Best Trade Schools in Washington

The best trade schools in Washington offer pathways to in-demand jobs as CDL drivers, carpenters, or electricians. Learn more about trade education.

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by Sharon Wilfong

Published September 2, 2022

Edited by Kelly Thomas
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Best Trade Schools in Washington
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Trade jobs offer job stability and expanded career opportunities with ongoing training. Trade schools in Washington state teach hands-on skills for in-demand careers such as electrician, carpenter, cosmetologist, or auto mechanic. Many skilled trades include machinists, programmers, and web developers.

Additionally, attending trade school typically costs less than a four-year college degree and usually takes less time to complete. In Washington, resident students could graduate with little to no debt through the Washington College Grant. The Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board oversees 12 of the state’s largest workforce programs, including professional technical education.

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Trade Jobs and Salaries in Washington

BLS projections indicate around 231,100 job openings each year for heavy equipment and tractor-trailer drivers, or as fast as average, between 2020 and 2030. CDL drivers must pass a commercial driver's license (CDL) written test and a driving test. Students can find CDL trade schools in Washington that take as little as 160 hours to complete.

The type of carpentry apprenticeship program depends on the learner’s career path. However, all carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety course. The apprenticeship could focus on blueprint reading, building code requirements, or specialized training such as welding, rigging, or scaffold building.

Electricians often learn through apprenticeships and paid on-the-job training and may specialize in solar photovoltaic or electrical generating. Electrician apprenticeships usually include 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. As with many trade jobs, carpenter and electrician roles require various licensing, certification, and registrations.

CDL Driver

CDL drivers can specialize in transporting hazardous materials with additional endorsements, a written test, and a background check. Truck drivers earn a salary that is slightly higher than the median for all occupations, which is $45,760.

Carpenter

Carpenters can earn additional certifications through the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and The National Wood Flooring Association. Also, a bachelor of science in architectural studies could lead to career advancement and higher salaries. Graduates could work as a designer in private practice, an environmental systems designer, or a city planner.

Electrician

Electricians earn wages nearly $15,000 higher than the national median salary. Electricians can significantly increase their earnings with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. The median pay for electrical engineers was $101,780 in 2020. Entry-level positions don't always require licensure, but a professional engineering license can advance a career. Licensed engineers typically need a degree from an ABET-accredited program to qualify for state licensure.

Trade Schools in Washington

Trade jobs need professionals with specific industry skills, but these roles typically don't require a bachelor's degree. Washington's employment security department notes that insurance auto damage appraisers and medical assistants are some in-demand jobs in 2022.

Washington also needs ferry workers for the state's ferry system, welders, electricians, and radiology technologists. The best trade schools in Washington have strong industry ties and offer graduates job placement. Private trade schools should have Washington state licensure through theWorkforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.

Washington state offers multiple programs to help students start their careers with trade school training. These trade school programs must prepare students for in-demand jobs to receive state funding. Students can research education programs on Washington's Eligible Training Provider List on the state's Career Bridge site.

Average Cost of Trade School in Washington

The average total tuition for trade schools in Washington is $15,209. According to the NCES, The average four-year college tuition for resident students in Washington was about $30,000 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Trade school costs depend on the program length, industry, funding opportunities, and whether the school is public or private. For example, students can find trade school programs that cost as little as $5,000 and programs that cost nearly $30,000.

Additionally, trade school vs. college has different timelines for their return on investment (ROI). The best trade schools in Washington prepare graduates with career-ready skills that help them earn higher pay immediately. A 4-year degree may offer a higher lifetime ROI than a trade school, but continuing education is often required in both cases.

Financial Aid for Trade Schools in Washington

Student financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships, and income-related assistance, are available to Washington trade school students. It’s essential to start by applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is required to qualify for financial aid, including federal programs, Washington state-based initiatives, and school-specific state scholarships and grants.

Following are a few examples of aid programs available to eligible Washington trade school students:

Scholarships for Vocational Programs

Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Career & Technical Scholarship

Additionally, 34 community and technical colleges in the state offer The Career and Technical Scholarship. Applicants must file the FAFSA or Washington Application for State Financial Aid by the deadline and apply for Federal Education Tax Credits, if eligible. Students must also meet income requirements and enroll in at least six credits per term.

Washington Workforce Training Board Washington Award for Vocational Excellence (WAVE)

This funding varies by school. However, students must apply through the state’s scholarship portal theWashboard.org and create an account with their student profile. Students must fill out a WAVE scholarship application and provide a minimum of two letters of recommendation. The student’s CTE instructor must also complete the WAVE Educator Certification form.

