5 Trade School Programs To Pursue Without a High School Diploma

Updated June 30, 2023

Many colleges or universities require a high school diploma for admittance. However, you can enroll in some trade school programs with other credentials. Learning which trade school programs don't require a high school diploma can give you a greater understanding of your postsecondary education options. In this article, we explain what a trade school program is, list various trade school programs that don't require a high school diploma and answer frequently asked questions about trade schools.

Related: Requirements for Attending Trade School

What is a trade school program?

A trade school program is a course of educational study that prepares you for various vocational careers. Offered by trade or vocational schools, these highly focused programs use hands-on training to develop your skills for a specific trade.

For example, if you want to become a welder, a trade school program provides a lab where you can learn the skills of this trade in the proper setting. Therefore, unlike other postsecondary programs, a trade school curriculum solely focuses on a specific skilled trade. They ultimately help individuals with little to no experience learn the technical abilities and initial experience they need to start their careers.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Trade School

5 trade school programs that don't require a high school diploma

While many trade school programs require high school diplomas, some offer admittance without this credential. Keep in mind that you may have to adhere to your state's licensing requirements depending on your chosen profession. You may also have to be at least 16 or 18 years old to attend a trade school. Here are some various trade school programs that don't require a high school diploma:

1. Skilled trades

While many skilled trades require apprenticeships and hands-on training, you rarely need a high school diploma. For example, you can pursue a welding certificate without an educational prerequisite. In this trade, you can expect to learn things like fabrication, cutting processes and welder safety. Other skilled trades you can pursue include carpentry and plumbing.

Related: 21 Skilled Trade Jobs In Demand

2. Beauty and cosmetology

Beauticians and cosmetologists perform beauty treatments such as hairstyling, skin care procedures and manicures. Though you're required to meet state licensing requirements as a beautician or cosmetologist, some states don't require a high school diploma. Some things you can expect to learn as a prospective cosmetologist or beautician include hair cutting, manicures, pedicures and skin care theory. Keep in mind that your courses in this trade vary by your state's licensing criteria and your concentration.

Related: Learn About Being a Cosmetologist

3. Massage therapy

Massage therapists use touch to manipulate a patient's muscles and soft tissues. Through touch, they can alleviate pain, improve circulation, promote relaxation and help heal their clients' injuries. While you don't always need a high school diploma to pursue massage therapy at a trade school, you're required to have a state license to practice. The curriculum for this trade school program may include hot stone therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, acupressure, introduction to massage and the workings of the human musculoskeletal system.

Related: Learn About Being a Massage Therapist

4. Certified nursing assistant (CNA)

CNAs are health care professionals who work with patients in a medical setting. Under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, CNAs typically bathe and dress patients, assist with patient admissions, clean patient rooms and help administer patient medications. While you don't need a high school diploma to become a CNA, it's important to finish high school or earn your GED if you want to advance in your field and become a nurse.

Related: Learn About Being a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

5. Community college

Several community colleges offer trade school programs. This means that while you're attending a community college, you're pursuing a trade rather than an associate degree. Many community colleges offer admittance without a high school degree. Some programs you can pursue at a community college without a degree include those in the electrical, culinary or plumbing sectors.

Related: 12 Benefits of Community College

Frequently asked questions about trade schools

Learning more about trade schools and their programs can help you determine whether to attend this postsecondary institution—with or without a high school diploma. Here are common questions and answers about trade schools to help you make a more strategic decision regarding your education:

What are the benefits of enrolling in a trade school program?

Trade schools mainly benefit individuals wanting to pursue a skilled mechanical trade. Since each school offers you the practical training required for a specific career, every assignment is designed to help you meet the job's entry-level requirements. Not only do you receive specialized lesson plans, but you also get to learn in a dedicated environment with peers following the same career path. In addition, you can take advantage of the flexible class schedules each school offers. This type of scheduling can help you create a greater balance between your academic studies and personal life.

Related: Reasons To Consider Vocational Training and Where To Find It

How long does a trade school program last?

Trade school programs last anywhere from a few months up to a year. Since they don't require classes or credits that aren't related to the job you're pursuing, the programs are much shorter than associate or bachelor's degree programs. Essentially, trade school programs help you earn your education quickly so that you can enter the workforce soon after.

What are the trade school program requirements if you don't have a high school diploma?

If you enroll in a trade school without a high school diploma, some schools may accept the following credentials:

  • Proficiency test in a particular trade

  • Certifications from skills-based programs

  • Personal statement or essay detailing your career goals

  • High school transcript listing classes you've completed

  • Recommendation letters from a teacher or supervisor

If you want to pursue a GED rather than a high school diploma, some trade schools offer free GED preparation instruction and testing.


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