How to Choose a Trade School

choosing a trade school

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College isn’t for everyone. If you are interested in an in-demand field like HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance, then attending a trade school could help you get there faster and with less debt than a university: a positive benefit of trade schools are that they typically take fewer than twelve months to complete and cost $94,000 less than 4-year colleges.

With so many trade schools to choose from, how do you know which one will provide the best training and preparation for your future career? Whichever field you are interested in, whether it’s HVAC training or electrical training, there are some questions about the schools you’re considering.

Is the Trade School Accredited and Licensed?

Perhaps you’ve asked for friends’ and family members’ opinions, read online reviews, or looked for seals of approval by outside agencies like the Better Business Bureau before purchasing a product or service. When it comes to choosing a trade school, accreditation and licensing can provide similar validation of quality and alignment with industry standards. 1

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges as a reliable authority of the quality of training a vocational school offers. 2 Similar to accreditation, licensure through the state where the trade school is located can ensure that the school’s courses and programs meet certain standards. When considering a trade school, call or check its website to see what kind of accreditation it has, and verify with the school that the accreditation is current and check its status with the licensing agency. 3

What Services Does the Trade School Offer?

Does the school’s website provide information about its programs, admissions and provide help with financial aid and finding sources to fund vocational training, and career services? Such offerings can suggest the trade school strives to set students up for success. 4

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Are There Quality Instructors?

Some schools provide information about their teachers’ education and experience on their websites, enabling you to learn about instructors prior to scheduling a campus visit and getting to know them. 5 You may also want to chat with current students to see how they like the instructors. 6

Will You Need to Purchase Tools and Equipment?

Like any post-secondary school, students are usually required to purchase books and charge school fees. At a trade school, students may need industry-related equipment and gear. It’s important to know what you will be expected to buy because this expense can be added to the budget you develop for your financial aid application. 7

Does the School Help with Job Placement?

When considering a trade school, look for indicators that you’ll receive a return on your investment in training by finding a job after graduation. 8 A strong career services program can also suggest the school helps graduates successfully find jobs. See if the trade school’s staff helps with resume preparation, cover letter writing, employment searches, and interview preparation, as well as holds professional networking events and job fairs.

Compare Your Options

It may be a good idea to compare the offerings of a few schools before settling on one. Consider factors like accreditation, licensing, program length, job placement rates, financial aid, and career services. Choosing a trade school is a big decision, but one that could pay off once you’re working in your chosen field. 9

Additional Sources

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