Federal Grants for Vocational Programs

Washington State Elks Association Vocational Grant (WSEA)

Criteria for this grant considers the applicants' motivation, financial need, and aptitude for their chosen vocation. The WSEA vocational grant expires 17 months from the award date and is subject to cancellation based on student conduct. Additionally, award recipients must be willing and able to attend and speak at their local lodge’s recognition celebration.

Trade schools in Washington state enable students to begin a career within a year or two. The education is often more affordable than a 4-year degree, but many students need financial assistance to afford the education. Fortunately, grants and scholarships are available for students who want to pursue trade occupations.

For more information on paying for trade school, explore these vocational education financial aid scholarship opportunities.

Accreditations in Washington

Trade school accreditation is important because it ensures students receive a quality education. Accreditation means schools can offer federal financial aid, and graduates can apply for certificates or licenses. Over 650 public and private trade and technical schools hold accreditation with the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

The Council on Occupational Education accredits over 520 schools with occupational programs. Many trade school programs also hold program-specific accreditation. Some trades, such as healthcare and automotive, require graduation from an accredited program to qualify for certification or licensing.

Additionally, accredited trade schools often partner with industry experts to align programs with employers' needs.

Apprenticeships in Washington

Apprenticeships in Washington provide structured training, combining technical instruction with on-the-job training. An apprenticeship usually requires 2,000-8,000 work hours and may take up to five years to complete. Not only are they a good option for trade school graduates, but they are also a requirement depending on the industry.

Apprentices earn a living wage while they advance their hands-on skills. Pay generally starts with a certain percentage of journey workers' pay. Then every 1000 hours, or six months, there's a wage increase until completing the program.

There are also technical high schools that offer apprenticeship opportunities to high school junior and senior students. Some programs offer learners 16-21 the opportunity to train for a career while they earn their high school diploma.

Frequently Asked Questions About Technical Schools in Washington

How many technical colleges are in Washington state?

There are 45 schools with tech programs offered at 57 locations throughout Washington state that provide advanced education options. Additionally, the Workforce Board licenses and regulates over 300 private career schools. Licensing and accreditation are essential for a technical college to provide Workforce funding.

A significant difference between technical colleges and trade schools is that technical colleges award transferable credits. The Washington Workforce Board conducts evaluations, investigates student complaints, and provides technical assistance to schools. Students can check if a private technical school has a state license through the Workforce Board's database.

What are the most common trade schools?

Some of the most common trade schools are in cosmetology. Schools like the Aveda Institute teach the art of hairstyling, applying makeup, and business development. Other common trade schools in Washington state prepare students for jobs in computer information systems, carpentry, and criminal justice.

Additionally, students that attend a technical college in Washington may have advanced education opportunities. For example, electricians can advance to electrical engineers with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and almost double their salary. Additionally, Washington state offers various funding programs for students pursuing in-demand trades.

Is vocational school considered college?

Vocational schools include trade and technical programs. Vocational education prepares students for occupations requiring education other than a bachelor's or advanced degree. Specific courses teach students the hands-on skills to enter their chosen occupational field.

Unlike trade schools, technical schools have transfer options. Graduates of technical colleges may have transfer credits they can apply to a 4-year degree program. Occupational program areas include agriculture, business and office, marketing and distribution, health, occupational home economics, and trade and industry. Construction, mechanics, precision production, information technology, and communications are examples of trade and industry.

Best Washington Trade Schools

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

How We Rank Schools

Rankings Methodology:

Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE)

  • Private/nonprofit
  • $28,656
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: High school diploma or equivalent, portfolio, application, 250-word essay
  • Graduation reqs: Demonstrate competence in their chosen field of study, settle all financial obligations, and meet the number of required clock hours

About AIE: The school offers advanced programs in 3D animation and visual effects, game art, game programming, and game design production. Admission requirements include a portfolio as evidence of creative ability. If a student has a strong interest in a specific area with no previous experience, they can use work in a media familiar to them.

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Aveda Institute Portland-Vancouver Campus

  • Private/for-profit
  • $14,173
  • Vancouver, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: High school diploma or GED certificate, online application, FAFSA, attend orientation
  • Graduation reqs: 1600 hours, immersive training
  • Accreditations: National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts

About Aveda: The cosmetology program focuses on the art of hairstyling and color, makeup applications, skincare facials, natural nail care, and business development. Aveda's Vancouver Washington Campus has over 100 styling stations, a complete nail clinic floor, 16 treatment rooms, three classrooms, and a full-service center. Students complete the program with an immersive salon-like experience.

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BJ's Beauty & Barber College

  • Private/for-profit
  • $15,844
  • Tacoma, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: FAFSA, high school diploma or GED certificate, picture ID, tax transcripts
  • Graduation reqs: 1600 hours, a written multiple-choice examination with a minimum grade of 81%, skills demonstration
  • Accreditations: National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences

About BJ's Beauty and Barber College: The college provides private classrooms and facial rooms with small classes of up to 15 students. Graduates must pass a state board examination to get licensed. Students prepare for the exam throughout the cosmetology course and also take a mock board exam.

