A four-year degree isn't the only path to a good job. Trade schools in Ohio offer certificates, career diplomas and associate degrees that can have you ready for an in-demand career in a matter of months, not years. Many of the state's largest industries -- such as manufacturing, health care and transportation -- require workers who have some post-high school training but not a bachelor's degree.
Health information technicians, aircraft mechanics, diagnostic medical sonographers and human resources assistants are a few of the in-demand occupations in Ohio that don't require a four-year degree, according to state government data. With major medical centers scattered throughout the state, such as Cleveland Clinic in the north and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to the south, nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses are in demand statewide. Other careers may be focused in specific regions.
For instance, paralegals and legal assistants are expected to see strong job growth in central Ohio where the state capital of Columbus is located. In the more rural southeast corner of the state, construction workers, truck drivers and electricians are in greater demand.
Why is Ohio good for vocational schools?
The time is right for students to pursue an education at technical schools in Ohio. Overall, 55% of jobs in the state required so-called middle skills in 2015. That means they required some postsecondary training such as a certificate or career diploma but not a four-year degree. However, only 47 percent of workers have these skills, according to the National Skills Coalition.
Team Northeast Ohio, commonly known as Team NEO, had similar findings in its 2018 report Aligning Opportunities in Northeast Ohio. The economic development group found a 34 percent gap in the number of residents statewide who would be able to fill jobs requiring some postsecondary credential by 2020.
To prepare residents for these jobs, the state offers career-technical education at all its public high schools. There are also 54 Ohio Technical Centers at locations across the state. These provide education to adult learners and include diverse programs, from police academies to HVAC trade schools in Ohio.
Top Vocational Schools in Ohio
The best trade schools in Ohio are those that offer an affordable education and robust student support. We found them by analyzing data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard. This list of trade schools in Ohio represents the best of the best when factors such as graduation rates, online access and average incomes of graduates are considered.
With four locations including a main campus in Dayton, Sinclair Community College offers hundreds of certificate and degree programs. It also has one of the most affordable tuition rates in the state. Despite being one of the largest community colleges in the country -- enrolling 30,000 students -- it manages to maintain one of Ohio's lowest student-faculty ratios.
What vocational programs Sinclair offers: Sinclair offers all the programs you'd expect to find at one of the best vocational schools in Ohio. These include popular majors such as accounting, nursing and automotive technology. However, the school also offers some specialized initiatives that make it easy to complete Ohio CTE certification programs. The Appalachian Outreach helps eliminate educational and social barriers for those with an Appalachian heritage, and multiple school partnerships allow high school students to receive college credit. These include the College Credit Plus, Project Leads the Way and Miami Valley Tech Prep Consortium programs.
Among career schools in Ohio, Stark State College is a good fit for adult learners. Nearly 75 percent of students study on a part-time basis, and 27 is the average age of those enrolled. That means you probably won't feel out of place if you're juggling family and work along with your education. Convenient online courses run for 8-week sessions, and an affordable tuition rate is another perk of attending school at Stark State College.
What vocational programs Stark State offers: Stark State splits its academics into 10 career communities to help you find the right degree for your professional goals. Engineering technology and health are two of the more popular communities, and it is here that you can find respected programs ranging from petroleum industrial mechanics technology to dental hygiene. More than 30 online technical degrees and certificates are offered through eStarkState, and high school students can earn dual credit through the College Credit Plus program.
Known as CState, Cincinnati State offers more than 100 education programs across four campuses. Many can even be completely entirely online. Adult learners are in good company with one-third of students being age 30 or older. Affordable tuition rates and small class sizes are among the other benefits of enrolling at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.
What vocational programs CState offers: If you're interested in Ohio CTE student certifications, CState might be the school for you. It has one of the largest cooperative education programs in the country. That allows students to get the real-world experience they need to transition successfully to the workforce. Other programs, such as the emergency medical technician certificate, offer on-campus learning that can lead to a professional credential or license. More than a dozen technical degrees and certificates can be earned entirely online.
We aren't the only ones to recognize Columbus State Community College as one of the best career and technical schools in Ohio. It was also named a 2019 Leah Meyer Austin Award winner. The award goes to two schools annually and is the highest honor given in the Achieving the Dream network. It reflects the school's commitment to helping students succeed in their chosen educational program.
What vocational programs Columbus State offers: Columbus State divides its programs among eight academic and career pathways. There are apprenticeship ready certificates for skilled trades, two-year technical degrees and short-term certificates. High school students at 40 partnering institutions can receive college credit through the College Credit Plus program. Graduating high school seniors interested in studying STEM majors or medicine may be able to attend Columbus State tuition-free thanks to the Future Scientists of Ohio Scholarship.
James A Rhodes State College has its roots in nursing. After its founding in 1967, the school enrolled its first class of 49 nursing students in 1969. Since then, Rhodes State College has grown to offer more than 90 programs. Of these, more than 20 are offered either fully or partially online. The school enrolls more than 4,000 students annually.
