Mechanical drafters, mechanical engineering technicians and massage therapists are just a few of the fastest growing occupations in Connecticut that don't require a four-year degree. Instead, you can land a high-paying job like these with only an associate degree or vocational training.
In fact, 43 percent of good paying jobs in Connecticut are held by those who don't have a bachelor's degree, says Advance CTE, an association of career-technical education directors. The organization defines a good job as one that pays a median income of at least $55,000 and no less than $35,000 for workers younger than age 45.
These good jobs can be found in the manufacturing, health services and financial activities industries among others. However, employment opportunities may vary depending on where you live in the state.
For instance, the Yale New Haven Hospital is the largest employer in New Haven. As a result, health care jobs such as those for medical assistants, physical therapy assistants and respiratory therapists might be most plentiful there. Meanwhile, aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney is the major employer in East Hartford, so that might be a good place to find work as an industrial engineering technician or an aircraft mechanics and service technician.
Why is Connecticut good for vocational schools?
Connecticut has placed an emphasis on promoting vocational training in recent years. The National Skills Coalition says 48 percent of the state's jobs require middle skills, which means workers need some training past high school but not a bachelor's degree. However, only 38 percent of state workers have this level of training.
To address the shortage, technical schools in Connecticut are working closely with state businesses to design programs that have graduates job-ready. What's more, the state has invested considerable money into workforce education, including $50 million for apprenticeship programs. With many high schools now having curriculums to prepare for CTE certification, Connecticut is working hard to create a skilled workforce and now is a great time to consider the state's career colleges.
Top Vocational Schools in Connecticut
You'll find both traditional and online trade schools in Connecticut. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education, we analyzed them for factors such as retention and graduation rates, tuition costs and student success measures. These are, in our opinion, the best trade schools in Connecticut.
We aren't the only ones to recognize Naugatuck Valley Community College as one of the best vocational schools in Connecticut. The college is among the top 150 community colleges in the nation for 2019, according to the Aspen Institute. Naugatuck Valley Community College is focused on student success and strives to keep its tuition affordable. It likes to say its students receive a world-class education without having to worry about going into a world of debt
What vocational programs NVCC offers: NVCC offers hundreds of areas of study on its Waterbury and Danbury campuses. Some programs, such as its popular business administration degrees and certificates, provide skills that can be used in a variety of industries. Others, such as the associate degree in nursing, prepare students for a specific career path.
Asnuntuck Community College has the number one graduation rate in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and a 90 percent job placement rate in some programs. It is one of the best online trade schools in Connecticut with many courses available to distance learners. Asnuntuck Community College has an affordable tuition rate, and Massachusetts residents are eligible for in-state tuition as well.
What vocational programs ACC offers: There are dozens of vocational degrees and certificates offered at ACC. The school supports the local manufacturing industry by training workers through specialized programs such as its manufacturing elecro-mechanical maintenance technology certificate and machine technology associate degree. Other programs at ACC cover business, health and wellness, education and technology. Some, such as the early childhood administration certificate, can be earned by taking online courses.
With campuses in Danielson and Willimantic, Quinebaug Valley Community College prides itself on providing high quality education at an affordable price. This is a military-friendly school that welcomes students of all ages and from all walks of life. Through the QVCC Foundation, $140,000 in scholarships are available annually, and the school says none of its students graduate with federal student loan debt.
What vocational programs QVCC offers: Students can choose from more than 50 degrees and certificates at QVCC in 17 different categories of study. The college offers some programs online, such as pharmacy technician and medical transcription editor training. Manufacturing programs are taught at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center where students can gain hands-on experience. Graduates from the center have a 95 percent job placement rate.
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Connecticut
Career schools in Connecticut can be significantly cheaper than other colleges and universities. The annual full-time cost of the state's community colleges is $4,476 for in-state students in 2019-2020, according to The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities. Meanwhile, state universities charge in-state tuition rates of up to $11,846 per year, and that doesn't include room and board charges.
