Trade Schools in Illinois

Written ByRWM Editors
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Students at trade and technical schools in Illinois are graduating into a job market that gives them plenty of opportunity to establish their careers. The agriculture, energy and advanced manufacturing industries are among the state's largest, and degree and certificate programs from Illinois trade schools can prepare you to get started in any one of those three sectors.

Some cities and metro areas in Illinois present especially high levels of opportunity, as well, for graduates whose training matches up with the local job market demand. The historical manufacturing hub of Rockford was recently listed among the top five cities in the country for modern manufacturing jobs. Graduates of construction trade schools in Illinois are likely to have good prospects in Champaign, which was the state's fastest growing city in 2017.

Why is Illinois Good for Vocational Schools?

Affordability is one of the major reasons that you might attend trade and vocational schools in Illinois instead of four-year universities. The average full-time student at trade school or community college in the Prairie State pays a little more than $4,100 per year in fees and in-district tuition, while the average four-year university student spent nearly $14,000 for the same expenses over the same amount of time.

There are dozens of career and technical schools in Illinois, so we put together a list of the best trade schools in Illinois to help you narrow down your search. Check it out below, and read on to the bottom of the page for helpful info on how to apply for financial aid in Illinois and which public initiatives are helping in the fight to make Illinois CTE degrees and student certifications more accessible.

Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers in Illinois

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

Financial Aid in Illinois Trade Schools

If you're hoping for some help paying for college, you're not alone. Luckily, Illinois offers college scholarships and grants to trade school students as well as those enrolled in university programs.

The most common first step to qualifying for loans, grants and scholarships in Illinois is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Once your FAFSA is on file, you'll be automatically considered for federal programs like the Pell Grant and your application process to any state-based or institutional aid programs gets easier. You can find more info on important financial aid concepts like the FAFSA in our financial aid guide for trade school students.

Here are a few of the Illinois college grants and scholarships that you might qualify for:

  • Monetary Award Program (MAP) - Students who are residents of Illinois and take at least three credit hours per term may qualify for this state-based program, which awards need-based grants of up to nearly $5,000 per academic year.
  • Illinois National Guard (ING) Grant Program - Active members of the Illinois National Guard who have completed at least one full year of service can receive additional tuition assistance on top of any Post-9/11 GI Bill awards they may receive.
  • Grant Program for Dependents of Police or Fire Officers- This program provides up to four years of college aid to spouses or children of Illinois police or fire service officers who were killed or disabled in the line of duty.

Initiatives for Vocational School Students in Illinois

There are also a range of programs in place to help campus-based and online trade schools in Illinois stay on the cutting edge of CTE instruction while keeping students enrolled and engaged until graduation. Here are just a few of the ways that the state of Illinois is looking out for its vocational students:

Funding for Vocational Students in Illinois

  • The CTE Improvement Grant -- an initiative of the Illinois Community College Board -- provides funding to help institutions improve existing programs and create innovative new approaches to career and technical instruction.
  • The State of Illinois also allocates more than $15 million in state fundingto individual institutions to further the mission of career and technical education and better prepare students to enter the workforce.

Illinois Policies That Benefit Vocational Students

  • Chicago's Partnership for College Completionis an advocacy group that analyzes shortcomings in the Illinois higher education system and makes far-reaching public policy recommendations about affordability, college credit transfer and more.
  • The Partnership for College and Career Success is an initiative designed to help high school students get a head start on a vocational education by offering dual-credit programs and a range of one-off courses taught at high schools that allow students to earn college credit before enrolling in a degree plan.

School-specific program initiatives in Illinois

  • The Friends of McHenry County College Foundation offers more than 80 scholarships to MCC students, including the Dwight Maness Memorial Scholarship for students pursuing an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in criminal justice.
  • A long and comprehensive list of scholarships can be found at Triton College in Chicago, where the Automotive Scholarship can provide between $100 and $1,000 to students beginning an automotive technology program.

Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Illinois

If you're interested in some information on vocational education at the national level, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) can be a great resource. For a deeper look into career and technical schools in Illinois, check the state's dedicated page on Advance CTE.

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