Students at career and technical schools in Alabama can look forward to a bright career outlook after graduation. The automotive, aerospace, chemical and metals industries are expected to play essential roles in the state economy over the next several years, as well as bioscience, agriculture and other fields accessible through trade school training.
On top of that, certain cities and metro areas in the Yellowhammer State show an especially bright outlook for trade and vocational school graduates. Tuscaloosa was named among the ten highest-paid cities in the country for manufacturing assemblers and fabricators in 2018, for one, and agricultural workers in the Montgomery area earned about 15 percent more than the statewide industry average.
Why is Alabama Good for Vocational/Career Schools?
Despite the expected surge in jobs that require vocational credentials, only 33 percent of degrees awarded in Alabama in 2017 came from career technical education (CTE) programs. That figure suggests that the skilled labor pool may be smaller here than in other states, opening up a wider range of jobs to qualified applicants.
One high-value example of CTE certification in Alabama comes in the tech sector. A recent study conducted by the AARP listed computer occupations as one of Alabama's five employment areas potentially at risk for a labor shortage by 2020.
It's also the case that trade school training is easier on the wallet than a full college degree. University students paid an average of more than $10,000 for a year of tuition and fees in 2018-19, while students at trade schools and community colleges reported an average tuition bill of less than $4,800.
We've got plenty more information on campus-based and online trade schools in Alabama on the rest of this page, including a quick primer on how to apply for financial aid in Alabama and a list of initiatives designed to help you get the training you need.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers in Alabama
How to Apply for Trade School Financial Aid in Alabama
Financial aid is an important part of any college education, whether you're earning a vocational certificate or a university degree. In order to find out if they qualify for federal, state or school-based financial aid programs, students at campus-based and online trade schools in Alabama should start by filling out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA.
The FAFSA is a simple document designed to gather information about your income, your dependency status and some other basic financial information. Filling it out is the only way to qualify for federal funding like Stafford Loans and Pell Grants, and many state and local programs also require it as a part of their application process. Find out more about the FAFSA and other high-level pathways to student aid in our financial aid guide.
Here are a few of the Alabama grants, scholarships and more that are exclusively available to students attending college in the state:
- Alabama Student Grant Program - High school graduates pursuing their first undergraduate degree or certificate in an eligible program can be awarded up to $1,200 through this state-sponsored initiative.
- Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP) - This need-based grant program can provide up to $5,000 per academic year to qualified students. Close to 80 Alabama institutions participate in the program, including some trade schools and community colleges.
- Alabama G.I. Dependents Scholarship Program - Children, stepchildren and spouses of Alabama military veterans are entitled to up to ten semesters of tuition assistance at the rate of $250 per credit hour and $1,000 for textbooks and fees each term.
Initiatives for Vocational School Students in Alabama
Multiple state initiatives exist to provide funding, guidance and other resources to students and administrators of trade and vocational schools in Alabama. Here are just a few of the programs in place to help aspiring members of the state's workforce get the training and employment they need:
Funding for Vocational Students in Alabama
- The Alabama National Guard Educational Assistance Program (ANGEAP)provides up to $5,080 tuition and fees funding per semester to students who are active members in good standing of a federally recognized unit of the Alabama National Guard.
- ThePolice Officer's and Firefighter's Survivors Education Assistance Program (POFSEAP) permits dependents and eligible spouses of police and fire service personnel who were killed in the line of duty to apply for college funding. Special eligibility criteria may apply.
Alabama Policies That Benefit Vocational Students
- An initiative called Go Build Alabama, created by an industry recruitment group established by the Alabama Legislature in 2009, works to connect students with opportunities for training and employment in the skilled trades.
- The Alabama Industry-Recognized and Registered Apprenticeship Program (AIRRAP), created in 2019 by the legislature and Governor Kay Ivey, provides tax credits to help employers more easily hire students whose training has included a formal apprenticeship.
School-specific program initiatives in Alabama
- Coastal Alabama Community College students whose parents were first-generation graduates of the institution can receive up to 82 credit hours' worth of tuition and fees assistance as long as they maintain a 2.5 GPA or better.
- Students at Central Alabama Community College seeking a certificate in fields such as computer science, welding, manufacturing technology, cosmetology and more may qualify for Career Technical Honors Scholarships of up to $4,500.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Alabama
- Career and technical schools in Alabama are covered under the administrative umbrella of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, where you can find information on individual schools, specific majors, state-focused funding approaches and more.
- All of the state's best trade and vocational schools are in the Alabama Community College System, which provides information on fast-track employment programs and other ways to speed up your transition to a new career.
- The Alabama Department of Labor gives students an easy way to find their local One-Stop Career Center and explains the benefits that the centers can provide.
- Public career schools in Alabama are regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, while individual programs may earn accreditation from industry groups like the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
- If you're interested in some raw statistics about trade school education and employment in your state, point your browser toward the Alabama page on Advance CTE. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) also offers loads of general information on vocational programs and the jobs they can lead to.