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How Long Is Trade School For Different Programs?

Trade school programs can vary in length, but typically last between 3 months and 2 years for a certificate or diploma program. These programs are designed to be shorter than traditional college degrees, allowing students to quickly gain valuable skills and enter the workforce.

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated February 7th, 2024

We know, sitting in a classroom may not be high on your list of things to do. But, this small investment in time and money can really bring great rewards. The great thing about trade schools are they are a mix of classroom and hands-on.

Unlike colleges, there are no “required courses”. Just what you need to get out there and get working.

Once you complete a vocational program you will leave with a certification or Associate’s degree. Some careers will also require an apprenticeship or additional training after you complete school.

Below is a summary of some of the most common trade program lengths. There are some factors that might affect these averages, so be sure to scroll on down for more information.

Trade School ProgramProgram Length
Commercial Truck Driver5 – 12 weeks
Plumber6 months – 2 years
Welder1 – 2 years
Electrician1 – 2 years
HVAC/R1 – 2 years
Wind Turbine Technician6 – 12 months
Radiation Therapist1 year
Phlebotomist3 months

Is Trade School Required to Work a Trade Job?

No, trade school is not required for all skilled trades, but is recommended for many.

Attending a trade school offers benefits like more in-depth learning about practical theories. While on-the-job learning or an apprenticeship can have you learning the how to’s of a job, school can help you learn the why’s which can be very important.

Getting a certificate or Associate’s degree from a vocational school can also reduce the time you need to work as an apprentice. Some employer’s may prefer an education as well. so it can be an asset when you are looking for a job.

students in vocational school

Trade School Length by Program

How long you will need to spend in school is dependent on the trade you want to learn. One of the biggest differences between college and trade school is the length of learning time. College requires 2-4 years while trade programs are half of that!

Below are some more specific educational time requirements for popular trade jobs for students attending school full-time.

1. Commercial Truck Driver

Commercial truck drivers can complete CDL Class A training programs in about 5-12 weeks. This would require a full-time schedule, part-time attendance would be longer. Additional licenses for specific truck types would also extend the duration of time needed.

2. Plumber

Plumbing school can take from 6 months to two years, depending on the level of certification you are going for. Once you complete your education you will need to complete an apprenticeship which can last an additional 3-5 years.

3. Welder

Welders can earn a certificate in welding technology in as little as one year. An optional Associate degree in welding can take up to 2-years to complete. After completing your education, an apprenticeship will typically be required. An Associate degree may decrease the length of time needed as an apprentice.

Related: Trade School Admission Requirements

4. Electrician

Electricians can earn a certificate in as little as one year or earn an optional Associate degree within 2-years . After completing your education, an apprenticeship will typically be required. An Associate degree may decrease the length of time needed as an apprentice.

5. HVAC/R

HVAC/R training programs typically last from 1 – 2 years. This varies a bit by state as the requirements for certification and licensing may require more or less education. HVAC only certifications are a little shorter than those that include refrigeration courses.

6. Wind Turbine Technician

Wind turbine technician programs are 6 – 12 months in length.

7. Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists can complete a certification program in 12 months. An optional Bachelor’s degree is also an option which can take up to 4 years to complete.

8. Phlebotomist

Phlebotomy training is one of the shortest with classes that last 3 months or less. There is in person and online options for learning. Both will require in-person training though. Once you complete the program and pass the program test you will receive your certification. Two-year Associate degrees are also an option.

Trade School Length Factors

Nothing is ever black and white. There are a few factors that can impact just how long you need to attend school to learn your trade.

  1. Part-time vs. full-time study: Some school do allow part-time study options. Choosing to go part time would extend the length of your education.
  2. Accelerated programs: Some trade schools may offer accelerated programs that can be completed in a shorter time frame than traditional programs.
  3. Online vs. in-person learning: Some programs may offer a mix of online and in-person learning. This could create a longer time to completion than a traditional in-person learning experience.
  4. Transfer credits and prior learning: Some students may have prior learning experiences or credits that can be applied towards their trade school program. This will vary by school and program, but can potentially shorten the duration of your studies. Check with the trade school you plan to attend to see if they offer this option.

If you are just starting your school search, be sure to download our list of questions to ask a trade school so you ask the right questions! This will help you pick the right school.

Or, you can pick the program you are interested in and have one of our partner schools reach out to you with more information.


Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.