Tennessee Vocational and Technical Schools

Article Sources


  1. Cost of Living, Retire Tennessee, http://www.retiretennessee.org/cost-of-living/
  2. Interview with Richard Sykes, Manager at Amtek Company, July 18, 2015
  3. Long Term Occupational Projections, Tennessee, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  4. State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Tennessee, May 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
  5. Tennessee Economic Development, Business Climate, http://businessclimate.com/tennessee-economic-development
  6. "Tennessee Named Economic Development 'State of the Year' for Second Consecutive Year," Tennessee Newsroom and Media Center, January 5, 2015, https://news.tn.gov/node/13385
  7. Tennessee Report Card, Leaders and Laggards, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reportcard/tennessee/
  8. Tennessee, State Level Data for Career/Technical Education (CTE) Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/index.asp?LEVEL=COLLEGE
  9. "Top 5 Industries in Tennessee: Which Parts of the Economy Are Strongest?," Newsmax, April 9, 2015, Shawndra Russell, http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/industries-in-tennessee-economy/2015/04/09/id/637560/

Students in Tennessee have many options for vocational and technical schools, which often offer degree or certificate programs in two years or less. At Tennessee technical schools, students can also look forward to the benefits of living in the state, such as a favorable housing market and no state income tax.

Vocational education in Tennessee

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, some programs tend to stand out for those attending Tennessee technical schools. The following certificate and two-year associate degree programs have been popular in Tennessee in the past few years:

  • Health sciences: Health care is one of the most popular job sectors in most states, especially for jobs that require less than a four-year degree. And there are new jobs created every time medical technology advances. Because many of these jobs require on-the-job training and need to be filled quickly, two-year degrees allow for faster entry into the workforce. Tennessee students can start out in a general nursing program, and choose a specialty as they learn more about the field. If you already know what your specialization will be, find your health care program from our list of vocational programs.
  • Manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation: Skilled trade jobs may be in high demand in Tennessee due to an aging population, where fewer and fewer entry-level workers are coming in to fill positions. This is a great sector for students who want to do hands-on work and who want a quick entry into the workforce. Tennessee trade schools may offer programs in each of these skilled trades, but apprenticeships and on-the-job training are typically just as important, according to the BLS.
  • Consumer services: These types of jobs can be anything in the realm of customer service. Jobs in consumer services may include food servers, chefs, hair stylists, retail salespeople, beauticians, and more.
  • Engineering, architecture and science technology: Often referred to as “STEM” jobs (science, technology, engineering and math) many of these workers may be required to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, as in all sectors, STEM related jobs also include technicians and technologists who may require only an associate degree and on-the-job training. Additionally, computer engineering has become a unique case where a bachelor’s degree is not as important as the skills and experience of a worker. Tennessee technical schools may offer “coding boot camp” or other short programs to get you the focused skills you need to enter a job quickly.  

Students can find other advantages at Tennessee technical schools. Since most students will be entering careers that require hands-on work, their classroom time will be focused on practical training. They might have flexible education hours, including some online courses. They will also find that technical or vocational schools might be less costly, leading to financial advantages even before graduation.

Careers for graduates of Tennessee trade schools

Those who graduate from Tennessee vocational schools can find a wide variety of work. As more automobile manufacturers move into the state, there will be a greater need for mechanics, automotive repair workers and assembly line workers. Business Climate reports no less than 902 auto manufacturers and suppliers in the Volunteer State, all poised to hire workers fresh out of career or technical schools. Other top industries in the state include:

  • The energy sector
  • Film production
  • Health care
  • Manufacturing

The central location of Tennessee, including the major transportation hubs in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, as well as low business costs, ensure that industry will continue booming in the coming years. In fact, Tennessee was named Economic Development 'State of the Year' for the second consecutive year by Business Facilities.

The following chart shows vocational jobs with the most growth in Tennessee from 2012 to 2022, according to Projections Central.


Job Growth (2012-2022)

Average Salary (2014)

Degree Required

Computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers



High school diploma or certificate

Paralegals and legal assistants



Associate degree

Skincare specialists




Diagnostic medical sonographers



Associate degree

Ambulance drivers and attendants



High school diploma or certificate

Veterinary technologists



Associate degree

Helpers - brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons



High school diploma and apprenticeship

Welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters



High school diploma or certificate

Ophthalmic medical technicians



High school diploma or certificate

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 (Tennessee), and Projections Central

Vocational education trends and opportunities in Tennessee with Rich Sykes

Sometimes an expert in the field of vocational or technical education can provide a unique perspective. Rich Sykes, a manager at Amtek Company, regularly advises vocational schools and community colleges on their 2-year programs primarily related to engineering, manufacturing, HVAC, automotive, automation/robotics, renewable energy programs and more.

About the Expert

Rich Sykes is a manager at Amtek Company.

How do employers today view vocational or technical education, as opposed to a four-year degree?

Vocational education can be a better fit for career security and longevity because it is more specifically tailored to the job market and the needs of employers than university education. Community colleges are not held to the same state-mandated learning outcomes or course codes as universities, which means they can adapt to changes in the industry very quickly. If a new topic or trend needs to be covered within a field of study, community colleges can make that change in their curriculum within a semester or two, whereas this might take a university a few years.

Employers often work directly with the Workforce Development department of a community college to ensure the skills they desire in job candidates are covered in the college's curriculum. Graduates from these community college programs have all the skills they need to find secure, well-paying jobs.

Which industries seem to be best suited for graduates of technical schools, and why?

Any industry that is more technical based is better suited for graduates of technical schools. This includes power, manufacturing, gas and oil, and renewable energy industries.

You'll often find university programs don't cover the technical skills in these industries to the same degree as a community college. Experience at a community college is largely hands-on, so [are] graduates of technical schools, which is why employers look to community colleges to fill these more technical job openings.

What are the most popular technical degree programs for students today? What do you see as being in high demand in the future?

Reshoring has boosted the popularity of two-year degree programs in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and other similar technical related jobs. There's a huge demand lately for mechatronics and electro-mechanical programs.

Civil programs are popular and are very hands-on. Power and energy is another big one.

Health sciences may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of technical training, but health-related fields are growing in popularity. Many vocational schools have entire buildings dedicated to nursing programs.

Financial Aid in Tennessee

Each state has their own set of financial aid options, and in most cases there are hundreds of different types of financial aid you can apply for. The typical place to start is filling out the FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – which is probably the most common application for financial aid. This application is commonly used as a requirement for many other scholarships and grants.

Students of Tennessee vocational schools can look for more information on financial aid on the website for the state of Tennessee. Some of the well-known awards are:

  • Tennessee HOPE Scholarship – This award is part of a lottery system. It’s for students in good academic standing, who have graduated high school and are planning to attend college in Tennessee. It also requires the FAFSA to be filled out.
  • Tennessee Student Assistance Grant – This is a state-funded grant program for students who live in a low-income family. Students who apply must already be enrolled in a Tennessee postsecondary school.
  • TN Promise Scholarship – Applicants of this award must be Tennessee residents, and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. This program is specifically for students who are part of the mentorship and community service program.
  • Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant – This grant is specifically for students who have enrolled in a certificate or diploma program at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology. The award amount for this grant is typically $2,000.
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