According to projections released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES), the job market in the Magnolia State is set to expand in the next several years. On top of that, some of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy -- construction, automotive, transportation, healthcare and education -- feature numerous jobs for graduates of trade and vocational schools in Mississippi.
Specific cities and regions have even more potential upside for trade school graduates in certain fields. Automotive service technicians and mechanics in the area around Jackson earn around $3,600 more per year than the statewide average, for example, and the Gulfport-Biloxi area has reported a steady upswing in the availability of manufacturing jobs since the beginning of 2019.
Why is Mississippi good for vocational/career schools?
Career technical education (CTE) can increase graduation rates at both the high school and the college level, and the benefits don't stop there. Students pursuing CTE certification in Mississippi also spend less time in college before they're ready to hit the workforce -- even an associate degree, the highest level of strictly vocational training, typically takes around half the time of a four-year bachelor's degree.
There are also cost savings available for students at trade and vocational schools in Mississippi. The average cost of tuition and fees at a Mississippi university was more than $8,400 for the year in 2018, while the average cost of attendance at a public trade school came in at under $3,200 the same year.
Whether you're looking for campus-based or online trade schools in Mississippi, we've got a rundown of the state's best schools and some resources for students and job seekers. Read on to learn about some programs available in the state and how to apply for financial aid in Mississippi.
The Best Trade and Vocational Schools in Mississippi
We looked into which college features were most important to students -- affordability, flexibility, student services and a record of success -- and gathered data from the U.S. Department of Education to find out which schools were the best. Check out the list below:
Student success was one of the bright spots for East Mississippi Community College, which tied for the best first-year retention rate in the state and posted the second-best graduation rate among schools in our top ten. It was also one of the best online trade schools in Mississippi by enrollment, with more than half of the student body enrolled in distance education classes.
What vocational programs EMCC offers: Students hoping to make their living in the great outdoors can study forestry technology at EMCC, learning how to produce, manage and protect timber crops and other agricultural forest products. An ophthalmic technology program is available for aspiring opticians, and the two-semester program in baking and pastry arts includes hands-on learning in a working commercial kitchen.
Founded in 1925, Holmes Community College serves a nine-county area in central Mississippi with three full-service campuses and two learning centers. The numbers show that graduates of the Goodman institution tend to find and keep jobs after finishing their programs -- nearly 87 percent of former students report remaining gainfully employed at least six years after leaving school.
What vocational programs Holmes offers: Occupational therapy assisting is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the country, and Holmes students can train to join the booming field with an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) degree in occupational therapy assistant technology. The information systems technology program offered on the Ridgeland and Grenada campuses features three degree tracks: computer networking, computer engineering and software engineering.
East Central Community College reported the largest distance education enrollment among all public online trade schools in Mississippi, with nearly 56 percent of students taking advantage of opportunities in the virtual classroom. The student body here consists of just over 2,600 students, and ECCC graduates report some of the highest average salaries in the state after spending ten years in their career field.
What vocational programs ECCC offers: Technical programs available at this Decatur school include degrees and certificates in precision machining and manufacturing technology, hotel and restaurant management technology and automation and control technology. Training programs in most career disciplines available here can be taken as 30-credit career certificates, 45-credit technical certificates or 60-61 credit A.A.S. degrees.
Students who enjoy the high-energy environment of a busy institution might feel right at home at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Perkinston school educates around 9,000 students each semester and awarded more certificates and degrees in 2018 than any other trade school in the state. MGCCC operates three campuses and seven specialized learning centers throughout the Mississippi Panhandle.
What vocational programs MGCCC offers: This southern Mississippi school organizes its programs into pathways, allowing students to work closely with like-minded classmates. A one-semester electric lineman program trains students in power line installation and repair, the maritime technology program features an apprenticeship at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula and the certificate, diploma and associate degree programs in criminal justice can be completed in two, three and four semesters, respectively.
Students at Copiah-Lincoln Community College tend to follow through with their studies once they enroll. The Wesson institution posted the best graduation rate among schools that made our top ten and a retention rate that tied for the top spot in the state. Co-Lin also isn't only one of the best trade schools in Mississippi -- it's one of the top 100 vocational schools nationwide.
What vocational programs Co-Lin offers: Students looking for online trade schools in Mississippi might find what they're looking for at Co-Lin. Degrees in all nine of its major business subjects, including agribusiness, economics, entrepreneurship and finance, can be completed in the virtual classroom, as well as degrees in psychology, journalism and several other fields in the humanities and social sciences.
No other school in the state serves as many students as Hinds Community College, where more than 12,000 credit-seeking students attend classes each semester. Even with that high student population, however, HCC works to allow a personal touch in the learning environment. The ratio of students to faculty members at this west-central Mississippi school is a comfortable 17:1.
