The Arkansas economy features a diverse mix of key industries. Aerospace and defense, tech, metals production and transportation equipment are all listed among the state's top sectors by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and all of those career fields feature high-demand jobs for graduates of trade and technical schools in Arkansas.
Matching your training to the needs of the job market in your region can give you even better chances of landing the job you're looking for. The area around Fayetteville in the northwestern corner of the state is a hot spot for tech workers, according to the region's average information sector growth of more than 7 percent during spring and summer of 2019. Graduates of licensed practical nursing and registered nursing programs earned the state's highest average wages in the Little Rock area.
Why is Arkansas Good for Vocational/Tech Schools?
A bachelor's degree is often held up as the gold standard for career stability after college, but career technical education (CTE) programs can offer some upside not enjoyed by students who opt for university programs. The affordability of trade school training is one major plus — technical schools in Arkansas charged students an average of around $3,300 for a full year of tuition and fees in 2018, while university students paid an average of more than $8,100.
Arkansas CTE programs are also a generally quicker route to the job market than bachelor's degree plans. University degrees can take four years or more, depending on your major, but most career-focused programs can be completed in half that time. Certificate plans in certain specialties may take just a few months from enrollment to graduation.
Whether you'd rather go to school on a traditional campus or you're looking for online trade schools in Arkansas, the information on this page can help you make smart decisions about your education and career. Read on for a list of the state's top destinations for vocational students and some tips on how to apply for financial aid in Arkansas.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers in Arkansas
How to Apply for Vocational School Financial Aid in Arkansas
Finding room in your budget for trade school training can be a challenge, but student financial aid programs can help take some of the sting out of the cost of a college program. Grants, loans, scholarships, apprenticeships may be available, depending on the type of program you're pursuing.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is probably the number-one document you'll need to fill out as you start your financial aid search. Every federal program, including low-interest Stafford Loans and the Pell Grant, requires a completed FAFSA, and most Arkansas scholarships and grant programs also include it among their eligibility criteria.
We've got more info on the FAFSA, like some important terms to know and details about the type of information you'll be asked to provide, in our financial aid guide. Here's an introduction to a few Arkansas scholarships and grants that might apply to you:
- Arkansas Future Grant (ArFuture) - Students who graduate from Arkansas high schools can apply to have their tuition and fees covered for a range of qualifying degree programs through this statewide program.
- R.Preston Woodruff, Jr. Scholarship - Arkansas residents planning to attend college at least half-time can apply for this annual $1,000 award by submitting a 500-word essay on a provided topic.
- Academic Challenge Scholarship - This Arkansas scholarship awards up to $4,000 in student aid over the course of a two-year degree program to qualifying students who score a minimum of 19 on the ACT or 900 on the SAT.
Initiatives for Students in Arkansas Trade Schools
Legislators and policymakers in Arkansas understand the value of a well-trained workforce, and there are several initiatives in place to help students finish school and bring their skills to the job market. Here are a few such initiatives that may be able to help you on your journey from college to career:
Funding for vocational students in Arkansas
- The State Teacher Education Program (STEP) is a loan-repayment program that provides qualifying Arkansas teachers with $3,000 per year in student loan relief.
- The Arkansas YOUniversal Scholarship Search and Application allows students to search the entire financial aid system of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and submit a single application for multiple aid programs.
Arkansas policies that benefit vocational students
- Fund My Future is a college planning service and student aid portal that gives students tips on saving for college, applying to their chosen schools and navigating the financial aid process.
- The College and Career Coach Program works with students in middle school and high school to help them understand their career options and provide academic tutoring and college prep services.
School-specific program initiatives in Arkansas
- Endowed scholarships at Ozarka College, such as the Dan "Wally" Pittman Scholarship and the Stone County Research Council Scholarship, provide awards of $500 annually.
- The SEARK College Trustee Scholarship at Southeast Arkansas College provides $2,000 in tuition assistance per year to recent high school graduates with a qualifying academic record.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Arkansas
- You can learn more about state-run trade schools in Arkansas at the Arkansas Community Colleges website, which gives some insight into the vocational college system and its connections to the regional economy.
- The Division of Career and Technical Education of the Arkansas Department of Education has some specific information about Arkansas CTE training programs and associated initiatives.
- Accreditation shows that an institution offers the type of training that meets accepted employment standards, so it's important to make sure your school has earned it. Public trade schools in Arkansas are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and individual programs are accredited by industry groups like the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs(CAAHEP)
Prospective students interested in the nuts and bolts of the Arkansas CTE landscape can check out the state's page at Advance CTE, a hub for general information on vocational training. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) also offers a wealth of insight and handy tips for trade school students.