Best Trade Schools in Colorado

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by Nalea Ko

Updated July 9, 2022

Edited by Madison Hoehn
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Best Trade Schools in Colorado
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Millions of students across the country choose trade school instead of college. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, about 11.1 million students took career and technical education programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels in the 2019-20 school year.

About 28.2% of students studied trades in health sciences, while others majored in business management and administration, law, public safety, corrections and security, or information technology.

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Graduates from the best trade schools in Colorado often have less debt (if any at all) than college graduates and can gain hands-on training in schools to enter the workforce quickly. They can find jobs in Colorado's fast-growing industries. The biggest increases in jobs in Colorado from 2021-22 were in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and transportation.

Keep reading this guide to learn more about the best trade schools in Colorado, trade school costs, and trades that offer lucrative careers.

Trade Jobs and Salaries in Colorado

Colorado's vocational schools train students at a lower cost than colleges. Trade school graduates leave school with about $10,000 in debt, compared to college graduates who owe an average of $31,000. Colorado's highest-employed trade jobs, which we have listed below, do not require a college degree.

Cook


Bus Driver


Medical Assistant


Surgical Technologists


Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver

Trade Schools in Colorado

Colorado boasts several private, non-profit, and public community colleges and vocational schools that provide training in countless fields. Specific program offerings vary by school.

Morgan Community College offers trades in automotive service technology, electromechanical technology, and welding. Colorado Mountain College features bookkeeping, bakery arts, digital production, EMT paramedic, and rope rescue technician programs.

Certificates, diplomas, and degrees take between 1-2 years. Students learn through classroom time and hands-on training in simulated labs or through apprenticeships.

Average Cost of Trade School in Colorado

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), four-year public colleges in Colorado charge an average of $22,180 for in-state students, 5.47% more than the national average. Meanwhile, students attending two-year public schools in Colorado pay only $3,355 for tuition and fees, an 8.21% decrease from the previous year.

Two-year colleges, and trade schools in Colorado, offer a high return on investment. That said, not every two-year college offers cheaper tuition than four-year institutions. For instance, the for-profit Colorado School of Trades charges students $29,850, the highest tuition in the state among two-year schools. However, compared to four-year tuition, trade schools usually cost less.

As of 2021, workers in Colorado made an average hourly wage of $30.24, higher than the national average of $28.01, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. About 70,060 people in Colorado work as retail salespersons, 64,720 as fast food and counter workers, and 53,490 as project management specialists and business operations specialists — making upthe top three jobs in Colorado.

Financial Aid for Trade Schools in Colorado

Not every student has the cash to pay for college. If students and their parents need assistance for tuition, they turn to federal financial aid, private loans, and/or scholarships. The request for financial aid for trade school begins with a free FAFSA form which determines aid packages.

Colorado trade schools that last longer than 15 weeks qualify for federal grants and loans more often than shorter programs. Although, students taking trade programs that run fewer than 15 weeks can qualify for the Direct Loan program.

Scholarships for Colorado Programs

Imagine America High School Scholarship Program

The Imagine America High School Scholarship Programwas started by the Imagine America Foundation in 1998 to provide high school students with funds to pursue a technical career. Students majoring in all trades can apply.


Columbine Memorial Scholarship

The Columbine Memorial Scholarship supports 12 students every year. It is managed by the Denver Foundation, which distributes $4 million in scholarships annually. Applications are available every January.


Colorado Second Chance Scholarship

The Colorado Department of Education offers numerous awards and grants directly to schools in the state and individual awards such as the Second Chance Scholarship. Eligible students must plan to attend two-year colleges or one-year certificate programs and bootcamps.


Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative

Funded by the Colorado General Assembly, this award aims to reduce college debt and increase the number of graduates from college and trade school.

For more information on paying for trade school, click here: Vocational Education Financial Aid.

Accreditations in Colorado

Colorado universities and trade schools get quality verification through accreditation. Independent entities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education grant institutional accreditation.

