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Online Trade and Vocational Schools

By Michael McCarthy | Updated 9/30/2022
Quick Facts
Accreditation: PABCTE
Average Tuition: $16,175
Alumni Salary: $37,510

Trade or vocational school programs may help you prepare for careers in fields such as automotive repair, construction, home inspection, and HVAC maintenance. Below, we've listed 25 popular schools for online vocational certificates and associate degrees. Earning one of these credentials might help you qualify you for a variety of trade careers after graduation.

Keep reading after the list to learn about trade schools and how their programs might benefit you.

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Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Vocational Degrees

Visitors to our site are most interested in these schools
Rank School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
# 1 #1 Purdue University Global $14,358 71% (444 reviews)
292 Programs, 2 in Vocational (view all)
292 Programs, 2 in Vocational
  • Medical Assisting Certificate
  • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
# 2 #2 Liberty University $11,700 57% (323 reviews)
761 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
761 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • GRAD CERT: Outdoor Adventure Sport
# 3 #3 Waldorf University $8,700 100% (16 reviews)
135 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
135 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Associate of Arts Fire Science
# 4 #4 Columbia Southern University $6,600 78% (187 reviews)
92 Programs, 2 in Vocational (view all)
92 Programs, 2 in Vocational
  • A.S. Fire Science
  • Undergraduate Certificate-Hospitality and Tourism
# 5 #5 Saybrook University Hybrid Online $27,489 Add Review
47 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
47 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Certificate in Clinical and Applied Hypnosis
# 6 #6 Rasmussen University Online Not Provided 44% (84 reviews)
65 Programs, 2 in Vocational (view all)
65 Programs, 2 in Vocational
  • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Pharmacy Technician Certificate
# 7 #7 American National University $8,244 17% (6 reviews)
38 Programs, 4 in Vocational (view all)
38 Programs, 4 in Vocational
  • Pharmacy Technician - Associate
  • Medical Billing and Coding - Diploma
  • Pharmacy Technician - Diploma
  • Phlebotomy + ECG Technician - Certificate
# 8 #8 Fitchburg State University $16,690 100% (1 review)
56 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
56 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Master of Education in Occupational Education
# 9 #9 Bryan University Online $15,400 95% (19 reviews)
28 Programs, 2 in Vocational (view all)
28 Programs, 2 in Vocational
  • Associate Degree in Advanced Medical Billing, Coding and ...
  • Associate Degree in Court Reporting
# 10 #10 Miller-Motte College Online $24,160 50% (2 reviews)
16 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
16 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Diploma in Medical Billing and Coding
# 11 #11 Florida Tech - Online $12,240 65% (79 reviews)
74 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
74 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • AA Aviation Management
# 12 #12 San Joaquin Valley College $30,175 66% (47 reviews)
10 Programs, 4 in Vocational (view all)
10 Programs, 4 in Vocational
  • AS - Construction Management
  • AS - Medical Billing and Coding
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Certificate - Medical Billing and Coding
# 13 #13 National American University Online $10,575 40% (75 reviews)
167 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
167 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Diploma - Healthcare Coding
# 14 #14 Brookline College Online $15,008 Add Review
10 Programs, 2 in Vocational (view all)
10 Programs, 2 in Vocational
  • Diploma - Medical Insurance Billing and Coding
  • Diploma - Pharmacy Technician
# 15 #15 Carrington College $34,050 0% (5 reviews)
7 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
7 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Certificate of Achievement in Medical Administrative Assi...
# 16 #16 University of Colorado Denver $25,823 100% (2 reviews)
157 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
157 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Undergraduate Certificate in Mediation
# 17 #17 Ross College $15,680 Add Review
5 Programs, 2 in Vocational (view all)
5 Programs, 2 in Vocational
  • AAS in Medical Assistant
  • AAS in Medical Billing Administrative Specialist
# 18 #18 Indiana State University $20,160 83% (6 reviews)
105 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
105 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Certificate in Post-Secondary Facilitator
# 19 #19 Arlington Career Institute $11,761 Add Review
1 Program, 1 in Vocational (view all)
1 Program, 1 in Vocational
  • Court Reporting
# 20 #20 Brown College of Court Reporting $12,945 Add Review
1 Program, 1 in Vocational (view all)
1 Program, 1 in Vocational
  • Court Reporting - Certificate
# 21 #21 Keiser University eCampus $18,688 37% (27 reviews)
80 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
80 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Associate of Science in Medical Administrative Billing an...
# 22 #22 Ross Medical Education Center $15,685 Add Review
5 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
5 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • AAS in Medical Assisting
# 23 #23 Stautzenberger College $16,549 Add Review
10 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
10 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Diploma in Medical Office Billing and Coding
# 24 #24 Charter College Online $18,161 25% (12 reviews)
11 Programs, 1 in Vocational (view all)
11 Programs, 1 in Vocational
  • Associate of Applied Science in Applied Technology
# 25 #25 Penn Foster College Not Provided 60% (215 reviews)
50 Programs, 8 in Vocational (view all)
50 Programs, 8 in Vocational
  • Manufacturing - AS Degree
  • Construction Technology - AS Degree
  • Industrial Electronics and Electrical Maintenance Technol...
  • Veterinary Technician - AS Degree

