By Katie Gustafson & SkillPointe Staff
The word “scholarship” is usually associated with four-year colleges, but this funding is available to students who choose other paths — including the skilled trades and other types of skills-based training. You may be surprised to learn how many trade school scholarships and grants are available.
Local businesses and specific industries eager to improve the skills-based talent pipeline have created programs to help students pay for the training they need. Their efforts have created many vocational scholarships with specific eligibility requirements.
It’s necessary to do some research to figure out which scholarships are a potential match for your circumstances, but putting in the work can be worth it.
For the right person, trade school grants and scholarships can be the key to forging a new career path with a bright future.
Can you get financial aid for trade school?
Yes, you can get financial aid for trade school! Just like financial aid for community college, trade school scholarships come from a wide range of sources, from the federal government to trade unions to nonprofit organizations.
For example, SkillPointe ambassador Tracy Wilson used a trade school scholarship to help her transition from being a housekeeper to becoming an instrumentation technician.
The rules about how you can use scholarship money differ from program to program. Some have specific requirements, such as targeting a particular discipline or a geographic area. For example, the Career and Technical Scholarship, part of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, funds vocational students in the state with support from local companies such as Boeing and Microsoft.
Getting financial aid for trade school starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a federal government form that establishes your eligibility for educational assistance like grants, loans and work-study programs. This is a necessary step if you want to apply for scholarships because many providers refer to your FAFSA information when deciding scholarship awards.
FAFSA may also lead you to additional funding sources.
Two important factors to keep in mind:
- Accreditation matters: Your trade school education will be eligible for federal student aid only if the school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Check the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) and type in the name of the school.
- Length of training program: If a program from an accredited school lasts longer than 15 weeks, it’s eligible for all forms of federal aid. If the program is shorter than 15 weeks, it’s only eligible for the Direct Loan program, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Acquiring scholarships can allow trade school students to graduate with little or no debt — an incredible advantage in a world where the average debt for students of four-year colleges clocks in at around $30,000, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Where to look for trade school grants and scholarships
When looking for scholarship money, start with the school where you plan to attend. Many schools have scholarships provided by local employers eager to encourage the next generation of skilled workers in their industry. Individual schools also offer student support services, which may provide additional money and help.
Next, look for aid options at the state level. SkillPointe helps make this step easier. We're combing through options by state, such as Maryland scholarships, Georgia scholarships and many others. For example, Indiana offers the Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship, which provides $4,000 to fast learners who are ready graduate after 11th grade and jump into an accredited career program.
In addition, there are many websites that list scholarships, including those that cover trade school or vocational education. (Use the filters and search features to zero in on relevant options.) Scholarship listings change frequently, so make sure to check each scholarship website to confirm information you find elsewhere.
Check out the following sites to begin your search:
- Peterson’s Scholarship search allows you to specify the type of scholarship you’re looking for.
- SkillPointe’s financial resources page lists some excellent scholarship offerings for trade school students.
- Scholarships.com has an extensive list of vocational scholarships.
- The Scholarship System offers a list of 56 vocational school scholarships.
After you get the big-picture view of what’s available, follow up on the scholarships for technical schools that best fit your situation, such as the examples below.
Trade school scholarships and grants you can apply for
There’s no shortage of scholarships for students pursuing trade school. You’ll want to invest the time in a thorough search, including professional organizations that support skills-based jobs. Keep in mind that the deadlines for submission vary. Some are seasonal while others are recurring.
A great starting point are these two programs:
Pell Grants: The U.S. Department of Education awards these grants to students with demonstrated financial need who are enrolled or accepted at an undergraduate institution or technical school. Your school will determine if you’re eligible using the information from your FAFSA form.
SkillPointe Foundation $1,000 Scholarship for Technical/Vocational Training: Scholarships are offered every quarter to students who pursue technical training in construction, healthcare, energy, manufacturing, transportation and other fields.
