July 8, 2020

Financial Aid & Student Loans

Financial Aid & Student Loans


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Trade schools (sometimes called vocational, career, or technical schools) offer career-oriented programs that give students the skills to work in specific fields — often in a shorter timeframe than a traditional four-year college and at a lower cost.

If you’re interested in one of these programs, you might be considering if trade school loans are right for you.

Here’s what you should know about trade school and trade school loans:

Is trade school right for you?

Like vocational training through an apprenticeship or a technical program at a community college, trade schools are designed to give you the right skills to quickly start your career. If you’re considering a trade job, it could be a good choice.

Why choose a trade school over a community college or university? Here are a couple of reasons why you might choose a trade school:

  • Less time to graduate: You don’t have to take the full course load required for a four-year degree to complete a trade school program. Instead, you can focus on the specific courses and skills needed for your career.
  • Less expensive: Trade school can often be a cheaper alternative compared to a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree.
  • Job placement assistance: Many trade schools offer job placement assistance at the end of a program. However, keep in mind that assistance is far from a guarantee of landing your dream job. It could still take time to work your way up the ladder and build your income after starting in your field.
  • Auto body and maintenance
  • Aviation
  • Aviation mechanic
  • Building maintenance
  • Carpentry
  • Construction
  • Culinary arts
  • Diesel mechanic
  • Electrician
  • Garden and landscape design
  • HVAC installation and repair
  • Locksmithing
  • Mechanical drafting
  • Plumbing
  • Real estate
  • Truck driving
  • Welding

Learn More: How to Get a Student Loan with No Credit Check

How to find a trade school

There are trade schools located throughout the U.S. You can find a directory of accredited trade schools on the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges’ (ACCSC) website.

It’s also important to pay close attention to the cost of trade school programs. There’s no standard pricing for trade schools, which means you might find a better deal at one school compared to another.

Also keep in mind that your experience at a trade school will be different than at a community college or university. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Hands-on training: You’ll generally get more hands-on training experience at a trade school compared to the more academic approach you’d get from a traditional college.
  • Earning a certificate instead of a degree: Depending on the trade school, you might graduate with a certificate instead of a degree.
Tip: The majority of trade schools are for-profit, which means it’s crucial to research the accreditation of any trade school you’re interested in. You can verify that a school is accredited through the ACCSC.

The Federal Trade Commission suggests looking closely at cost, reputation, and job placement rates as well.

Also, because trade schools are for-profit, not all of them are eligible for federal student loans. You can check the federal College Navigator directory to see if your trade school is eligible.

Learn More: How to Take Out a Student Loan

There are aid programs specifically for trade school students

Just as there are specific student aid programs for students working toward college degrees, you might be able to find scholarships, grants, or student loans for your trade school education.

Ask your school’s financial aid department if they know of any local organizations — like labor unions or local businesses — that offer support for students in trade school programs. For example, UnionPlus is a nonprofit organization that supports union members and their families.

Learn More: Federal vs. Private Student Loans

How to take out student loans for trade school

Make sure to check all of your options for “free money” to use for trade school, such as scholarships and grants. Once you’ve done this, the next place to look is student loans.

Here’s how to take out student loans for trade school:

  • Fill out the FAFSA: Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is used to apply for federal student loans as well as other federal student aid, such as grants. Be sure to double-check your trade school’s accreditation and eligibility for student loans beforehand.
  • Accept the federal student loans you qualify for: After submitting the FAFSA, you’ll receive a financial aid award letter from your school’s financial aid office. You can then choose which federal student loans you want to accept.
  • Take out private student loans to fill the gaps: Once you’ve exhausted your federal financial aid options, consider private student loans to help fill any gaps. Unlike federal student loans, you’ll need good credit history and an income to qualify for private student loans. Having a cosigner could also help you get approved. There are student loans for bad credit available as well.

If you decide to take out a private student loan, be sure to shop around and consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you.

You can do this easily with Credible — after filling out a single application, you can compare rates from multiple lenders in two minutes. While our partner lenders don’t offer specific trade school loans, you might qualify for a private student loan with your chosen school.

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About the author

Financial Aid & Student Loans

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a Credible expert on personal finance. His work has been featured at Business Insider, Investopedia, The Balance, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Mint.com and more.

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