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How Long is Trade School?

Written by Jaeme Velez
Updated: March 11, 2024
8 min read
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Thinking about attending trade school? Avoiding the lengthy traditional four-year college degree right after high school can be a great option. If you're someone who wants to gain practical skills and promptly enter the professional world, trade school might be the right choice for you.

With programs ranging from a few months to two years, many trade schools offer a streamlined approach to career preparation. In this blog, I'll explore the duration of various options, their flexibility, and the factors to consider when embarking on this educational journey.

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Overview of Trade School Programs

Trade schools present a beneficial pathway for people eager to join a school that emphasizes teaching industry-relevant skills. By focusing on hands-on learning and real-world applications, trade schools allow students to obtain the expertise and experience needed to succeed in their chosen field.

This approach to education is precious for those who prefer a more direct path to employment, offering a streamlined alternative to traditional four-year college degrees.

Defining Trade Schools

Through a combination of classroom instruction and practical training, often in the form of apprenticeships or certificate programs, students attending Trade Schools are equipped with the needed skills required to meet the demands of today's professional landscape.

Training programs offer a diverse array of fields to choose from. Whether you want to start a career in healthcare, technology, skilled trades, or any other sector, a vocational school can offer a focused and efficient route to achieving professional success.

For example, the SBS Workforce1 Healthcare Career Center collaborates closely with the city's healthcare industry partnership within the Mayor's Office of Talent and Workforce Development, alongside the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH). Together, they offer no-cost training programs designed to prepare New Yorkers for jobs in the healthcare field.

These programs are meticulously crafted to give participants the necessary skills and credentials for viable healthcare career opportunities, illustrating a dedicated pathway to equip students to professional advancement within and beyond.

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Exploring Various Trade School Programs

Numerous trade school options are available, and the most effective strategy to find one that matches your future career aspirations is to conduct research on each potential institution. However, if you are still trying to decide which one to choose, there's no need to feel overwhelmed by this task!

You can start by looking at the U.S. Department of Labor website for free vocational programs. If you are interested in many possible careers, you can begin researching by state or even check out some private institutions. Among the diverse course offerings that can equip you for immediate employment are Electrician training, Carpentry, Plumbing, dental, veterinary, or HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) programs. Here at, you can apply for trade school scholarships that will help you pay for school.

Trade School vs. Traditional College: Duration Comparison

Depending on the chosen field, a trade school program can last anywhere from a few months to two years. In contrast, pursuing a degree at a traditional college typically requires a four-year commitment. This is one of the reasons why starting a vocational program after high school might be a great option since you can enter the work field faster and choose later if you want the time and financial commitment to a four-year college.

Exploring Specific Trade School Programs

Electrician Trade School Programs

Electrician trade school programs can be great for students who want to learn from experienced instructors while gaining practical experience in the field. Among the learning subjects that play a crucial role in becoming an electrician are construction safety, construction math, drawing, electrical circuits, electrical test equipment, and a wide array of specialized subjects.

These subjects prepare students to join a career in the electrical field. The time of these programs can vary depending on the courses you pick and they can go from a couple of months and up to two years.

Carpentry Trade School Programs

This program can help on the way to a full-time job in the field of carpentry. These trade schools provide a distinct educational experience, focusing on teaching job-specific skills such as roofing, framing, industrial safety, and construction, among other subjects. The programs are designed to provide students with the practical knowledge and experience needed to excel in carpentry, preparing them for various roles within the construction industry.

Plumbing Trade School Programs

This is an excellent option for those wanting to learn about construction safety, construction math, plumbing drawing, water distribution systems, and similar subjects. These focused programs teach comprehensive knowledge and skills essential for a successful career in plumbing, a field critical to urban development and infrastructure maintenance.

It's important to be prepared for an educational commitment that can involve from 100 to 200 hours minimum. For example, La Guardia Community College offers a Plumbing Certificate, which requires 195 hours to be completed (39 sessions).

This intensive curriculum ensures that graduates are well-equipped to tackle the demands of the plumbing industry, contributing significantly to construction projects and the city's overall growth. By completing such a program, you'll become a proficient professional ready to meet the needs of an expanding urban landscape.

HVAC Trade School Programs

Often, we forget that the high level of comfort that current civilizations live in is due to professionals who work with HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning). If you think you want to be part of a team of people who help humanity in that manner and are also curious about refrigeration, heating systems, electrical systems, hydroponics, and more, HVAC could be the next step in your professional career.

These programs typically range from 6 months to 2 years in duration, depending on whether you opt for a certificate, diploma, or associate degree.

Browse our career guide for college students to unpack advice, insights, and strategies.

apprenticeship vs certificate for trade school

Apprenticeship vs. Certificate

Are you a student who likes theory or wants to get your hands dirty? If you learn best by doing and want to enter the workforce quickly while learning your trade, an apprenticeship may be your best path.

On the other hand, a certificate program might be more suitable if you prefer a structured educational environment with a significant focus on theoretical and practical knowledge, looking to gain a credential in a shorter timeframe.

Remember: Both paths can lead to rewarding careers, but the complete range of possibilities depends on your personal learning style, career goals, and the requirements of your chosen profession. In summary, the certificate will take much less time than an apprenticeship program.

Flexibility in Trade School Program (Full-Time vs. Part-Time)

Part-time trade programs offer a flexible solution for people seeking to improve their skill set without sacrificing their existing job duties or other responsibilities. These programs allow for the development of new skills crucial for career advancement or transition while providing the essential balance between work and study.

