You don't need a four-year degree to get a good job in Maryland. In fact, 43 percent of good jobs in the state are held by people without bachelor's degrees, according to Advance CTE. The nonprofit association of career-technical education directors defines a good job as one with a median income of $55,000 and that pays at least $35,000 for those younger than age 45.
Construction, health services and professional and management services are among the industries in Maryland offering the most good jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree. These are also some of the fastest growing sectors in the state, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.
Dental hygienists, physical therapy assistants and medical assistants are among the occupations expected to see the most growth in coming years. However, just because you won't need a four-year degree for these jobs doesn't mean you don't need any training. Instead, many of the hot jobs in the state require specialized education that can be found at technical schools in Maryland.
Why is Maryland good for vocational schools?
Business and education groups have placed an emphasis on middle skills in recent years. Middle skill jobs are those that require education or training past high school but not a four-year degree. The National Skills Coalition says nearly half of Maryland jobs require middle skills but only 38 percent of the state's workers have the right level of training for them.
To address this skills gap, many traditional and online trade schools in Maryland offer affordable training programs designed to meet the needs of area employers. These programs may include degrees and apprenticeships that lead to CTE certification. Maryland high schools may also have their own CTE curriculums, and students enrolled in these programs have a 99 percent graduation rate, according to Advance CTE.
Top Vocational Schools in Maryland
To find the best trade schools in Maryland, we analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education. We looked for schools that offer flexibility, affordability and strong student success outcomes. Based on our findings, these are the best vocational schools in Maryland.
Founded in 1946, Hagerstown Community College was the state's first community college. It is also one of the online trade schools in Maryland. The school offers more than a dozen fully online degrees and certificates among its 100+ programs of study. In addition to enrolling traditional and adult learners, Hagerstown Community College serves more than 800 high school students through its ESSENCE Early College Program and STEMM Technical Middle College.
What vocational programs HCC offers: The programs at HCC are divided among eight academic divisions. Its more popular options include a commercial vehicle transportation program and a variety of health sciences certificates and degrees. The online programs at HCC include an associate degree in business administration and an advanced network security certificate.
With more than 100 academic programs, Allegany College of Maryland has been serving state students since 1961. More than 3,100 people enroll in the college each year, and classes average only 14 students. Allegany College of Maryland is an affordable choice, and 85% of students receive financial aid. While a two-year school, the college offers student housing for those who want to live on campus.
What vocational programs ACM offers: ACM offers four types of programs: associate degrees, certificates, letters of recognition and non-credit/continuing education courses. These cover 14 areas of interest such as business, criminal studies and education. The school's popular nursing program offers a ladder-style approach in which students move from eligibility to be a certified nursing assistant to a licensed practical nurse to a registered nurse.
Lincoln College of Technology is one of the private career schools in Maryland. The school was founded in 1946 to help veterans returning from World War II get the training needed to transition to civilian careers. Today, Lincoln College of Technology operates campuses in 14 states, and its Columbia location produces the most HVAC technology graduates in Maryland.
What vocational programs Lincoln Tech offers: The Columbia campus of Lincoln Tech focuses on automotive technology, skilled trades and culinary arts. The HVAC technology program gives students hands-on training in an on-campus "Green House." Graduates can then sit for certification examinations related to green technologies. The school is also notable for its Lincoln Culinary Institute which offers training in international baking and pastry.
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Maryland
If you're worried about how you'll pay for tuition, the good news is that vocational schools in Maryland are affordable. The average cost of tuition and fees at a Maryland community college is $3,722, according to the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. For comparison, you'd spend an average of $9,237 at a public four-year college and $39,372 at a private college.
You may even be able to attend one of the state's community colleges for free. Maryland has set aside $15 million a year to provide free tuition to low and middle-income students. Plus, there are other Maryland scholarships and grants, including one designed to help adults return to school to complete their degree.
Financial aid in Maryland may come from the government or schools, but both rely on information from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to make award decisions. Check out our guide to financial aid for more information on the FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid in Maryland. Your application could make you eligible for one of these programs or other forms of financial aid:
Community College Promise Scholarship: This scholarship will cover any tuition costs not covered by other financial aid programs. Eligible students must be enrolled in a program that results in a vocational certificate, certificate, associate degree, licensure or certification. Apprenticeship programs may also qualify. Income limits apply.
Near Completer Grant: Adults who have earned at least 45 credits at a community college or 90 credits at a public four-year college but didn't graduate may be eligible for a Near Completer Grant. The grant is intended to help adults re-enroll and finish their education. It is worth up to one-third of a community college's in-county tuition charge.
Part-Time Grant: Part-time students may be eligible for this special grant that ranges from $200 to $2,000.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Maryland
Here's where you can learn more about the education and career options offered by traditional and online trade schools in Maryland.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is the main accrediting body for Maryland, and you can search for accredited institutions on their website.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission provides information about financial aid and state institutions of higher education.
On the Maryland Workforce Exchange, you can create a resume, search jobs and learn more about education opportunities in the state.
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/
- Maryland Occupational Projections - 2016-2026 - Workforce Information and Performance, Maryland Department of Labor, Accessed October 2019, https://www.dllr.state.md.us/lmi/iandoproj/maryland.shtml
- Maryland Industry Projections - 2016-2026 - Workforce Information and Performance, Maryland Department of Labor, Accessed October 2019, https://www.dllr.state.md.us/lmi/iandoproj/industry.shtml
- Maryland, Advance CTE, Accessed October 2019, https://careertech.org/maryland
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed October 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Maryland's Forgotten Middle, National Skills Coalition, Accessed October 2019, https://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/2017-middle-skills-fact-sheets/file/Maryland-MiddleSkills.PDF
- Fast Facts about HCC, Hagerstown Community College, Accessed October 2019, http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/about-hcc/fast-facts
- #DiscoverACM, Allegany College of Maryland, Accessed October 2019, https://www.allegany.edu/future-students/index.html
- A message from Scott M. Shaw, Chief Executive Officer and President, Lincoln Tech, Accessed October 2019, https://www.lincolntech.edu/about/letter-from-ceo
- Why Community Colleges?...To Save $1000s, Maryland Community Colleges, Accessed October 2019, https://mdacc.org/why-community-college/community-college-save-1000s-2/
- State Financial Assistance Programs & Applications, Maryland Higher Education Commission, Accessed October 2019, https://mhec.state.md.us/preparing/Pages/FinancialAid/descriptions.aspx