For many students, vocational students included, finances are an important factor in the college decision. The good news is that tuition at a vocational school is often less expensive than tuition at a traditional four-year school. Not only that, but vocational students tend to finish their programs in shorter time frames, meaning that they have to pay for fewer classes and that they enter the workforce quickly. There is plenty of financial aid available to vocational students.


How much is the cost of attendance at a vocational school?

The cost of a vocational program depends on whether it is nonprofit or for-profit, its location, its subject of focus, and its length, among other factors. Research the cost of tuition, fees, and books for any potential program; you can find this information on the school’s website. Some supplies may be provided by the school, but you may be responsible for purchasing other training materials. Determine what these are likely to cost, and add this to your cost of attendance.

How do I make sure the cost of my chosen school is reasonable?

Compare the numbers you come up with to the costs of other programs in the country using the U.S. Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center’s database. This database will show you the cost of tuition and net cost (the cost of attendance minus the amount that students receive on average in grants and scholarships) for the top 5% and bottom 10% of school costs. You can also enter a vocational program and receive a list of institutions that offer the chosen program, their tuition costs, and the average net costs. This can help you determine if a school you want to attend falls within the normal limits of costs or if your program is on the expensive side (then your next job is to find out why).

Can I apply for federal financial aid if I am a vocational student?

If your chosen school is accredited, you may qualify for federal financial aid depending on your and/or your parents’ financial situation. You should apply for federal financial aid even if you aren’t sure you are eligible. It’s easy to do; just fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which becomes available on October 1 each year.

Pay close attention to your school’s FAFSA deadline so you don’t miss an opportunity to receive a federal grant (money that doesn’t need to be repaid), work-study (a part-time job while you are in school), or federal loans (borrowed money that needs to be repaid with interest). To estimate your monthly federal loan payments after graduation, use the Federal Student Aid Repayment Estimator.

Are there any nonfederal financial aid opportunities for vocational students?

If you still need money to pay for school beyond your federal financial aid package, you may also qualify for state or institutional scholarships or private loans. Federal loans generally have lower interest rates and more flexible payment options than private loans, so they are preferred. All loans that you take out for your education, be them federal or private, will need to be repaid following graduation (and in some cases, while you are still in school).

Are there any scholarships for vocational students?

Yes, there are some specific private and institutional scholarships available to students interested in attending vocational or trade school:

  • American Public Power Association: This organization provides scholarships and internships to students interested in continuing their education in a field that is necessary to electric utilities. This applies to students attending vocational school and traditional institutions.
  • Church’s Chicken Community Scholarship Program: Students who are living in one of 16 eligible states and who are planning on pursuing their education at accredited vocational or technical schools are eligible to apply for this $1,000 scholarship.
  • Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation: This foundation awards merit-based scholarships to students who are pursuing postsecondary education at accredited institutions. Over $437,000 has been awarded to students attending two-year community colleges.
  • MikeroweWORKS Foundation: This foundation awards ethics scholarships to individuals interested in learning a skill and mastering a trade at any location. There is also a joint scholarship with Midwest Technical Institute (MTI) that provides full tuition coverage for seven students who wish to attend a workforce training program at MTI.
  • National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization: FFA awards scholarships to students interested in pursuing careers in agriculture. Students can receive two FFA awards in their lifetimes. You may apply once while you are a high school senior and once while enrolled in college.
  • Oil and Energy Service Professionals (OESP): The Dave Nelson Scholarship Program provides scholarships to students interested in pursuing careers in the oil and energy service industry.
  • Outlaw Student: This website awards scholarships to students pursuing all types of education, including those planning to attend two-year public or private institutions or vocational and technical schools.
  • Union Plus: This organization provides $500–$4,000 in scholarships to participating union members and their children who are planning to attend college, university, trade, or technical school. These scholarships are one-time awards, but students are eligible to reapply for funding each year.
  • Universal Technical Institute: This school offers scholarships to students pursuing careers in NASCAR, vehicle mechanics, or collision repair at any of their many locations.

This list is by no means complete, and not all scholarships have the requirement that students attend a vocational or trade school. In fact, many scholarships just require that applicants be enrolled or planning to enroll in an accredited institution; the type of institution is not specified. This opens you up to a much wider range of scholarships. This image elaborates on your options. In addition to vocational school-specific scholarships, many states and small, private organizations offer scholarships to students who fulfill specific requirements (for example, children of strawberry farm workers, children of firefighters who died in the line of duty, or students with intellectual disabilities). This list is inclusive of location-restricted scholarships and scholarships with specialized eligibility requirements. School Soup also provides a scholarship matching service (for free) to students interested in pursuing vocational education.

How do I get an idea of how much money I will make after graduation?

It is also important to have a general idea of what your salary might be following graduation. This can help you feel more at ease about paying big tuition bills now. Contact the school of your choice for information. A lot of schools (especially for-profit schools) give students inaccurate information and overestimate a student’s salary prospects after school. To counter this, follow up to see if it can give you names of recent graduates so that you can ask them how easily they found their first jobs. You can also contact current professionals in your prospective career area to learn about their starting salaries, current and prior employment, and education. Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided online by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics to see the average salary and projected job growth for careers that interest you.

Page last updated: 02/2017