Many of the available jobs in today’s economy are highly skilled and require real-world or vocational training – the kind of training found at community colleges, vocational schools or technical schools.
A vocational education can enable students to begin earning a respectable wage after only a year or two of school. Despite this, some students can’t afford to attend a vocational or technical school – and many of them aren’t aware that the same financial aid that’s available for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree is available to them as well. Learn more about financial aid available for those who enter vocational and technical schools and how to get it.
See our comprehensive guide for an in-depth look at vocational schools and career colleges.Guide on Vocational Training
Scholarships aren’t just for four-year degrees. Find vocational scholarships in your area of interest below.
The American Association of Pharmacy Technicians offers a scholarship to students enrolled in a Pharmacy Technician diploma or associate degree program.
Deadline: June 30
Offered by the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP), this scholarship is available to students studying for a career in an allied health profession and enrolled in an ASAHP member school.
Deadline: June 1
Sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), this scholarship is awarded to three students who attend an accredited nursing program.
The FHN healthcare system provides up to three scholarships for students who intend to enter a variety of healthcare careers, including medical assisting, pharmacy, nursing and ultrasound.
Deadline: September 7
Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, this scholarship program is available to nursing students at all graduate and undergraduate levels. It provides financial assistance for educational costs in return for the student promising to work at a facility with a critical shortage of nurses after graduation.
Deadline: June 14
California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) runs a special financial aid program that provides scholarships to California allied health students. In return, they must promise to work for at least 12 months at a qualified California healthcare facility.
Amount: Up to $8,000
Deadline: February 28
Tylenol offers a total for 40 scholarships for any graduate or undergraduate student who is pursuing a career in medicine or health education.
Amount: $5,000 or $10,000
Deadline: June 28
Three students receive this scholarship each year to help pay for any hairdressing school they decide to attend.
Deadline: December 31
Students currently enrolled in a cosmetology school may apply for this scholarship; ten awards are available.
Deadline: May 31
The ACF has several scholarships available each year to individual in an apprenticeship, certificate or college degree program in the culinary field.
Amount: Up to $2,500
Deadline: April 30 or October 31
The James Beard Foundation has an array of culinary scholarships available to students who are enrolled in an accredited culinary program or are training for a career in the food industry.
Amount: Up to $20,000
Up to five students studying to be a paralegal at a school with an AAfPE LEX Chapter are eligible for this scholarship.
Deadline: January 16
Any student studying to obtain a legal-related degree, including a credential in paralegal studies, will be eligible for this scholarship.
Deadline: July 15
In conjunction with Thomas Reuters, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations provides two scholarships for students seeking a paralegal education.
Amount: $2,000 – $3,000
Deadline: July 1
Students majoring in accounting at a two or four-year college program are eligible for this National Society of Accountants scholarship.
Amount: $500 – $2,200
Deadline: April 1
The law firm of Warner Norcross + Judd LLP provides a scholarship to a Michigan resident who is majoring in legal, secretarial or paralegal studies at an accredited school.
Amount: $1,000 – $2,000
Students at an accredited two or four-year school may apply to one of the many scholarships available for those majoring in welding or a related field.
Amount: $2,000 and up
Deadline: February 15
To be eligible to apply for this scholarship, students must be a New Mexico high school senior or college student. They must pursue a degree or certificate in the automotive or technical field from any nonprofit school.
Amount: Up to $2,200
Deadline: June 7
Students interested in an automotive career are eligible for this scholarship to help pay for vocational, trade, bachelor’s or master’s level educational training.
Deadline: June 30
Students from Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware who are enrolled in a two or four- year construction management or related field may apply for this scholarship.
Amount: $2,000 for second award and $3,000 for first award
Deadline: April 13
This scholarship is available to students who wish to attend a trade school or four-year university to study in a field related to the construction industry. Special preference is given to those with a connection to the roofing industry.
Deadline: April 13
Students interested in the skilled trades and willing to demonstrate a strong work ethic are encouraged to apply for this scholarship.
Deadline: June 4
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) offers this scholarship to full-time students enrolled in a construction-related program.
Amount: Between $500 and $2,500
Deadline: February 28
The PHCC Foundation awards dozens of scholarships each year to individuals in HVAC or plumbing apprenticeship programs.
Deadline: May 1
Students who are union members, retired union members or are the child or spouse of a union member may apply for this highly competitive scholarship to help pay for the cost of attending a trade, vocational, technical college or university.
Amount: $500 to $4,000
Deadline: January 31
This scholarship is available to any student who attends an accredited information technology program and has already completed at least one semester of college education.
Deadline: May 31
Administered by Great Minds in STEM, which promotes careers and degrees in STEM for the Hispanic community, this program offers a variety of scholarships for students attending a two or four-year school. They must be pursuing a degree in STEM, be of Hispanic heritage, or have made contributions to the Hispanic community.
Deadline: April 30
Students who have overcome significant challenges and who intend to pursue a technical degree (taking up to two years for completion) may apply for this scholarship.
