25 Best Trade Schools

 July 29, 2022
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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.

25 trade schools with excellent ROI

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.

1. FINE Mortuary College
2. The Landing School
3. Elyon College
4. Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service
5. Baton Rouge School of Computers
6. SABER College
7. ATA College
8. Colorado School of Healing Arts
9. American Academy of Dramatic Arts
10. Island Drafting and Technical Institute
11. Hacienda La Puente Adult Education
12. Central Coast College
13. Saint Michael College of Allied Health
14. School of Automotive Machinists & Technology
15. Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology
16. Great Lakes Institute of Technology
17. Carver Career Center
18. Allen School of Health Sciences
19. Houston International College Cardiotech Ultrasound School
20. CBT Technology Institute-Cutler Bay
21. Eastern Virginia Career College
22. Cortiva Institute
23. Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science
24. Perry Technical Institute
25. Concorde Career College-Garden Grove

1. FINE Mortuary College

Graduation rate: 100%
Location: Norwood, Mass.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $30,505
Median debt: $30,932
Median earnings: Not available

2. The Landing School

Graduation rate: 97%
Location: Arundel, Maine
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $37,714
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: Not available

3. Elyon College

Graduation rate: 97%
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $13,040
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: Not available

4. Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service

Graduation rate: 96%
Location: Decatur, Ga.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $17,255
Median debt: $16,042
Median earnings: $34,655

5. Baton Rouge School of Computers

Graduation rate: 95%
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $13,514
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $32,080

6. SABER College

Graduation rate: 95%
Location: Miami, Fla.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: Not available
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $29,934

7. ATA College

Graduation rate: 92%
Location: Tulsa, Okla.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $21,012
Median debt: $6,145
Median earnings: Not available

8. Colorado School of Healing Arts

Graduation rate: 91%
Location: Lakewood, Colo.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $39,651
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $29,403

9. American Academy of Dramatic Arts

Graduation rate: 91%
Location: New York
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $46,941
Median debt: $12,000
Median earnings: $30,905

10. Island Drafting and Technical Institute

Graduation rate: 90%
Location: Amityville, N.Y.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $24,924
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $59,663

11. Hacienda La Puente Adult Education

Graduation rate: 90%
Location: La Puente, Calif.
Public/private: Public
Net cost: $3,221
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $30,697

12. Central Coast College

Graduation rate: 90%
Location: Salinas, Calif.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $19,780
Median debt: $5,771
Median earnings: $34,550

13. Saint Michael College of Allied Health

Graduation rate: 89%
Location: Washington, D.C.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $36,002
Median debt: $17,713
Median earnings: Not available

14. School of Automotive Machinists & Technology

Graduation rate: 87%
Location: Houston
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $26,596
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $55,411

15. Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology

Graduation rate: 87%
Location: Broomfield, Colo.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $22,272
Median debt: $15,052
Median earnings: $56,402

16. Great Lakes Institute of Technology

Graduation rate: 87%
Location: Erie, Pa.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $17,159
Median debt: $11,133
Median earnings: $26,002

17. Carver Career Center

Graduation rate: 87%
Location: Charleston, W.Va.
Public/private: Public
Net cost: $3,286
Median debt: Not available
Median earnings: $29,336

18. Allen School of Health Sciences

Graduation rate: 84%
Location: Phoenix
Public/private: Private
Tuition: $14,718
Median debt: $9,500
Median earnings: $31,677

19. Houston International College Cardiotech Ultrasound School

Graduation rate: 86%
Location: Houston
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $21,052
Median debt: $20,000
Median earnings: Not available

20. CBT Technology Institute – Cutler Bay Campus

Graduation rate: 85%
Location: Cutler Bay, Fla.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $17,570
Median debt: $8,700
Median earnings: $27,469

21. Eastern Virginia Career College

Graduation rate: 84%
Location: Fredericksburg, Va.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: Not available
Median debt: $9,532
Median earnings: $32,388

22. Cortiva Institute

Graduation rate: 84%
Location: Linthicum, Md.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $20,519
Median debt: $7,600
Median earnings: $34,339

23. Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science

Graduation rate: 84%
Location: Pittsburgh
Public/private: Private
Net cost: Not available
Median debt: $18,250
Median earnings: $48,132

24. Perry Technical Institute

Graduation rate: 83%
Location: Yakima, Wash.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $18,800
Median debt: $13,364
Median earnings: $58,485

25. Concorde Career College-Garden Grove

Graduation rate: 83%
Location: Garden Grove, Calif.
Public/private: Private
Net cost: $20,011
Median debt: $11,898
Median earnings: $44,756

Trade school vs. college

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.

3 steps to take before choosing a school

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, use our monthly 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.

You can negotiate with your financial aid office, work while you’re in school, and apply for scholarships (while being careful to avoid scholarship displacement).

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.

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