You’ve explored your career options and have decided that trade school is the route for you. Perhaps you’ve realized that paying for college doesn’t give you a guaranteed return on your investment. Or, maybe the traditional college path just isn’t your thing. Whatever the case, you’ve made up your mind, and you have trade school is in your sights.

But, there are so many out there, all bragging that they’re the best. It’s hard enough to figure out which trade you want, let alone which program you should enroll with.

What’s Your Type?

There are many different types of trade schools. You’ll see some that are for-profit, non-profit, private, and public. It can get extremely confusing if you don’t know the difference.

A very popular opinion surrounding for-profit colleges is that you should avoid them if at all possible. Words like “predator,” “thief,” and “profit seeking”—interspersed with far more colorful vernacular—follow the for-profit school sector like moths to light.

Should you choose a for-profit college? That’s up to you. Just know that the cost is significantly higher than your other options, and it’s not guaranteed the school will stay in business long enough for you to finish your training. However, not all for-profits are deserving of the bad rap, but do your due diligence before signing on any dotted lines and paying with your kidney and unborn children. For what it’s worth, it may end up costing you much less to go to a university for all four years than to it would for a fifteen month program through a for-profit school. Even better is a community college where you can get your skilled trades training for way less expense. Just something to think about.

For the sake of transparency, you’re definitely better off finding a federally funded non-profit school, whether it’s a trade school or community college. But again, the final decision rests with you.

The Facility

No matter which trade you decide to go into, you want to learn in a facility that’s modern and has updated technology. Before making your choice, go and visit different campuses. Pay close attention to the classes and what the students are learning on. You want to make sure that when you graduate, you’re able to jump in and start working. You don’t want to have to relearn because your school was antiquated.

  • Visit the potential school to see what the classrooms and buildings are like.
  • Talk to staff and students about their experience.
  • If you’re feeling sleuthy, do some online investigation into the reputation of the school.
  • Pay attention to what types of equipment students are training on.
  • Ask about the instructors’ credentials.
  • Notice whether or not the students seem engaged in the classrooms.
  • Find out what the graduation and job placement rates are, and if the school offers any other type of assistance to graduating students.
  • Find out what the total cost for the program is and if there are any “hidden” costs that aren’t obvious upon signing up.
  • Make sure the program is accredited. It’s important if you want to get licensed or transfer credits someday.
  • Learn about financial aid options if you need them.
  • Visit a few different programs before making your final decision.  

Accreditation

Aside from its reputation, two important aspects of a school are its accreditation and licensing. If you plan on going through any program, it can’t be stressed enough that those two important things must be in place.

Licensing is usually received through the Department of Education, unless it’s a trucking school. In that case, the state’s transportation department will handle that.

Accreditation is done through an agency, and it is supposed to show that the school meets certain benchmarks in education and training requirements, along with being reputable. That doesn’t mean it won’t have a bad reputation among students when you dive into your online research, though.

If a school is licensed and accredited, it’s up to you to find out if the credits you earn can be transferred, in the event that you may want to earn a higher degree in the future.

You can find accreditation information on the schools you’re interested in on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.  

More Reading:

Types of trade schools and other important information

Trade school vs. Traditional college

How to get financial aid for trade school