The Tennessee labor force is expanding, according to the state's Department of Workforce Development. Many of the state's top industries — fields such as education, health care and administrative services — feature a wide range of potential careers for graduates of trade and vocational schools in Tennessee.
Individual Tennessee cities may have especially welcoming job markets for candidates with the right education. Health care and automotive technology graduates might do well in Nashville, where the two top employers are Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Nissan North America. Knoxville, on the other hand, has its top employers in the education and energy sectors.
Why is Tennessee Good for Vocational/Career Schools?
Career technical education (CTE) has a few strong upsides over traditional college programs for workforce-bound students in Tennessee. Many certificate programs can be completed in a year or less, for starters, while a bachelor's degree typically takes around four years of full-time study. University degrees also cost around twice as much as the yearly average of $4,560 charged at career and technical schools in Tennessee.
What's more, students who earn CTE certification in Tennessee have a habit of making good on their employment search. Nine out of ten CTE students reported finding employment, winning an apprenticeship or joining the military within six months of finishing their program.
If you're thinking about attending campus-based or online trade schools in Tennessee, you'll want to get the lay of the land by checking out our rankings of the state's top institutions. There's also a wealth of general information at the bottom of the page, including a primer on how to apply for financial aid in Tennessee and some info about state initiatives that help vocational students.
Highest-Paying and Fastest-Growing Careers
How to Apply for Trade School Financial Aid in Tennessee
If you're one of the many aspiring students who have thought about a trade school education but decided against it because of the cost, there are a few ways to reduce your expected college expenses. Financial aid programs from federal, state, institutional and private sources may all be available to you, depending on your eligibility.
The primary document for establishing financial aid eligibility is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). All federal aid programs require that you complete and submit your FAFSA before you can access their funding, and most Tennessee grants and scholarships at the state and institutional level also include the FAFSA among their application materials. For more info on the FAFSA and other important tips about student aid, take a look at this financial aid guide.
Here's a list of state-based aid programs that may be available to students at career and technical schools in Tennessee:
- Tennessee Student Assistance Award - This need-based education grant can provide aid awards of up to $1,300 for students at public institutions and up to $4,000 for students at private trade schools.
- Tennessee HOPE Scholarship - Funded by the Tennessee Lottery, this merit-based aid program is only available through public colleges and can award as much as $1,750 per semester to eligible recipients.
- Tennessee Reconnect Grant - Any student considered "independent" by FAFSA rules can apply for this last-dollar program, which awards up to 100 percent of remaining tuition and fees costs after other aid is applied.
Initiatives for Vocational School Students in Tennessee
Policymakers and legislators in Tennessee have put in place a range of initiatives designed to help state residents get the training they need and find the job they want. Here are a few such initiatives that students, graduates or employers can take advantage of:
Funding for vocational students in Tennessee
- The TN Promise Scholarship, available to students at Tennessee community colleges or Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) locations, covers any tuition and fees expenses not met by other awards.
- The Aspire Award is a supplement to the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship that can provide an additional $250 per semester to students at campus-based or online trade schools in Tennessee.
Tennessee policies that benefit vocational students
- The FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program works to provide grants to new or expanding companies in Tennessee, giving them some breathing room to hire and train new full-time employees.
- On-the-Job Training Grants work to give employers the freedom to hire fresh trade school graduates and other workers with limited job experience by covering a portion of salary for new trainees.
School-specific program initiatives in Tennessee
- Students at Tennessee College of Applied Technology campuses seeking a diploma or certificate may qualify for the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant, which can confer awards of up to $2,000.
- Model learners at Nashville State Community College can apply for the institution's Ambassador Scholarship, which awards a maximum of $1,000 per year in student aid to four individuals chosen to serve as student ambassadors.
Resources for Vocational Students and Vocational Job Seekers in Tennessee
- Learn about CTE certification in Tennessee at the high school level and beyond at the Tennessee Department of Education's career and technical education page.
- Tennessee's public two-year schools are all organized under the College System of Tennessee, which offers loads of information on community colleges and colleges of applied technology in the state.
- Once your training is done and you're ready to hit the workforce, check out Jobs4TN — the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's portal for employment opportunities and job market info — to help get your career going.
- Accreditation is an important factor when choosing trade school programs. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accredits degree programs at public institutions in the state. Individual programs are accredited by industry groups like the National Institute for Metal Working Skills (NIMS) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP).
You can also find some hard data about career and technical education in Tennessee on Advance CTE. If you want to learn more about CTE and vocational training in general, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is a great resource to get you started.