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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.
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.
|Rank||Trade school||Graduation rate||Location||Public/private||Net cost||Median debt||Median earnings|
|1||FINE Mortuary College||100%||Norwood, Mass.||Private||$30,505||$30,932||Not available|
|2||The Landing School||97%||Arundel, Maine||Private||$37,714||Not available||Not available|
|3||Elyon College||97%||Brooklyn, N.Y.||Private||$13,040||Not available||Not available|
|4||Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service||96%||Decatur, Ga.||Private||$17,255||$16,042||$34,655|
|5||Baton Rouge School of Computers||95%||Baton Rouge, La.||Private||$13,514||Not available||$32,080|
|6||SABER College||95%||Miami, Fla.||Private||Not available||Not available||$29,934|
|7||ATA College||92%||Tulsa, Okla.||Private||$21,012||$6,145||Not available|
|8||Colorado School of Healing Arts||91%||Lakewood, Colo.||Private||$39,651||Not available||$29,403|
|9||American Academy of Dramatic Arts||91%||New York||Private||$46,941||$12,000||$30,905|
|10||Island Drafting and Technical Institute||90%||Amityville, N.Y.||Private||$24,924||Not available||$59,663|
|11||Hacienda La Puente Adult Education||90%||La Puente, Calif.||Public||$3,221||Not available||$30,697|
|12||Central Coast College||90%||Salinas, Calif.||Private||$19,780||$5,771||$34,550|
|13||Saint Michael College of Allied Health||89%||Washington, D.C.||Private||$36,002||$17,713||Not available|
|14||School of Automotive Machinists & Technology||87%||Houston||Private||$26,596||Not available||$55,411|
|15||Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology||87%||Broomfield, Colo.||Private||$22,272||$15,052||$56,402|
|16||Great Lakes Institute of Technology||87%||Erie, Pa.||Private||$17,159||$11,133||$26,002|
|17||Carver Career Center||87%||Charleston, W.Va.||Public||$3,286||Not available||$29,336|
|18||Allen School of Health Sciences||84%||Phoenix||Private||$14,718||$9,500||$31,677|
|19||Houston International College Cardiotech Ultrasound School||86%||Houston||Private||$21,052||$20,000||Not available|
|20||CBT Technology Institute – Cutler Bay Campus||85%||Cutler Bay, Fla.||Private||$17,570||$8,700||$27,469|
|21||Eastern Virginia Career College||84%||Fredericksburg, Va.||Private||Not available||$9,532||$32,388|
|22||Cortiva Institute||84%||Linthicum, Md.||Private||$20,519||$7,600||$34,339|
|23||Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science||84%||Pittsburgh||Private||Not available||$18,250||$48,132|
|24||Perry Technical Institute||83%||Yakima, Wash.||Private||$18,800||$13,364||$58,485|
|25||Concorde Career College-Garden Grove||83%||Garden Grove, Calif.||Private||$20,011||$11,898||$44,756|
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.
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.
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.
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