Accredited trade schools have institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation for specific degrees, diplomas, or certificates. This matters because accrediting agencies protect a student's investment, and also certifications and licensing agencies often require candidates to have graduated from an accreditation program. Common institutional and programmatic accrediting entities for trade schools in Colorado include:

Apprenticeships in Colorado

Where can you find apprenticeships in Colorado? Check the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment 's Apprenticeship Resource Directory. The Affordable Tree Service trains future arborists, while the Affordable Fire Protection Inc. prepares students to become pipefitters and steamfitters. Trade school programs may offer apprenticeships, or students can directly apply through their school or professional organization.

Colorado does not have vocational high schools, but state programs such as the P-Tech program train secondary students for tech careers. The Colorado Community College System also offers career and technical training to middle school and high school students.

Frequently Asked Questions About Technical Schools in Colorado

Is it hard to get into trade school?

Accessibility ranks among the many merits of going to trade schools in Colorado. Compared to four-year universities and colleges, trade schools offer a less restrictive application process, often called "open admissions," which allows students right out of high school or working adults to begin classes quicker.

Trade school applicants simply submit identification, such as a driver's license and/or social security card. Dependent students under the age of 18-23 may need to submit parental information. Depending on the program, proficiency exams for English and math may also be required.

Students enroll in trade schools in Colorado immediately after high school with no college education or after gaining work and college experience.Every trade program has different admissions requirements. Not all trades have the same demand for workers, which could influence admissions to trade programs.

What trade pays the most in Colorado?

Some of the highest-paid occupations in Colorado include medical, technology, and retail and sales management positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A job as a sales representative for wholesale and manufacturing technical and scientific products makes an average salary (mean annual) of $117,930. Depending on the services and products sold, this position may require only a high school diploma or a bachelor's degree.

Health trades in Colorado also fetch lucrative salaries. According to the BLS, dental hygienists in Colorado earn an average annual salary of $90,6490. Paramedics, pharmacy technicians, and surgical technologists earn average annual wages of $41,620-$53,820.

What jobs are in high demand in Colorado?

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the industries with the biggest job growth gains in March 2022 include leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and manufacturing.

Colorado's economy continues to rebound with employers, adding 5,800 nonfarm jobs from February to March 2022. From March 2021 to 2022, the labor force in Colorado added 131,200 jobs. Roughly 3.2 million people in Colorado participate in the workforce.

The University of Boulder's Business Economic Outlook report notes top fields projected to have job gains, including leisure and hospitality at 10.4%, natural resource and mining at 3.0%, finance and business at 2.9%, and construction at 2.3%. Leisure and hospitality should add roughly 31,700 jobs in 2022.

Is college or trade school better?

To answer this, consider your career goals and look into the minimum education requirement.

On average, people with at least a bachelor's degree earn more than workers with no college education. Even so, many occupations in Colorado pay well and do not require a college degree. Trade school graduates complete their education and start making a paycheck quicker than the average college student. Students graduate in months instead of spending 2-4 years in school. They also graduate with less student loan debt on average.

Occupations may only require a high school diploma or GED, while others want students to complete certificates or degrees at trade schools. Administration and management positions may require at least a bachelor's degree, and senior positions require a master's degree.

Best Colorado Trade Schools

Each program on the list will meet our criteria, being:

Rankings Methodology:

  • Must offer less than one-year certifications
  • Accredited
  • Less than 18:1 faculty to student ratio
  • Less than $35,000 in tuition costs
  • Over 50% graduation rate

Aveda Institute-Denver

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $19,257
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: Letter of intent; proof of age and a social security card; high school diploma or GED
  • Graduation requirements: Complete classroom room theoretical learning, practical experience, and professional business training
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

Aveda Institute-Denver offers programs in cosmetology, hairstyling, esthiology, massage therapy, and barbering. The school features a 10,000-square-foot space with clinics to practice with clients, classrooms, a student lounge, a resource library, and a retail space where students can gain sales experience.

