Washington State Trade Schools with Program Overviews

Washington is home to over 30 schools offering education in occupational trades. Compare four of the colleges in Washington State to determine which schools might be right for you.

School Ranking Overview

There are around 31 schools in the state of Washington that offer training in occupational trades. Nearly all are community and technical colleges delivering vocational programs that prepare students to enter the workforce within two years; some programs can be completed in just months. To help students explore their school options and the types of formal training available, this article compares four of the state's public institutions. The top three schools are ranked in these categories:

  • Program Variety
  • Net Price
  • Graduation Rate
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Program Variety

Of those compared, the following three colleges have the most programs available to students. These institutions offer educational training in a number of varied fields, including allied health, business, construction, engineering technology, culinary arts and horticulture. Going to a school with a large number of programs exposes students to multiple career options that may fit their skills and interests, which is especially helpful to those who enter college undecided about their professional futures.

1. Edmonds Community College

Edmonds Community College is a two-year public institution offering 81 programs that culminate in certificates or associate's degrees. The Lynnwood-based school offers education and training in fields such as baking, event planning, paralegal studies, energy management, computer network technology, engineering technology and landscape management. Some of the certificate programs on offer at Edmonds include nursery growing, catering, commercial cooking, building inspection, construction management and electronics.

2. Clark College

Offering 71 program options, Clark College in Vancouver ranks second. The two-year public school has certificate and associate's degree programs in nursing, emergency medical technology (EMT-B), graphic design, accounting, computer-aided design and drafting, business and fitness training, among others. Clark's vocational training programs also include those focused on the trades of welding, automotive technology, industrial maintenance, cooking, construction technology and diesel technology.

3. Olympic College

Located in Bremerton, Olympic College is the only four-year school among the profiled institutions. The college primarily awards associate's degrees, but bachelor's degrees and undergraduate certificates are also on offer through its 57 programs. Students at Olympic can pursue fields such as composites manufacturing, precision machining, culinary arts, cosmetology, electronics, technical design and welding. Industrial trades degree and certificate programs, which include apprenticeships, are available through the institution as well. Other areas of study include business, healthcare and computer science.

Net Price

Few students are fortunate enough to pursue a postsecondary education without considering its impact on their wallets. Financial aid programs offered through schools and government agencies are designed to reduce the monetary burden placed on students, but they still may leave some academic expenses uncovered. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the schools below had the lowest 2012-2013 net prices of the four compared.

1. Olympic College

With an average net price of $5,316, Olympic College comes in on top in this category. Net prices are determined by subtracting an average financial aid amount from schools' total cost of attendance; the total cost of attendance is based on several educational expenses, including in-state or in-district tuition, fees, textbooks and housing.

2. Clark College

Clark College falls in the middle of the top three for its cost to students. The average net price during the school year was $6,659.

3. Green River Community College

Auburn's Green River Community College is a two-year public school offering associate's degree and certificate programs. The school had the third lowest net price during the 2012-2013 academic year; students paid $7,235 on average.

Graduation Rate

Of the profiled schools, the colleges that follow have the highest graduation rates, according to NCES figures. Data on full-time undergrads who enrolled at the institutions in the fall of 2010 and graduated within 150% of normal time (e.g., three years or less for an associate's degree) was used to determine the stats. Greater graduation rates are indicative of a higher-quality educational experience. None of the four institutions compared have graduation rates above 40%.

1. Green River Community College

Green River's graduation rate of 36% is the highest among the four schools. Of the full-time students who studied at the college in the fall of 2012, the majority -- 62% -- maintained their enrollment the next school year.

2. Edmonds Community College

Edmonds Community College's graduation rate stands at 27%. The school's retention rate is the highest among the top three; 63% of full-time students who first enrolled in fall 2012 remained at the college the next school year.

3. Clark College

The third highest graduation rate, 24%, belongs to Clark College. The school's retention rate for full-time students reached 60% during the fall 2012 to fall 2013 time period, according to the NCES.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Low student-to-faculty ratios are ideal for students who want to learn in small classes and get one-on-one attention from educators. According to information from the NCES, the schools below have the lowest of these ratios among the four profiled.

1. Green River Community College

With a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1, Green River comes in first among the top three. The institution's faculty in the fall of 2013 was made up of 150 full-time and 296 part-time instructors.

2. Edmonds Community College

In second place once again is Edmonds Community College. It has a ratio of 15 students to every one faculty member. In 2013, students were taught by a faculty of 462. Almost three-fourths of those professionals had adjunct positions.

3. Clark College

Clark College takes third place for its 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. In 2013, there were 640 instructional faculty members employed at the college; nearly a third worked full-time.

Washington State Schools: At a Glance

School Name Location School Type Programs Offered Area Ranking
Clark College Vancouver, WA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #2 in Program Variety, #2 in Net Price, #3 in Graduation Rate, #3 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Edmonds Community College Lynwood, WA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #1 in Program Variety, #2 in Graduation Rate, #2 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Green River Community College Auburn, WA Public Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees #3 in Net Price, #1 in Graduation Rate, #1 in Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Olympic College Bremerton, WA Public Undergraduate certificates; associate's and bachelor's degrees #3 in Program Variety, #1 in Net Price

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