by Tom Panter
Not every line of work requires a four-year college degree. If you’re not interested in the huge time and financial commitment of a bachelor’s degree, then you might benefit from completing a training course at one of these online trade schools–schools like Penn Foster or Ashworth College. Online trade schools can help you break into the field of your choice by providing you with the fundamental knowledge and training required for the job you seek. Whether you’re interested working as a veterinary assistant, paralegal, or locksmith, career schools might have just the program to get you started.
This article is a ranking of the top ten online vocational/technical schools. We ranked the schools by the number of programs offered and overall cost of the program. This list includes a wide variety of schools with different types of accreditation; it should be noted that a number of them are not regionally accredited, and thus most of the courses from those schools are not intended to transfer to regionally accredited universities. All of these online trade schools specialize in fast, effective programs designed to get you started in your career in a fast, affordable way, and these are some of the best in the United States.
Ranking the Best Online Trade Schools for 2021
10. Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College offers the lowest tuition rate in the state of Indiana. They offer 17 online career programs, each of which includes free virtual support. Instructors are available for one-on-one interactions, and tutoring and advising is available, as well. Ivy Tech specializes in computer-related programs. The 17 available online programs include Network Security, Digital Forensics, Informatics, and Software Development.
9. Blackstone Career Institute
Blackstone College offers 20 career programs that can be completed entirely online. Blackstone’s programs are extremely flexible, as students have the option to begin the programs at any time and learn at their own pace. Students can choose from 10 certificate programs which take 3-6 months to complete, and 10 diploma programs, each taking 6-12 months to complete. Program options include Computers and Coding, Childcare Provider and Dental Assistant.
8. Martinsburg College
Martinsburg, West Virginia
At Martinsburg College, students can complete a certificate program in as little as 6-8 months. These programs have flexible schedule options, and fully prepare students for industry certifications. There are 21 programs offered fully online in the following areas of study: Healthcare, Security, Business and Professional Development, Information Technology, Medical Administration, and Digital Technology Integration.
7. West Georgia Technical College
West Georgia Technical College offers 23 online career program options, and graduates of these programs have a 99.8% job placement rate. WGTC seeks to provide relevant training, transfer of new technology, and community support services in each of their programs. Online program options include Accounting, Medical Coding, Fire Science Technology, and Business Health Technology.
6. Albany Technical College
At Albany Technical College, students can choose from 10 diploma programs and 14 certificate of credit programs, all of which can be completed entirely online. These programs take between one and three semesters to complete. The diploma program options include Fire Science Technology and Cybersecurity, and Technical Certificate options include Fire Officer and Supply Chain Management. Each program prepares individuals to meet dynamic and evolving workforce needs.
5. U.S. Career Institute
Fort Collins, Colorado
U.S. Career Institute offers 25 career program options that can be completed entirely online. Each of these programs is self-paced, designed by career industry experts, and offers extensive career support. Monthly payment plans are available to students, and the 25 online programs are available within the areas of Healthcare, Business, Service, Legal Careers, and Wellness. 96% of graduates would recommend U.S. Career Institute to others.
4. Georgia Northwestern Technical College
Georgia Northwestern Technical College offers six online diploma programs and 30 online technical certificates of credit. Each of these 36 program options are earned through one of the school’s four core areas of study: Business, Health, Industry, and Public Service. Program options include Mammography, Website Developer, and multiple Microsoft Certificates. The school has a close relationship with local industries, helping the programs meet the current specific needs in each field.
3. Central Georgia Technical College
Central Georgia Technical College offers 53 diploma and certificate programs that can be completed entirely online. CGTC prides itself on work-based learning, meeting all current industry standards. The 53 online program options fall into the following five categories: Aerospace, Trade and Industry, Business and Computer Technologies, Health Sciences, Public Safety and Professional Services, and General Studies.
2. Penn Foster Career School
Offering 59 career diploma programs, Penn Foster is a great option for those wishing to complete an online career program. Penn Foster’s programs are self-paced with strong instructor support. All programs are licensed and accredited and aim to teach current marketplace skills, preparing students for immediate employment. Program options include Jewelry Design, Wildlife/Forestry Conservation, Legal Secretary, and Certified Personal Trainer.
Tuition: $600 -$1,000
1. Ashworth College
Ashworth College ranks as our #1 online career school. Offering 70 choices of career programs, Ashworth has designed its online programs for affordability and flexibility. Students can earn either a career diploma or a career certificate in one of the following areas of study: Business, Creative Services, Education, Healthcare, Legal Studies, Technology, and Trades. Option of trade programs include Carpentry, Dog Obedience Training, and Locksmithing.
Tuition: $600 – $1,000
What’s the difference between online trade schools/online career schools and a university?
The most important difference is typically accreditation. Online vocational schools aren’t concerned with regional accreditation because they don’t worry about general education credits. They focus on getting you the information and skills that you need to start your career fast. However, this often means that courses from a trade school aren’t transferable to most regionally accredited universities and colleges. That’s okay, as long as you aren’t counting on transferring anything at some point later on down the line or going back to school later to continue your education.
Online trade schools are quite pragmatic in their approach to education, and in most of the careers they offer training for, you wouldn’t benefit as much from a full college degree. The value of career schools is that they can help save you time by getting you the training you need to skip the absolute ground floor of most trades, or they focus on teaching you the information you need to know to acquire the certifications necessary to practice your chosen profession.
What are the advantages of a trade school?
The two biggest advantages are a significant savings in both time and money. Going to college to get a degree requires you to be a student for a long time (typically 2 years for an Associate’s degree and 4 years for a Bachelor’s degree). A certificate from a trade school is designed to get you started much quicker than that (possibly in months rather than in years).
A college degree also requires a larger financial investment that a trade school certificate. If you’re not entering a trade where a degree brings in more money, the investment may not be worth it. You also may not be in a position where you can afford a school’s tuition; this makes the smaller amount charged for a certificate a better option.
What are the advantages of taking my trade school classes online?
The main advantages are flexibility and convenience. Without the requirement to commute to a campus and be in the classroom at a specific time, you may be able to fit classes into your schedule much more easily. Early morning classes don’t require you to wake up quite so early, and evening classes won’t make you stay out late at night. This leads to the second big advantage, which is convenience. If you don’t need to be away from home to participate in your classes, it will be much easier to fit your classes with the rest of your responsibilities. You won’t have to spend money on childcare, gas and parking to make it to class on time.
On the other hand, some students find that this large amount of freedom is difficult to deal with. If you don’t have a set schedule when you need to be in class, it can be hard to force yourself to complete all aspects of the class in a responsible way.
How can I pay for my courses at online trade schools?
Most schools require a minimal down payment, and then allow you to pay monthly installments at low (or even 0%) interest. You won’t need to worry about huge student loans for the most part because the cost is relatively low. Many of the online vocational schools focus on helping their students graduate debt-free.
How much can I earn after an online vocational program at a web career school?
There is a very wide range of potential future earning, depending largely on the career you choose. Here are some samples of common careers chosen at these web career schools, along with the median earnings of professionals in those careers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Medical Coding and Billing: $39,180
- HVAC Mechanics and Installers: $47,080
- Private Investigators: $50,700
- Vet Assistant: $26,140
- Interior Designer: $51,500