With major employers such as Intel, Nike and Wells Fargo, Oregon offers diverse job opportunities to its residents. However, you won't need a bachelor's degree to land many of the state's hottest jobs. Vocational schools in Oregon can provide the training needed for growing occupations in key industries.
Wind turbine service technicians have one such job. Their occupation is expected to see the largest growth in the state from 2017 to 2027, according to the State of Oregon Employment Department. The number of available positions is expected to increase nearly 74 percent during that time period, but you'll need an associate degree to get hired.
Qualified workers are needed to fill other positions in target industries as well. Advanced manufacturing, high technology, forestry and wood products and business services are among the sectors with a competitive advantage in the state, according to Business Oregon, the state's economic development agency.
However, job opportunities vary by region. For instance, while medical assistants and physical therapy assistants are in high demand in the Portland Tri-County region, according to the Employment Department, HVAC mechanics and installers should see the most job growth in Southwestern Oregon.
Why is Oregon good for vocational schools?
There are a number of reasons to consider traditional and online trade schools in Oregon. Tuition is often cheaper at community colleges and technical schools than at public and private universities. Plus, most programs at career schools in Oregon can be completed in two years or less, meaning students can quickly move from paying to be in the classroom to being paid for a job in the workforce.
What's more, even short-term postsecondary programs can provide an immediate boost in income. A 2018 report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found earning a community college certificate increases an Oregon worker's income an average of 19 percent compared to their previous wages.
Top Vocational Schools in Oregon
To find the best trade schools in Oregon, we analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. We looked at factors such as tuition rates, graduation rates and flexible learning options. Our methodology shows the following institutions are the best vocational schools in Oregon.
Offering classes at four main campus locations and 10 smaller learning centers, Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon. It enrolls nearly 73,000 students who study either on-campus or online. The school offers a mix of educational opportunities, including degree programs, non-credit community education classes and professional development training.
What vocational programs PCC offers: PCC offers degrees and certificates in dozens of academic disciplines. These include popular fields such as nursing, business and computer information systems. Some programs, such as the associate degree in accounting, can be earned almost entirely online. While open enrollment is offered for many disciplines, in-demand degrees like those in dental hygiene might have a competitive admissions process.
Students at Southwestern Oregon Community College receive a quality education in a scenic environment. The school has two campus locations in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and along Oregon's south coast. The school is known for its affordable tuition rate and small class sizes. The surrounding area offers ample opportunities for internships, cultural activities and outdoor recreation.
What vocational programs SWOCC offers: Students at SWOCC can choose from associate degrees, career pathways and certificates of completions in vocational fields. The school is home to the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute which houses a half dozen culinary arts and bakery programs. Distance learning is an option for some classes, and the school offers writing assistance and tutoring via Skype for students learning online.
More than 25,000 students enroll each year in the educational programs offered by Lane Community College. Located between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the college is located in the second most populated area of the state. That means there are plenty of activities and events going on nearby for students to enjoy when they are not hitting the books.
What vocational programs Lane offers: Popular programs at Lane include its one-year certificate in early childhood education and its associate degree in computer network operations. However, it also has a comprehensive collection of vocational programs that span business, technology, health services and the skilled trades. Apprenticeships are available, and some classes may be offered online or through a hybrid format combing on-campus with online learning.
Klamath Community College provides a small learning environment and an affordable tuition rate. Its comprehensive catalog of educational programs includes on-campus degrees, online degrees and career pathway certificates. The college's innovative 15 to Finish program is designed to help students save money and graduate earlier. It pays for three lecture credits for students who take 15 or more credits per term.
What vocational programs KCC offers: You'll find degrees and certificates in a number of disciplines at KCC. Some programs, such as the associate degree in registered nursing, are only available on-campus. However, KCC also has a robust distance learning program that awards online degrees and certificates in business administration, early childhood education and criminal justice among other fields. Dual credit programs are available for area high school students.
Serving more than 15,000 students annually, Rogue Community College offers classes at three campus locations and five learning centers. More than half its student body is older than age 25 so adult learners won't feel out of place here. The college features affordable tuition rates for both in-state and out-of-state students, and financial aid is available.
