fbpx Skip to main content

Program Information

Trade School Entry: Is a High School Diploma Required?

April 9th, 2024
trainer and apprentice in technical vocational training at a drilling machine

When it comes to mapping out your career, some people see a vast array of choices while others feel like they’re stuck with only a few. The reality is, that without a high school diploma, your options can be pretty limited. But here’s the bright side: if you have or are working toward a high school diploma, a whole new world of opportunities opens up. You’d be surprised at the vocational and trade options out there not requiring a college degree. 

A trade school, also known as a vocational school or technical school, offers specialized training in specific trades or professions, such as plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, automotive repair, and healthcare. Unlike traditional four-year colleges or community college education that focuses mainly on classroom instruction, trade schools provide hands-on, practical training geared toward preparing students for immediate entry into the workforce without work experience. This focused education equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in their chosen field, making them highly employable upon graduation. 

Plus, trade skills are often in high demand as they are essential for many industries and sectors in the United States. With a shortage of skilled workers in many trades, individuals who graduate from trade schools will enjoy excellent job security and opportunities for career advancement, making trade school a great choice for those looking for stable and fulfilling employment.

If you would like to attend a trade school or a vocational program, you will need to have a high school diploma. Also, in Arizona, several trades require a high school diploma or equivalent to get licensed. Some of these trades include:


A carpenter is a skilled trade person who specializes in working with wood to construct, install, and repair various structures and fixtures. Carpenters may work on a wide range of projects, including framing buildings, installing cabinetry, constructing furniture, and repairing wooden structures. Attention to detail, problem-solving abilities, and proficiency in various woodworking techniques are essential for success in this field, along with a commitment to safety and craftsmanship. In Arizona, you need a high school diploma to become a licensed Carpenter.


An electrician is a highly skilled tradesperson responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems and components in residential, commercial, and industrial environments. They interpret blueprints and technical diagrams to determine layout and wiring configurations for electrical installations, ensuring compliance with local building codes and safety standards. Electricians work with a wide range of tools and equipment to connect wires, outlets, switches, and circuit breakers, as well as troubleshoot and repair electrical faults and malfunctions. Attention to detail, a strong understanding of electrical principles, and a commitment to safety are essential qualities for success in this field. In Arizona, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED to become an electrician.


A plumber is a skilled tradesperson specializing in the installation, maintenance, and repair of plumbing systems that convey water, gas, and sewage in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Plumbers diagnose and troubleshoot issues such as leaks, clogs, and damaged pipes, employing their expertise to provide efficient and effective solutions. A commitment to safety and quality workmanship is essential for plumbers since they play a crucial role in maintaining the infrastructure that facilitates sanitation and access to clean water. To become one in Arizona, you generally need a high school diploma or equivalent.

HVAC Technicians

An HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) technician is a skilled professional responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They work with a variety of equipment, including furnaces, air conditioners, boilers, heat pumps, and ductwork, utilizing specialized tools and diagnostic instruments. HVAC technicians play a crucial role in maintaining indoor comfort and air quality for occupants. You’ll need a high school diploma to get into HVAC work in Arizona.

Radiologic Technicians

Radiology Techs are in high demand to operate machinery for medical imaging such as X-rays, MRIs, PET Scans, and CT scans which help doctors and surgeons diagnose and treat patients. They work closely with patients to explain procedures, position them correctly for imaging, and ensure their comfort and safety throughout the process. 

Radiologic Technicians play a crucial role in helping clinicians accurately diagnose medical conditions and provide optimal patient care. You’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent to train as a radiologic technician.


A welder is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in joining metals together using various welding techniques. Welders operate welding equipment and tools to melt and fuse metal components, ensuring strong, durable, and precise bonds. They work in diverse industries including manufacturing, construction, automotive, and aerospace, contributing to the fabrication and assembly of structures, machinery, and components. While not always necessary, having a high school diploma can be helpful if you want to become a welder.

These educational requirements can change depending on each trade and the regulations given by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors or other licensing groups. If you’re thinking about a trade career pathway, make sure you know which licenses and education you will need for the job you want.

Infographic for Grad Solutions about the trade school options after graduating high school

Trade Schools Requiring High School Degrees

In Arizona, trade schools typically require applicants to have a high school diploma or its equivalent for enrollment in their programs. Some trade schools may accept students who have obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate in place of a traditional high school diploma.

Examples of trade schools in Arizona that commonly require a high school diploma or GED diploma for enrollment include:

1. Arizona Automotive Institute (AAI): AAI offers programs in automotive technology, diesel technology, and collision repair, among others.

2. Universal Technical Institute (UTI): UTI provides training in automotive technology, diesel and industrial technology, collision repair, and welding, among other fields.

3. East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT): EVIT offers a variety of career and technical education programs for high school students and adults, including fields like automotive technology, cosmetology, culinary arts, healthcare, and many more.

4. Refrigeration School, Inc. (RSI): RSI specializes in HVAC/R training programs for individuals seeking careers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.

5. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI): SDI offers an online program designed to prepare individuals for a career in firearms technology and unmanned aircraft (UAS), a growing field with entrepreneurial opportunities. 

While these are examples of trade schools most often requiring a high school diploma or equivalent, admission requirements can vary depending on the institution and the specific program of study. Prospective students should contact the trade schools directly to inquire about their specific admission criteria.

Impact on Financial Aid 

If you don’t have a high school diploma, it can be tough to get financial help for trade school. Many financial aid programs ask for a high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED, just to apply. Without a diploma, you may not qualify for the financial help you need to attend a trade school.

