Best Trade Schools in Virginia

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by Nalea Ko

Published on July 5, 2022

Edited by Kelly Thomas
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Best Trade Schools in Virginia
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According to the Virginia Employment Commission, roughly 4.35 million people make up the state's workforce, as of May 2022.

Several industries saw gains from May 2021: education and health services, professional and business services, and information. Leisure and hospitality, mining, trade and transportation, and manufacturing also saw job gains.

Virginia trade schools can offer training in many in-demand fields. Trade schools — also known as vocational schools or technical schools — prepare students for the workforce, focusing on job-specific skills.

Going to a trade school instead of a community college or four-year university may also offer financial incentives. For example, trade school graduates have, on average, less student debt than college graduates. Trade schools can also give students a quicker path to steady employment.

Trade school students often find that the career training offered at vocational schools, such as Tidewater Tech, can lead to fulfilling work and career growth opportunities.

Learn more about the best trade schools in Virginia, what training costs, and how to find financial aid.

Trade Jobs and Salaries in Virginia

Virginia's economy has recovered, in part, from job losses that occurred as a result of the pandemic. In May 2022, employment rose, when compared to May 2021, by 125,000 jobs.

The jobs listed below — with some of the highest concentrations of workers in the state —do not require a four-year college education.

Truck Driver

Dental Hygienist

Pharmacy Technician

Trade Schools in Virginia

Unlike four-year colleges and universities, trade schools offer accelerated programs that focus on hands-on training.

Students enroll in trade school programs that typically take about one year — or less. Trade schools offer programs to become auto mechanics, carpenters, cosmetologists, chefs, dental assistants, electricians, plumbers, shipfitters, welders, and more.

In contrast, earning an associate degree in a trade takes about two years to complete.

Fun fact: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News rank among the top 10 metro areas with the highest employment levels of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers.

Average Cost of Trade School in Virginia

In $2018-2019, costs varied for Virginia trade schools, from reported net prices of around $3,100-$24,000, according to NCES College Navigator. The best trade schools in Virginia may offer a high return on investment.

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the average cost, in 2020-2021, for tuition and required fees at a Virginia four-year institution was $13,902. Two-year colleges, such as Richard Bland College and Virginia Community College System, charged $4,620-$8,100 a year for tuition and required fees during the same academic year.

Students can save about 31% by starting their studies at a two-year college and then transferring to a four-year college, according to SCHEV. The state also offers the Virginia Two-Year College Transfer Grant to eligible students.

Financial Aid for Trade Schools in Virginia

Students at eligible trade schools can apply for federal financial aid. The first step to determining if you are eligible for aid begins with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

For federal loans and grants, schools must have programs that last 15 weeks or longer. Otherwise, students attending programs for less than 15 weeks can apply for Direct Loans. Those considering attending trade schools in Virginia should look for scholarships to help with costs. These include:

The Work Ethic Scholarship

Graybar Construction Trades Scholarship

Dave Nelsen Scholarship

For more information on paying for trade school, go to: Vocational Education Financial Aid.

Accreditations in Virginia

Schools and trade programs can voluntarily go through an accreditation process. This offers verification to students that the school and/or program has been vetted by an independent agency.

Students should go to accredited schools because it can assure them that they are getting quality education. Licensing and credentialing agencies may also require that graduates have attended accredited programs or schools.

Other determining factors for trade schools include reputation, cost and financial aid packages, and clinics or labs available for hands-on learning. Virginia has more than 1,000 High School That Work sites that offer early career readiness initiatives, including career and technical training.

Trade schools in Virginia hold accreditation from agencies such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, Distance Education Accrediting Commission, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Programmatic accreditation verifies specific trades. For instance, Virginia Western's culinary arts program maintains accreditation from the American Culinary Federation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trade Schools in Virginia

true How many trade schools are in Virginia?

Students will find over 70 community and technical/trade colleges in the state, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Schools are divided into private and public schools. These two-year schools and ("less than two-year schools") include nonprofit and for-profit institutions. For-profit schools operate under the influence of private stakeholders and owners.

According to NCES, Virginia boasts 28 public two-year and vocational schools. The state also has six private, nonprofit two-year and trade schools. Community colleges may have a catalog of different trade programs. Vocational schools focus on skilled trades such as automotive training, barbering, cosmetology, culinary arts, or massage.

true Is it hard to get into trade school?

Compared to a four-year college, trade schools offer a more inclusive — and less rigorous — admissions process. Vocational programs typically only require incoming students to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Applicants will need to submit high school transcripts or a GED certificate during the admissions process.

Students who do not have a high school diploma or GED certificate may need to take an entrance exam to assess their English and math skills.

Depending on the trade, programs may require students to have work experience. Additionally, trade schools may require submission of identification, such as state-issued IDs and/or Social Security cards.

true Do trade schools care about GPA?

Generally no. Trade schools rarely ask for minimum GPAs. That said, specific requirements depend on the trade. A plumbing program likely will not require a minimum high school GPA. However, a healthcare diploma or degree may require students to have a 2.5 GPA or higher.

