How to Choose the Best Trade School for You

young person working with electrical equipment
  • 50-150 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 2,000-40,000

Whether you’re looking to change careers or are just starting out in the working world, learning a trade can be a satisfying experience. Not all technical, or trade, schools are set up the same so you’ll need to consider the options to see what works best for you.

Step 1 - Choose a Field of Study

The first step is to select a field of study you are interested in. Trade schools may offer a few options, but they are typically fairly focused in the curriculum offered.

For example, you may be able to attend a local community college to earn the credits you need, or you might want to go to a school that only offers classes targeted towards your field.

Examples of trades include carpentry, HVAC work, electrician, construction worker, landscaping, painting, mechanics, carpet installation, and plumbing.

Do your research and talk with multiple people in the industry. Offer to take a business owner out to coffee and ask a lot of questions about what training they offer and what they look for in an employee. Similarly, meet with workers in the industry to learn from their experiences when they were starting out.

young woman working machine drill

Step 2 - Make Sure You Need School Credits

A trade school provides the education you need to move into the field with an understanding of safety, equipment usage, rules and regulations, and hands-on responsibilities. Certification from an accredited program can open the door to many job opportunities.

Many trade industries offer apprenticeship programs and provide their own training along with any certifications you might need without going to school first. The point is, you may not need to actually select a school but may want to work directly with a company in the industry instead.

Step 3 - Consider Cost

Cost is a crucial consideration for most people. If you plan to take the school route, talk with an advisor at the school for a good understanding of the costs associated with the program.

This will include books, housing if you’re away from home, curriculum, and testing fees to obtain required certifications. Check to see if you qualify for grants or loans and if the school offers a financial aid option.

young man learning trade skill from older man

Step 4 - Consider Location

If you don’t have a trade school or technical school in your area, you may have to look around the state or in another area altogether. The location might be a deciding factor in your decision of where to attend school.

Distance learning, or online learning, is an option for many campuses too. If you’re looking to complete the program while still working a regular job, an online option can allow you to complete the program in the evenings and weekends.

You don’t have to be located in the same town, so you can attend classes through a campus in New York while living in L.A., but make sure you’re clear about the expectations and that online learning is the best choice for you.

Step 5 - Evaluate the Program

In addition to considering costs and location, make sure you evaluate things like the experience of instructors, class sizes, and whether they provide career placement assistance once you complete the program.

young woman looking at level with goggles

Step 6 - Visit and Interview

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, consider doing a campus tour. Walking through campus, meeting other students, and visiting with faculty will provide a feel for what it would be like to spend months or years attending the school.

Come prepared with questions and take notes, pictures, and videos as you tour. If you visit several schools you might be surprised by what you forget between one and the next.

Find out about the application process, timelines for the program, and ensure the program is accredited in the field you want to work in, meaning that your credits will be accepted once you land a job.

There is a lot to consider when choosing a technical, or trade school. Investing in your education is about more than just cost. It’s also about ensuring you receive the level of education and support you need to move forward with a career in your chosen field.