What vocational programs HCC offers: More than 70 career and technical programs are available to students at HCC, including degrees and certificates in a range of creative disciplines that includes graphic design, animation and simulation design and entertainment industry mechanics. Programs in classical building trades like carpentry, masonry and plumbing are available as well, and the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program can train you as a drone pilot.
Jones County Junior College had some of the best marks on our list in terms of delivering long-lasting job skills to its students. The Ellisville school took the top spot on our list in the graduate earnings category, and more than 87 percent of former students reported holding down a job for six years or more after finishing their programs.
What vocational programs JCJC offers: Tech students can pursue a career certificate, technical certificate or A.A.S. degree in information systems technology here, as well as a certificate or an A.A.S. in Web design and programming. JCJC also offers a commercial truck driving program that can be completed in as little as four weeks and a three-semester cosmetology certificate, among other programs.
Southwest Mississippi Community College has a history that stretches back more than 100 years and offers a close-knit campus of around 2,000 students. The comprehensive catalog here provides academic programs as well as career and technical training and the graduation and retention rates both ranked in the top three among schools that made our list.
What vocational programs SMCC offers: The associate degree in banking and finance technology at SMCC teaches the principles of accounting, banking, consumer lending, personal finance and other essential skills of the financial services industry. It's also one of the few trade schools in Mississippi to offer a degree in oil and gas production technology for students hoping to land an entry-level job in the production and processing of fossil fuels.
If you're hoping to have opportunities for one-on-one time with your professors, programs at Meridian Community College can probably provide it. The ratio of 16 students per faculty member at this eastern Mississippi school was one of the best in the state. It also made a strong showing in the flexibility category, posting an online enrollment rate of more than 46 percent.
What vocational programs MCC offers: The catalog here features a wide range of healthcare training programs, including two-year programs in health information technology and medical office management and a three-semester medical assisting technology program that can prepare you for one of the fastest-growing careers in the industry. An Associate Degree in Nursing (A.D.N.) program is available for aspiring registered nurses.
This institution near the Arkansas border took the crown in the affordability category. A college's average net price is an estimate of the out-of-pocket costs that students pay for tuition, fees, transportation, housing and other necessities after financial aid from grants and scholarships is added. Coahoma Community College posted an average net price of just over $1,000 for a year of study, the second-best figure among all schools we surveyed nationwide.
What vocational programs CCC offers: The career-ready programs at CCC cover a range of different disciplines from barbering and cosmetology to industrial manufacturing technology and hotel and restaurant management. The associate degree in automotive technology trains students on the full range of automotive systems, and the computer servicing technology program covers diagnostics, networking, digital electronics and more.
How to Apply for Trade School Financial Aid in Mississippi
Paying for college is often one of the biggest challenges that that aspiring students face. Even though career and technical schools in Mississippi charge less than half of the average university tuition, many students could still use a little help paying for school.
Anyone looking into Mississippi scholarships and grants for college should become familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. The FAFSA is probably the most important document in the financial aid process, using income numbers and other information to determine your eligibility for need-based aid programs.
Not only is the FAFSA often requested in the application process for Mississippi scholarships and grants, it's the only way to see if you qualify for federal programs like Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. Take a look at our financial aid guide for more details about the FAFSA and general info on how to apply for financial aid in Mississippi.
Here's a short list of state-based financial aid programs that may be available for students at trade schools in Mississippi:
Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant (MEGS) - This merit-based program awards up to $2,500 per year to Mississippi high school graduates with at least a 3.5 GPA and an ACT score of 29 or above.
Higher Education Legislative Plan (HELP) - Students who complete a special HELP curriculum in high school can qualify for tuition and fees assistance up to the average amount of public college tuition in the state.
Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG) - This program can provide an award of up to $500 per year for Mississippi trade school students who miss the cutoff for federal need-based aid.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Mississippi
Students looking for some hard data and administrative information about career and technical schools in Mississippi can check out the Mississippi Community College Board Web portal.
For info on the state of the career market, available jobs for college graduates and the locations of job centers throughout the state, visit the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Regional accreditation assures that career and technical schools in Mississippi provide an education that meets or exceeds a set of quality standards. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) provides regional accreditation for Mississippi institutions, while program accreditation typically comes from industry associations such as the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC) and the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
You can also learn more about the career and technical education landscape at the state page for Mississippi at info portal Advance CTE. For more information on the national CTE scene, check with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).