What vocational programs Rhodes offers: The technical degrees and certificates at Rhodes cover three main categories: allied health, business and nursing. These include some innovative programs designed to fit the lifestyle of busy adults. For instance, the One-Night-a-Week Program lets students earn a business administration associate degree in two years through an accelerated format featuring 5-week courses.
Offering more than 70 academic programs, Owens Community College is proud of its heritage as a career school. It was founded in 1965 to provide education opportunities and training to area residents and continues to do so at three locations in and around Toledo. Its average class size is only 14 students, ensuring you won't get lost in the crowd.
What vocational programs Owens offers: Popular vocational programs at Owens include welding certificates and an Associate of Applied Business in accounting technology. Oher degrees and certificates cover health, STEM and business majors. Several programs are offered entirely online. As a participant in the College Credit Plus program, local high school students may be able to earn college credit prior to their graduation.
Fremont-based Terra State Community College also makes the list of top trade schools in Ohio. It has small class sizes, in-demand programs and affordable tuition rates. The school's faculty has more than 500 years of combined teaching experience. More than 70 percent of students receive financial aid which can include Ohio education grants, scholarships and student employment opportunities.
What vocational programs Terra State offers: You'll find more than 90 degrees and certificates at Terra State Community College. These cover 19 program areas including the sought after fields of medical assisting and electrical engineering. While most degrees have on-campus components, students may able to take some courses online. Through the Career Tech and Adult Education program, you may even be able to gain college credit for your work experience.
With campus locations in Steubenville and Youngstown, Eastern Gateway Community College has been the school of choice for nearly 70,000 students since its founding in 1968. In addition to technical degrees and certificates, the school offers free Aspire classes to adult learners who need to brush up on basic skills or earn a GED.
What vocational programs Eastern Gateway offers: At Eastern Gateway, you'll find both popular majors as well as less common educational programs. For instance, the school has a robust business management program that offers more than a half dozen focus areas such as finance or entrepreneurship. There is also a prekindergarten care and education associate degree along with degrees and certificates in health, public safety and engineering fields.
If you are from the Ohio Valley, you may be familiar with Belmont College. The school has been educating area residents for more than 40 years. It offers dozens of affordable degree and certificate programs to students from all walks of life. Belmont College is a small school that is able to offered personalized instruction to both on-campus and online learners.
What vocational programs Belmont College offers: The educational programs at Belmont College are divided among nine areas of study. These include some unique learning opportunities. For instance, the school's building preservation/restoration program is the oldest program of its kind in the nation. Other options, such as the certificate for phlebotomy technicians, are designed to have students ready for a new career in a matter of months.
Enroll in Clark State Community College, and you'll get access to quality academic programs and personalized attention at convenient locations. The school has four campuses in addition to online certificate and degree options. While already offering affordable rates, military members may be eligible for discounted tuition.
What vocational programs Clark State offers: Clark State is home to Center for Cyber Defense Education so its associate degree in cybersecurity/information assurance technology appeals to many students. However, there are approximately 125 majors and degrees from which to choose. These cover the arts, education, engineering, health and more. Some degrees, such as the web development certificate can be earned fully online, and 40 percent of students take at least one online class while at Clark State.
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Ohio
If you're looking for an affordable education, trade schools are a smart choice. Many of the best trade schools in Ohio feature low tuition rates. What's more, by studying online or close to home, you can reduce or eliminate housing and transportation costs.
However, if you still need help paying for your degree or certificate, Ohio college scholarships and grants are available. And funding for those programs may be growing. The state's 2019 executive budget recommendations included an additional $47 million for need-based aid and $15 million to train or retrain workers for in-demand fields.
While funding and programs can change from year to year, Ohio education grants are awarded based on information provided in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Ohio state scholarships may also use this information when making decisions. Our financial aid guide has more information about the FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid in Ohio.
Once you've submitted the FAFSA, you may be eligible for the following:
- Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG): These grants are available to those seeking an associate degree, bachelor's degree or nursing diploma at an eligible institution. For 2019, students must have an expected family contribution of $2,190 or less on their FAFSA and a maximum family income of $96,000.
- Choose Ohio First (TPEG): Choose Ohio First provides scholarships for undergraduates in Ohio who are pursuing in an education in the STEMM fields of science, technology, engineering, math and medicine.
- Financial Aid for Veterans: There are several scholarships in Ohio specifically for veterans and their families. These include the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship, Ohio Safety Officers Memorial Fund and Ohio National Guard Scholarship Program.
Initiatives for Vocational Students in Ohio
Within Ohio, there are a number of initiatives to ensure students are able to gain the skills needed for the state's in-demand jobs, inlcuding the following:
- Through the College Credit Plus program, high school students can receive college credit for their classes. Many of the best vocational schools in Ohio participate in the program, and the Ohio Department of Higher Education estimates it has saved state families more than $416 million in tuition.