In addition, check out these national scholarship programs:
American Legion Auxiliary Non-Traditional Student Scholarship
This annual scholarship is awarded annually in each region to members of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary or Sons of the American Legion and a veteran or spouse of a veteran who was honorably discharged. Applicants must be returning to the classroom after their education was interrupted or who are beginning their education later in life. The award can be applied to a technical, trade or professional program or a two- or four-year degree. Learn more about the American Legion Auxiliary Non-Traditional Student Scholarship.
AmericanTrucks Student Scholarships
Students, including high school seniors, who are currently enrolled or planning to enroll full-time in a vocational school, technical institute, apprenticeship or two- or four-year program in the traditional building trades an apply for this scholarship, which is awarded twice a year. Learn more about the AmericanTrucks Student Scholarship.
American Welding Society (AWS) National Scholarship
Students who are currently enrolled in a technical school, community college or university welding program can apply for a series of scholarships for welding or a related discipline. Some of the scholarships are need-based and others require applicants to be a student member of AWS. In addition, district-level scholarships and grants are available. Learn more about the American Welding Society (AWS) National Scholarship.
Beauty & Wellness Professionals Scholarship
Students currently enrolled or planning to enroll in beauty and wellness programs can apply for this $2,500 scholarship, which is awarded two times a year by the Beauty Schools Directory. The funds can be applied to accredited or state-approved programs in cosmetology, esthetics, massage therapy, barbering, electrology, trichology, hair design, makeup artistry, nail technology, salon management, cosmetology teaching or other relevant programs. Learn more about the Beauty & Wellness Professionals Scholarship.
Cancer for College Scholarships
Cancer for College awards more than 100 scholarships each year through this family of scholarships, some with need, geographical or career requirements. Students who have been diagnosed with cancer and either attend or plan to attend an accredited trade school, college or university can apply. Learn more about the Cancer for College Scholarship.
DEED Scholarship and Other Energy-Related Scholarships
The American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) scholarship program supports students pursuing lineworker training or other technical education pathways that are in demand for electric utilities. Each applicant must be sponsored by a DEED member utility. The DEED page also lists other energy-related scholarship and career opportunities, including the RMEL Foundation Scholarship. Learn more about the DEED Scholarship and Other Energy-Related Scholarships.
DEWALT Trade Scholarship from Stanley Black & Decker
These $5,000 scholarships support students pursuing trade school for construction, industrial, motor/power sector, mechanics or technology. Apply online at the Scholarship America Hub, and act fast: Only the first 1,000 applications received by the deadline will be considered. Learn more about the DEWALT Trade Scholarship from Stanley Black & Decker.
Electric & Gas Industries Association Foundation Scholarships
The Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA) Foundation supports this scholarship for students who want to work in the HVAC industry. Learn more about the EGIA Foundation Scholarships.
Future Farmers of America Scholarships
The National FFA Organization (Future Farmers of America) promotes three scholarships aimed at students pursuing a career in various areas of agriculture, the Grow Ag Leaders Scholarship, the Built Ford Tough Scholarship and the FFA Future Leaders Scholarship. All can be used toward vocational, two-year or four-year qualifying age-related study program. Awards range from $1,000 to $10,000. Learn more about the FFA Scholarships.
Flip Foundation Scholarship
Graduating high school seniors planning to attend and students currently enrolled at any accredited trade school, community college or university can apply for this scholarship, which started in north Texas but is now available nationwide. The Flip Foundation provides scholarships for students across the nation who are often overlooked. Financial need, the quality of a student's submitted project and GPA will be considered. (A low GPA will not disqualify a student.) Learn more about the Flip Foundation Scholarship.
Home Depot Path to Pro Scholarship
These $2,000 scholarships are open to students pursuing a trade school education in carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing or construction management. Apply using the online form. Learn more about the Home Depot Path to Pro Scholarship.