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
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
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
- Number 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
- Industry Projections, Mississippi Department of Employment Security, accessed September 22, 2019, https://www.mdes.ms.gov/information-center/labor-market-information/labor-market-publications/industry-projections/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 22, 2019: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493023.htm; Gulfport-Biloxi, MS Economy at a Glance, https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.ms_gulfport_msa.htm;
- Mississippi, Advance CTE, accessed September 22-23, 2019, https://careertech.org/Mississippi
- Tuition and Fees by Sector and State over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed September 22, 2019, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-over-time
- Mississippi, College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, accessed September 22-23, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MS&ct=1&ic=2
- School pages, accessed September 22-30: Career-Technical Programs, East Mississippi Community College, https://www.eastms.edu/programs/career-technical/index.html; Baking and Pastry Arts, East Mississippi Community College, https://www.eastms.edu/programs/career-technical/baking-and-pastry-arts.html; Ophthalmic Technology, East Mississippi Community College, http://www.eastms.edu/programs/career-technical/ophthalmic-technology.html; Forestry Technology, East Mississippi Community College, http://www.eastms.edu/programs/career-technical/forestry-technology.html; History of the College, Holmes Community College, http://www.holmescc.edu/about/history.aspx; About Us, Holmes Community College, http://www.holmescc.edu/about/index.aspx; Information Systems Technology, Holmes Community College, http://www.holmescc.edu/departments/technical/computer_info_sys_technology/index.aspx; Occupational Therapy Assistant Technology, Holmes Community College, http://www.holmescc.edu/departments/technical/occupational_therapy_assistant/index.aspx; Technical Programs, East Central Community College, https://www.eccc.edu/technical-programs; Automation and Control Technology, East Central Community College, https://www.eccc.edu/automation-and-control-technology; Precision Manufacturing and Machining Technology, East Central Community College, https://www.eccc.edu/precision-manufacturing-machining-technology; Why Gulf Coast?, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/about/why-gulf-coast/; Campuses, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/contact/campuses/; Career & Technical Programs, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/programs/career-technical/; Apprentice Electric Lineman, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/programs/career-technical/industrial-manufacturing/apprentice-electric-lineman/; Maritime Shipbuilding Technology, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/programs/career-technical/industrial-manufacturing/maritime-technology/; Criminal Justice Technology, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/programs/career-technical/public-safety-administration/criminal-justice-technology/; President's Message, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, https://www.colin.edu/about/who-we-are/presidents-message/; Business, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, https://www.colin.edu/majors-programs/academics/business/; Social Science, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, https://www.colin.edu/majors-programs/academics/social-science/; Humanities, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, https://www.colin.edu/majors-programs/academics/humanities/; Campuses, Hinds Community College, https://www.hindscc.edu/campuses; Career & Technical Programs, Hinds Community College, https://www.hindscc.edu/programs-of-study/career-technical; Career & Technical Programs, Jones County Junior College, https://www.jcjc.edu/programs/programs_career_technical.php; Cosmetology, Jones County Junior College, https://www.jcjc.edu/programs/cosmetology/index.php; Commercial Truck Driving, Jones County Junior College, https://www.jcjc.edu/programs/commercialtruckdriving/index.php; Information Systems Technology, Jones County Junior College, https://www.jcjc.edu/programs/informationtech/index.php; History of SMCC, Southwest Mississippi Community College, https://www.smcc.edu/about/history-of-smcc.php; Career and Technical Education, Southwest Mississippi Community College, https://www.smcc.edu/career-and-technical/career-and-technical-education.php; Banking and Finance Technology, Southwest Mississippi Community College, https://www.smcc.edu/career-and-technical/banking-and-finance-technology.php; Oil and Gas Production Technology, Southwest Mississippi Community College, https://www.smcc.edu/career-and-technical/oil-and-gas-production-technology.php; Programs, Meridian Community College, http://www.meridiancc.edu/programs/; Medical Office Management Technology, Meridian Community College, http://www.meridiancc.edu/portfolio/medical-office-management-technology/; Health Information Technology, Meridian Community College, http://www.meridiancc.edu/portfolio/health-information-technology/; Medical Assisting Technology, Meridian Community College, http://www.meridiancc.edu/portfolio/medical-assisting-technology/; Programs, Career and Technical Education, Coahoma Community College, http://www.coahomacc.edu/programs-of-study/career-technical/programs/index; Computer Servicing Technology AAS Degree, Coahoma Community College, http://www.coahomacc.edu/programs-of-study/career-technical/programs/cst/programs/computer-servicing-technology-AAS-Degree; Automotive Technology AAS Degree, Coahoma Community College, http://www.coahomacc.edu/programs-of-study/career-technical/programs/automotive-technology/programs/automotive-technology-AAS-Degree;
- Accreditation, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, https://mgccc.edu/disclosures-and-compliances/accreditation/;
- Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 30, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm;
- Mississippi Office of State Financial Aid, accessed September 22, 2019: MS Eminent Scholars Grant, https://www.msfinancialaid.org/mesg/; Higher Ed Legislative Plan, https://www.msfinancialaid.org/help/; MS Tuition Assistance Grant, https://www.msfinancialaid.org/mtag/
- 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/