What is a Vocational Scholarship?

vocational scholarship poster

What you need to know about Vocational Scholarships?

Are Vocational Scholarships a Right Fit for You?

Understanding How Vocational Scholarships Can Help You Post Graduation?

The other day, I overheard some students discussing their post graduation options. One of the questions that kept coming up was, what is a vocational scholarship?

Let’s be honest: a 4-year college degree isn’t for everyone. If you feel that a BA or BS isn’t the right path for you, you might be looking into vocational school options–sometimes also known as trade school. There are so many reasons you might choose vocational school instead of a 4-year university education: 

  • Many of your family members work in the trades and you want the same level of predictability and success.
  • There is a particular trade or vocation in which you’ve always been interested.
  • You know you that you don’t learn in the way that most college settings require.
  • You don’t have the money and don’t want to take on the debt.

Most of these are anecdotal–but this last one is evidence based. According to Accredited Schools Online, 51% of students listed affordability as an obstacle to higher education. 

These are all great reasons to pursue vocational school. And, while it’s generally less expensive, it isn’t free to attend vocational schools. So what is a vocational scholarship? Keep reading to learn more. 

Comparing Options: 4-year College vs Vocational School

Perhaps this is the first time you’ve thought about your future past High School, or the future of someone you love. Although we exist in a society that has long pushed a 4-year college degree as imperative to career success and happiness, many changes over the past few years have caused students to begin questioning whether it truly is the best path for them. 

Let’s break down the benefits and drawbacks of both the 4-year college and vocational schools options.


  • Specialized Path to one trade or vocation
  • No “prerequisite” education necessary
  • In many cases you can begin apprenticing while still in school
  • In some cases you can even begin earning while still learning. 
  • Less expensive
  • Vocational Scholarships available
  • Many well-paid career options  
  • Great plan if you know exactly what you want


  • Are committed to one path or trade
  • If change your mind, you would have a hard time changing tracks
  • Your credits likely wouldn’t transfer to a 4-year college if you decide you want to that at a later date
  • No “extra” academic classes for the most part
  • Not what some people would consider as “prestigious”

4-Year College or University- these points are made with the knowledge that this is still considered by many to be a privilege. 


  • Liberal Arts education is flexible for those who don’t have a set path yet
  • Research has shown that those with a college degree are more likely to be and stay employed and are likely to outearn those without a college degree
  • The opportunity to live away from home in a community of your peers can offer a place to take calculated risks and ease into adulthood
  • If you change your mind, you can often transfer credits into a new major, or even between universities
  • If you do the research, there are many scholarships, grants and financial supports available


  • Most colleges are still competitive–if you didn’t do well in High School, it will be hard to be accepted
  • Colleges today are more expensive than they have ever been and it’s a huge deterrent
  • If you don’t have the funds to pay for 4 years of college, you will likely take on debt in order to do so
  • Many are speaking up to say that they don’t believe their college degrees have led them to successful employment
  • If you aren’t prepared academically or socially/emotionally, you will struggle to manage your time and your school work

Vocational School–What is a Vocational Scholarship?

If you’ve done some thinking and have decided that trade or vocational school is a good option for you to pursue, you might still be wondering how you’re going to pay for it. Yes, there are possibilities that allow you to seek out work pretty quickly, but this might not solve the immediate problem for you. 

This may result in asking yourself: what is a vocational scholarship and is it a possibility for me? A vocational scholarship is a form of financial assistance for those that want to further their education in a trade at a qualified institution. 

While a vocational scholarship is similar in many ways to other types of college scholarships, there are few things that will be important to know and understand when deciding what type of vocational scholarship is right for you. Here are few:

  • Oftentimes, scholarships focus on a specific trade or career path
  • Some scholarships will only apply to tuition and fees
  • Some scholarships will offer money to help cover cost of room and board as well
  • Depending on the program, the money might be sent directly to the school to cover costs, or might be dispersed to the student

An important thing to consider when we ask, what is a vocational scholarship, is that with this type of financial assistance, you will not be required to pay it back. This is unlike many forms of financial aid for traditional 4-year colleges. 

For someone who is basing their decision on wanting to remain debt-free for their continuing education, this is an important point to consider. 

How do I apply–eligibility requirements in the United States

In general, most vocational scholarships work similarly to other types of scholarships. For some scholarships, there might be specific eligibility requirements based on family income or demographic information. If you are applying to an accredited vocational school, you can apply for federal scholarships using the FAFSA

In most cases, you will need to fill out an application by a specific deadline and provide information about yourself and your family members. Different scholarships will have different requirements, so be sure to do your research and read carefully. 

This is a great resource to start with. You can look through lists of different vocational scholarships or you can search by interest or specific career path. 

Is a vocational scholarship the right choice for you? 

There are so many factors to consider when you are deciding the next best choice for your education or career. Do you want to go down the path of a more flexible Liberal Arts or Bachelor of Science degree? Or are you feeling confident in your vision of learning a trade and getting started in your working life right away? 

Although there aren’t any incorrect answers, you may find that based on your personality, learning style or circumstances, one choice may stand out as better than others. If you have concluded that vocational school feels like the right path for you, then answering this question–what is a vocational scholarship– is important to your financial education and management. 

Beginning to figure out what the right vocational school path is for you is exciting! Knowing that there are a lot of options for financial assistance through vocational scholarships should help you to be able to find the best possible next step on your own education and career path. Check out our different scholarship options at Cobell Scholar today!