate learning objective for students who attend these programs?

The ultimate objective is to obtain the skills and competencies needed in a particular career field as well as core academic skills and employability. The degree or credentials available for students vary based on the type of program and the requirements of the trade school jobs in that field.

What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of attending trade schools?

Unlike a typical four-year university where students don’t have to declare a major program until sophomore or junior year, students at vocational or trade schools usually select a program to enroll into right away. So, for a student who is not yet sure what jobs they want to pursue, this may be a challenging decision to make. For example, if a student enrolls in a paralegal program and then decides in a year to switch to health sciences, it is unlikely that much of their previous coursework will transfer over to the new program.

What do most students generally do after graduating from a trade school program?

This varies widely! Experts are projecting 47 million trade school jobs opening in the decade ending in 2018. About 1/3 of those jobs will require an associate’s degree or certificate, and nearly all will require real-world skills that can be mastered through CTE. The majority of trade school graduates go on to obtain jobs in a career that corresponds to their program of study.

What is a trade school better suited for as opposed to a 4-year program?

There are numerous advantages for students. A trade school offers degrees and credentials that take a shorter period of time; some consisting of a few weeks, while some take up to two years. A student spends less time in school and is able to enter the workforce more quickly. CTE schools are also less costly than their 4-year counterparts. Students are exposed to and able to interact with their career field in meaningful ways through internships, hands-on learning in the classroom or apprenticeships, where students in 4-year schools are often unable to pursue internships until sophomore or junior year.

Another benefit is that many trade schools have articulation agreements with the local 4-year university, so a student can continue to pursue higher education in a particular field by linking an associate’s degree or credential earned at trade school with a bachelor’s program.

Where should high school students go to find out more about trade school jobs and programs they are interested in?

High school students considering a trade school should look for schools with strong ties to the local industry and business community. Search through advisory councils, internship/apprenticeship opportunities and faculty. Focus on the numerous programs offered in career fields that are in-demand or projected to grow, and programs that offer rigorous academics. Ask to speak to program faculty, tour facilities and inquire about job placement prospects for graduates.

Parker offers some words of encouragement for the graduating classes to come: “The most important thing is for a student to make the best choice for his/her career goals.”

For more information about career and technical education, visit the ACTE website at We hope you will consider trade schools as a great alternative — both competitive and applicable, not only for your career, but also as you begin to enter the world as an independent, successful adult.

Brought to you by Pennsylvania College of Technology


Trending Articles

Your Path College Search


Register Step 1 of 2

* Indicates required fields.
Add Interest

By pressing the continue button, I hereby consent to receive autodialed and/or pre-recorded calls from NextStepU and their partners, regarding their products and services, at the phone number above. I understand that consent is not a condition for attending any school.

  • Oops! Seems there were some errors above..

Login Required

  • Your Path

    Your Path

    Get customized college, life and career planning with step-by-step instruction and resources, all catered specifically to you.

    Register FreeSign In
  • Scholarships

    Scholarship Search

    Find over 2.2 million scholarships catered to a wide variety of your interests and strengths.

    Register FreeSign In
Search for more than 2.2 million scholarships!