Best Trade Schools in South Carolina

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  • Trade schools in South Carolina prepare graduates for in-demand jobs in two years or less.
  • Welders, machinists, and LPNs hold some of the highest-paying trade jobs in the state.
  • Most skilled trade jobs require professionals to pass licensing and certification exams.
  • There are scholarships, awards, and employer-funded reimbursement programs for students.

There’s no denying the value of trade schools if you want to increase your income and have job stability. Trade schools also typically cost less and take less time to complete than a four-year college degree. The best trade schools in South Carolina offer career readiness preparation and job placement assistance.

Students gain job-ready skills through hands-on training for careers such as welder, machinist, licensed practice nurse, or cosmetologist. There are even flexible online programs that let students set a schedule that works best for them. 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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Trade Jobs and Salaries in South Carolina

Some of the highest-employed trade jobs in South Carolina only require postsecondary non-degree education.


  • Projected Employment Growth (2020-2030): 8%
  • Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $47,010

Welders must have some certifications, such as training on electrical safety from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Others, like a certified welder designation, can lead to more career opportunities.


  • Projected Employment Growth (2020-2030): 7%
  • Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $47,940

A certification demonstrates competency and may help machinists advance their careers. Organizations like the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) offer certifications and credentials in CNC machine operation and CAD/CAM technology.

Licensed Practical Nurse

  • Projected Employment Growth (2020-2030): 9%
  • Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $48,070

All LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). An experienced LPN may pursue a supervisory position.

Trade Schools in South Carolina

Skilled trades span industries including manufacturing, healthcare, energy, and technology. Professionals such as auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and cosmetologists are skilled trade workers. Other examples include carpenters, programmers, and welders. Some of South Carolina's most in-demand trade jobs are in automotive, law enforcement, nursing, and information technology.

There are 16 state technical colleges and about 25 trade schools in South Carolina in total, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These schools offer programs that provide hands-on training for in-demand jobs. Additionally, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) helps provide training and education programs.

DEW collaborates with employers and educators in the state to help unemployed individuals learn new skills to advance their careers. DEW's training partnerships and programs include the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, CompTIA, and Be Pro Be Proud. The organization's State Tech program collaborates with the state's technical college system and offers short-term training for high-demand occupations.

Average Cost of Trade School in South Carolina

The cost of trade schools in South Carolina ranges from around $7,000 to over $30,000 per year. Cost varies depending on if the school is public, private, nonprofit, or for-profit. According to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the average in-state student's tuition and fees at state technical colleges were $4,734 for the 2021-22 academic year.

A four-year college can cost up to two or three times as much to attend. According to NCES data, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public colleges in South Carolina was $12,497 and $26,270 for private four-year colleges for the 2019-2020 school year. These numbers don’t account for other college expenses.

Public technical colleges in the state offer trade programs that are eligible for funding to cover tuition and more. The ROI from a college or a trade education is often higher wages and more career opportunities in both cases. Education for a trade job typically pays for itself quicker, while a four-year degree usually takes longer to pay off but can lead to higher salaries for some careers long term.

Financial Aid for Trade Schools in South Carolina

Regardless of where you choose to get your education, it's essential to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Government agencies, trade schools, colleges and universities, and private organizations use FAFSA information to award students aid. There are many resources for financial assistance to go to trade school.

Here are a few options:

Scholarships for Trades Programs

SC WINS Scholarship

To qualify, students must receive a Lottery Tuition Assistance Program Scholarship for the current academic year and major in a high-demand occupation. They must also be receiving free or reduced-priced meals. This scholarship covers one certificate, diploma, or degree unless earning an extra credential means advancement in the same occupation.

Recipients get $65 per credit hour (maximum of 15 credit hours per semester), $300 for books, and money for fees.

Workforce Pathways Scholarship

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and meet program or course prerequisites for eligibility. In addition, they must complete the Quick Skills Workforce Pathway Scholarship application and attend an information session. This scholarship covers class tuition and textbooks for eligible continuing education courses.

Deadlines depend on the program but work in conjunction with other federal and state applications. Students may pursue one program of study and must cover any extra costs beyond the awarded amount. The Workforce Pathways Scholarship is available for a limited time on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bridging The Dream Scholarship Program

The Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program is for high school seniors from minority and historically underserved communities. Students must be current high school seniors, Pell Grant eligible, and a diverse candidate from an underserved community. They must also demonstrate leadership abilities and good moral character.

Thurgood Marshall College Fund

In partnership with Sallie Mae, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund is a $10,000 scholarship award for college or technical school. The deadline is in February. There are 25 awards of $10,000, totaling $250,000 in scholarships for high school seniors each year.

