Not every career requires a college degree. If you’re not interested in committing to the huge time and financial commitment of university, then you might benefit from completing a career training course at a career school. Career schools can help you break into the career of your choice by providing you with the fundamental knowledge and training required for jobs in many different careers. Whether you’re interested in HVAC, motorcycle repair, or working as a veterinary assistant, paralegal, or locksmith, career schools might have just the program to get your started.
This article is a ranking of the top five online vocational schools. We ranked the schools by the number of programs offered and overall cost of the programs. It should be noted that while these schools are accredited by agencies like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and other national accrediting bodies, they are not regionally accredited and thus most of their courses are not intended to transfer to regionally accredited universities. These 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.
#1. Stratford Career Institute
Stratford offers a 0% interest pay as you go monthly payment plan. Stratford often runs special offers like the current one which gives $300 off regular tuition price. Stratford offers online career courses for computer programming, fashion merchandising and design, private investigation, security/police sciences, motorcycle/ATV repair, funeral service education, gardening and landscaping, and florist/floral design.
- Tuition: $589-$1089
- Number of Online Programs: 61
#2. Ashworth College
Ashworth offers a wide variety of educational programs, but we’re focused on the career-oriented programs for the purposes of this ranking. Some of the career programs available are gunsmithing, heating and air conditioning, interior decorating, jewelry design and repair, landscape design, locksmithing, motorcycle mechanics, personal trainer, pharmacy technician, private investigation, and security services.
- Tuition: $600-$1,000
- Number of Online Career Programs: 59
#3. Penn Foster Career School
Penn Foster is one of the oldest career schools in the country, founded in 1890 and was one of the early adopters of distance learning. The most popular career programs at Penn Foster are auto repair technician, HVAC technician, dental assistant, medical billing and coding, pharmacy technician, and veterinary assistant. Other programs include gunsmith, carpenter, bookkeeping, travel and tourism specialist, web page designer, and dog obedience trainer/instructor.
- Tuition: $699-$1,000
- Number of Online Programs: 57
#4. U.S. Career Institute
The U.S. Career Institute offers a number of programs across various disciplines, and the highest concentration is in healthcare. Among the programs on offer are dental assistant, electronic medical records specialist, medical coding and billing specialist, insurance claims adjuster, personal care assistant, wedding consultant/event planner, criminal justice specialist, massage therapist, and CompTIA A+, and CompTIA Network + programs.
- Tuition: $589-$1300
- Number of Online Programs: 27
#5. Blackstone Career Institute
While Blackstone is the most expensive online vocational school ranked here, they often offer discounts and promotions that reduce the cost of their programs by more than $300. Programs available at Blackstone include pharmacy technician, medical transcription, dental office assistant, medical office assistant, veterinary assistant, child care provider, and physical therapy aid. Students can also take a number of courses designed to aid them in earning certificates in many medical-related careers.
- Tuition: $1,200-$1,500
- Number of Online Programs: 19
What’s the difference between an online career school and a university?
The most important difference is typically accreditation. Online career schools aren’t concerned with regional accreditation because they don’t worry about general education credits. They focus on getting you the information 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. Career schools are quite pragmatic in their approach to education, and most of the careers they offer training for you wouldn’t benefit as much from a full college degree. The value of a career school 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.
How do I pay for my online trade school training?
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. Many of the career schools focus on helping their students graduate debt-free.
How much can I earn after an online vocational school program?
This depends largely on the career you choose. Here are some samples of common careers chosen at these schools, and 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