There's a lot of opportunity for graduates of career and technical schools in New Jersey. Three of the top five state industries listed by Investopedia draw a substantial portion of their workforce from trade school programs, and a few specific cities in the Garden State are showing real promise for skilled workers with the right training.
For example, Jersey City, Lakewood and Hoboken are among the fastest-growing cities in the state, so students with skills in construction or construction management are likely to do well there. Also, graduates of HVAC trade schools in New Jersey can look to cities like Trenton, Newark and Camden for wages of as much as 25 percent above the national average in their field.
Why is New Jersey Good for Vocational/Career Schools?
Many people think that completing a four-year bachelor's degree is the best move for a college student, but a close look at the numbers tells a slightly different story. The average cost of a bachelor's degree from New Jersey universities was over $14,000 in 2018-19, for example, while students at trade and vocational schools in New Jersey paid closer to $5,000 -- a difference of over $9,000 in tuition and fees alone.
What's more, it seems that students in New Jersey are getting the message. Nearly half of all students enrolled at public community colleges are seeking degrees or certificates in career technical education (CTE) subjects, and the U.S. Department of Education reports that roughly three out of four graduates with New Jersey CTE student certifications find themselves employed or in continued training in their field within six months of completing their program.
We've put together a list of the best trade schools in New Jersey, in order to help you better understand what you can expect from programs at the state's vocational institutions. Stay tuned toward the bottom of the page, as well, for tips on how to apply for financial aid and scholarships in New Jersey.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers in New Jersey
Trade School Financial Aid in New Jersey
It's common knowledge that financial aid is an important part of the university experience, but not everyone knows that trade and vocational students have many of the same options. Career school training may cost around a third of a university education, but a few thousand dollars still isn't exactly pocket change. New Jersey college scholarships and grants can help take some of that burden off your shoulders.
The Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, should be the first document you submit when you start seeking New Jersey education grants and other aid. The FAFSA is a record of the personal and financial data that most scholarship and grant programs require to verify your eligibility. For more general info on how to apply for trade school financial aid in New Jersey, check out this financial aid guide.
Here are a few New Jersey state scholarships and grants that students in trade and vocational school programs might qualify for:
- Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) - This program is one of the largest state-based aid initiatives in the country and awards aid to students at community colleges, state colleges and private schools in New Jersey. Award amounts are based on financial need and the cost of attendance at your chosen school.
- Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) - Awards from the Fund are designed to help low-income students bridge the financial gap and earn a degree or certificate. In addition to providing student financial aid, the EOF also supports outreach and support services at over 40 campuses in the state.
- Governor's Industry Vocations Scholarship - Designed to help women and demographic minorities pursue certificate and diploma programs in the construction trade, this scholarship awards up to $2,000 to successful applicants.
Initiatives for Vocational School Students in New Jersey
Statewide initiatives can help institutions and organizations develop more effective programs, extend their reach to include more potential learners or create new scholarships for undergraduates in New Jersey. Here are a few such initiatives in place as of 2019:
Funding for Vocational Students in New Jersey
- In 2018, New Jersey lawmakers approved $3 million in grants to help vocational schools in the state provide state-of-the-art training in career sectors like health care, heavy equipment operations, cybersecurity and more.
- That same year, New Jersey voters approved a bond issue on the November ballot that created a $50 million discretionary fund to support a variety of future grants for career and technical education at the college level.
New Jersey policies that benefit vocational students
- The state's Career Equity Resource Center (CERC) works to provide career and technical schools in New Jersey with the technical assistance and professional development services they need to offer quality training.
- The New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools works hard to make sure that prospective students learn about the advantages of a trade school education while they're still in high school.
School-specific program initiatives in New Jersey
- Students pursuing their vocational education at Brookdale Community College have several scholarships to choose from, including aid programs specific to criminal justice, nursing, culinary arts and other disciplines.
- Single mothers have an advantage at Middlesex Community College, where they receive extra consideration for the Baker Family Annual Scholarship of at least $1,000.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in New Jersey
- The career and technical education section of the New Jersey Department of Education website can help you better understand the state's CTE priorities and the ways it works to meet its goals.
- New Jersey Career Connections, a resource provided by the state's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, can help trade school students and graduates take the temperature of the job market and apply for open positions.
- Common accreditation agencies for trade and vocational schools in New Jersey are the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
There's even more to learn about trade and technical schools in New Jersey, if you still have some unanswered questions. More state-specific knowledge can be found at the New Jersey page on Advance CTE, and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) can provide additional general info.