Trade School Application Guide

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October 6, 2021

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Employers need workers skilled in specialized trades. Many jobs await trade school graduates, especially since enrollment at two-year vocational degrees dropped by 18% from 2019-2020 during the pandemic.

The pandemic has affected higher education across the nation. Spring enrollment for all of higher education dropped from 17.5 million to 16.9 million between 2020 and 2021. Community colleges, which offer trade and technical programs, were hit especially hard. Enrollment fell by 10% nationally at community colleges, representing a loss of over 540,000 students.

However, despite restrictions due to COVID-19, programs such as welding and computer science still allow students to train in person. Trade school continues to represent a profitable option, as skilled trades jobs prove to consistently be in high demand.

But what do you need to do to apply for trade school? This guide outlines common admission guidelines, age requirements, and important documents you may need in order to submit your application.

A Guide to Your Trade School Application

You can expect a simpler application process at trade schools as compared to four-year colleges. Trade school requirements vary by institution and state, but they usually have similar guidelines.

Admission Requirements

While trade schools rarely require essays during the application process, applicants must meet other criteria. For example, some trade schools require a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Applicants who have not completed high school may need to pass a standardized exam.

Age Requirements

If you have completed high school, you typically meet the age requirements for trade school. Age requirements vary by school, but candidates typically must be at least 17 years old to apply for trade school.

Applicants younger than 17 years old may need parental consent to enroll in trade school. However, candidates as young as 16 and a half sometimes can apply with a release letter from their high school. Still, for trades such as a dental assistant or cosmetology, applicants must be at least 17.

State Requirements

States set application guidelines for trade schools, such as the age requirements mentioned above. For example, where New York schools may admit students as young as 16 and a half, Missouri institutions may require applicants to be at least 17 and a half.

Students will also pay different tuition rates depending on where they live. Location can also affect financial aid opportunities such as loans and scholarships.

Testing Requirements

Normally, trade schools do not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores.Instead, students may need to take placement exams to enroll in trade school, particularly if they have not completed high school. However, students with good ACT or SAT scores can sometimes bypass these placement exam requirements. It may be helpful to have taken these exams, but they are not required.

Important Documents

Many trade schoolslet applicants apply online. A high school diploma or GED certificate and academic transcripts are common requirements. While trade schools rarely require letters of recommendation or SAT/ACT scores, these supplemental materials can help applicants stand out.

School Research

It is best to conduct some research before applying to a trade school. Consider looking up things like available programs, student outcomes, and tuition rates. Reading school reviews is a good place to start, as is determining whether your trade school is accredited. The admissions process takes time and energy, so you want to feel confident before you apply.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trade School Applications

Is it hard to get into trade school?

Compared to a four-year college or university, trade schools tend to offer a less rigorous admission process. Extracurricular activities, test scores, and grades may not matter as much as dedication and passion. Trade school requirements are typically less strict, although some programs may require applicants to have work experience.

Are trade schools better than college?

Trade schools can provide a faster pathway into a good-paying and fulfilling career for less money than a four-year college. Your career ambitions will largely determine whether you should enroll in trade school or college. Also, in order to advance, many trades require workers to continue to train on the job and earn professional credentials down the road.

What are the advantages of going to trade school?

The ROI value of trade schools and their hands-on training tend to be the most important benefits of a trade school. Students complete classroom lessons — whether online or in person — and work experiences at local companies and organizations to gain hands-on experience. For example, cosmetology students train on models in working salons, and electricians often complete apprenticeships at area companies. These experiences often lead to future career opportunities.


Feature Image: Maskot / Maskot / 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. Applying to college can be confusing and stressful. Learn about the key components of a successful college application with this guide. A complete guide to trade schools and why they could be a great and cheap alternative to college. Learn how you can build skills quickly in this post.

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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