How to Transfer to Trade School

portrait of Sharon Wilfong
by Sharon Wilfong
Published on October 20, 2021

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Trade school is a good fit for students interested in short-term, hands-on learning that can prepare them for in-demand careers. Skilled trades were among the few industries to continue to grow throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there is a lack of skilled tradespeople in the workforce. That means there are significant opportunities for anyone looking for a stable career that pays well. If you are a college student, high school graduate, or currently enrolled in trade school and want to transfer, here is what you need to know.

What Counts as a Trade School?

Vocational training at community colleges and trade schools prepares students to enter the workforce with occupation-specific skills. Students can pursue work in high-paying fields, including information technology, criminal justice, business, healthcare, and agriculture.

On the other hand, traditional college programs focus on various subjects and provide degrees that can apply to a number of career goals. Graduates with English degrees, for example, can find careers in education, marketing, journalism, creative writing, or filmmaking.

Trade schools also differ from traditional colleges in that they combine classroom learning and hands-on instruction. Vocational school programs are also often more affordable than four-year bachelor's degree programs and take less time to complete.

Vocational schools, technical colleges, and trade schools are basically the same thing. They allow students to focus on building skills for a specific industry. However, the time it takes to earn a technical diploma or certificate can vary.

For example, learners can earn a certificate at a vocational school in as little as a year. At a community college or trade school, on the other hand, pursuing an associate degree online may take two years.

How to Transfer to a Trade School

Changing circumstances can affect anyone's education. According to a 2018 report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 38% of students transferred at least once during their first six years of college in 2011. Sometimes students realize they are not on the right path and decide to transfer to a trade school.

It is perfectly acceptable to transfer schools, especially if you are unhappy. Financial or family reasons might also force a change. However, transferring can be costly. In the U.S., transfer students lose an average of 13 credits, which could mean losing over $10,000 in tuition costs.

Trade schools typically require applicants to possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. But college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT are not usually required. Most trade schools have placement exams instead to test applicants' writing, reading, and math skills.

Students can usually fill out the application and submit any required documents online. There may also be an application fee. Additionally, students may want to schedule a meeting with an admissions counselor for help with class schedules and to determine if any previous credits are transferable.

It is critical to find out if the current school has transfer agreements with other schools before beginning the transfer process. If not, previously earned credits might not count toward the new degree or certificate. Unless course credits relate directly to the trade occupation, they likely will not transfer to a vocational training institution.

How to Transfer to a Four-Year University

Can you transfer from a trade school to a university? An associate degree or credits from a trade school or community college may transfer to a four-year university. In fact, one of the most affordable ways to get a bachelor's degree is to attend a two-year college, then transfer to a four-year university.

However, whether your credits will transfer depends on the institutions. Plus, there are more admission requirements at a four-year university. Typically, learners must take entrance exams, write essays, and obtain letters of recommendation.

Talk to an academic advisor and ask questions. Find out how many credits and what courses are required to complete the degree. Also, work with the financial aid department to get help paying for school.

Do Trade School Credits Transfer?

Trade school credits can be tricky to transfer. For one, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and the Department of Education certify that schools meet specific accreditation standards. Credits may only transfer if both schools are properly accredited by the appropriate regional, national, and/or programmatic accrediting bodies.

Request a credit evaluation to find out how many previous credits count toward the new degree. Keep in mind that most four-year institutions have a transfer credit maximum.

Regionally accredited schools generally only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. What's more, students that need federal financial aid must attend regionally or nationally accredited institutions. While most two-year colleges in the United States hold regional accreditation, many trade schools and for-profit institutions are nationally accredited.

Additionally, programmatic accrediting bodies audit specific programs to determine whether they prepare graduates for careers in their chosen field. Consequently, a school may have more than one accreditation.

Transfer students may also be able to earn college credit for life and work experience. For example, military and law enforcement experience, training programs, and licenses and certifications can all count toward college credit.

Some students might earn college credit through specific tests, and others can use writing and research to submit an academic portfolio. Professionals should consider compiling a portfolio of relevant examples to maximize the potential of gaining college credit for their experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Transferring to Trade School

Does transferring colleges look bad? true

No. Students have many reasons for transferring colleges. Whether you are unhappy with your current program or having scheduling problems, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to transfer schools. The main thing to consider is how many of your current credits will transfer to the new school. And, is it worth losing some of those credits to start a new path?

Can I transfer schools after one semester? true

Yes. Some learners realize quickly that their school is not the right environment for them. Some students transfer after the first semester because they find another institution that offers a better program for their major. Take time to meet with an academic advisor from each school to let them know you plan to transfer. You may need to submit an application and financial aid paperwork.

Do trade schools count as college? true

Yes. Trade schools offer secondary or postsecondary level education. Vocational training prepares students for high-paying trades with job-specific skills. Community colleges are primarily two-year institutions that grant associate degrees. Trade school programs are usually shorter, and students earn technical diplomas or certificates rather than degrees.

Trade school can train you for a variety of in-demand careers. Read on to learn how to choose a trade school. Trade school can offer a cheaper, faster alternative to traditional college. See what you can learn in trade school and what degrees you can earn. Save time and money by planning ahead for your college transfer. Learn more with our College Transfer Guide.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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