Contrarily, for those who can dedicate entirely to their education, full-time trade programs present an ideal option. This path not only fast-tracks their journey to professional competence but also enriches their experience in the chosen field, making it an excellent choice for recent graduates of secondary school or community college.

Also, investigating scholarship opportunities is a wise approach for full-time students, as it can significantly alleviate financial pressures, allowing them to focus on their studies and graduate potentially debt-free.

Explore our part-time student scholarships to discover unique financial aid opportunities specifically tailored for students enrolled in part-time.

bachelor's degree vs trade school program students meeting

Bachelor's Degree vs. Trade School Program

Compared to a trade program, a bachelor's degree prepares students to be well-rounded. It gives them access to higher education, such as master's or doctoral degrees. Students learn in-depth topics such as writing, literature, math, or economics. However, they can choose between these topics to obtain a bachelor's degree.

This broad educational approach equips students with a diverse skill set that can be applied across various fields and industries. They can help with the entry of a wide range of careers while obtaining diverse knowledge. However, they don't necessarily secure you a position or the skills necessary to get a job.

On the contrary, trade programs focus on imparting specific vocational skills that prepare students for the workforce, offering a more direct path to employment in specialized fields and potentially faster economic independence.

A trade school does not follow the same philosophical education. The focus is to help students complete courses that will make them job-ready. This means that they already do what is done in the professional world while still having room for mistakes while learning.

Trade School Program Length: On-the-Job Training

Trade schools offer the important benefit of on-the-job training, effectively bridging the gap between theoretical learning and real-world application. While not strictly necessary, an associate degree can benefit those in a trade program. The rationale is that numerous on-the-job training opportunities build upon academic knowledge, enhancing practical skills with a solid foundation of cognitive abilities.

For example, a plumbing associate degree program teaches the mechanics of plumbing systems through coursework. Typically, it involves a more comprehensive curriculum that includes both the technical aspects of plumbing and general education courses. This degree usually takes about two years of full-time study to complete.

Gaining Practical Experience During Training

Transitioning from being a student to entering the workforce is challenging. One of the key benefits of Trade School is the opportunity it provides to pursue hands-on experience during your training. This aspect is particularly beneficial for those who clearly understand their career goals.

For instance, enrolling in a trade school program, like an electrician program emphasizing job training as a fundamental part of the curriculum, is essential. It prepares you comprehensively for joining the workforce, ensuring that your educational efforts are closely aligned with your career objectives.

Remember: It's important to understand the scope of practical experience offered by the program, as it plays a crucial role in your ability to secure a job position. Making sure to gather information about the hands-on training part of your trade program will significantly enhance your readiness for professional opportunities.

trade school professor teaching class

Frequently Asked Questions About the Length of Trade School

What factors should I consider when deciding how long to spend in trade school?

When considering the duration of your trade school education, consider your career goals, the specific trades you're interested in, and the certification or degree you aim to obtain. Additionally, consider how much time commitment you can dedicate to attending classes and hands-on training and whether you require any prerequisite education or experience.

Can the length of trade school vary depending on the program I choose?

Yes, the length of trade school can vary significantly depending on the specific program used. For instance, certificate programs in certain trades might be completed in just a couple of months, while obtaining an associate degree in a trade like plumbing or HVAC might take up to two years of full-time study.

What support services are available to help me complete trade school?

Many trade schools offer support services to help students succeed, including tutoring, career counseling, and financial aid assistance. These services can be crucial in helping you navigate the challenges of your education and plan for your career after graduation to support your professional journey.

Create a profile and browse the Scholarship Blog to learn more about trade school, financial aid, and scholarships!

Jaeme Velez
Content Writer

About Jaeme

Jaeme Velez is an exceptionally dynamic writer, researcher, and avid enthusiast for science and technology. He brings a deep understanding of securing scholarships, obtaining student loans, and navigating the transition from community college to university.

As a first-generation college student, Jaeme began pursuing the dramatic arts and made a significant transition to pursuing academic studies at L.A. Valley College, focusing on Communication and English. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Creative Writing at Columbia University in the city of New York. His academic excellence has been recognized through the Casdin Family Scholarship Award and his membership in the Columbia University Honor Society.

Jaeme's academic path is marked by a profound passion for literature and storytelling, particularly in exploring the confluence of diverse cultures and languages while addressing social disparities. Alongside his literary interests, Jaeme maintains a keen curiosity for science and technology, actively engaging in research and projects related to Artificial Intelligence, Design, and human-computer interaction.


Balancing work and full-time studies as a first-generation college student has endowed Jaeme with a wealth of experience and insights. In his role as a Content Writer at, Jaeme shares invaluable wisdom and advice, drawing from his personal journey to provide the guidance he wishes he had received at the start of his academic journey. 

His work is fueled by the desire to equip the next generations of students with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate their unique academic paths. From financial literacy to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Jaeme strives to contribute to the ongoing discourse on education and support the next generations of scholars, regardless of their age, background, or current stage in life, as they traverse the complexities of higher learning.

Since joining the team in 2023 as a Content Writer, Jaeme has employed his distinctive background as a first-generation student alongside his familiarity with scholarships and student loans to guide students through the intricacies of academic life, emphasizing that every student's journey is distinct and worthy of recognition. 

Through his writing and advocacy, Jaeme leverages his personal and professional experiences to provide comprehensive support to students. He is dedicated to empowering students and addressing the challenges they encounter in their pursuit of higher education. 

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“Who is the person? What's their problem? Do your research. Offer solutions.”

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