Georgia vocational school students getting ready to hit the workforce are graduating into a favorable market. Forbes rated the Peach State No. 6 in its 2018 list of the best states for business, and the three top non-military employment sectors in the state each feature numerous opportunities for graduates of technical schools in Georgia.
Certain cities and metro areas in Georgia may be especially good destinations for technical school graduates in specific career fields, as well. There are two hospitals among the top employers in Sandy Springs, for example, which suggests that the city may be due for a heavy portion of the more than 60,000 healthcare jobs expected to emerge in the state by 2026. Graduates of construction and welding trade schools in Georgia might be best served to angle their job search toward Atlanta, which ranked No. 4 among fast-growing metro areas in the country in 2018.
Why is Georgia good for vocational/career schools?
Trade or vocational school training, also known as career technical education (CTE), offers a few things that four-year bachelor's degrees can't. For one thing, most programs at technical schools in Georgia can be completed in no more than two years of full-time study, and students hoping to hit the job market fast can earn a wide range of diplomas and career certificates in anywhere from three months to a year.
If students begin preparing early for their trade school education, their chances of success tend to rise. That's another reason that Georgia is a good place for technical school study -- 70 percent of students enrolled in public high schools take some form of CTE training before graduating. Georgia is also home to the Technical College System of Georgia (TCGS), which works to coordinate and optimize the efforts of individual trade school campuses.
Students looking to study top subjects like health care, business, welding, manufacturing and automotive technology at trade schools in Georgia should check out the list below. The best trade and vocational schools in Georgia may have more to offer than you think.
The Best Trade and Vocational Schools in Georgia
Our list of the best trade schools in Georgia is based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other U.S. Department of Education sources. The top schools in the state scored well in important categories like affordability, schedule flexibility, student success and more.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College was formed in 2008, when two established technical schools in the area merged to better serve students by combining their resources. The institution maintains six campuses in the part of the state near the junction of the Alabama and Tennessee borders and features an aviation training center near its flagship location in Rome.
What vocational programs GNTC offers: More than 200 degree, diploma and certificate programs are available here, including an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) plan in the high-demand healthcare field of diagnostic medical sonography. Several programs are available for business students, as well, including a marketing specialist certificate and a range of study plans in logistics and supply chain management.
Students hoping not to break the bank with their tuition bills might want to give extra consideration to Albany Technical College, which reported the lowest out-of-pocket cost for grant and scholarship recipients among all technical schools in the U.S. It's also one of the top online trade schools in Georgia, with more than two-thirds of students taking at least some of their coursework in the virtual classroom.
What vocational programs Albany Tech offers: If you're looking for construction trade schools in Georgia, Albany Tech should be on your list. A diploma program in masonry comes with two available specializations -- brick and block masonry and tile setting -- and the carpentry diploma is endorsed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).
This institution of roughly 4,000 students in the state's largest city reported the second best graduation rate of any school that made our list. Atlanta Technical College's commitment to flexibility may have helped lead to that top-ranking distinction -- more than 60 percent of students here were enrolled in at least one fully or partially online class in 2017.
What vocational programs ATC offers: Tourism and hospitality are big industries in Atlanta and the state at large, and the catalog at ATC has several programs for students looking to enter the growing hospitality industry. Aspiring event coordinators can earn a one-semester certificate in the field, and an A.A.S. degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management can be earned in two years of full-time study.
Chattahoochee Technical College is one of the largest technical schools in Georgia, serving more than 10,000 students each semester. It also featured one of the state's five most affordable out-of-pocket costs for students receiving financial aid and reported the second-highest average salary for graduates out of all the schools that made our list.
What vocational programs CTC offers: A range of high-tech programs are available at this Marietta institution, such as an associate degree in radiography and both diploma and A.A.S. plans in web application development. Traditional skilled trades certificates and diplomas can be earned here as well, and business programs in subjects like logistics and accounting can be completed entirely online.
Founded in the 1980s with a class of 25 practical nursing students, Ogeechee Technical College quickly grew into a robust technical school. Students who begin studying here tend to stick with their programs past the first year, according to NCES numbers. No other school on our list had a higher first-year retention rate than the Statesboro school, and its 2018 graduation rate was one of the best in Georgia.
What vocational programs OTC offers: Students at Ogeechee Tech can pursue any one of 35 different program groups, including a few less common subjects like opticianry and funeral service education. Its original mission of nurse education is still going strong, as well -- roughly one in eight graduates left school with a nursing certificate in 2018.
Georgia Piedmont Technical College has been around longer than most other trade schools in Georgia. The Clarkston school has been educating career-seekers in DeKalb County since the early 1960s, and its student-centered atmosphere seeks to ensure that graduates can leave school fully prepared for the challenges of the workforce. It also helps young people get ready for their careers, with over 1,200 dual-enrollment students taking courses in 2018.
What vocational programs Georgia Piedmont Tech offers: This north central Georgia school offers an array of A.A.S. degrees, from public safety fields like fire science to high-tech subjects such as computer networking and electronics technology. Numerous diplomas and certificates are available as well, including an accelerated commercial truck driving program that takes just eight weeks to complete.
This mid-sized institution of around 5,100 students is located near the shores of Lake Lanier, northwest of Atlanta. Approximately half the students enrolled in 2018 were awarded either a federal Pell Grant or the state's HOPE Grant, suggesting that LTC students on the lower end of the income spectrum should be able to find the help they need to decrease their tuition bills.
