Amid evolving news + uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, your financial needs are our top priority.
For individual financial information, click here.
For Small Businesses, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), click here.

Breaking Down the Cost of Trade School

March 18, 2018 · 3 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Breaking Down the Cost of Trade School

A trade school, often called a vocational or technical school, provides specific job skills to start a career quickly in a given trade, with the requisite certifications and licenses. That career can range from being an electrician to a physician’s assistant to a cook. As opposed to a four-year college, a trade school education is generally completed in just two years and focuses on getting students hands-on experience and securing the job they want.

The benefits to trade school can be obvious. Who doesn’t want to finish school and start making money sooner? According to The College Board , an undergrad education at a private school will cost on average $34,740 in the 2017 to 2018 school year.

Although those costs are lower for public schools and students who qualify for in-state tuition, trade schools still tend to be cheaper. The College Board’s trend report also found the average annual cost at a for-profit school (which includes most trade schools) for 2016-2017 was $16,000. Trade school isn’t just cheaper annually, it’s also fewer years—though this varies by vocation.

A licensed practical nurse program , for example, costs about $10,000 to $15,000 for the entire 12 to 18-month program. Becoming an electrician, on the other hand, could require a certificate or an associate’s degree, and then a few years of apprenticeship costing anywhere from $200 to $1,200 per year.

This doesn’t mean trade school is for everyone. If you want to be a lawyer or a doctor or aren’t sure what you want to do yet, then traditional undergrad is probably the way to go. But if trade school is the right fit, then funding your trade school education with a trade school loan might be the best option.

What is a trade school loan?

The term “trade school loan” is just a common way to refer to a student loan, personal loan, or outside funding measure used to pay one’s way through a training or vocational school.

The first step you can take in figuring out how to fund your education is to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Because of this form, you may qualify for federal subsidized or unsubsidized student loans , which offer set interest rates, whereas private loans can be offered at fixed or variable interest rates.

Despite the fact that many people use federal student loans for four-year programs, they can be used for technical schools and some certificate programs as long as the schools are accredited and eligible for federal funds. You can check the Department of Education’s database of qualifying schools to confirm your chosen trade school program.

There are limits , however, on how much you may be eligible for in federal subsidized or unsubsidized student loans. If the program you want to pursue doesn’t meet the federal requirements or if you are left with a sizable amount of unmet need after applying for Federal loans, then don’t worry, there’s an alternative.

Another option is to take out a personal loan. Personal loans are flexible on what they can be used for; You can use your personal loan to cover tuition and fees as well as housing, for example.

Private lenders look at a variety of factors to see if you’re eligible and they don’t have the same limits that federal loans have as mentioned above. There can be a lot to consider when deciding on a personal loan to pay for trade school, so do your research to see if you qualify for a fixed, low interest rate with repayment terms that fit into your financial plan.

Personal Loans Versus Private Lender Student Loans

The downside of trade school is that most private student loans are designed for traditional undergrad or graduate programs. So, if your vocational school doesn’t meet the federal requirements for student loans, then it’s likely it may be disqualified from similar student loans provided by private lenders.

Going to trade school but not sure how to fund it? Check out SoFi personal loans, with low fixed and variable interest rates. With our funding options, you don’t have to put your goals off any longer.


SoFi Lending Corp. is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law, license number 6054612.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
PL17117

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender