Many of us were raised to believe that obtaining a four-year degree is the only path to financial success. However, thanks to skyrocketing tuition rates and the unwanted burden of student loan debt, many Americans are now opting to take a different, more economical route to financial success by attending trade schools.

For many Americans, the benefits of attending trade school are clear. The cost of attending trade school is typically tens of thousands of dollars less than attending a university in the U.S. Additionally, it usually takes anywhere from one to two years to obtain certification through a trade school, whereas most college students will spend four or five years working towards a Bachelor’s degree. Best of all? You won’t own a home mortgage worth of student loan debt when you graduate.

Are Online Trade Schools Worth It?

We already know that trade schools in general are a great option for many, but what about online trade schools? Well, if you’re someone who’s already working full-time or trying to raise a family, an online trade school is a great option, as it will provide you with more flexibility in scheduling. Online courses are also helpful to people who live in rural areas, as it allows you to obtain trade school certification without having to relocate or drive far distances to attend class.

Completing your trade school certification online also has a few surprising benefits! If you were the type of kid who spent most of your school years doodling or causing distractions because you found it difficult to pay attention during class, you may actually be the perfect candidate for online trade school. Some experts believe that online classes are better for memory retention than a traditional classroom setting.

Thanks to class discussion forums, online trade schools also happen to be more conducive to conversation – and better for people who feel uncomfortable speaking up during class. Also, traditional classroom settings make it intimidating or make you feel bothersome if you must contact your instructor outside of the classroom. With an online trade school, you’ll have better access to your instructor, making it easier to get the help you need.

Finding an Online Trade School

Remember, not all schools are created equal! It’s a good idea to do thorough research before signing up with an online trade school. Here are a few things you should do before registering with an online trade school.

1. Get advice
Contact a professional organization for your desired industry to see if they have a list of recommended online trade schools. Many times, they’ll have a more objective and informed opinion on whether or not a certain school or online trade schools will provide you with adequate experience.

2. Do your research
Check to make sure the online trade school you’re interested in attending is accredited. The U.S. Department of Education is a great resource. Also, be sure to search online for reviews or feedback from former students. Make sure you read these reviews objectively.

3. Watch out for diploma mills
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (the fine folks that protect us from scammers) advises students to verify that the online trade school they’re hoping to attend actually provides suitable training. Ask yourself: is your chosen field of study something that can be studied online? For example, someone studying to become a CNA will need hands-on training for many aspects of their desired job. Nobody wants to have their blood drawn by a nurse who’s only read about drawing blood, but doesn’t actually have practice! If you feel like your field of study needs hands-on training, check with the trade school make sure they have mentorship programs in place as part of the curriculum. If an online trade school makes it sound wayyy too easy to obtain certification, it may actually be a diploma mill. If you’re unsure about a school, contact your state attorney general’s office and ask their advice. Don’t worry – they won’t bite. They’re there to help!

Ultimately, decide what’s best for your learning style and personal needs. While some people may need the social interaction and face-to-face learning that traditional trade schools provide, many others find that online trade schools are a much better option for their life and learning style.

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