Do Trade Schools Require High School Diplomas?

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October 7, 2021

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The percentage of people who have a high school or GED diploma has increased steadily over the years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). However, about 10% of the population still lacks a high school degree (or the equivalent). Without a high school diploma or GED certificate, it is difficult to get into a four-year college to further your education. But what about getting into a trade school?

This guide answers the question: "Do trade schools require a high school diploma?" It also provides practical advice about what you should do if you want to attend a trade school but do not have a high school or GED diploma.

Trade School Admission Requirements

Trade school requirements typically include a high school diploma or GED certificate. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Additionally, unlike four-year colleges and community colleges, trade schools generally do not require college admissions tests like the ACT or SAT. However, they may require some sort of placement test instead.

To apply for admission to a trade school, you'll need to fill out an application and submit it along with the application fee (if necessary). You'll also need to submit proof of your high school or GED diploma, if you have one. A school transcript and letters of recommendation may not be required when applying to trade school, but these documents could raise your chances of being admitted.

What If I Don't Have a High School Diploma or GED Certificate?

If you do not have a high school diploma or GED certificate, you should first consider getting your GED diploma. Even if you can gain admission to a trade school without it, you may need it for licensing purposes after you complete your program and start applying for top trade jobs. Additionally, employers may require a high school diploma or GED certificate.

If you want to enroll in a trade school without a GED certificate, contact an admissions counselor at the school you are considering and ask what your options are. There are some trade schools around the country that do not require applicants to possess a high school or GED diploma.

As mentioned before, you may need to submit your high school transcripts — even if you didn't graduate — and you will probably have to take a placement test. The placement test will let the school know if you have the reading, math, and writing skills needed to succeed in the program.

Financial Aid Opportunities

Not having a high school diploma or GED certificate may hinder your ability to qualify for financial aid. You may not have access to federal student loans, and most schools do not offer scholarships or grants to those without diplomas. However, there may be external organizations that offer scholarships to students without a high school or GED diploma.

Ability to Benefit Program

The Ability to Benefit (ATB) program allows students without a GED or high school diploma who qualify for financial aid to get funding from federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant.

To qualify, you may need to pass an approved test or complete six credits toward an approved college degree or certificate. Talk to a financial aid counselor at your school for more information about this program.

Trade Schools That Do Not Require a High School Diploma

Beauty Schools

Some beauty schools do not require a high school diploma. For example, Georgia Beauty School accepts students as young as 16 years old with or without a diploma or GED certificate.

However, the school advises students that in order to take their state board exams, they must have a high school or GED diploma. The school needs proof that you have earned a diploma or GED certificate after you complete the program so it can submit your application to take the state board.

Massage Therapy Schools

Most states require a high school diploma or GED certificate to become a licensed massage therapist. However, in states that do not have that requirement, you may be able to attend massage therapy school without a diploma. Keep in mind that if you want to work in a state that requires a diploma or GED certificate for licensing, you will need to meet this requirement.

Certified Nursing Assistant Schools

Some certified nursing assistant schools may allow you to enroll without a high school diploma or GED certificate. However, most states do require a high school or GED diploma for licensing. Be sure to check your state's licensing requirements when considering whether to enroll in a certified nursing assistant program without a diploma.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trade School Requirements

What GPA do you need for trade school?

Depending on the school or program, the GPA required for trade school may be lower than what's required for college. However, some trade schools do require a minimum high school GPA of 2.0. You may need to submit your high school transcripts, which show the classes you took and your grades. If you have a GED diploma, you will need to provide proof of that instead.

If your GPA is lower than 2.0, contact the admissions counselor at the school you would like to attend to find out if there is anything else you can do to gain admission.

Is it hard to get into trade school?

No, it is usually not hard to get into trade school. However, most trade schools do require either a high school diploma or a GED certificate. If you do not have either, it can be much harder to gain admission. However, there are a handful of schools across the country that do accept students without a diploma or GED certificate.

If you have a high school diploma and a GPA of 2.0 or higher, you should have no trouble gaining admission to a trade school. If your GPA is lower than 2.0, it may be more difficult, depending on your target school and program.

How long do trade schools last?

Trade school programs typically take less than two years to complete. However, the duration of the program depends on the program type. For example, it usually takes 9-12 months to complete the training to become an HVAC technician and 7-9 months to complete a welding program.

An electrician trade school program typically takes about 12 months, while a truck driving student can be on the road in 20 weeks. Additionally, medical assistant and dental assistant programs typically take about nine months.


Feature Image: kali9 / E+ / Getty Images

Not every career requires a bachelor's degree. If you're considering entering a vocation, check out these popular — and lucrative — trade school jobs. You don’t have to jump through hoops to get into the best trade school. Learn the common trade school requirements, including age restrictions. We've ranked the best online community colleges & trade Schools for programs, financial aid, and more. Compare and search for the school that matches your goals.

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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