Companies with Tuition Reimbursement Incentive Programs (TRIPs)

Full-time state employees, temporary grant positions, and positions with six months of state service are eligible for TRIPs. Part-time employees who work a minimum of 30 hours each week may also be eligible. Tuition assistance provides for no more than six credit hours per academic term.

Tuition incentive reimbursement programs cover tuition and laboratory fees in whole or in part, depending on the agency's specific policy. The agency may pay books and other fees if the employee attends a required course. Employees must pass the classes to receive reimbursement.

For more information on paying for trade school, explore Vocational Education Financial Aid.

Accreditations in South Carolina

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education oversees accreditation for two-year colleges, technical colleges, and other degree-granting schools. The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET) oversees vocational colleges, trade schools, and professional associations. Specific programs may also need accreditation for coursework to be eligible for certification.

For example, nursing programs need accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The South Carolina Board of Cosmetology oversees cosmetology schools and licensure. Appropriate accreditation ensures you can complete certification and licensing requirements for your profession.

The trade school you pick depends on the career path you want to take. Some careers require a four-year instead of a trade school degree. Consider your strengths, interests, salary expectations, and projected job growth in your field.

Apprenticeships in South Carolina

Apprenticeships in South Carolina are a good option for trade school graduates. The South Carolina technical college system is a leader in registered apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship Carolina offers an earn-while-you-learn option combining on-the-job training, education, and wage progression.

In addition, many high schools in the state offer trade or vocational programs with a direct path to specific jobs. These hands-on learning programs may lead to career opportunities in web design, auto mechanics, and medical assistance, and many offer apprenticeships.

Frequently Asked Questions About Technical Schools in South Carolina

Is technical college free in South Carolina?

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South Carolina's technical colleges offer various scholarships and funding programs that help pay for tuition. Combined with other federal and state funding opportunities, some students can attend technical college for free in South Carolina. The best trade schools in South Carolina offer opportunities for high school students to begin training for a trade career before graduating.

Does South Carolina have community colleges?

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South Carolina has many community colleges that offer certificates, associate degrees, and continuing education in trade industries. Some of the best community colleges in South Carolina offer free tuition to qualifying students. In-state students who don't qualify for free tuition paid an average tuition of $4,916 a year to attend community college in 2019-2020, according to the NCES data.

Like technical colleges, community colleges are often less expensive than four-year schools. Students can also often apply their associate degree credits toward earning a bachelor's degree at a four-year school. In addition, an online community college program can provide added flexibility while pursuing a degree.

How many technical colleges are in South Carolina?

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There are 16 technical colleges in the South Carolina college system. These programs prepare graduates for careers in various trade industries, from nursing to web development. For example, Greenville Technical College offers programs in manufacturing, as well as those for culinary and hospitality occupations.

Piedmont Technical College provides over 80 courses that transfer to four-year schools in the South Carolina college system. Plus, the school offers programs with no cost for tuition and fees.

Best South Carolina 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-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio
  • Less than $35,000 in tuition

Academy for Careers and Technology (ACT)

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $7,111
  • Location: Mullins, South Carolina

About the Program:

Work-based certification programs require that students earn a minimum of a high school diploma or state high school equivalency certificate. Some fields, such as licensed practical nursing, require applicants to meet additional education requirements. Graduation requirements also vary by program.

For example, students in the sports medicine program spend nine weeks in the classroom and nine weeks completing an internship. ACT offers high school students eight two-year programs. Options include auto technology, cosmetology, computer-assisted drafting and design, and mechatronics. There's also a one-year nail technology program and an LPN program that seniors can begin before graduating from high school.

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $20,168
  • Location: Piedmont, South Carolina

About the Program:

Arclabs Welding School requires a high school or GED diploma for admission. The school sets visual and physical requirements, and students must visit and tour the campus before starting class. Veteran students must supply transcripts from all postsecondary institutions funded with VA educational benefits.

Graduation requirements vary by program. Arclabs is accredited by ACCET. The school offers programs in welding technology, including the 400-hour structural welding training and the 1,300-hour master welder program.

The school also offers specialty classes and company training programs with qualifications and assessments to improve welders' skills.

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Charleston Cosmetology Institute

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $15,272
  • Location: Charleston, South Carolina

About the Program:

Students must be 16 years old, have a high school diploma or GED certificate, and prove they completed 10th grade for admission. In addition, students must schedule an interview with the administration and complete an application. Charleston Cosmetology Institute holds accreditation with the South Carolina State Board of Cosmetology.

The school has a high passing rate for the State Board Examination. Students must complete 1,500 hours of training, maintain a passing score or better, and pass the final exam to graduate. Then, they're eligible to take the State Board Examination to become a licensed cosmetologist.

Charleston Cosmetology also offers nail technology, esthetics, and continuing education programs. As one of the best trade schools in South Carolina, the school also offers lifetime placement assistance to graduates.

