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25 Best Trade Schools

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Trade school can be a much more affordable option for students looking to kick-start their careers and don’t want to spend the typical four years at a traditional college or university. But finding the right trade school that fits your career and financial goals can be a challenge.

To help you make a decision, we compiled a list of the best trade schools with a good return on investment (ROI). Keep reading to learn why you should consider trade school and steps to take before making any decisions about your education.

25 trade schools with excellent ROI

Trade schools — also known as vocational schools or technical schools — provide training for a specific career that needs extensive knowledge but doesn’t require a four-year degree.

Trade schools exist all across the country, but choosing the right school can be a challenge, particularly when there are so many options.

Aside from factors such as price and location, you’ll also want to make sure you get the best deal for your dollar. Your return on investment (ROI) can play a big role in your ability to get a job after you graduate, but also to pay off your student loans.

Here are 25 trade schools with some of the best ROI, based on high graduation rates, but also taking into account typical earnings and student debt where that information was available.

RankTrade schoolGraduation rateLocationPublic/privateNet costMedian debtMedian earnings
1FINE Mortuary College100%Norwood, Mass.Private$30,505$30,932Not available
2The Landing School97%Arundel, MainePrivate$37,714Not availableNot available
3Elyon College97%Brooklyn, N.Y.Private$13,040Not availableNot available
4Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service96%Decatur, Ga.Private$17,255$16,042$34,655
5Baton Rouge School of Computers95%Baton Rouge, La.Private$13,514Not available$32,080
6SABER College95%Miami, Fla.PrivateNot availableNot available$29,934
7ATA College92%Tulsa, Okla.Private$21,012$6,145Not available
8Colorado School of Healing Arts91%Lakewood, Colo.Private$39,651Not available$29,403
9American Academy of Dramatic Arts91%New YorkPrivate$46,941$12,000$30,905
10Island Drafting and Technical Institute90%Amityville, N.Y.Private$24,924Not available$59,663
11Hacienda La Puente Adult Education90%La Puente, Calif.Public$3,221Not available$30,697
12Central Coast College90%Salinas, Calif.Private$19,780$5,771$34,550
13Saint Michael College of Allied Health89%Washington, D.C.Private$36,002$17,713Not available
14School of Automotive Machinists & Technology87%HoustonPrivate$26,596Not available$55,411
15Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology87%Broomfield, Colo.Private$22,272$15,052$56,402
16Great Lakes Institute of Technology87%Erie, Pa.Private$17,159$11,133$26,002
17Carver Career Center87%Charleston, W.Va.Public$3,286Not available$29,336
18Allen School of Health Sciences84%PhoenixPrivate$14,718$9,500$31,677
19Houston International College Cardiotech Ultrasound School86%HoustonPrivate$21,052$20,000Not available
20CBT Technology Institute – Cutler Bay Campus85%Cutler Bay, Fla.Private$17,570$8,700$27,469
21Eastern Virginia Career College84%Fredericksburg, Va.PrivateNot available$9,532$32,388
22Cortiva Institute84%Linthicum, Md.Private$20,519$7,600$34,339
23Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science84%PittsburghPrivateNot available$18,250$48,132
24Perry Technical Institute83%Yakima, Wash.Private$18,800$13,364$58,485
25Concorde Career College-Garden Grove83%Garden Grove, Calif.Private$20,011$11,898$44,756

Trade school vs. college

When it comes to choosing a college, two of the most important factors are affordability and ROI. That’s why trade schools are worth your consideration.

For one thing, attending a trade school could mean you’ll graduate with less student loan debt. Overall, students who get their bachelor’s degree tend to finish with an average of $28,400 in federal and private student loans.

The average cost of a credit hour for students at various types of schools can be broken down like this:

  • $158 for students at two-year community colleges and trade schools
  • $448 for in-state students at four-year public colleges
  • $1,148 for out-of-state students at four-year public colleges
  • $1,586 for students at at private colleges

Attending a two-year trade school not only means you can continue your education for much less money, but most trade schools are two years or less. That means you’ll graduate and earn money sooner than you would with a four-year degree.

And because you’ll have skills that prepare you for a specific career, you’ll be less likely to float around and work random jobs while you figure out what you want to do post-graduation.

Lastly, the need for workers in skilled trades is growing, so there’s opportunities to earn financial aid if you need it and fill in gaps in the workforce.

3 steps to take before choosing a school

If you’re tempted by the idea of trade school, you will want to compare your options carefully.

Here are three steps you should take before saying yes to any school.

1. Gather information

Knowledge is power — especially when it comes to choosing a college. For each school you’re considering, find out everything you can.

Here are some action steps we recommend:

  • Read rankings (and methodologies), such as the one in this article or via a search engine like College Scorecard.
  • Talk to current students and alumni if you can.
  • Research retention rates and average salaries of graduates.
  • Ask about specifics that matter to you: student-faculty ratios, professional organizations, job placement services, etc.

2. Crunch the numbers

Once you receive your financial aid package, it’s time to break out the calculator.

If your package includes student loans, proceed with caution. You’ll have to pay back these funds in monthly increments while trying to enjoy your post-college life, so borrow as little as you can.

To estimate your monthly payment, you could use a payment calculator. The results can be eye-opening: For example, if you took out $35,000 of loans at a 5.70% weighted interest rate, you’d be on the hook for $383 per month for 10 years after graduation.

3. Find ways to lower the cost

Whichever path you choose, look for ways to lower the cost.

You can negotiate with your financial aid office, work while you’re in school, and apply for scholarships.

Whether it’s a trade school, community college, four-year university or a gap year, don’t take your decision lightly. The repercussions of financing your education will last for far longer than your actual years of study.

Methodology

LendingTree examined more than 300 trade schools across the U.S. along with data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The above list of the top 25 trade schools were those that offered the best return on investment (ROI) based on graduation rates and other factors, including:

  • Net cost
  • Median debt
  • Median earnings
 

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