Trade School Programs Online: 10 Best Values 2024

Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson, MSEd / Reading Level: Grade 10 / First Covered: January 2016
Updates: 2

The traditional college experience isn’t for everyone. Thanks to online trade schools and online technical colleges, students who desire a convenient pathway toward career advancement without the four-year stint in a classroom have better options. They can skip the lengthy commute for in-person instruction. And there are many other advantages to online technical degrees for students in vocational fields. One of the major benefits has to do with cost. According to the College Board, tuition for a two-year school is roughly a third of the cost of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Aside from the cost, there are many other advantages to seeking out technical degrees online. These convenient programs enable busy and working adults to earn valuable credentials while still juggling other responsibilities such as full-time employment and child-rearing, for example. They also provide flexible pathways toward employment or continued education after graduation. Students who desire to transfer to a university after attending online technical colleges can do so easily. Meanwhile, those poised for employment will find that their technical degrees online are highly valued by employers.

Featured Programs

In this article, we identify our researched-based selections for the top 10 online technical degrees and programs.

Rating and Ranking the Best Accredited Online Technical Colleges

To develop this ranking of the top online technical colleges, our editors began with an initial pool of 55 two-year community and technical colleges online. In this initial pool, only accredited online technical schools were considered. In addition, schools were required to offer multiple technical degrees online to be considered. Once editors created this initial list, we applied a tuition filter, eliminating the online tech schools with tuition rates of more than $6,000 annually. Finally, we applied our site-wide trade school program methodology. In cases of a tie, the most affordable technical online colleges were awarded the higher rankings.

Click here to see the full methodology!

#10—Riverland Community College

Austin, Minnesota

Website

Points: 15

Undergraduate Tuition: $5,826

Riverland Community College is a mid-sized public community college serving parts of southeastern Minnesota. The school has built a substantial distance learning program. It offers just over two dozen online technical degrees and certificates. This includes standout programs such as:

  • Online Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Administrative Assistant
  • Online AAS in Accounting
  • Online AAS in Supervisory Management
  • Online Certificate in Game Design
  • Online Certificate in Mobile Apps and Virtual Reality
  • Online Certificate in Tax Preparation

Most of the school’s on-campus programs also feature some online and distance learning components. Riverland Community College is a member of the Minnesota State system. It is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. 

Pros:

  • Affordability
  • ROI

Cons:

  • Less diverse

#9—Barton County Community College

Great Bend, Kansas

Website

Points: 15

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,776

One of the nation’s first online tech schools, Barton County Community College has been offering online classes since 1999. Today, the two-year college offers fully online associate’s degree and certificate programs. These programs span in-demand subject areas such as:

  • Computer and Information Technology
  • Health Professions
  • Military Studies/Leadership
  • Public Safety, Corrections, and Security
  • Industrial and Energy Technology
  • Business/Economics

Customized training opportunities are also available online, including those in:

  • Military Training
  • Hazardous Materials and Emergency Management
  • OSHA Safety

BCCC is fully accredited to confer these technical degrees online by The Higher Learning Commission.

Pros:

  • Above-average ROI
  • Open admissions

Cons:

  • Less diverse

#8—Richmond Community College

Hamlet, North Carolina

Website

Points: 15

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,536

Richmond Community College prides itself on providing a supportive environment for distance learning students. Enrolled students interested in virtual learning can elect several different fully online associate’s degrees. These include:

  • Online Associate’s in Accounting
  • Online Associate’s in Healthcare Management Technology
  • Online Associate’s in Early Childhood Education
  • Online Associate’s in Human Service Technology
  • Online Associate’s in Criminal Justice Technology

The school also offers a number of different online courses and certificate programs. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited Richmond Community College to award these online credentials.

Pros:

  • Open admissions
  • Small class sizes

Cons:

  • Below-average graduation rate

#7—Eastern Gateway Community College

Steubenville, Ohio

Website

Points: 16

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,026

Eastern Gateway Community College has a robust online learning program. This enables it to reach students throughout the country with online technical degrees and certificate/diploma options. Among its numerous fully online associate’s degree programs are offerings such as:

  • Online AAS in Health Information Management
  • Online AAS in Criminal Justice
  • Online AAB in Professional Office Management
  • Online AA in Teacher Education
  • Online AAS in Social Work

Students with university aspirations will also find a general AA degree online as well as an online Associate of Individualized Study option. Hybrid and certificate programs are also available. EGCC is fully accredited to award technical degrees online by The Higher Learning Commission.

Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Diversity of programs

Cons:

  • Larger class sizes
  • Low graduation rate

#6—Georgia Piedmont Technical College

Clarkston, Georgia

Website

Points: 16

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,178

Georgia Piedmont Technical College is one of the best online technical schools in terms of the number of fully online programs offered. It is home to more than 50 certificates, diplomas, and technical degrees online. These programs span subjects such as media, business, public safety, and technology, for example. Specific plans of study include:

  • Online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Health Information Management Technology
  • Online AAS in Marketing Management
  • Online AAS in Cyber Forensics Technology
  • Online AAS in Design and Media Production Technology
  • Online Certificate in Criminal Justice Fundamentals
  • Online Certificate in Visual Basic Programming
  • Online Diploma in Business Technology
  • Online Diploma: Computer Support Specialist

Coursework can be completed entirely online. Still, distance learners are required to participate in a proctored component for each class they take. Georgia Piedmont Technical College is authorized to confer technical degrees online through accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Pros:

  • Open admissions
  • Small class sizes

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate

#5—Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Salisbury, North Carolina

Website

Points: 16

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,632

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is one of the most comprehensive online tech schools in our ranking. The school offers more than 250 online courses. This enables students to earn a diploma, get a certificate in their chosen field, and obtain technical degrees online. Fully online degree offerings include:

  • Online Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Emergency Medical Science
  • Online AAS in Information Technology Information Systems
  • Online AAS in Healthcare Management
  • Online AAS in Business Administration Marketing
  • Online AAS in Early Childhood Education

Students can also pursue over three dozen online certificates and diplomas entirely online. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Open admissions

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate

#4—Clovis Community College

Fresno, California

Website

Points: 16

Undergraduate Tuition: $1,616

Clovis Community College is one of the most affordable technical online colleges in our ranking. It offers a number of different fully online and hybrid courses and degree programs for vocational students. Some of the school’s 100% online technical degrees include:

  • Online Associate of Science (AS) in Behavioral Science
  • Online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies
  • Online AAS in Business Administration
  • Online Associate of General Studies

Fully online certificate programs are also available and include:

  • Online Certificate of Completion in Criminal Justice
  • Online Certificate of Achievement in Game Design
  • Online Certificate of Achievement in Networking

Online academic counseling is also available to support individual academic achievement. Clovis Community College holds institutional accreditation from the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

Pros:

  • Open admissions
  • Affordability
  • More diverse

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate

#3—Shoreline Community College

Shoreline, Washington

Website

Points: 17

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,076

Shoreline Community College is the very best online technical school in our ranking in terms of potential ROI. It is also one of the nation’s most affordable technical online colleges. The school offers thirty distinct programs for distance learnings. This includes fully online technical degrees such as:

  • Online Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences (AAAS) in Accounting
  • Online AAAS in Business
  • Online AAAS in Criminal Justice
  • Online AAAS in Health Information Technology

Numerous online certificates are also available in in-demand vocational areas like:

  • Health Data Analyst
  • Criminal Justice Advocacy
  • Project Management
  • Medical Coding and Reimbursement

Shoreline Community College is a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) participant. It is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Pros:

  • High ROI
  • Open admissions
  • Small class sizes

Cons:

  • Less affordable

#2—Pitt Community College

Winterville, North Carolina

Website

Points: 18

Undergraduate Tuition: $1,940

With tuition rates of less than $2,000 per year, Pitt Community College is one of the country’s most affordable technical online colleges. The school also has no shortage of online offerings for prospective students. This includes online technical degrees, certificates, and diplomas. For students seeking a vocational or technical degree online, PCC offers nearly two dozen options, including:

  • Online Associate’s in Business Administration: Human Resources Management
  • Online Associate’s in Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Online Associate’s in Health Information Technology
  • Online Associate’s in Early Childhood Education
  • Online Associate’s in Industrial Management Technology

A mandatory orientation is required for all distance learning students. Still, this component can also be completed entirely online. Pitt Community College is one of the nation’s fully accredited online technical colleges. This is thanks to its affiliation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Open admissions

Cons:

  • Lower graduation rate

#1—Nash Community College

Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Website

Points: 19

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,666

Nash Community College is one of several online technical colleges in our ranking accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It offers a wide range of online technical degrees, certificates, and diplomas. For students seeking a two-year degree, options include:

  • Online Associate’s in Information Technology: Healthcare Informatics
  • Online Associate’s in Emergency Management
  • Online Associate’s in Criminal Justice Technology
  • Online Associate’s in Accounting and Finance
  • Online Associate’s in Office Administration: Office Software Specialist

Online certificate programs are available in fields such as:

  • Health Sciences
  • Business and Information Technology
  • Law and Criminal Justice
  • Emergency Management

A variety of online student resources are available to NCC’s distance learning students. This includes online tutoring, advising, and technical support.

Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Open admissions
  • Above-average ROI

Cons:

  • Low graduation rate

Types of Online Technical Schools

online technical degrees

Online technical schools aren’t one-size-fits-all institutions. Instead, there are several different types of online technical colleges available. In this section, we will discuss some of the options you’ll have at your disposal when searching for online technical degrees.

Accredited Online Technical Colleges

If you’ve just started to consider the idea of online technical schools, you may be wondering if the prospect is simply too good to be true. Questions about the legitimacy of online tech degrees are not uncommon. Rest assured, though, if the schools you are researching are accredited by an accrediting body approved by the U.S. Department of Education, they are indeed the real deal. But, if you can’t locate any accreditation information for an institution despite doing your due diligence, then you may be wise to continue your search for online technical colleges elsewhere.

Pro Tip: The U.S. Department of Education keeps an online database of accredited schools nationwide. Use the search tool to locate any postsecondary school’s accreditation status.

Hybrid Versus Fully Online Tech Schools

One of the key differences among online technical schools is their course delivery format. Some online programs profess to be distance education offerings, but they actually require some campus attendance. These programs are better categorized as hybrid degree programs. True online programs, sometimes labeled as “100% online” or “fully online,” do not have students make any trips to campus whatsoever. Instead, these programs rely on distance education technology such as teleconferencing to bring teachers and students together in virtual environments.

Asynchronous Versus Synchronous Online Tech School Programs

Even fully online programs can differ in terms of scheduling requirements, though. This is because some of these programs are primarily asynchronous offerings. Meanwhile, others are synchronous in nature. The difference between these two formats is that asynchronous programs are more self-paced, while synchronous degree plans ask students to attend online classes at certain pre-determined times. There are benefits and drawbacks to both asynchronous and synchronous options. For instance, asynchronous programs are more convenient but lack the interactivity that synchronous programs may offer.

Part-Time Versus Full-Time Technical Schools Online

Whether you want to attend an online technical school on a part-time or full-time basis, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a program. While many schools offer one or the other format, some cater to both full-time and part-time students. If you’re still unsure as to which scheduling option is best for you, consider how much time per week you’ll be able to devote to your studies. Students who work full-time may find a part-time online technical degree program to fit better, for example. Just keep in mind that part-time programs will have longer completion times.

Types of Online Technical Degrees and Programs

Just as all online tech schools are unique, so too are the programs these institutions offer. Online technical degrees are just one part of the equation. Below, we’ll take a more in-depth look at what the best online technical colleges have to offer.

Online Industry Certificate Programs

online technical degrees

If you’re interested in online tech schools but you’re not excited about a lengthy degree plan, then you might want to consider one of the many online certificate programs available. These programs offer advanced training in various trades and industries and can be completed in just months as opposed to years. Depending on the program, an industry certificate can prepare students for entry-level employment in a vocational field or advancement in a current area of employment.

Online Vocational Diplomas

online technical degrees

Vocational diplomas are similar to industry certificate programs, but they may be more involved. Translation? You may have to take more courses to earn a diploma versus a certificate, and these courses could prove more challenging as well. The upside is that a diploma program could hold more weight to a potential employer than a certificate. Neither will be as impressive as online technical degrees, though.

Online Associate’s Degrees

online technical degrees

Ready to take a deep dive into an online technical school program? Then, you may be ready for an associate’s degree track. Many technical schools online offer Associate of Applied Science degree programs, often referred to as AAS programs.  These two-year degree programs provide enrolled students with real-world skills and the opportunities to apply them via virtual experiential learning activities. Other online technical degrees include Associate of Science (AS), Associate in Arts (AA), and Associate of Applied Business (AAB) programs.

Online Technical School Programs: Curriculum

Students may have questions about the curriculum for technical degrees online. For instance, you may be wondering how many classes you’ll be expected to take as well as precisely what you’ll be studying. The exact curriculum details for your program will depend on the school you attend and the degree or certificate you’re seeking. Still, you can expect that online technical degrees will be more streamlined than other undergraduate programs. That’s because these programs do not usually require a general education component. That means you will not have to take classes outside of your chosen subject area. For example, students enrolled in an online medical assistance program will take only courses in healthcare. They won’t be required to take introductory college math or composition classes like they would be for a four-year degree plan.

If you’re interested in earning a technical degree online, you’ll be happy to learn that there are many options to choose from. No matter what industry or employment field you’re looking to join, there’s probably a technical degree online to fit your career interests. Below, we’ll provide details on some of the most popular options available to prospective distance learning students.

