More and more, websites use the term trade school as an equivalent of vocational school or career school. This ignores the fact that many vocational and career schools do not teach the trades - which is the point of going to trade school. Learn more here.

Skilled Labor: The Construction Trades

The trades are a set of skills connected primarily to construction. As defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the 2010 - 2011 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, a go-to source for the categorization of occupations and careers, the trades can be grouped into subsections as follows:

Stone workers:

  • Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
  • Cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers

Wood workers:

  • Carpenters
  • Construction laborers

Metal Workers:

  • Plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Structural and reinforcing iron and metal workers

Wall, Ceiling, and Floor Workers:

  • Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers
  • Drywall and ceiling tile installers, tapers, plasterers, and stucco masons
  • Painters and paperhangers

Other Construction Workers:

  • Boilermakers
  • Construction and building inspectors
  • Construction equipment operators
  • Electricians
  • Elevator installers and repairers
  • Glaziers
  • Hazardous materials removal workers
  • Insulation workers
  • Roofers

Trade Licensing

Choosing a qualified program is especially important if you are seeking a trade that requires licensing, as do building inspectors, electricians, elevator and lift mechanics, plumbers,

Finding Trade School Programs

The current trend in the marketing of vocational training is downplaying the word trade. The United States Department of Education College Navigator, which lists all accredited trade school programs, only lists nine institutions with trade in their names. They are:

  • Berk Trade and Business School in Long Island City, New York
  • Capitol City Trade and Technical School in Austin, Texas
  • Colorado School of Trades in Lakewood, Colorado
  • Hohokus School of Trade and Technical Science in Paterson, New Jersey
  • Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles, California
  • New Castle School of Trades in Pulaski, Pennsylvania
  • North American Trade Schools in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Pacific Coast Trade School in Oxnard, California
  • Tidewater Tech-Trades in Norfolk, Virginia

Of these, Berk Trade and Business School, Hohokus School of Trade and Technical Science, Los Angeles Trade Technical College, New Castle School of Trades, North American Trade Schools, Pacific Coast Trade School, and Tidewater Tech-Trade each offer at least one construction trade course. All offer other vocational training, as well. Capitol City Trade and Technical School in Austin offers programs in drafting, heating/AC/refrigeration technology, and automotive technology, while Colorado School of Trades offers a course in gunsmithing.


With the choice of trade school programs that are named as such so thin on the ground, it may be worth looking at alternatives. Some of the possibilities are:

  • community colleges
  • junior colleges
  • career schools or institutes
  • technical colleges, training centers, or institutes
  • apprenticeship programs
  • on-the-job (employer-provided) training
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-approved training centers

If this is your preference, you can use the U.S. Department of Education College Navigator to search on the Program “Construction Trades” (or any subset thereof that you prefer) to expand your search for community colleges, junior colleges, and career schools or technical colleges, in which case one or more schools may be added to the list of nine above.

The next thing you may wish to do is visit the website of the union for the trade you're interested in. You can also do a search in the Trade School Directory at Any trade school programs you find through these means should be checked for accreditation.