- Students can also save time and money with Apprenticeship Pathways. These are offered in conjunction with skilled trades groups who work in the areas of electrical trades, sheet metal, carpentry and plumbing.
Ohio policies that benefit vocational students
- The government wants to make it easy for residents to pursue in-demand careers so they created OhioMeansJobs. The website is a one-stop shop for all the information you need to make a smart career decision. It includes comprehensive information on career pathways, Ohio state scholarships and more.
- Normally, you'd have to live in Ohio for at least 12 months to be considered a resident and eligible for in-state tuition rates. However, thanks to the Forever Buckeyes policy, Ohio high school graduates who left the state and later return are immediately eligible for resident tuition rates.
School-specific program initiatives in Ohio
- Trade schools in Ohio may also offer reduced rates to select students thanks to tuition waivers. These waivers are granted on a school-by-school basis, and each school has different criteria. For instance, North Central State College waives standard tuition rates for recipients of its Tuition Freedom Scholarship. At Cuyahoga Community College, tuition waivers are granted to students displaced from their homes because of a natural disaster. Other schools have different waivers and eligibility requirements.
- Through Apprentice Ohio, some vocational schools in Ohio partner with employers to provide paid apprenticeships to students. In addition to apprenticeships in skilled trades such as carpentry and masonry, opportunities are available for a variety of other occupations including dental assistants, jewelers and computer programmers.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Ohio
Ready to learn more about Ohio CTE certification and education? Then check out these resources:
- The Ohio Department of Higher Education oversees career and technical schools in Ohio. You can learn more about career pathways, financial aid in Ohio and other topics on their website.
- As one of the most comprehensive websites for Ohio job seekers, OhioMeansJobs deserves another mention. Research careers, find a school and practice interview skills all in one place.
- For facts and figures about career and technical education in Ohio, visit the website of the non-profit Advance CTE.
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
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
- 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/
- Career Technical Education & Ohio Technical Centers, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Accessed May 2019, https://www.ohiohighered.org/students/find-a-career/career-technical-professional-and-vocational-schools
- Economic Overview, Ohio Development Services Agency, Accessed May 2019, https://development.ohio.gov/files/research/E1000.pdf
- Be Known in the Greater Cincinnati Region, REDI Cincinnati, Accessed May 2019, https://redicincinnati.com/doing-business-here/why-greater-cincinnati/largest-public-employers
- Largest Employers, Columbus 2020, Accessed May 2019, https://columbusregion.com/market-research/largest-employers/
- Employers, Top 100, Crain's Cleveland Business, Accessed May 2019, https://www.crainscleveland.com/data-lists/10608/employers-top-100
- Regional In-Demand Occupations, OhioMeansJobs, Accessed May 2019, http://omj.ohio.gov/OMJResources/InDemandRegional.stm
- Aligning Opportunities in Northeast Ohio, May 2018, Team NEO, Accessed May 2019, https://www.clevelandplus.com/teamneo/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/03/AligningOpportunities2018-FINAL.pdf
- Ohio's Forgotten Middle, National Skills Coalition, Accessed May 2019, https://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/2017-middle-skills-fact-sheets/file/Ohio-MiddleSkills.pdf
- Academics, Owens Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.owens.edu/academics/
- Academics, Sinclair Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.sinclair.edu/academics/
- About Sinclair, Sinclair Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.sinclair.edu/about/
- Stark State College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.starkstate.edu/
- Online Learning Programs, Cincinnati State. Accessed May 2019, https://www.cincinnatistate.edu/online-learning-programs
- Overview of Cincinnati State, Cincinnati State, Accessed May 2019, https://www.cincinnatistate.edu/about/cstate-overview
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed May 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Academics, Columbus State Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.cscc.edu/academics/
- Leah Meyer Austin Award Winner, Columbus State Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.cscc.edu/go/leah-meyer-austin-award.shtml
- About Rhodes, Rhodes State College, Accessed May 2019, http://www.rhodesstate.edu/about%20rhodes.aspx
- Why Terra State, Terra State Community College, Accessed May 2019, http://www.terra.edu/about_us/why_terra_state/index.php
- Who We Are, Eastern Gateway Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://egcc.edu/about-us/institution/who-we-are/
- Clark State Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.clarkstate.edu/
- Academics, Clark State Community College, Accessed May 2019, https://www.clarkstate.edu/academics/
- Be Able. Be Belmont. Belmont College, Accessed May 2019, http://www.belmontcollege.edu/prospective-students/
- State Grants & Scholarships, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Accessed May 2019, https://www.ohiohighered.org/sgs
- $47 million boost to Opportunity Grants to get more Ohio kids to college: Gov. Mike DeWine's budget, Emily Bamforth, March 15, 2019, Cleveland.com, Accessed May 2019, https://www.cleveland.com/news/2019/03/47-million-boost-to-opportunity-grants-to-get-more-ohio-kids-to-college-gov-mike-dewines-budget.html
- Tuition Waivers, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Accessed May 2019, https://www.ohiohighered.org/educators/tuition-fees