What vocational programs RCC offers: Vocational training is at the core of what RCC does. It has 75 career and technical training programs, more than a dozen career pathways certificates and a number of other workforce education options. Examples of specific programs are a medical assistant phlebotomy career pathways certificate, an early childhood education certificate and an associate degree in manufacturing/engineering technology. Distance learning and dual credit programs are available at RCC as well.
Offering quality education programs in an innovative setting, Umpqua Community College is another of the best trade schools in Oregon. It serves more than 13,500 students on its picturesque campus and through its online programs. The vast majority of those pursuing credit programs at the college are enrolled on a part-time basis, and the average age of these students is nearly 30.
What vocational programs UCC offers: UCC has both associate degrees and certificates for those interested in career and technical education. The college notes its most popular technical education programs include an online business technology certificate in retail management and a dental assisting certificate. UCC also has a number of apprenticeship programs and awards viticulture degrees and certificates through the Southern Oregon Wine Institute.
Established in 1966, Linn-Benton Community College is the sixth largest community college in Oregon. It enrolls more than 18,000 students in its academic and vocational programs. The school operates at six locations with its main campus being in Albany. More than 300 business and industry partners collaborate with the school to ensure students receive the training needed to fill area jobs.
What vocational programs LBCC offers: There are seven core areas of study at LBCC. Within those, the college has more than 80 career education options and transfer degrees. Among the popular programs at LBCC are an associate degree in diagnostic imaging and a certificate in welding fabrication technology. Some programs have distance education options for those who want to learn online.
As the oldest two-year college in Oregon, Central Oregon Community College has plenty of experience preparing students for new careers. Its offerings include transfer degrees, technical degrees, career certificates, continuing education classes and more. Approximately one-quarter of its more than 15,500 students are pursuing a career and technical education. ELearning is an option for some courses.
What vocational programs COCC offers: There are more than a dozen career pathways offered at COCC. These programs are intended to help students quickly gain the skills needed to work in a field such as automotive technology or paramedicine. COCC also has more than 25 career and technical degrees and certificates. Through its College Now program, high school students can earn college credit at a reduced rate.
Enrolling about 3,500 students in its 80 programs of study, Treasure Valley Community College is committed to providing personalized attention and instruction. Many of its programs emphasize hands-on learning that may take place in its cutting-edge laboratories, on class field trips or through real-world work experiences. What's more, Treasure Valley Community College is known for affordable education and a low 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
What vocational programs TVCC offers: TVCC has both academic and career training options. These include some unique offerings not found at all other colleges. For instance, TVCC has a career pathways certificate for range and forest technicians, and its aviation science program partners with SkyWest Airlines for a pilot pathway program. Online classes are available, and the college also offers dual credit for high school students.
Sumner College is a private school that has been educating health care professionals for more than 40 years. The accredited, two-year college offers a personalized learning environment in which students are given the tools to succeed. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.
What vocational programs Sumner offers: Sumner specializes in training nurses and medical assistants. The medical assistant program can be completed in 30 weeks and qualifies students to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant credentialing exam. Nursing students can select from a practical nursing diploma that runs a year in length or earn an associate degree in nursing in two years. Sumner notes its 2018 NCLEX pass rate was 100 percent, and 97 percent of associate degree graduates gained employment as registered nurses.
Financial Aid for Vocational Students in Oregon
Vocational schools in Oregon not only provide quality training programs, but they do so at an affordable price. The average cost of tuition and fees at Oregon community colleges was only $5,399 during the 2018-2019 school year, according to the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. That's nearly half the price of the $10,111 state residents paid on average at the state's public universities.
Plus, community college students typically avoid room and board fees which can be almost as much as tuition at some universities. They are also often able to move from the classroom to the workplace in less than two years, meaning less is spent on tuition overall. Those enrolled in online trade schools in Oregon may find it easier to continue working while in school as well.
For those who need help paying for college, financial aid in Oregon includes grants, scholarships and loans. At the state level, Oregon spends millions on government programs designed to improve access to higher education. For instance, it granted $68.1 million to more than 39,000 students through the Oregon Opportunity Grant program in the 2017-2018 academic years.
To apply for Oregon Opportunity Grant or one of the other programs listed below, you need to complete the FAFSA, otherwise known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. We have more about the FAFSA and how to apply for financial aid in Oregon in our RWM Financial Aid Guide.