Live Más Scholarship
Legal residents or the dependent children of active duty members of the U.S. military can apply for this scholarship from the Taco Bell Foundation. Applicants must meet age requirements, be in good academic standing and be currently enrolled in an accredited two- or four-year college, vocational-technical or trade schools or university program. Learn more about the Live Más Scholarship.
NAWIC Founders Scholarships
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Founders Scholarship Foundation (NFSF) created this scholarship for students who are currently enrolled in a construction-related degree program in the United States. Students must attending school full-time and meeting GPA requirements. There is an undergraduate scholarship and a construction trades scholarship. Learn more about the NFSF Scholarships.
NIADA Foundation Regional Scholarships
NIADA, the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association Foundation, awards one $3,500 scholarship to a student who lives in one of their four regions and who plans to pursue a career in the automotive industry. Learn more about the NIADA Foundation Regional Scholarships.
Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Scholarships
Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs (NBT) is the foundation of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. It offers scholarships for technical schools of up to $3,500 twice a year to students pursuing education toward a career in manufacturing. Apply on the foundation’s website. Learn more about the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Scholarships.
PHCC Educational Foundation Scholarships
The educational foundation of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) National Association provides scholarships for students who want to pursue careers in the plumbing or HVAC industries. Learn more about the PHCC Educational Foundation Scholarships.
Porch Skilled Trade & Technology Scholarship
Home-services software company Porch offers a $2,000 scholarship to students pursuing education related to home services. It includes training offered at trade and technical schools. Apply using the online entry form. Learn more about the Porch Skilled Trade & Technology Scholarship.
The Rees Scholarship Foundation
This is a series of scholarship programs supporting students who want to work in the HVACR industry. Learn more about the The Rees Scholarship Foundation.
Shawn Carter Foundation Scholarship
This scholarship, named after the famous musician and producer more commonly known as Jay-Z, is for motivated students of all backgrounds who have encountered hardship, such as pregnancy, poverty, incarceration and homelessness. Students must be younger than 25 and be pursuing their first degree at a two-year, four-year or vocational school. Learn more about the Shawn Carter Foundation Scholarship.
SkillsUSA is a student-led partnership between education and industry that offers a long list of scholarships for students who want to learn work-based skills in construction, energy, manufacturing, transportation and many other skills-based industries. Applicants must be SkillsUSA members who plan to enroll in a postsecondary program in the upcoming academic year. For membership, check to see if your school has a chapter or how to start one. Learn more about the SkillsUSA scholarships.
Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation scholarships
Students seeking a two-year, four-year or graduate degree in manufacturing, mechanical or industrial engineering, engineering technology, or industrial technology at an accredited college can apply for multiple scholarships. Learn more about the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation scholarships.
Tech Force Foundation Scholarships and Grants
This is a series of support options for financially disadvantaged high school graduates, career-changing adults and veterans who want to pursue a technical, automotive-related career. The services range from scholarships for tuition to grants covering relocation costs and more. Learn more about the Tech Force Foundation Scholarships and Grants.
Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations scholarships
These are scholarships for those pursuing training and education in fleet maintenance, including specific programs such as WyoTech, Lincoln Tech and other automotive and diesel programs. Learn more about the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations scholarships.
Women in Auto Care Scholarship
Female high school students who want to pursue a career in the auto care industry or those currently enrolled in a program can apply for this scholarship. GPA requirements apply and programs must be accredited. Learn more about the Women in Auto Care Scholarship.
Pursuing a trade school education not only gives you the opportunity to train for a practical and in-demand career, it provides the opportunity to pursue scores of scholarship resources only available to students who want to learn a trade.
Apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible for. You could slash your school expenses — or even end up attending for free.
This article is frequently updated to add additional scholarship information.
Katherine Gustafson is a full-time freelance writer specializing in content for mission-driven changemakers such as tech disruptors in fintech, healthcare IT, and B2B SaaS. She also does corporate work on business topics including accounting, management, and innovation for companies such as Bloomberg, Visa and Adobe.