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Florida was named the top state in the U.S. for higher education in 2018, and big universities like Florida State aren't the only reason why. According to Investopedia, three of the top six industries in the state rely on trade and vocational schools as a source for the skilled labor they need. On top of that, the health care field in Florida created nearly 1 million jobs in 2015, and the construction industry is one of the strongest in the country.
Naturally, employment trends aren't exactly the same all across the state. Orlando had nearly twice the growth in construction jobs than anywhere else in the state from 2014 to 2015, for example, and Jacksonville was ranked among the top 10 cities in the country for health care workers in 2018. Matching the right training with strong workforce demand can lead to the type of rewarding and well-paying job you've been looking for.
Why is Florida good for vocational/career schools?
Job availability is high for vocational and career school graduates in the Sunshine State. The Florida Department of Education reported in 2018 that fully half of the state's fastest growing jobs require just an associate degree or career certificate -- jobs like medical assistant, dental hygienist, software developer, financial manager and veterinary assistant.
Bachelor's degrees typically take at least four years of full-time study to complete, which can make sense for students looking to go into careers that require knowledge of a broad range of subjects, but training for vocational jobs tends to focus tightly on skills relevant to your specific career. Full-time students at health care, construction and automotive trade schools in Florida can finish most associate degree plans in just two years, and many certificate plans can be completed in a year or less.
If you're looking for the right place to get your vocational training started, take a look at our list of the best trade schools in Florida and see how they measure up to your career aspirations.
The 10 Best Trade and Vocational Schools in Florida
To properly rank all the campus-based and online trade schools in Florida, we pulled data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other Department of Education sources. Our top ten institutions scored well on important metrics like affordable attendance costs, retention and graduation rates, career success for graduates and the availability of flexibility measures like distance education enrollment and job placement services.
Founded in 1978, the Academy for Nursing and Health Occupations began its life as a training school specifically for nurse assistants but expanded throughout the 1990s to include a range of health professions. The student body is tiny -- about 400 learners take classes here each semester -- which helps ANHO keep a close-knit ratio of 12 students to each faculty member.
What vocational programs ANHO offers: Nursing programs take center stage here, such as a certificate program in practical nursing that includes training in critical thinking and an IV certification. Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees in registered nursing and practical nursing are also available, as well as a certificate for home health aides and nursing assistants that requires less than three months of classroom time to complete.
As the name suggests, Ultimate Medical Academy focuses on training students for high-demand careers in the health care industry. The Clearwater school may also be one of the best online trade schools in Florida for students in technical health care fields, offering more than half of the degrees and certificates in its catalog via distance education.
What vocational programs UMA offers: Online degrees and certificates at UMA include plans in tried-and-true fields such as medical billing and coding as well as emerging disciplines like health information technology (HIT). Students who are able to travel to campus for classroom sections and lab work can earn a career diploma in dental assisting, a three-month certificate for phlebotomy technicians or a medical assistant associate degree, among others.
Founded in 1988, this young institution changed locations several times before making its home in West Palm Beach in 2015. It boasts one of the best student-faculty ratios in the country, reporting just five students per faculty member in 2018, so students who like to have one-on-one time with professors and advisors should have plenty of those opportunities here.
What vocational programs Southeastern offers: Top programs at the main campus and its satellite location in Miami Lakes include training in fields that pay well and are growing fast. The clinical massage therapy diploma and the A.S. in diagnostic medical sonography technology can qualify you for two of the most underrated careers in the health care orbit.
Fortis College is a for-profit school that educates students in 15 states, primarily east of the Mississippi river. Its Orange Park location boasts the second-highest percentage of distance education students among all schools we surveyed in the state, making it one of the top online trade schools in Florida by enrollment.
What vocational programs Fortis College offers: The Orange Park campus offers a sterile processing technician diploma that can't be earned at any of the other locations in the state, as well as an associate degree in nursing (A.D.N.) designed to help licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) transition into RN careers. Online programs include medical assisting and medical billing and coding.
Located in the Orlando suburb of Maitland, this location of the national network of Cortiva Institute campuses offers wellness training programs for students hoping to work outside of traditional health care settings. Orlando is home to a large number of spas and resorts, providing a range of potential employment opportunities for graduates.
What vocational programs Cortiva Institute-Orlando offers: Diploma and certificate programs in esthetics, including plans for makeup artists and skin care professionals, make up the bulk of the small catalog available here. Evening study schedules are available for most programs, allowing students with existing jobs or busy family lives to train for a new career without disrupting their regular weekday schedules.
This Cortiva Institute campus on Florida's southeastern coast is located just half an hour from Fort Lauderdale Beach. The location provides students with a range of recreational activities to enjoy in their time away from class, including concerts and other events at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre and undersea diving explorations of shipwrecks and coral reefs.
What vocational programs Cortiva Institute-Fort Lauderdale/Pompano offers: The training catalog here is identical to the one offered at the Orlando location. Spotlight programs include a therapeutic massage training program that features several types of bodywork and a 300-hour skin care training program that can be completed with either daytime or evening classes.