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Carrington College-Spokane

  • Private/for-profit
  • $27,913
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: Vary by program, FAFSA, application, high school diploma or GED certificate, picture ID
  • Graduation reqs: Vary by region, typically 500 or more hours of instruction and experience, CPR, and massage therapy certification exam
  • Accreditations: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges

About Carrington College-Spokane: The Spokane campus offers healthcare programs in medical assisting, dental assisting, pharmacy technology, massage therapy, and medical billing and coding. Students can complete the massage therapy program in as little as nine months. The program prepares graduates to take the massage and bodywork licensing examination.

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Gather 4 Him Christian College

  • Private/nonprofit
  • $5,094
  • Kennewick, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: Application request form, official high school transcript or GED certificate, or a satisfactory ACCUPLACER Ability score
  • Graduation reqs: 60 semester credit hours and a minimum cumulative GPA of a 2.0 to transfer
  • Accreditations: Transnational Association of Christian Colleges

About Gather 4 Him Christian College: The school's two-year associate of arts degree in biblical studies requires humanities and sciences studies with electives in biblical studies. Students can also gain credit through practicum opportunities by working in the community. The college has several transfer agreements with 4-year colleges, including Eastern Washington University.

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International Air and Hospitality Academy

  • Private/for-profit
  • $12,790
  • Vancouver, Washington
  • Admission reqs: Create an online account, submit an application, submit the FAFSA, and speak with a financial aid advisor
  • Graduation reqs: Complete the 20-week program and pass the assessments
  • Accreditations: Council for Higher Education Accreditation

About International Air and Hospitality Academy: This 20-week program prepares graduates for careers in the airline and travel industries. The program focuses on customer service in airline operations for a career as a flight attendant. Students learn flight attendant duties, responsibilities, terminology relevant to the role, and hiring criteria.

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Northwest HVAC/R Training Center

  • Private/nonprofit
  • $11,042
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: Valid driver's license, high school diploma or GED certificate, pass a criminal background check, complete an application, complete the FAFSA
  • Graduation reqs: 900 clock hours of instruction and HVAC/R internship
  • Accreditations: Council for Higher Education Accreditation

About NW HVAC/R Training Center: The HVAC/R Service Technician Training program specializes in teaching skills in ventilation, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. The school offers federal financial aid, worker retraining grants, and other funding such as tribal vouchers. Additionally, the school holds a spring career fair for community employers to interview graduating students as potential new hires.

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Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building

  • Private/nonprofit
  • $29,578
  • Port Hadlock, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: High school diploma or recognized equivalency, physical capacity for the work, the ability to understand written and oral English
  • Graduation reqs: 12-month AOS Degree, nine-month diploma, five-day certificate
  • Accreditations: Accrediting Commission of Career Colleges and Schools

About the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building: This vocational school attracts from across the United States and international countries, including Australia, England, South Africa, Canada, Taiwan, and Mexico. The Associate of Occupational Studies Degree (AOS) is hands-on training in boat building that teaches traditional skills and modern techniques. There are no prerequisites except a high school diploma or GED certificate.

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Pima Medical Institute-Renton

  • Private/ for-profit
  • $20,692
  • Renton, Washington/ Online
  • Admission/application reqs: High school diploma or GED certificate, entrance exam, interview, specific requirements by program
  • Graduation reqs: 20 Months, may be able to transfer up to 28 credits
  • Accreditations: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools

About Pima Medical Institute-Renton: There are various program options on-campus, including dental assistant, medical assistant, and pharmacy technician. Pima's healthcare administration program is an online associate degree program focusing on business communication, health information technology, accounting, and management. Graduates are ready for entry-level administrative positions in allied healthcare and can pursue advanced degrees.

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Studio Beauty School

  • Private/for-profit
  • $16,780
  • Spokane Valley, Washington
  • Admission/application reqs: Minimum of 17 years of age, valid photo Identification, high school diploma or equivalency, enrollment application
  • Graduation reqs: Cosmetology; full time (28 hours/week); 1600 hours, 72 weeks
  • Accreditations: National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc., NACCAS for Cosmetology, Esthetics, and Manicurist,

About Studio Beauty School: The school's cosmetology program qualifies graduates to sit for the licensure exam in Washington. Studio Beauty School can offer federal funding for its cosmetology, manicurist, and esthetics programs. Students learn in a salon atmosphere, with smaller class sizes and a flexible schedule with full-time options.

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Other Notable Washington 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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