Overview of Online Trade and Vocational Schools

Vocational schools — also called trade schools — offer training in trade careers, which call for skilled labor but don't require a four-year degree. These are largely private institutions featuring certificate and associate degree programs and community colleges, which also offer associate and certificate programs in skilled trades. Trade school programs can last anywhere from a few months to two years at full time, with most taking between six months and a year.

You can study for a variety of trade careers online. Many online vocational programs are hybrid, combining online classes with occasional on-campus demonstrations. This format lets instructors teach necessary hands-on, real-world skills while granting you more flexibility than a traditional certificate program would. In some cases, you might submit videos or other media to show that you've mastered a particular skill.

Most online vocational schools are private institutions with open admissions: Prospective students only need a high school diploma or GED to attend. Depending on the school, you might need to prove some technical or mechanical aptitude before enrollment. You may need to meet more stringent entrance requirements if you apply to a college for an online trade certificate or associate degree.


Once you graduate, you might need to take further steps before you qualify for a trade position, such as working under supervision as an apprentice before passing a licensure exam.

FAQs About Online Trade and Vocational Schools

What Is the Difference Between a Trade School and a Vocational School?


There is no real difference, and people use these terms in the same way. There are even more terms, such as "technical school" or "technical college." What an institution calls itself is less important than the career training it provides.

What Trade Can I Learn Quickly?


It's possible to finish the educational requirements to become a Certified Nursing Assistant in 4-12 weeks. You then need to take your state's certification exam and wait a few weeks for results. In all, the process could take as little as two months.

What Trades Can You Get Online?


You can find online programs for nearly every trade, from cosmetology to carpentry to electrician studies. But even vocational schools with online courses typically require some live demonstration of your skills to make sure you've absorbed the lessons. After all, at some point, you'll need to cut an actual person's hair or replace a breaker switch at a residence or business.

What Are the Highest Paying Trade School Programs?


Elevator installer and repairer is the highest paying occupation that you can practice with a trade school diploma. These professionals earn median yearly wages of $97,860. Next in line are power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, at a median salary of $94,790 per year.

What Programs Are Offered at Online Trade Schools?

There are many varieties of online trade schools, from institutions offering diploma programs in several areas to schools that specialize in a particular cluster of trades, such as automotive repair or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Some people use the term "trade" to refer to jobs installing or repairing mechanical equipment, but the definition is much broader than that and also includes careers in the culinary arts, beauty and cosmetology, and healthcare.



There are many varieties of online trade schools, from institutions offering diploma programs in several areas to schools that specialize in a particular cluster of trades.