Infographic for Grad Solutions about their trade school student support

 However, organizations like Grad Solutions are here to help out with this. They’ve got Next Step Career Department career counselors and coaches whose primary job is to help students figure out what they want to do for work. These counselors talk with students to find out what they’re interested in and help them pick a career path that fits. They also help find trade schools that match up with what students want to do in life.

Grad Solutions’ career counselors also help students navigate the complex landscape of financial aid applications. They know how important financial assistance can be, so they work with students to complete the forms needed to secure potential funding for trade school tuition and related expenses

But it’s not just about money. Grad Solutions’ career counselors provide guidance and mentoring too. They advise about employment trends, what jobs are out there, skills that are important to develop, and how to get ahead in a career after you complete high school.

So, even though not having a high school diploma can make it tough to get financial aid for trade school, organizations like Grad Solutions support students with the application process and help them chase after their dreams with confidence.

Diploma or GED for Trade School?

Even though some jobs in certain trades might not ask for a high school graduation proof right away, later on, some industries might prioritize people who have one. This happens as individuals seek opportunities for advancement or specialized roles within their respective trades. 

A high school diploma shows you have foundational skills like reading, writing, and math, which are valuable in many jobs. Employers may view a diploma as an indicator of commitment, responsibility, and the ability to follow through on long-term goals, qualities that are desirable in employees regardless of the specific trade.

So, even though you can start in some trades without fulfilling high school graduation requirements, having a diploma can boost your chances of getting a job and growing in your career down the road.

Diploma holders make more money

People who graduate from high school usually make more money than those who complete a GED test. This happens because of a few things, like the level of education they’ve completed, the kinds of jobs they can get, and how much they can move up in their careers.

Employers often see high school graduates as having completed a more comprehensive educational program, which means they are more likely to have basic skills and knowledge. So, they are more likely to offer higher-paying jobs and opportunities to those with high school diplomas than to those with a GED.

While obtaining a GED certificate can provide an alternative path to completing high school equivalency and accessing certain employment opportunities, statistics consistently show that individuals with high school diplomas tend to command higher salaries and enjoy greater financial stability throughout their careers.

Perceptions of a GED vs Diploma

While obtaining a General Educational Development (GED) certificate can provide an alternative route to achieving high school equivalency, there are often negative connotations associated with it. 

One example of this is the perception of a lack of commitment or academic achievement compared to those who earn traditional high school diplomas. Some employers and educational institutions may view GED recipients as having taken a shortcut or having been unable to complete a standard high school curriculum. 

This perception can result in GED holders facing barriers to employment opportunities or further education, as they may be seen as less qualified or less prepared than their counterparts with diplomas. Thankfully, there is another option, if you earn a high school diploma through a program like Grad Solutions, you get a traditional high school diploma that does not indicate you had previously dropped out. The career counselors at Grad Solutions can help you find a path toward a vocation. 

Additionally, societal stereotypes and stigmas surrounding GED attainment can lead to feelings of shame or inadequacy for individuals who pursue this path. Despite these challenges, it’s important to recognize that obtaining a GED represents a significant accomplishment and can serve as a different pathway to more accomplishment in the future. Read more at GED vs Diploma Blog.

Teacher Helping Female Student Training To Be Car Mechanics

Career Opportunities After Trade School

Attending trade school opens a multitude of career paths across various industries. High school graduates can pursue careers as skilled tradespeople in fields like plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and welding, where they can work independently or for construction companies, contractors, or help people in the medical field. 

If you’re into cars, trade school can train you to be an automotive technician. You could fix cars at repair shops, dealerships, or places maintaining vehicle fleets.

HVAC technicians can work for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning companies or become self-employed contractors. 

Additionally, graduates with training in fields like cosmetology, culinary arts, or massage therapy from trade schools can start their own businesses or work in spas, salons, restaurants, or resorts. 

Trade school also offers training for healthcare jobs like medical or dental assisting, or working as a pharmacy technician. You could end up working in hospitals, clinics, or private practices.

Ultimately, trade school sets you up with practical skills for jobs in high demand. Plus, they offer high job security because they are essential roles needed in society.

Grad Solutions student accepting high school diploma on graduation day

Grad Solutions: Your First Step Toward Trade School 

Grad Solutions is a great option for high school students who want to get ready for trade school. This innovative program provides a path to a high school diploma and equips students with the essential skills and knowledge required for their chosen trade. 

What sets Grad Solutions apart is its accessibility. The program is entirely online and free so students can work on their high school transcripts at any time, around their schedules. 

Round-the-clock availability ensures flexibility for those of all backgrounds. Beyond academics, Grad Solutions stands out for its student support services. From mentors and tutors to counseling and access to HUB resource centers, students can receive unparalleled assistance every step of the way.

For those interested in getting their high school diploma but outside of the 16-21 age range, Smart Schools is a high school diploma program for those aged 22 and older or located outside of Arizona.

With Grad Solutions, students graduate with not only earn a diploma but also gain the tools and support necessary to thrive in their chosen career paths. We wish you the best on your journey back to school. For more information, call us at 480-689-5999 or fill out the form here (no application fee required!)

If you’re ready to take your next step, begin the admissions process!


Arizona Cosmetology, Welding, Nursing School, Dental Assistant, Collision Repair, HVAC technician, Culinary School, Plumber, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Change your life's direction. Your Diploma is Waiting.

Get Started
Your choice regarding cookies on this site

We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website.  LEARN MORE

I Do Not Accept Accept