You can find career success even if you don't have a bachelor's degree. Instead, head to trade schools in North Carolina to get an education that will prepare you for in-demand job in two years or less. Key industries in the state, such as automotive, information technology and energy, require skilled workers who have career diplomas, certificates or technical associate degrees.
For instance, solar panel installers have the fastest growing job in North Carolina, according to an analysis of government data by Yahoo Finance. These workers only need some short-term training and earned median incomes of $42,680 in 2018, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other fast-growing jobs in the state include veterinary assistants, phlebotomists, massage therapists and respiratory therapists - all of which can be pursued without a bachelor's degree.
However, job prospects vary by region. The North Carolina Department of Commerce says veterinary technologists and HVAC installers will be in particular demand in the Charlotte region. Meanwhile, phlebotomists, medical assistants and respiratory therapists are among the fastest growing jobs in the Raleigh-Durham region.
Why is North Carolina Good for Vocational Schools?
The time is right to pursue skilled training in North Carolina. More than 43 percent of the state's employers expect to increase their hiring in the future, according to the 2018 Employer Needs Survey from the state's NCWorks Commission. However, half of employers say they've had difficulty finding suitable employees, with 49% saying it's because applicants lack the necessary technical skills.
Overall, 55 percent of North Carolina's job market requires some postsecondary training but not a bachelor's degree. However, only 44 percent of state workers are qualified to fill these jobs, says the National Skills Coalition.
Fortunately, there are plenty of vocational schools in North Carolina that teach career technical education -- or CTE -- skills. When it comes to CTE certification, NC Community Colleges operate in 58 locations to prepare students for state licensure and professional credentials. Distance learning, apprenticeships and on-campus classes are all offered by these colleges and other technical schools in North Carolina.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in North Carolina
Public career and technical schools in North Carolina have some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation, according to the North Carolina Community College System. What's more, many of these schools offer flexible learning options such as night, weekend and online classes which means students can keep their job while in college and minimize the need for loans.
You can lower your education costs even further by applying for financial aid in North Carolina. The state had one of the largest increases in funding for higher education in Fiscal Year 2019, according to the annual Grapevine Survey conducted by Illinois State University. The state increased its funding for public institutions, including community colleges and universities, by 4.8 percent last year and 18.4 percent in the past five years. This money provides general support for public schools as well as funds for a number of North Carolina college scholarships and grants.
The College Foundation of North Carolina maintains a list of scholarships in North Carolina. To apply for these as well as NC grants for college, you need to first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used by the federal government, state government and trade schools in North Carolina to determine whether someone is eligible for aid. To learn more about how to apply for financial aid in North Carolina, read our financial aid guide. Among the North Carolina scholarships and grants available are the following:
- NC Community College Grant Program: These grants are open to North Carolina residents who are enrolled for at least six credit hours per semester in a curriculum program at a state community college. The amount of the award depends on a student's financial situation.
- North Carolina Education Lottery Scholarship (ELS): Offered to those attending a North Carolina Community College or University of North Carolina campus, the amount of these scholarships is based on a student's financial need. Only those with expected family contributions of less than $5,000 are eligible.
- Golden LEAF Scholarship Program for North Carolina Community Colleges: Awarding $750 per semester, these scholarships are available to residents of rural, economically distressed counties and have demonstrated financial need.
Initiatives for Vocational Students in North Carolina
In North Carolina, CTE certification is promoted through the following funding and policy initiatives. Support for career and technical education starts in high school. Not only do some schools have their own robust CTE programs, but the Career & College Promise allows high school students to earn credit for a diploma, certificate or associate degree at no additional cost.
Meanwhile, the NC Department of Commerce offers a number of Workforce Grants to train workers for in-demand jobs. Much of this money is funneled through employers for on-the-job training and similar programs, but Golden LEAF Scholarships also fall under this umbrella.
North Carolina policies that benefit vocational students
- NCcareers is an initiative of the NC Department of Commerce and one of the most comprehensive career resources available to job seekers in the state. It allows visitors to research occupations, find a career cluster than matches their interests and review state licensure requirements.
- Another state resource for jobseekers is NCWorks Online. In addition to career resources such as resume creation, the website has information about training and education programs, online learning resources and the option to search for North Carolina scholarships.
School-specific program initiatives in North Carolina
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools offers its students 19 career pathways that can be explored as early as Middle School. Some pathways may allow students to received professional certification even before they graduate from high school. Other public schools in the state may have similar programs.
- Many of the best vocational schools in North Carolina as well as the Public Schools of North Carolina have made it possible for students to participate in Work-Based Learning. This allows students to earn credit while gaining real-world experience in the workplace.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in North Carolina
If you want to learn more about North Carolina CTE certification and vocational employment, visit the following websites:
- For information on career and technical education at the secondary level, stop by the Public Schools of North Carolina website. There, you can read about available program areas and curriculum requirements.
- If you are a high school graduate or adult learner, NC Community Colleges oversees the state's network of 58 community college locations.
- Additional information about career and technical education and initiatives in North Carolina can be found through the nonprofit organization Advance CTE.