Meridian College is a small school near Florida's central gulf coast that specializes in health care training and cosmetology. It's licensed by the Commission for Independent Education of the Florida Department of Education and accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). The Sarasota campus features a full-service hair salon where cosmetology students can practice the skills they learn in class.
What vocational programs Meridian offers: The A.S. degree in medical administration at Meridian can help you learn how to manage a health care organization and provide the essential administrative support that doctors and nurses need to do their jobs well. It also offers a diploma in dental assisting that includes a valuable externship at a real-life dental office.
Concorde Career Colleges is a for-profit network of schools that spans eight states from coast to coast. The Orlando campus of Concorde Career Institutes is a satellite location of the larger campus in Fort Lauderdale and educates roughly 400 students each semester. Programs tend to contain hands-on training simulations that help you learn to apply your lessons.
What vocational programs Concorde Orlando offers: The program in surgical technology available here allows you to earn your associate degree in as little as 15 months -- nine months faster than the typical A.S. program. Students looking for an even quicker start to their careers can look into the pharmacy technician diploma, which can be completed in just six months of full time study.
The Tampa campus of the Concorde Career Institutes has been serving students in the region for more than 40 years. It takes a similar approach to the school's other locations in the state, focusing on career-driven study plans in health care and providing daytime/evening flexibility options for students in most programs.
What vocational programs Concorde Tampa offers: The full catalog of programs available at the Orlando location are also available here -- including the six-month pharmacy tech diploma -- along with one important addition. The Tampa campus also offers an associate degree in respiratory therapy that can train you for one of the top-earning vocational health care careers.
This Concorde Career Institutes location in the South Florida metro area is located roughly 20 miles from both Fort Lauderdale and Miami, giving graduates two substantial job markets to search once they finish school. Hands-on instruction is integrated into many of the programs offered here, and campus amenities like a resource center and other support services can help you stay on track to succeed.
What vocational programs Concorde Miramar offers: Programs available here can train you for two of the fastest-growing jobs in the country: physical therapy assisting and occupational therapy assisting. Both study plans take less than two years of full-time study to complete, and the occupational therapy degree can be earned either during the day or in the evening.
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Florida
Help with the cost of your vocational or trade school degree is available in every state, but how does financial aid work in Florida? How can the Florida Student Assistance Grant help lighten the load? Take a look at this rundown of scholarships and grants for college in Florida, as well as other financial aid programs you might not have considered.
One of the most important documents for your financial aid search is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which connects you with grant and loan programs at the federal level. Make sure to fill out and submit your FAFSA as soon as you can. For more information on how to qualify and apply for financial aid in Florida, read more about the FAFSA and other common concepts in our handy financial aid guide.
Here's a list of a few school grants and scholarships in Florida:
- Florida Student Assistance Grant (FSAG) - This statewide program works to provide financial aid to undergraduates and trade school students who have been residents of Florida for at least one year. The award is based on financial need, and individual institutions each set their own award and eligibility guidelines.
- First Generation Matching Grant Program (FGMG) - Students at participating state community colleges may qualify for this need-based program, which awards financial aid to students whose parents have not earned a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program - If you or one of your parents is an agricultural worker in Florida, you may qualify for an award equal to your full tuition bill for one term. Eligibility is limited to Florida residents enrolled in school full time.
Initiatives for Vocational School Students in Florida
The Florida Department of Education and several other agencies work to make career education more accessible for Florida residents. Here are just a few initiatives in place in the Sunshine State:
- The College Access and Success Initiative headed up by the Florida Philanthropic Network (FPN) extends grant money to community foundations hoping to improve college access for Florida residents. The $5,000 Exploratory Grant, designed to help community groups develop local college access networks, is just one of the programs funded by the initiative.
- Pathways to Prosperity, an initiative organized by CareerSource Florida, offers awards of up to $500,000 for successful joint proposals by two or more local workforce development boards. Proposals are expected to focus on removing employment barriers through skill development and other means.
Florida policies that benefit vocational students
- In January 2019, the governor of Florida issued an executive order to audit the job market alignment of the state's trade and vocational school programs. The order also asked the state's education commissioner to request $26 million from the state legislature for the development of more effective vocational study plans.
- The Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council is working to meet their goal of seeing 55 percent of adult residents with a college degree or certificate by 2025 by appropriating $85 million from the 2018 state budget to create and develop workforce training programs at public two-year schools.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Florida
- The Florida Department of Education can help you better understand career clusters in the state and how its workforce training programs are designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
- Florida Ready to Work is an employee credentialing program designed to help job seekers prepare for the jobs they want.
- Before you enroll in a trade or vocational school program, it's a good idea to know which accrediting agencies have certified the training that's being offered. The Council on Occupational Education (COE) and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) are two of the major trade school accrediting agencies in Florida.
These aren't the only resources that might help trade school students in Florida. Browse to Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and check out the state-specific sections to find out more.
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: 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 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