Plus, Connecticut scholarships and grants can help reduce the cost of attendance even further. As part of promoting CTE certification, Connecticut and the federal government have designated money for a variety of assistance programs. For instance, the U.S. Department of Education recently gave the state $25.8 million for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs initiative, which will be used for college scholarships among other things.
To receive financial aid in Connecticut, you'll need to first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It's the form both the government and schools use to make scholarship and grant decisions. We have a financial aid guide that goes into more detail about the FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid in Connecticut.
Here are a few of the programs that may be available to those who apply:
Roberta B. Willis Need-Merit Scholarship: Available to high-performing Connecticut high school students, these scholarships provide up to $4,650 per year to students enrolled full-time in a two-year program of study.
Roberta B. Willis Need-Based Grant: Connecticut residents with demonstrated financial need can receive a grant of up to $4,500 per year for full-time enrollment in a two-year program of study.
CHESLA Loan: This state loan program offers low interest rates to families with a student enrolled at least half-time in a Connecticut public or non-profit private college.
Resources for Vocational Students and Job Seekers in Connecticut
For more information on traditional and online trade schools in Connecticut, visit the following resources.
The New England Commission of Higher Education is the regional accrediting body for Connecticut institutions, and you can learn more about the accreditation process on its website. Visit the Connecticut Office of Higher Education for links to a wide variety of resources about state schools, paying for college, career exploration and more. Learn more about the state community colleges by visiting The Connecticut State Colleges & Universitieswebsite.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard, we generated a list of schools that met the following criteria:
- Institution type is less than 2 years, greater than 2 & less than 4 years
- Accredited by at least 1 agency (institutional accreditation)
- The school falls under one of the following classifications: (Carnegie Classification 2015: Undergraduate Instructional Program)
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with 30-49% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
Associate's Colleges: High Vocational & Technical
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with more than 50% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
Special Focus: Two-Year Institution
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with typically more than 75% of awards in a single career & technical program
We ranked the resulting 711 colleges on the following criteria:
- Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificate programs offered, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of undergraduate students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time student retention rate & part-time retention rate (if full-time retention rate is not available, then use part-time retention rate), National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Mean annual earnings for students working 10 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- CT colleges, high schools tighten bonds with employers to feed jobs pipeline, Sean Teehan, September 24, 2018, Hartford Business, Accessed October 2019, https://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/ct-colleges-high-schools-tighten-bonds-with-employers-to-feed-jobs-pipeline
- Labor Market Information, Connecticut Department of Labor, Accessed October 2019, https://www1.ctdol.state.ct.us/lmi/hotnot_results.asp
- Connecticut, Advance CTE, Accessed October 2019, https://careertech.org/connecticut
- Running Start Program, White Mountains Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.wmcc.edu/academics/running-start-program
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed October 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Connecticut's Forgotten Middle, National Skills Coalition, Accessed October 2019, https://m.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/2017-middle-skills-fact-sheets/file/Connecticut-MiddleSkill.pdf
- About NVCC, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Accessed October 2019, https://www.nv.edu/About-NVCC
- About Asnuntuck, Asnuntuck Community College, Accessed October 2019, https://asnuntuck.edu/about/
- Who We Are, Quinebaug Valley Community College, Accessed October 2019, https://qvcc.edu/discover-qvcc/who-we-are/#
- Nearly $26 Million In Federal Funds Slated To Support Connecticut Students, Patrick Skahill, October 25, 2019, Connecticut Public Radio, Accessed October 2019, https://www.wnpr.org/post/nearly-26-million-federal-funds-slated-support-connecticut-students
- Tuition and Fees, The Connecticut Colleges & Universities, Accessed October 2019, http://www.ct.edu/admission/tuition#csu
- Facts about Financial Assistance, Office of Higher Education, Accessed October 2019, https://www.ohe.ct.gov/SFA/sfa.shtml#Governor