Amount: Up to $2,500
Deadline: June 15
Available to high school seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA who will pursue a STEM field of study (or closely related) in college, including computer science, information science and computational science.
Deadline: April 1
Sponsored by Visionary Integration Professionals (VIP), this scholarship is intended for women who are enrolled or have been accepted into a two or four-year college program. They should be planning a career in computer science, information technology or a related area of study.
Amount: Up to $2,500
Deadline: April 1
The scholarship application process will depend on the specific scholarship applied to, as each has its own eligibility requirements. However, the majority of scholarship applications will contain these common requirements.
Most scholarships will have some limitations as to who can apply. It might be based on attending an accredited school, being a member of a racial or religious group or only open to students who plan on studying in a particular academic field.
Almost all scholarships will have an application to complete. Some of these applications are straightforward, but some will require elements that students must gather from others – and that means the student will have to get the ball rolling quickly. For example, an application that requests an official copy of a transcript or letters of recommendation will take some time to complete; this is why it’s so important for students to start the scholarship application process as early as possible.
At a minimum, the application will want the applicant’s name, address and other contact information, not just for the student themselves, but for the schools they have previously attended as well. Gather information on extracurricular activities, major test scores (such as the SAT or ACT), awards and honors received, and employment information. Having this all on hand will make it easier to complete several applications at once.
This refers to essays, portfolios and any evidence of eligibility, such as financial background (copies of tax returns, a completed FAFSA application or CSS Profile), proof of ancestry or relation to a member of a particular group or profession, such as the armed forces. Some of these requirements may take some time, like preparing a well-written essay or getting certain documents from government agencies.
Most scholarships are highly competitive, so if an application is late, it’s almost a certainty that it will go in the “reject” pile or not even be opened. If mailing in an application, mail it via certified mail, return receipt requested. This provides proof of the date of mailing as well as confirmation it arrived at its intended destination.
Financial aid begins with the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application form requests information that the clear majority of schools, states and the federal government use to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid, as well as how much they can receive. Many students make the mistake of ignoring the FAFSA because they assume they will not qualify for anything; however, they should fill it out even if they believe they won’t qualify. That’s because many scholarship organizations will request the FAFSA as a requirement of the application process.
Prospective college students may complete the FAFSA starting October 1st. They can do so online, by telephone or with a paper application. Deadlines for completing the FAFSA will vary, depending on who requires it. However, students should complete it as quickly as possible as many opportunities for financial aid are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They should also check with their school to see if there are any further deadlines or requirements for financial aid.
Just because a student decides to attend a trade or vocational school, that doesn’t mean they aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. Many of the best forms of financial aid (those that don’t have to be paid back) are available to vocational students. Here are a few.
These need-based grants typically go to undergraduate students who do not already have a bachelor’s or professional degree. The size of the Pell Grant depends on the student’s financial need, cost of schooling and level of academic study, with a maximum amount of roughly $6,000 (it goes up a bit each year).
Schools participating in the FSEOG program administer these grants to students on the basis of financial need. Students can expect to receive anywhere from $100 to $4,000.
A student who is the child of a parent or guardian who died as a member of the US armed forces during post 9/11 military service in Iraq or Afghanistan may be eligible for this grant. Students must be less than 24 years of age or enrolled in college at the time of a parent or guardian’s death.
This federal program, administered in conjunction with participating schools, provides part-time and full-time jobs to graduate and undergraduate students. How much a student can earn depends on the student’s skills, financial need and availability of school funds. Students will always earn at least federal minimum wage.
For most vocational students, gift-based financial assistance will come from the federal government, the school they choose to attend or private. But those who decide to attend a school in their home state or a neighboring state may receive additional funding from a state-run program.
Each state will have its own set of programs, so interested students should check with their home state’s department or agency to learn what available. A good place to find each state’s respective agency is to visit the US Department of Education’s State Contacts page.
Here are a few example states and what grants and scholarship programs they have to offer:
California’s Students Aid Commission administers state-based financial aid programs, including financial aid that does not need to be paid back. These include the Cal Grant, the California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth, the California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program and the Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program.
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, or PHEAA, provides a variety of financial aid that students do not need to repay. For example, it has its own Pennsylvania Work Study Program, as well as the Pennsylvania State Grant Program, the Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program, the Postsecondary Educational Gratuity Program, the PATH Program and the Pennsylvania National Guard Education Assistance Program.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, with the help of its okcollegestart.org website, has a number of state-based scholarships available for students, including the Academic Scholars Program and the Heroes Promise Scholarship Program. Oklahoma’s flagship program is Oklahoma’s Promise. This program allows high school students from low-income families who meet certain academic and requirements to earn a scholarship for a public or private Oklahoma college or university.
Here are a few other financial aid options.
Federal funding is provided to states to improve the technical knowledge and skills of students. The goal of the program is to help students obtain an associate degree or post-secondary certificate in a high-skill field.
