What are Vocational Trade Schools?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2019
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Vocational trade schools, sometimes referred to as trade schools, vocational schools, or vocation and trade schools, are educational institutions that focus on providing students with the skills to perform a particular job. While a student earning a liberal arts degree at a four year college or university may not have any specific career path in mind, someone attending a vocational trade school is likely to be in search of knowledge with immediate practical applications in the workplace. Many vocational trade schools are also linked to an apprenticeship program to provide students with hands-on training as they are working on building their theoretical knowledge of a particular occupation.

Traditionally, vocational trade schools focused on preparing students for specific trades such as auto mechanics or welding. Today, however, schools offer a wide variety of programs that incorporate areas such as cosmetology, retail, tourism, and information technology. Vocational trade schools are also working hard to reform their reputation as a "last chance" for those who couldn't tolerate an academic environment by pointing out the many successful people who have benefited from their career training.


Although many high schools offer vocational classes in areas such as home economics, typing, woodworking, and auto repair, vocational education is usually considered a form of post-secondary study. In the United States, approximately 70 percent of vocational training is provided by privately owned schools. The remaining 30 percent is provided by two year community colleges, military training programs, and adult education centers.

If you are thinking about attending a vocational trade school, it's important to make sure you understand what type of accreditation the institution has. National accreditation often means a school is for-profit, while regionally accredited schools are mainly academically oriented non-profit institutions. Many regionally accredited schools will refuse to accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools, so you may run into problems if you are unable to continue your education at the school in which you began your studies.

As online education becomes more popular, it's becoming common for vocational trade schools to offer courses that can be completed through the Internet. When searching for online vocational trade schools, however, remember that many types of career training aren't going to translate well to an online format. Learning how to become a locksmith or a plumber from an exclusively online course is going to be difficult for a lot of people; especially those who learn best by watching someone else complete a task.



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