FAQ: What Is a Trade Certification? (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 23, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Some jobs require a certain amount of expertise to perform but don't need a college degree. A trade certification is a type of professional qualification that allows you to complete a job that doesn't require a degree. Understanding how trade certifications work can help you decide if a trade certification program is right for you. In this article, we answer frequently asked questions about trade certifications, including what a trade certification is, how it differs from a college degree and what the benefits of completing a trade certification program are.

What is a trade certification?

A trade certification is a career-specific program that teaches students how to perform a particular job or develop a certain skill set. Students usually earn trade certifications through apprenticeships and experiential learning. Trade certifications typically last for two or fewer years, and they qualify students for a career as soon as they complete them.

Related: 8 Ways To Teach Experiential Learning

What is the difference between trade certification and a degree?

There are a few key differences between a trade certification and a college degree. Trade certifications usually focus on a particular skill or job, such as an aircraft repairman or a dental hygienist, while college degrees teach courses about a particular field, such as biology or mathematics. Degrees take at least two years to complete, and students may further study their material for more advanced degrees. Trade certifications take two years or fewer to complete and are independent of each other.

What types of trade certifications are available?

There are many different trade certifications in a variety of fields, but the main types of trade certifications are:

Mechanic and repair

Mechanic and repair careers focus on the maintenance and repair of particular types of machines. They specialize in complicated equipment that needs specific expertise to fix. Many people who work in mechanic jobs learn primarily through apprenticeship programs. Popular mechanic and repair trade certifications include plumbers, electricians and diesel mechanics.

Medical trades

Many jobs in the health and medicine sector only require professional certification. Some medical trade careers are diagnostic medical sonographer, cardiovascular technician and respiratory therapist. While candidates can complete most certification programs after completing a high school education, many medical certifications require an associate degree.

Related: 10 Jobs You Can Get With a Medical Certification

Construction

Construction trades are professions that focus on building objects or structures. There are certification programs for both general construction and more particular construction specialties. Trade certifications for construction jobs include welding, masonry and carpentry.

Related: 8 Certifications for Construction Workers

Technology

Technology trades focus on professions that use computers or other forms of digital technology. Many technology certifications apply to multiple jobs, such as programming or online marketing. Technology certifications can include subjects such as web design, data science and cybersecurity.

Service trades

Service trade certifications involve jobs that provide a particular skilled service. These jobs often require employees to have creative thinking skills and technical abilities. Some service trades include hairstylists, chefs and landscapers.

What can you do with a trade certification?

A trade certification confirms that you can perform a particular job or skill. It can qualify you to work in a specific profession, such as welding or plumbing. Some certifications may also improve your professional development in an industry, such as digital marketing or first aid certification.

Where can you get a trade certification?

Here are some common places where you can get a trade certification:

Community colleges

A community college is a two-year public college that offers affordable higher education. Community colleges offer both professional certifications and two-year college degrees that can transfer to a four-year university. After completing a professional trade certification at a community college, you may also be able to apply your trade courses toward an associate degree.

Related: 12 Benefits of Community College

Trade schools

A trade school is an educational facility that specializes exclusively in professional trade certification programs. They focus on quickly preparing a student to enter the workforce and offer subjects directly related to a specific career. If you already know what profession you want to learn, you may consider going to a trade school.

Read more: What Is a Trade School?

Online programs

Many professional certification programs offer options where students can take courses online. Online classes can allow you to learn at your own pace and schedule, regardless of where you live. An additional benefit to online courses is that you don't have to apply or take a test to register, which might make the certification process more efficient.

What qualifications do you need to get a trade certification?

Many trade certification programs require you to have a high school diploma or GED to start the certification process. To apply for a certification program, you may need to pass a standardized test to show your understanding of basic concepts. Some certifications may also require you to have some job experience.

What are the benefits of getting a trade certification?

Here are a few potential benefits of obtaining a trade certification:

Ability to save time

Trade certification can take anywhere from 10 weeks to two years to complete, which may save you time and allow you to start a career faster. Many programs have flexible schedules so that you can earn your certification while working. There are also some trade certifications that you can complete entirely online, which can allow you to schedule them according to your needs.

Ability to save money

Because trade certifications are for a specific job, they usually cost less than traditional college degrees. Trade certifications typically take less time to complete, and less expensive institutions often teach them, which can decrease the price. If you take your professional certification at a community college or at a trade school, you may also qualify for financial aid, which can make a trade certification more affordable.

High-demand jobs

Many jobs that have trade certifications are in high-demand industries, such as construction, technology and medicine. These types of jobs are typically available in most locations and are often hiring. If you want to work in an industry that rarely has job shortages, you may consider a career with a trade certification.

Job experience

Students often complete trade certifications through apprenticeship programs or project-oriented learning. Because of the nature of the instruction, students of trade programs usually already have some work experience when they finish their certification. Some students may even find work while completing their trade certification program.

Smaller classes

Many trade schools and community colleges have smaller average class sizes than universities. Smaller classes can allow you to have more personal time with your teachers, which can improve your learning. Reduced class sizes may also help you focus better on your studies.

Multiple start dates

While many traditional colleges have specific enrollment times, schools that offer trade certifications typically accept applications on a rolling basis. This means that schools accept and review applications as they receive them. There are often multiple start dates as well, allowing more flexibility for when you begin training.

High placement rate

After a student completes a trade program, they can usually find a job quickly. Many trade schools have matching programs or career services that help students find a job shortly after completing their certification. Students also learn through apprenticeships and work exercises, giving them professional contacts in their industry and potentially increasing their chances of finding a job.

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