Emily Griffith Technical College

  • Program Type: Public
  • Cost: $7,653
  • Location: Denver, Colorado and online
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA, GED, or HiSet or TASC diploma; college placement test scores or CASAS or MAP scores; associate, bachelor's, or master's degree; complete college-level English with a minimum "C" grade
  • Graduation requirements: Complete duration of program or apprenticeship take about 3-18 months
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

About the Program:

Emily Griffith Technical College offers English language and high school completion courses, 13 apprenticeships, 28 career programs, four short-term training programs, and six continuing education programs. The college enrolls roughly 8,700 students who can learn at three campuses in Denver, Colorado, with a salon and barbershop, cafe, and massage clinic and spa.

International Salon and Spa Academy

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $17,737
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: No application fee required; no standardized tests or GPA requirements
  • Graduation requirements: Varies by program
  • Accreditation: Nationally Accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences

About the Program:

The International Salon and Spa Academy, operating since 1971, offers courses on a part-time or full-time basis with evening or daytime options. Programs in barbering, cosmetology, hairstyling, esthetics, and nail technology take 5-22.5 months to complete.

National Beauty College

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $11,081
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma or GED; identification; high school students at least 16 years old can also concurrently apply
  • Graduation requirements: Complete about 1,500 hours in theory and practical courses
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences

About the Program:

The National Beauty College opened in 2002 with programs in cosmetology, hairstyling, esthetician, nail technician, and permanent makeup. Students learn in a beauty salon, nail shop, and facial clinic. They can benefit from tutoring in Spanish or Vietnamese. Programs last 25-62 weeks.

Pima Medical Institute-Denver

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $17,882
  • Location: Denver, Colorado and online
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma or GED; proof of legal age; complete entrance exam; optional ACT scores
  • Graduation requirements: Complete program and clinical internships
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools

About the Program:

Established in 1972, Pima Medical Institute-Denver features fully online associate, bachelor's, and master's healthcare degrees and on-campus certificates. Students can earn an associate degree in as few as 15 months.

Stacey James Institute

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $16,784
  • Location: Parker, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma or GED; must be at least 16 years of age; submit two forms of identification
  • Graduation requirements: Complete program coursework
  • Accreditation: The National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

Stacey James Institute was founded over 10 years ago, following the establishment of the Stacey James Salon & Spa. The school offers cosmetology and esthetician programs that take 5-10 weeks to finish.

Technical College of Rockies

  • Program Type: Public
  • Cost: $19,953
  • Location: Delta, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: Submit driver's license or government ID; take an assessment or entrance exam; high school transcripts or GED results
  • Graduation requirements: Maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA; complete a minimum of 75% of the coursework
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

About the Program:

The Technical College of the Rockies --funded by local, state, and federal government -- features advanced emergency medical technician, automotive service technician, barbering, cosmetology, esthetician, massage therapy, and nail technician programs.

The Salon Professional Academy Colorado Springs

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $4,081
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma or GED; ACT or SAT scores
  • Graduation requirements: Complete about 1,500 hours of classroom and hands-on training
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

About the Program:

Salon Professional Academy Colorado Springs offers programs in cosmetology, barbering, esthetics, nail technology, and microdermabrasion.

Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academy-Colorado Springs

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $16,104
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma or GED; at least 16 years old; proof of identity; submit application fee
  • Graduation requirements: Complete 600-1,500 training hours
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

About the Program:

The Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academy-Colorado Springs offers barbering, hairstyling, and esthetics programs that start every month. Students learn in a 16,000-square-foot facility with classrooms and a training area.

United Beauty College

  • Program Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $8,666
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Admission/application requirements: High school diploma or GED; proof of identification
  • Graduation requirements: Complete 600-1,240 hours of theory and lab work
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

United Beauty College features aesthetician and esthetician, hair stylist, and nail technician programs that take up to 42 weeks.

Other Notable Colorado Trade Schools

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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