The 25 Best Two-Year Trade Schools: Colleges that Can Fill The Skills Gap


About 4 million high school seniors in the United States will be entering their senior year this fall. Many are already planning for the future, making college lists with counselors and friends, and visiting campus with their parents. Many will be encouraged to attend four-year colleges, as a bachelor’s degree is supposedly the best way for students to find a rewarding, high-paying job.

While four-year schools can be a good fit for most students, the idea that they are the best for all students is wrong. High-tech machines are disrupting the way things are made and the workforce is aging in many technical fields means that there are important jobs that academics can’t fill. The country has top-notch technical schools that can help fill this need.

Forbes has ranked the country’s Top Two Year Trade Schools for the second year. This list includes technical and career colleges that have high-earning graduates, outstanding retention rates and respectable debt repayment scores ( complete methodology here). There are many high-paying, high growth careers on the list, including those in aircraft maintenance and funeral services.

Shawn Strong, president of State Technical College of Missouri, says, “We are here to accomplish one purpose.” This ranking places it as the No. 3 school. “I would not say that I want students to find jobs. But, I would say that I want to help students start their careers. This is all we do.

The top-ranked trade schools are quite different from the Forbes Top Colleges . While 61% of the bachelors’ list is private, 21 of 25 trade schools are public. Only 25% of the four-year list is from the Midwest, but 60% are technical schools located in the region.


What is the Return on a College Education?

There are three schools in Pittsburgh, including No. 1 Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. Private aircraft maintenance school PIA has ties to Orville Wright. It plays a key role in an industry that is in dire need of high-paying jobs. Only 2% of the workforce are new, while thirty percent of national aircraft maintenance technicians have reached retirement age.

Sam Karol, a PIA student, says that he would not accept a job offer if he didn’t have one.

The number of job opportunities at career schools isn’t growing despite the fact that they offer two-year tuition. The National Center of Education Statistics reports that the number of associate’s degree awards has stagnated since 2011-12, while the number of bachelor’s degrees continues to rise. The total enrollment at all 25 schools on the list has dropped from nearly 48,000 in 2010 and less than 41,000 by 2016, which is an approximate 15% drop.

This is a topic that has attracted bipartisan attention and the solutions to it are receiving bipartisan support. President Donald Trump approved a revised extension to the Bush-era Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (2006). This act reaffirms the federal government’s commitment towards technical education. With widespread support, the new law, which was introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R.PA), passed both houses of Congress.

After the law was signed at the ceremony at Tampa Bay Technical High School, the president stated, “Whether you are a high-school student or a later-career worker there’s never been an easier time to learn a trade or hone a skill or pursue your dreams.” “Now, more than 11,000,000 students and workers will be able to have better training and more job opportunities.”

No. 16 Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture students learn to use heavy machinery in precision … [+]


Many trade schools are adapting their offerings and partnering up with employers to make it worth the investment. No. 9 Salina Area Technical College has added police science programs and started a practical nursing program. PIA partners with Delta, Embraer and Piedmont to increase awareness and job opportunities for its students. State Tech has partnered with companies like Toyota, Caterpillar, and International Trucks and recently launched a program for utility industry technicians to meet Missouri’s workforce requirements.



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