A bachelor's degree isn't needed to get a good job in Massachusetts. Fast-growing positions in health care, advanced manufacturing and technology can be found by those with a postsecondary certificate, diploma or associate degree.
In fact, 46 percent of the commonwealth's jobs require middle skills -- that is, they require workers to have some training or education after high school but not a four-year degree. However, only 35 percent of workers are qualified to fill these jobs, according to the National Skills Coalition.
Available jobs vary by region though. In Boston, medical assistants, paralegals and web developers are among the high-growth occupations, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Head to the Cape and Islands, and you'll find veterinary technologists, nursing assistants and HVAC technicians have the hot jobs there.
Why is Massachusetts good for vocational schools?
Being able to start a new job quickly is a key reason to consider technical schools in Massachusetts. You may be able to finish your education in anywhere from a few months to two years, depending on what you study. And less time in the classroom can mean lower tuition costs.
Vocational schools in Massachusetts also do a good job of ensuring their graduates are able to put their skills to work. U.S. Department of Education data notes 79 percent of postsecondary graduates from career technical programs are placed in careers or are pursuing additional education within six months of graduation. Overall, nearly 61,000 postsecondary students are enrolled in career technical education programs, and it could be the right choice for you too.
Top Vocational Schools in Massachusetts
The best trade schools in Massachusetts share common features. They have affordable tuition rates, a strong record of student success and flexible learning options. Using a methodology that analyzed data from National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education, we found the following career schools in Massachusetts are top choices in the commonwealth.
You'll find plenty of learning options at North Shore Community College. While the school's main campus is in Danvers, it also has locations in Lynn and Middleton. Online and blended programs are available for distance learners as well. Students who choose the Flex Learning option can take shortened 7-week courses that can accelerate their education and reduce their time in school.
What vocational programs NSCC offers: NSCC offers 75 degrees and certificates across 13 categories of study. These include agricultural and food services, nursing and allied health and transportation. The college has a fully online associate degree in fire protection and safety technology. Students can get real-world experience through internships and service learning, and adult learners may be eligible for credit for prior learning.
Those seeking a smaller, affordable learning environment might want to consider Mount Wachusett Community College. Founded in 1963, the college enrolls fewer than 4,000 students and yet awards more than $350,000 in scholarships each year. It has on-campus and online classes as well as study abroad, dual enrollment and accelerated learning options.
What vocational programs MWCC offers: Overall, MWCC offers more than 70 degrees and certificates in vocational and academic subjects. It also has a handful of non-degree training courses for specific occupations such as phlebotomists and emergency medical technicians. With a dozen fully online programs, the school can be a good choice for those interested in online trade schools in Massachusetts. Among the options for distance learners is a legal studies degree and a software support certificate.
Typically abbreviated to MassBay Community College, this school says opportunity, excellence and affordability are a few of its hallmarks. It's a military-friendly institution that enrolls approximately 6,000 students each year. MassBay Community College regularly ranks as not only one of the best vocational schools in Massachusetts, but it has also been recognized as a regional and national leader by the research firm Brookings Institution.
What vocational programs MassBay offers: MassBay categorizes its more than 70 degrees and certificates into seven broad categories of study. Popular programs at the school include business administration, interior design and automotive technology. Fully online programs include associate degrees and certificates. There are also more than 100 online courses for distance learners.
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Massachusetts
While tuition varies by institution, career schools in Massachusetts can be significantly cheaper than other colleges and universities. The average cost of tuition and mandatory fees at community colleges in fiscal year 2019 was $6,380, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. That compares to $10,608 for state universities and $15,151 at the University of Massachusetts.
Plus, financial aid is available to further reduce the cost of earning a degree or CTE certification. Massachusetts recently added $7 million in aid for community college students, in fact. That's the largest increase in its MASSGrant funding in more than 20 years.
However, to receive Massachusetts scholarships and grants, you'll need to first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. You can learn more about the form and how to apply for financial aid in Massachusetts in our financial aid guide.
Here's a closer look at some programs offering financial aid in Massachusetts:
MASSGrant and MASSGrant Plus: These programs provide grants to students who have demonstrated financial need, and the amount of the award can vary. While students at all state-approved schools can receive a MASSGrant award, only those enrolled in community colleges are eligible for the MASSGrant Plus program.
Part-Time Grant Program: If you're enrolled in school for at least six credits but fewer than 12 credits, you could receive a Part-Time Grant. These awards have a minimum amount of $200 and can go up to as much as a student's demonstrated financial need.
LEADA@Liberty Scholarship: Offered by Liberty Mutual Insurance, this scholarship is available to students who are African-American or of African descent and who are enrolled in a Massachusetts community college. The scholarship provides $2,500 per year and is intended for students who plan to transfer to a four-year school.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Massachusetts
Ready to learn more about vocational schools in Massachusetts and your career options? Here are a couple resources to get you started.
Technical schools in Massachusetts, as well as other colleges and universities, are accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. You can visit their site for more on the accreditation process and the standards used.
The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education provides information on financial aid, education initiatives and credit transfers.
If you're interested in exploring careers, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a page on their website dedicated to helping you find a job.
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/
- Long-Term Occupation Projections, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Accessed September 2019, http://lmi2.detma.org/Lmi/LTOccprojections.asp
- CTE Works for Workers in Massachusetts, Advance CTE, Accessed September 2019, https://cte.careertech.org/sites/default/files/Massachusetts_CTE_Factsheet_2017.pdf
- Academics, North Shore Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.northshore.edu/academics/index.html
- About, North Shore Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.northshore.edu/about/index.html
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed September 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Mount Wachusett Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://mwcc.edu/about-mwcc/vital-stats/
- About Us, MassBay Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.massbay.edu/about
- Tuition and Mandatory Fees at Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, Accessed September 2019, https://www.mass.edu/datacenter/tuition/AppendixTuitionFeesWeight7.asp
- News & Resources, Office of Student Financial Assistance, Accessed September 2019, https://www.mass.edu/osfa/home/news.asp#massgrant
- State Financial Aid Programs, Office of Student Financial Assistance, Accessed September 2019, https://www.mass.edu/osfa/programs/programs.asp