Trade schools are responsible for producing some of the world’s brightest and most skilled professionals. These professionals are necessary for an economy to function. It is safe to say that trade schools are vital to any nation’s prosperity.
To ensure that standards remain at the highest level, however, countries worldwide adopt an accreditation system. Accreditation is so important that it is always one of the foremost things to consider when choosing a trade school.
In the article below, you’ll find out why the accreditation status of a trade school is critical, what kinds of accreditation there are, and why it is advisable to only enroll in an accredited school.
What are Trade Schools?
A trade school is a post-secondary institution that teaches career-specific skills without incorporating other general areas in unrelated courses. Trade Schools go by several names, including vocational schools, technical schools, and even career colleges.
Because these schools only focus on courses and skills directly related to a specific field, students often graduate within a few months or a maximum of 2 years.
Additionally, since vocational schools aim to imbibe students with critical traits they need for real-world experience, they incorporate a lot of hands-on learning and laboratory work into their curriculum.
The Meaning of Accreditation
Naturally, anyone looking to enroll in a school would want to go for the best available options. But of course, since you’re just a student with no frame of reference to determine the “best,” it may be a little bit difficult to judge an institution’s quality on your own.
This is where accreditation comes into play. While there are many reasons for it, accreditation, in its most fundamental form, is a quality nod to a higher education institution. It shows that a school has been vetted by people who know what to look for. They have compared it to a quality standard and decided that it indeed qualifies to be a veritable source of education.
Because quality education is necessary for the development of any country, it is often the role of a federal or local government to approve accreditation bodies that would be in the position to make these quality judgments.
Trade School Accreditation
Trade schools, like most other categories of post-secondary institutions, are accredited. Generally, there are two forms of accreditation - institutional and programmatic accreditation.
Institutional accreditation implies that an institution has been accredited to meet a fundamental quality standard. Most trade schools are accredited by organizations like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) or the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
Institutional accreditation is always a good sign that an institution possesses what it takes on a general level to deliver quality education. Still, there are other forms of accreditation to consider.
While it is always suitable for an institution to be accredited by a respectable body, it is just as crucial that individual programs are also accredited. As we’ll see below, graduating from an accredited program offers many benefits for aspiring trade workers.
Some popular accreditation bodies for individual programs include the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation for automotive technology programs and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for allied health programs.
How Important is Accreditation?
Ensuring that the trade school and program you enroll in are accredited is one of the essential foundations you can lay for yourself as an aspiring trade worker. This criterion is so crucial that many advise it should be one of the first things you check off your list when selecting an institution.
It is more important, in fact than location or proximity. So why exactly is accreditation status so important? Well, here are a few reasons why.
- Quality Assurance - No student wants to attend an institution where they won’t be guaranteed a high educational standard. For this reason, quality assurance remains one of the most significant benefits of accreditation.
Enrolling in an accredited program guarantees you a base quality that you might not necessarily get with an unaccredited institution/program.
- Recognizable Credential - Like every student who wants to get their education from a quality institution, they also wish their degrees and certificates to be worth something when they graduate. Attending an accredited school/program is one of the best ways to ensure this condition is met.
Employers and companies value a certificate/degree more from an accredited school and program than from a certified channel.
- Professional Organizations - It is quite common to see professional organizations working closely with trade schools. This can be done to facilitate a more straightforward crossover into a real-world experience for reskilling and upskilling purposes and even for continuing education credits.
Regardless of why the partnership exists, it is an undeniable truth that it is infinitely easier to gain access to these professional organizations when you attend an accredited school than when you don’t.
- Federal Aid - If you ever want to give yourself a chance to gain access to federal financial aid as a student, you simply have to enroll in an accredited trade school. Why? Because only accredited schools and programs can gain access to federal assistance.
Moreover, most regional and demographic-based scholarships are also partial to students in accredited schools and programs.
- Licensure and Certification - Lastly, obtaining certification and getting licensed as a professional in your field is always easier when you graduate from an accredited school.
Many certification bodies and examinations have it as a mandatory prerequisite that candidates must graduate from an accredited program before they can apply. And the same goes for licensing. Most state licensing boards will refuse to award a professional license if you don’t possess a credential from an accredited institution.
As you can see, each of these benefits is already as important as they come. Lump them together, and it is clear why accreditation is an important criterion that should always be considered when enrolling in a trade program.
How do Trade Schools Get Accredited?
The United States Department of Education is responsible for setting up the framework for accreditation. While the department does not accredit institutions by itself, what it does is that it approves accreditation bodies and organizations that meet their criteria in terms of enforcement and accountability standards.
It is in the accreditation body’s best interests to maintain these standards, as they could retain their status as an accrediting agency if they keep up their quality.
Generally, a trade school that seeks to get accredited must fulfill a handful of requirements and go through the following steps:
- Submit a letter of intent.
- Attend workshops to become familiar with the accreditation process.
- Submit a formal application.
- Go through a self-evaluation process.
- Host an on-site evaluation.
- Respond to the evaluation report.
- Await review and action.
Some requirements include being in operation for at least two years, having at least one graduating class, being financially stable, and maintaining interactive components in their programs.