When applicants do not meet the minimum GPA requirement, trade schools may offer conditional acceptance if students get high scores on entrance exams.

Trade schools typically do not set minimum GPAs, but to receive grants or scholarships, students may need to submit transcripts.

Best Virginia 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
Kenny's Beauty Academy true
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $16,700 per year for tuition and fees
  • Location: Arlington, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: The academy has open admissions.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete classroom and lab requirements.
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

Kenny's Beauty Academy offers cosmetologist and esthetician programs that take 1-10 months to complete. Graduates earn certificates to become licensed skincare specialists, wax specialists, or makeup artists.

Visit School Page

Paul Mitchell the School — Roanoke true
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $17,782 for tuition
  • Location: Roanoke, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Submit an application, fee, two photos, an essay, and verification documentation. Candidates also need to complete an interview with an admissions team member.
  • Graduation requirements: Students must complete 1,500 school hours to graduate.
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

About the Program:

Paul Mitchell the School in Roanoke offers multiple start dates, often twice a month. Students can take courses in the daytime or evening. They study in the classroom and on the clinic floor in a mock salon environment open five days a week to clients. Community outreach remains an important feature of Paul Mitchell Schools, with students fundraising in Roanoke.

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Paul Mitchell the School — Woodbridge true
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $19,200 for tuition
  • Location: Woodbridge, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Submit an application, fee, two photos, an essay, and verification documentation. Candidates also need to complete an interview with an admissions team member.
  • Graduation requirements: Students must complete 1,600 hours in the classroom and salon-like clinic.
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

Paul Mitchell the School in Woodbridge allows students to complete 25% of the program online or 100% on campus. The school offers start dates at least every month.

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Tidewater Tech — Trades true
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $18,598 per year for tuition and fees
  • Location: Norfolk, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Applicants must complete an online application.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete hands-on training in labs and classroom hours.
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

About the Program:

Tidewater Tech offers programs for building and construction trades, combination maritime trades, combination welding, HVAC, and auto technicians. Students choose from programs that last 33-48 weeks.

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Aviation Institute of Maintenance — Norfolk true
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $520-$620 per credit hour
  • Location: Norfolk, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Aviation Institute of Maintenance has an open admissions policy. Applicants generally must be at least 18 years old and U.S. citizens. Candidates also may need a high school diploma or GED certificate.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete between 36-48 credits over 12-15 months for trade programs. Aviation programs, including associate degrees, take 21-27 months.
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

About the Program:

The Aviation Institute of Maintenance trains students for aviation maintenance careers and trades in industrial manufacturing, professional maintenance, and welding.

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Centura College — Norfolk
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $550 or $700 per credit
  • Location: Norfolk, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Centura College offers an open admissions policy. Students must complete an application.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete classroom and lab requirements over 12 months
  • Accreditation: American Dental Association, Commission on Dental Accreditation

About the Program:

Since 1969, Centura College has offered skilled trade programs. Students can earn diplomas in carpentry, combination welding, construction electrician, HVAC, and wind turbine.

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Advanced Technology Institute
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $6,600 per semester
  • Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Applicants must meet with an admissions advisor, complete an application, and submit an application fee.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete classroom and laboratory requirements and apprenticeships, if applicable.
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges

About the Program:

The Advanced Technology Institute trains students in automotive technology, commercial driving, heavy vehicle technology, HVAC and refrigeration, and welding. Students can earn diplomas or associate degrees in 15-18 months.

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Center for Employment Training — Alexandria
  • Type: Private nonprofit
  • Cost: $11,578 for tuition and fees
  • Location: Alexandria, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: The Center for Employment Training offers a rolling admissions process.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete about 780-900 hours of training over 7-9 months, depending on the program.
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

About the Program:

The Center for Employment Training in Alexandria trains students for careers in building maintenance and HVAC.

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Paul Mitchell the School — Tysons Corner
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $21,000-$22,400 for tuition
  • Location: McLean, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Submit an application, fee, two photos, an essay, and verification documentation. Candidates also need to complete an interview with an admissions team member.
  • Graduation requirements: Pass written tests and complete 1,500-1,600 hours of classroom and salon training.
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

Paul Mitchell Schools prepare students to become cosmetologists through classroom learning and training in a salon that is open to the public six days a week.

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Asher Institute of Hampton
  • Type: Private for-profit
  • Cost: $6,500-$17,234 per year for tuition and fees
  • Location: Hampton, Virginia
  • Admission requirements: Candidates need a high school diploma, GED certificate, or homeschooling credential. Applicants also need to submit identification, an application fee, and attend a financial planning session.
  • Graduation requirements: Complete lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on clinic training. Courses require about 1,100-1,500 hours over 32-38 weeks. The instructor course only requires 600 hours.
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc.

About the Program:

The Asher Institute of Hampton offers programs in cosmetology, barbering, and an instructor training course.

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Other Virginia 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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