States receive federal money to operate and improve their career and technical education programs. These programs may be offered at a two- or four-year college, as well as a local education agency.
TRIO is designed to help disadvantaged students, such as those who are low-income and first-generation college students. Funding goes directly to school and employment agencies who serve a significant number of disadvantaged individuals.
Schools who serve predominantly minority student populations receive federal funding to help minority students begin a career in science or engineering.
Federal financial aid makes up a large portion of the college aid awards given each academic year. But many schools, through state funding, private donations or their endowment, will offer their own financial aid programs. Many of these offerings come in the form of scholarships or grants that do not need to be repaid by the student.
Students must go to the school’s financial aid office to discover what’s available and what the eligibility requirements are. Most of these will be offered to students who demonstrate financial need, academic success and/or decide to study a particular academic field. Some examples of these scholarships include:
In a partnership with the Rotary Club of Paducah, WKCTC provides gap funding scholarships to students who come from Paducah or McCracken County high schools and meet certain academic requirements.
This scholarship is only available to students of Wytheville Community College in Virginia who are enrolled in a dental assisting or dental hygiene program.
Students at Western Technical College in Wisconsin may apply for one of the 300+ scholarships available through the Western Technical College Foundation. These scholarships range between $150 and $2,000 and are only available to current or recently admitted students.
Students of Western Piedmont Community College in North Carolina who are also first responders, or have parents or spouses who are first responders, may apply for this $1,000 scholarship.
For in-depth coverage of financial aid available to military veterans, see our guide on the Forever GI Bill.Forever GI Bill Guide
Federal student loans differ from private school loans because they are offered by the federal government. Additionally, they have several advantages over private school loans, most notably lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options. There are two primary federal student loan programs: the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan) and the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
The Direct Loan Program consists of three types of loans: the Direct Loans (these can be subsidized or unsubsidized and are also known as Stafford Loans), Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans.
Direct Loans are available to undergraduate students. Students who demonstrate financial need are eligible for a subsidized Direct Loan, where the student does not typically need to pay interest until six months after graduation. Unsubsidized Direct Loans require students to pay interest at all times; although interest can be deferred, it does continue to accrue while a student is in school.
Direct PLUS Loans are usually only available to those in graduate or professional school, or the parents of dependent students who are in graduate or professional school; therefore, vocational or technical school students likely will not qualify for this.
Direct Consolidation Loans allow students to combine eligible federal loans into a single loan through a loan servicer. Any student with federal loans is likely eligible for this.
Under the Perkins Loan Program, only students who demonstrate exceptional financial need are eligible. These loans are available to both graduate and undergraduate students. The school serves as the lender for the students. The advantage of the Perkins Loan Program is the low interest rate.
Charlie Javice is the founder and CEO of Frank Financial Aid, a startup determined to help students figure out how they can afford to go to college.
A. Some vocational / technical schools qualify for title IV. That means students and schools get funded just like your typical four-year college. You apply for FAFSA and likely will receive a Pell Grant based on the typical profile of those applying to these types of schools, which would likely mean close to free tuition given the credit cost.
The vocational / technical schools that don't benefit from federal and state funding leave students begging for scholarships that are few and far between. Credit card or student loan debt are the most likely options here. Most students will work to keep lower balances low.
A. Often, you can check with your current employer for employee matching programs, union stipends, states for specific scholarships on their websites or use a generic scholarship website like fastweb, unigo or scholly and search based on your interests / program type.
A. It is definitely an option, though not as common as four-year schools. Schools will have their own financial aid forms you can fill out to be considered. Typically, financial aid is need based or merit based. For need, you'll likely need to prove financial hardship; for merit, have a transcript and recommendation, usually.
A. Make sure you ask for employment stats for the school you choose to attend. This helps better understand if it's worth spending the money for your degree and how fast you'll be able to pay back your loans.
Run by the College Board, Big Future offers a wealth of information for prospective college students, including how to pay for college and an explanation of the financial aid process.
Run by the US Department of Labor, this comprehensive resource is for those seeking information about entering a particular career. This website also has an extensive searchable scholarship database.
Run by the National Center for Education Statistics, this website helps students find the right school for them. There are also special tools for determining a school’s affordability.
The CFPB provides information to help students understand how student loans work, as well as choosing the best financial aid option for college.
The Federal Student Aid website is the go-to online location for learning about all the federal financial aid programs available. This website also has information about the FAFSA, preparing for college and how to repay student loans.
In addition to allowing students to complete and submit their FAFSA online, the FAFSA website also contains helpful information concerning deadlines and financial aid advice.
The NASFAA is a professional organization for financial aid professionals. It has an excellent section explaining the financial aid process and options and for students and parents.
Serves as the primary access and information hub for all things relating to federal student loans.
Almost all forms of financial aid require a student to attend an accredited post-secondary institution. The US Department of Education’s website explains accreditation, including how to find out if a school is accredited.
US News and World Report provides a detailed overview of paying for college with the help of financial aid.