Oregon Promise Grant: Recent high school graduates or GED test graduates can have a portion of their community college tuition covered through the Oregon Promise Grant. Awards can be as much as $3,834 in 2019-2020.
OSAC Scholarships: If you're looking for Oregon scholarships, the Office of Student Access and Completion awards $17 million worth in amounts ranging from $1,000 to more than $10,000.
Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance:Oregon will help pay the cost of tuition not covered by other grants and scholarships for National Guard members in good standing.
Initiatives for Vocational Students in Oregon
Whether you want to complete a technical degree or earn a CTE certification, Oregon supports its vocational students in the following ways:
Funding for vocational students in Oregon
Community colleges in Oregon receive funding from a number of different sources, and from 2017-2019, the state appropriated more than $570 million from its general fund to support these schools.
The state also received more than $15 million in federal Perkins funds in 2019, an $850,000 increase from the previous year.
Oregon policies that benefit vocational students
Aspire is a mentorship program that seeks to encourage higher education, including vocational training, by matching middle and high school students to trained, volunteer mentors.
Businesses recognize the need to have a well-trained workforce, and the Oregon CTE-STEM Employer Coalition is working to promote career technical education in the state.
School-specific program initiatives in Oregon
Students don't have to wait until college to begin their CTE training in Oregon. The St. Helens High School Career and Technical Education Program is just one example of how Oregon school districts are helping their students get a head start on a technical education.
High school students who don't have access to CTE programs at their high school may be able to enroll in dual credit courses that are offered at many Oregon community colleges.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers
The main accrediting body for technical schools in Oregon is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and you can search for accredited institutions on their website.
Visit the website of the state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission for more information about financial aid in Oregon and public colleges.
If you're interested in exploring job opportunities in the state, head to the Oregon Employment Department for resources designed for career seekers.
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: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
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 711 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/
- Business Oregon's Target Industry Groups, Business Oregon, Accessed September 2019, https://www.oregon4biz.com/Oregon-Business/Industries/
- Career Explorer, State of Oregon Employment Department, Accessed September 2019, https://www.qualityinfo.org/jc-cexpl
- Young Oregon Certificate Recipients Can Double Earnings After
- Completion, Finds Georgetown University Research, June 5, 2018, Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, Accessed September 2019, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Oregon-Certificates-press-release-final.pdf
- Key Industries, Hillsboro Oregon, Accessed September 2019, https://www.hillsboro-oregon.gov/our-city/departments/economic-development/key-industries
- About PCC, Portland Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.pcc.edu/about/
- Welcome to Southwestern, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.socc.edu/about-us
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed September 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- About Lane, Lane Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.lanecc.edu/about?itm_source=www.lanecc.edu&itm_campaign=footer
- Join 15 to Finish Next Term, Klamath Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.klamathcc.edu/Admissions/15-to-Finish
- RCC at a Glance, Rogue Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://web.roguecc.edu/about-rcc/rcc-glance
- Fast Facts, Umpqua Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.umpqua.edu/about/facts-visitor-information/fast-facts
- About LBCC, Linn-Benton Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.linnbenton.edu/current-students/about-lbcc/index.php
- COCC Quick Facts, Central Oregon Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.cocc.edu/about/cocc-quick-facts.aspx
- College Now, Central Oregon Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.cocc.edu/departments/college-now/
- Dual Credit, Treasure Valley Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.tvcc.cc/dualcredit/index.cfm
- Treasure Valley Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.tvcc.cc/
- Why Choose Sumner, Sumner College, Accessed September 2019, http://www.sumnercollege.edu/about-us
- Oregon Promise, Office of Student Access and Completion, Accessed September 2019, https://oregonstudentaid.gov/oregon-promise.aspx
- Tuition and Fee Historical Data, Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Accessed September 2019, https://www.oregon.gov/highered/research/Pages/tuition-fee-data.aspx
- Grants, Office of Student Access and Completion, Accessed September 2019, https://oregonstudentaid.gov/grants.aspx
- Scholarship and Outreach Data, Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Accessed September 2019, https://www.oregon.gov/highered/research/Pages/scholarship-outreach-data.aspx