Trade schools top out at the certificate or associate level. You need to apply to a four-year college if you want to earn a bachelor's degree or higher. In most cases, instructors design vocational programs to prepare graduates for whatever licensure or certification they need to practice their trade. For example, a plumbing program will usually include a course to help you study for the state licensure exam for plumbers.

Example Courses at Online Trade or Vocational Schools

Trade schools focus narrowly on vocational training programs for specific careers, without any of the general education or liberal arts classes you'd encounter in a degree program. Therefore, the curricula differ widely by discipline — you wouldn't want to waste time learning about electrical circuits if you're in a dental assistant program, for example.

With the variety of vocational programs in mind, we've listed example courses for certificates that prepare students for some of the most in-demand trade jobs.

Career Common Courses
Wind turbine technician
  • Electric Motors and Controls
  • Industrial Turbine Safety
  • Introduction to Wind Energy
Solar photovoltaic installer
  • Building Electrical Systems
  • Introduction to Renewable Energy
  • Solar Panel Design and Applications
Home health and personal care aide
  • Caring for Special Populations
  • Fundamentals of Caregiving
  • Patient Care Safety
Manicurist and pedicurist
  • Customer Service and Communication
  • Nail Art and Wraps
  • Safety and Infection Control
Massage therapist
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Massage Techniques

Why Choose an Online Trade School?

Many people are attracted to online learning programs for their flexibility. Most of them offer asynchronous courses, which means you can sign in to do your work at convenient times rather than on a set schedule.

Indeed, convenience is the chief reason for the popularity of online degrees, and online trade programs are no different — to a point. As discussed, most vocational programs call for some hands-on experience, so you'll often find hybrid programs that have some in-person elements.

Depending on your vocation, you might want to ensure that your school has earned accreditation from the organization responsible for that field. You can review the list of programmatic accreditors on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation site to find one that reviews trade programs in your area of study. Note that not every discipline has a programmatic accreditor.

Is an Online Trade School a Good Fit for Me?

This depends on your learning style and personal circumstances. You might find it hard to concentrate on recorded lectures and educational videos at home or in public, where there are constant opportunities for distraction. It can be especially challenging to study at home with children around. But if you think you have the means and temperament to stay disciplined with coursework outside of rigid class times, then distance learning is worth considering.

Interested in learning some tips for how to be a successful online learner? Check out Professor Young's advice for students learning from home.

How Much Does an Online Trade School Cost?

Vocational schools are often private institutions that can charge online students what they like, so costs range widely. We found average tuition costs between $15,000 and $26,000 when we ran the numbers for four popular trade fields, based on data from the Department of Education's (DOE) College Affordability and Transparency List. The DOE doesn't distinguish between online and in-person programs, so we can't say whether attending online is likely to save you money.

You should understand that trade schools tend to cost more than community colleges, which give steep discounts to nearby residents who pay local taxes. Enrolling in a career education program at your local two-year college could save you thousands of dollars in tuition and potentially lead to less student debt down the road.

Is Financial Aid Available for Online Trade Schools?

Yes, you can explore both government and private sources of financial aid for your online trade program. Most funding sources ask you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so they can understand your financial situation. If you have undocumented immigration status, you won't be able to get federal aid, but you may still qualify for state and private aid — check your state's department of education website to find any special forms for undocumented learners.


Your specific trade school may also offer financial aid opportunities, so talk to recruiters about what's available. It's always best to apply for all the aid you can to help lower costs, so don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to understand the offerings.

Trade School Careers

The number and variety of trade careers is as expansive as the available programs. With a vocational education, you can cook for restaurants and catering companies, install drywall in new commercial construction, help prepare an operating room for surgery, or fix leaks in diesel engines. You can review possible career paths using the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Highest-paying Trade School Jobs?

With a trade school diploma, you can start down a number of career paths that pay median wages that are higher than the $45,760 median salary for all jobs combined. As mentioned above, the highest paying of these is elevator and escalator installer and repairer, which has a yearly median salary of nearly $100,000. On the whole, jobs in the construction and extraction industries tend to pay the highest of any occupational group with lots of trade school options.

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