What vocational programs LTC offers: The number of programs available via distance education at LTC makes it one of the more comprehensive online trade schools in Georgia. Online students can earn an associate degree in criminal justice technology, a diploma in emergency management and a certificate in infant and toddler care, among other plans.
Nearly 120 programs of study are on offer at West Georgia Technical College, which maintains nine campuses and learning centers for students in the region between Atlanta and the border with Alabama. It's one of the larger technical schools in Georgia, serving close to 6,700 students each semester, and it was named one of the three most military-friendly technical schools in the country in 2019.
What vocational programs WGTC offers: WGTC is one of the more comprehensive welding trade schools in Georgia, offering training in MIG, TIG, shielded metal and pipe welding to students at six of its nine campuses. It also offers several fully online study plans, including a certificate in medical coding and an A.A.S. in cybersecurity.
Created in 2010 after a merger of two longstanding technical colleges with adjacent service areas, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College offers courses at four campuses throughout the southern reaches of the state. Students in disciplines such as cosmetology, dental hygiene and automotive technology can practice their skills in semi-professional clinic, salon and garage environments on select Wiregrass campuses.
What vocational programs WGTC offers: The long list of vocational programs available at WGTC includes a few uncommon but valuable study plans, such as a certificate in agribusiness management and a diploma or degree program in game design that emphasizes studio art and computer science concepts. Cutting-edge healthcare fields like health information technology (HIT) are represented in the catalog as well.
Gwinnett Technical College is located in Lawrenceville, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta, and it plays host to one of the most diverse student bodies in the state. No demographic group represents a majority of the roughly 8,300 students educated here each year, and more than one third of students are over the age of 26.
What vocational programs Gwinnett Tech offers: Healthcare disciplines make up the lion's share of the programs offered here, including a high-value associate degree in registered nursing, an A.A.S. in surgical technology and a certificate in clinical research. Gwinnett Tech also offers something rare among technical schools in Georgia -- an interior decorating and design program that can lead to a certificate, a diploma or an associate degree.
Trade School Financial aid in Georgia
If you want to train for a new career but aren't sure how you would pay for your program, don't hesitate to look into Georgia education grants for college students. There is substantial opportunity for financial aid from career schools in Georgia, provided you know where to look and what it takes to apply.
One of the most important parts of knowing how to apply for financial aid in Georgia is a document called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal grant and loan programs use the FAFSA as their main application document, and most aid programs at the state or institutional level use information from it when making their award decisions. Check out the financial aid guide we put together for more information on the FAFSA and other important first steps.
Here's a quick rundown of a few statewide grants and scholarships for college students in Georgia:
- HOPE Career Grant - Formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, this program is one of the most wide-reaching Georgia education grants. Qualifying students may be awarded up to $500 per semester to help offset the cost of their trade school education.
- Zell Miller Grant - This program aims to reduce the cost burden on high-achieving trade school students by covering 100 percent of tuition for eligible certificate or diploma programs at a TCSG or USG institution. Students must maintain a 3.5 GPA in college to qualify.
- HOPE Scholarship - Academic achievement is the primary qualifier for this statewide aid program. Up to $1,140 per semester might be available for students who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA or score in the 75th percentile on the SAT or ACT exam.
Initiatives for Vocational School Students in Georgia
Vocational school initiatives in Georgia come in a variety of styles and approaches. Whether they're used to help institutions develop new programs or create scholarships for undergraduates in Georgia, initiatives like these aim to increase opportunity for higher education statewide:
- The state budget for the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) is more than $320 million and increasing every year, while more than $760 million is allocated for the HOPE financial aid programs.
- The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) recently won nearly $5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The money will go to further its mission of improving the state's employment and training opportunities for students with disabilities.
Georgia policies that benefit vocational students
- The Georgia Student Finance Commission supports a dual enrollment initiative that allows high school students to take college-level courses for both high school and college credit. Vocational students who participate in dual-enrollment programs are often able to finish college and enter the workforce sooner than expected.
- The Georgia Virtual Technical Connection (GVTC) is a distance education initiative of the TCSG that aims to bring increased flexibility to online trade schools in Georgia. If you're thinking about enrolling in an online program, you can check the GVTC database to see which schools in the state might offer it.
School-specific program initiatives in Georgia
- Students at North Georgia Technical College can apply for scholarships designed to assist with the cost of tuition, fees or lending library materials.
- South Georgia Technical College offers multiple scholarship opportunities for high-achieving students who make the institution's President's List by earning a 4.0 grade point average.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Georgia
- The career, technical and agricultural education section of the Georgia Department of Education site can give you a wide range of information on the state's career clusters, programs of study and Georgia CTE student certifications.
- The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) oversees all of the public career schools in Georgia and keeps a close eye on the quality of its institutions. If you have questions about trade schools in the state, you might find the answers at TCSG.
- Attending a school and program that have earned accreditation can give you confidence that your training will make an impact on the job market. The primary regional accrediting agency in Georgia is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Check with your individual school for program accreditation status.
For more info on the best trade and vocational schools in Georgia and elsewhere throughout the country, as well as more detailed explorations of career education in general, check the state-specific resources at Advance CTE and browse the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) site.
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
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- About Us, National Center for Construction Education and Research, accessed May 30, 2019, https://www.nccer.org/about-us
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