Online Associate Degrees in Business Administration

online technical degrees

Most lucrative careers in business administration require at least a bachelor’s degree. Even so, online technical degrees in business administration can represent the first step towards a four-year degree and/or a foot in the door to the corporate job of your dreams.

Online technical schools commonly offer multiple degree plans in business administration. That’s because the field is fairly broad. Some programs may feature concentrations and specialization options. These include programs in areas like marketing, finance, human resources, and more. Below, we’ll list some examples of course titles common in online business administration associate degree curricula.

Sample Course Titles for Online Technical Degrees in Business Administration

  • Business Systems Analysis and Design
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Principles of Management
  • Business Statistics

Online Associate’s Degrees in Behavioral Science

online technical degrees

Like online technical degrees in business administration, associate’s degrees in behavioral science cover a wide range of sub-fields. These may include psychology, sociology, and human services, for example. Some of these two-year degree programs provide preparation for entry-level careers. Others are ideal for students interested in university transfer post-graduation. Online technical degrees in behavioral science will vary widely in terms of curriculum details. Even so, we’ve listed some sample course titles below for the sake of example.

Sample Course Titles for Online Technical Degrees in Behavioral Science

  • Applied Human Growth and Development
  • Professional Success in Behavioral Science
  • Deconstructing Social Problems
  • Statistics for Behavioral Science

Online Associate’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education

online technical degrees

Students interested in working in early childhood education can take the first step toward a successful career by pursuing online technical degrees in the discipline. Such a degree can qualify graduates for entry-level jobs as teacher’s aides or provide them with a solid foundation for a bachelor’s degree program. Curricula for these technical degrees will address topics in child development, educational policy, and instructional techniques, for instance.

Sample Course Titles for Early Childhood Education Technical Degrees Online

  • Wellness in the Early Childhood Setting
  • Educational Philosophy for Teachers
  • Infant and Toddler Care
  • Working with Preschoolers

Online Associate Healthcare Degrees

online technical degrees

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more jobs will be added to the healthcare industry than to any other occupational field in the coming years. Online technical degrees in this burgeoning field can qualify graduates for high-paying jobs in the medical field. These include diagnostic medical sonographer, cardiovascular technologist, and nuclear medicine technologist, for example. Course titles associated with healthcare technical degrees online will vary depending on your chosen specialization and/or career path. Still, we’ve listed some sample classes below for general reference.

Sample Course Titles for Online Technical Degrees in Healthcare

  • Managing Healthcare Human Resources
  • Healthcare Law, Policy, and Regulations
  • Medical Terminology
  • Health & Human Disease

Frequently-Asked Questions About Online Technical Degrees

online technical degrees

The decision to attend an online tech school is a big one. Once it’s made, you’ll be required to devote a fair amount of resources toward earning one of many available online technical degrees. With a lot of work and a little luck, the investment will pay off brilliantly. Still, it’s normal to have concerns. Below, our editors will address the most common questions about online technical colleges and their offerings. Keep in mind that the information provided here is general in nature. It is not intended to replace information from a school representative about a specific college or technical degree online.

Q: How much do online tech schools cost?

A: Expenses associated with earning an online technical degree or certificate will vary depending on the school you attend. The most affordable technical online colleges boast tuition rates of less than $2,000 annually.

Q: How long does it take to earn technical degrees online?

A: Online technical degrees can take up to two years to complete, but accelerated options may be available for some programs. These programs can shorten your completion time but may require more time and effort in the short term.

Q: Can I do trade school online?

A: Yes! More and more two-year schools are offering their technical degrees online. To find a program that interests you, check program options at your local community colleges, or search online.

Q: What are the best online trade school programs?

A: Our editors can rank online tech schools according to certain factors. Still, we cannot determine which program will best fit your individual needs and preferences. As you consider your options, keep in mind that the best online trade school programs for you are those accredited offerings that meet your budget, schedule, and career goals.

Q: What are the highest paying online associates degrees?

A: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the highest paying jobs requiring an associate’s degree for entry are air traffic controller, radiation therapist, and nuclear technician.

Q: Are technical school degrees in demand?

A: Many of them are, yes, but it depends on the degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most in-demand technical degrees are environmental science, paralegal studies, healthcare, and web development.

CVO Staff

Sources:

  • College Board: College Costs
  • National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): College Navigator
  • Niche: 2021 Best Trade Schools in America
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • U.S. Department of Education: Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs

This concludes our list of the top 10 best value online technical degree programs.