Graduating high school seniors looking for an alternative to traditional liberal arts and research universities should seriously consider trade schools. Rather than dabbling in abstracts like philosophy and literature, trade schools focus on providing industry-specific vocational training. Also called career colleges, they prepare graduates for trades, such as interior designer, HVAC technician, automotive mechanic, programmer, or medical coder. Trade schools forgo general education to develop skills for particular, well-paying jobs. As baby boomers retire, demand in skilled trades will skyrocket. Over 53 percent of America’s tradespeople will reach or exceed retirement age within the next decade. USA Today reports that 2.5 million middle-skill jobs will be added from 2014 to 2017.
Although most require hands-on training and apprenticeships, there are online learning options for skilled trades. In this article, we’ll outline the top 10 online accredited trade schools. We began by researching career-oriented, technical colleges in the United States that offer at least 10 fully online programs. We eliminated any trade schools that weren’t accredited by agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Online colleges with notable awards and achievements from national publications were prioritized. Annual average undergraduate tuition figures were collected from the NCES to judge affordability. Other factors we considered were career services, tech support, financial aid, class size, flexibility, and placement rates.
Online education provides rich benefits to students wishing to pursue trade professions. While working full-time, students can sharpen their skills online from anywhere and at anytime. Traveling the online route can also significantly cut college expenses like meal plans, parking permits, and sometimes even textbooks. That means there’s a greater degree ROI for trade jobs that reap a median yearly salary of $35,720. Develop the technical know-how for your chosen profession by considering these top 10 online accredited trade schools.
1. Colorado Technical University
Founded in 1965 to prepare military personnel for skilled trades, Colorado Technical University is a private, for-profit polytechnic institution educating over 25,700 students from its urban headquarters in Colorado Springs. Named an NSA Center of Academic Excellence, Colorado Technical University is recognized for America’s 63rd Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by the U.S. News and World Report. Colorado Technical’s interactive virtual classroom offers four associate, 42 bachelor’s, and 48 master’s options. Available online trades programs include the BBA in Logistics, B.S. in Computer Systems Security, B.S. in Software Systems Engineering, and MBA in Supply Chain.
2. Keiser University
Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Keiser University is a private, non-profit online technical school located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to educate more than 18,100 students. Ranked #2 nationally in Community College Week, Keiser is the South’s 36th Top Regional College according to the U.S. News and World Report. Since 1977, Keiser has expanded to offer 10 associate, 19 bachelor’s, and six graduate programs, including some in Spanish. Online learners can pursue career-oriented degrees like the A.S. in Medical Billing & Coding, A.A. in Homeland Security, B.S. in Cyber Forensics, and B.S. in Imaging Sciences.
3. Oregon Institute of Technology
Endowed for $42 million, the Oregon Institute of Technology is the Northwest’s only public, state-funded polytechnic institution. From its rural campus in Klamath Falls, Oregon Tech educates more than 4,200 students in 37 in-demand majors. The U.S. News and World Report crowned Oregon Institute of Techology the #1 Public Western School with the nation’s 199th Best Online Bachelor’s. Online students can select from 18 fully online programs accredited by the North Western Commission of Colleges and Universities. Available trade programs include the B.S. in Operations Management, B.S. in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, and B.S. in Dental Hygiene.
Tuition: $8,838 (in-state) or $24,825 (out-of-state)
4. American InterContinental University
Educating more than 15,500 students, American InterContinental University is an independent, for-profit career institution with an open admissions policy. Although headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, AIU currently offers 45 fully online degrees with regional accreditation from the HLC-NCA. Named a Best of ELearning Award winner in 2015, American InterContinental University delivers the nation’s 30th Best Online Bachelor’s Programs according to the U.S. News and World Report. The M.U.S.E. platform tailors trade programs to suit every student’s learning style. Great degrees include the BBA in Technology Management, B.S. in Law Enforcement, and B.S. in Gerontology Management.
5. DeVry University
Owned by the DeVry Education Group, DeVry University is a regionally accredited private, for-profit trade school operating 55+ North American locations to serve over 42,000 students on-site and online. Recognized for America’s 120th Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by the U.S. News and World Report, DeVry landed in PayScale’s Top 100 Return on Investment (ROI) report. Offering $53 million in scholarships, DeVry has over 75 online degrees and specializations. Students may choose the online AS in Web Graphic Design, BBA in Small Business Management, AAS in Electronics and Computer Technology, or BS in Healthcare Informatics.
6. Berkeley College
Opened in 1931, Berkeley College is a private, for-profit higher learning institution enrolling over 8,900 undergraduates online or at eight locations across New York and New Jersey. Proudly holding United States Distance Learning Association Quality Standards certification, Berkeley is acclaimed for the 92nd Best Online Bachelor’s Programs nationwide by the U.S. News and World Report. With “Live Help,” Berkeley delivers 14 fully online programs and over 305 distance classes in career-oriented areas. Online learners could select the BBA in Fashion Merchandising, B.S. in Justice Studies, B.S. in IT Management, or B.S. in National Security.
7. University of Maryland University College
Regarded as one of the world’s largest public, non-profit distance learning institutions, the University of Maryland University College is located in Adelphi to educate over 90,000 students with open admissions. Deemed a “Best for Vets” college in Military Times magazine, University of Maryland University CollegeC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education with 80+ overseas locations. Online learners can choose from more than 90 tech-savvy, career-relevant degrees. Such offerings include the BTPS in Biotechnology, M.S. in Environmental Management, B.S. in Computer Networks Security, and M.S. in Marine Corps Operations.
Tuition: $7,056 (in-state) or $12,336 (out-of-state)
8. Penn Foster College
Headquartered in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona, Penn Foster College is an independent, for-profit online trade school that’s nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission to educate over 24,000. Since opening in 1890, Penn Foster has grown to confer over 27 online programs from the certificate to bachelor’s level with “Career Cruising” services. According to the Better Business Bureau, Penn Foster is an A+ institution with quick complaint resolution. Online degree offerings include the A.S. in Construction Technology, A.S. in PC Maintenance Technology, A.A. in Interior Design, and A.S. in Industrial Electronics.
9. Ashworth College
Occupying a 32,000-square foot building in Norcross, Georgia, Ashworth College is an online for-profit technical institution owned by the Professional Career Development Institute. Enrolling more than 50,000 students, Ashworth is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission for over 60 diplomas, 30 associate, and eight bachelor’s programs. This trade school holds a B+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Available online credentials range from Diesel Mechanics and Plumbing to Construction Management and Veterinary Technician. There’s even a unique BBA in eBusiness. Ashworth offers self-paced online learning through the Student Portal with no deadline pressures.
10. Baker College
Started by Eldon E. Baker in 1941, Baker College is a regionally accredited private, non-profit trade school training more than 44,000 students with a right-to-try admissions policy. Based in Flint within Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Baker College was recognized by College Choice for America’s third Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees. The Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Agency also distinguished Baker with gold “Veteran-Friendly” status. Online learning options are prevalent among Baker’s over 150 career-oriented programs. Students could obtain the B.S. in Game Software Development, B.S. in Law Enforcement, BBA in Project Management, or BCS in Database Technology.