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Charzanne Beauty College

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $15,932
  • Location: Greenwood, South Carolina

About the Program:

Charzanne Beauty College students must schedule an appointment with the admissions director and meet with a financial aid specialist. They must also fill out enrollment forms. Students must be at least 16, have a high school or GED diploma, and complete all applications and paperwork.

The school is accredited by the South Carolina State Board of Cosmetology. Charzanne's cosmetology program requires 1,500 hours of training and provides State Board of Cosmetology Exam preparation. Students can take day or evening classes with practical, hands-on training.

The school provides financial aid, counseling services, and career placement. The program covers cosmetology options, including salon owner, stylist, instructor, and manufacturer's representative.

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Kenneth Shuler School of Cosmetology-Goose

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $11,469
  • Location: Goose Creek, South Carolina

About the Program:

Kenneth Shuler School of Cosmetology-Goose Creek requires students to be at least 17 years old. They must hold a high school or GED diploma, complete an application, and make financial arrangements. There's also a $100 nonrefundable application fee.

The esthetics program requires 600 hours in total to graduate. The cosmetology program requires 1,500 hours. The school also provides continuing education courses. All Kenneth Shuler Schools hold accreditation with the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS).

Additionally, Kenneth Shuler School of Cosmetology offers prospective and current students various scholarship or grant opportunities. Opportunities include the Kenneth Shuler Jump Start Scholarship, SportClips Scholarship, OPI Scholarship, and the Circadia Esthetics Scholarship.

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LeGrand Institute of Cosmetology Inc

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $13,027
  • Location: Camden, South Carolina

About the Program:

Students must be at least 17 years old, have a high school or GED diploma, and fill out an admissions application. There is a $50 nonrefundable application fee. LeGrand Institute's cosmetology curriculum prepares students to pass the state examination to become licensed cosmetologists.

LeGrand Institute's cosmetology program requires students to clock at least 22.5 hours of weekly attendance. The program takes 12.5 months to complete before students can take the required licensing exams. LeGrand Institute holds accreditation with NACCAS and is also approved by the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology.

The school is a member of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools and the South Carolina Association of Licensed Professionals. LeGrand Institute is also a member school of the South Carolina Association of Licensed Professionals.

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Paul Mitchell the School-Charleston

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $12,785
  • Location: North Charleston, South Carolina

About the Program:

Students must have a high school or GED diploma, fill out an admissions application, and speak to an admissions counselor to get started. Paul Mitchell the School-Charleston offers three career tracks. Cosmetology requires 1,500 hours, esthetics requires 600 hours, and student instructor teacher training requires 750 hours of classroom time.

Paul Mitchell The School holds accreditation with NACCAS and is also recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The school offers financial aid to eligible students and funding options, including the Federal Pell Grant. Paul Mitchell The School also accepts veteran benefits.

Students also receive digital support, including styling and product news and career advice from industry leaders. Additionally, students can access class work online.

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Southeastern College-Columbia

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $31,337
  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina

About the Program:

Southeastern College-Columbia requires proof of high school graduation or a GED diploma, and students must take an entrance examination. The college offers various career and certificate programs with varying graduation requirements. For example, the medical assisting program requires completing 60 credit hours.

The school holds institutional accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. The college is also licensed by The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. In addition, Southeastern College's certificate in medical assisting program holds accreditation with the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

Other technical programs include information technology and network systems and occupational therapy assistance. These associate degrees are transferable to four-year schools.

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Southeastern Esthetics Institute

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $17,433
  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina

About the Program:

Southeastern Esthetics Institute requires students to take a free facility tour and complete an interview. The administration team assists students in enrolling and collecting the required documents to register. Enrolled students receive an orientation email with directions and documents for their first day.

The esthetics licensure course requires 600 hours, and the advanced esthetics academy is a 300-hour program. The school holds accreditation with the Council on Occupational Education. Southeastern Esthetics Institute is also a member of the Aesthetics International Association.

Other certification courses include advanced esthetics, eyelash extensions, and micro-pigmentation of the brows.

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Vski Cosmetology School

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  • Type: Private, not-for-profit
  • Cost: $8,188
  • Location: Charleston, South Carolina

About the Program:

Vski Cosmetology School requires an interview, a tour, a high school or GED diploma, and an application. Students must complete entrance counseling to qualify for a Direct Loan or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL). It takes around 30 minutes and must be completed in one session.

The school offers full-time cosmetology and esthetics programs, and students can obtain full licensing in as little as 10 months. Vski Cosmetology School receives its accreditation through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Students may be eligible for federal, state, and institutional grants such as the Federal Pell Grant if there is a financial need.

Additionally, Vski Cosmetology School offers employment assistance and job placement with the school's employer partners. Job preparation begins before graduation with interview practice.

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South Carolina Trade Schools 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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