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Compare student loans for trade school

Explore your options for funding a skills-based program.

Trade schools are gaining in popularity due to their fast-track education plans and hands-on learning. If you're searching for ways to fund a trade school program, student loans might be an option. First, see if you qualify for federal loans, then move on to private lenders.

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Compare more private student loans you can use for trade school

Your options are limited since many private student loan providers only work with students attending a degree-granting program. Here are three private lenders that offer students loans for trade school:

LoanLoan amountAPRsTermsEligibility requirements
Climb Credit Student LoansUp to the full cost of tuition
  • Fixed APRs: 9.55% to 16.71%
  • Varies depending on the length of your program
  • Most common term is 3 years
  • Repayments start 1 month after your loan is disbursed
  • Attending eligible school
  • US citizen, permanent resident or creditworthy cosigner who is
  • Live in eligible state
  • Meet credit requirements or have a creditworthy cosigner who does
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Wells Fargo Student Loan for Career and Community CollegesUp to $15,000 per year for 2 years — with a lifetime limit of $40,000 for all education debt
  • Variable APRs: 7.05% to 12.05%
  • Fixed APRs: 7.49% to 12.45%
15 to 20 years — including a 6-month grace period
  • Undergraduate or graduate student enrolled at an eligible school
  • Seeking a degree, certificate or license
  • US citizen, national, permanent resident or have creditworthy cosigner who is
  • Meet credit, employment and DTI requirements or have creditworthy cosigner who does
Sallie Mae Career Training Smart Option Student Loan$1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Variable APRs: 3.5% to 10.65%
  • Fixed APRs: 4.74% to 11.35%
5 to 15 years — including a 6-month grace period
  • Undergraduate student attending a degree-granting institution
  • Attending a participating school located in the US or previously attended one during an eligible prior enrollment period
  • US citizen, permanent resident or have creditworthy cosigner who is
  • Meet credit and other eligibility criteria

Can I get federal student loans for trade schools?

Maybe, though it depends on the trade school. To qualify for federal aid, the school you’re attending must be accredited and offer degree-based programs — not just diplomas or certificates. You might want to look into your federal student loan options first, since these typically come with lower interest rates and more flexible repayment plans than private student loans or personal loans.

How to apply for student loans for trade school

Ready to apply for financial aid for trade school? Gather information about yourself and your finances to speed up the process. Then follow these steps to get started:

  1. Submit the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows you to apply for multiple types of federal student aid at once — including grants, loans and work-study. This will always be the best place to start.
  2. Research scholarships and grants. Loans aren’t the only way to pay for school. You could potentially qualify for scholarships and grants, which are funds you don’t have to repay. Research your debt-free alternatives before signing on to any loans.
  3. Compare private student loans. After you’ve exhausted your other funding options, compare private student loans to find the one that best meets your needs. You can usually apply directly through the website of any private lender.

What to watch out for when borrowing for trade school

Private student loans can help fill a gap in education funding, but there are a few key items you’ll want to be cautious of:

  • Eligibility requirements. Many private student loan providers only work with students pursuing a traditional four-year degree, so double-check if you qualify before applying.
  • Immediate repayments. Some private student loans for trade school don’t come with the option to defer repayments while you’re in school. This means you’ll have to start repaying your loan immediately after the funds are disbursed.
  • Cosigner obligation. If you’re applying for a private student loan, you might need a cosigner to qualify. Make sure your cosigner understands what it means to sign on to your loan. And look for lenders that offer cosigner release.

Alternative ways to pay for trade school

If you’re not sure loans are the right fit or you’re struggling to cover all of the costs, consider these alternative options:

  • Scholarships. Any form of debt-free funding is great, but scholarships are particularly important for trade school students. Look for scholarships that are only offered to students in your chosen field to increase your chances of approval.
  • Payment plans. Many schools offer payment plans to break up the cost of attendance into installments. Just make sure you’ll be able to cover the payments, especially if you have reduced work hours while attending school.
  • Employer-sponsored funding. See if there are any companies in your industry willing to bring you on as an apprentice or intern in exchange for paying your education costs.
  • Personal loans. Having a difficult time qualifying for private or federal student loans? Consider taking out a personal loan. Some have restrictions on how you can use the funds, so double-check you can use the money to pay for trade school before applying.
  • Special vocation loans. Some vocations offer special school financing, for example, some private lenders offer loans as one of the ways to pay for flight school.

Bottom line

Finding reliable funding sources to help pay for trade school can be tougher than if you were getting your four-year degree. But there are still options available if you do your homework. Remember to check out our A-to-Z list of scholarships and our guide to student loans for more ways to fund a skills-based program.

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