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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.
Top Vocational Schools in New Jersey
We gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other U.S. Department of Education sources to help us rank our list of the best trade and technical schools in New Jersey. The schools that met our criteria were scored on the career success of their graduates, the affordability and flexibility of attendance and the variety of degrees and certificates they offer to students.
Students looking for online trade schools in New Jersey might want to consider Salem Community College. This small institution based near the Delaware river in the southwestern corner of the state reported that nearly 30 percent of students here took at least some of their courses online in 2017-18. Fewer than 1,000 students attend classes at SCC each semester, also, so students who like a quiet campus environment should feel comfortable here.
What vocational programs SCC offers: Busy business students can enroll in a fully online Associate in Science (A.S.) degree in business administration at SCC. The college also offers fairly rare training programs in glassmaking, featuring an Associate in Fine Arts (A.F.A.) degree in glass art and an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) plan in scientific glass technology.
This private, for-profit institution operates three campus locations in New Jersey. The Hackensack location is the smallest of the group, reporting a total enrollment of fewer than 400 students in the 2017-18 academic year. If you prefer an intimate learning environment, you might be in luck at Eastwick -- on top of that small student body, the student-faculty ratio here was just 11:1 in 2018.
What vocational programs Eastwick offers: Medical assisting is one of the fastest-growing careers in healthcare, and Eastwick offers a diploma program that can help you qualify for one of the tens of thousands of emerging careers in the field. The Hackensack campus also offers a diploma program in licensed practical nursing designed for bilingual students that includes over 400 hours of ESL education.
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.
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