Seek Out Scholarships for Vocational and Trade Students

Students earning two-year degrees or certificates can apply for dedicated scholarship programs.

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Many trade school scholarships are sponsored by community-based or regional organizations, so students should research their local options.

The cost of a four-year college education is making headlines these days, and there's a lot of talk about how to get scholarships for earning a traditional degree.

But students in two-year vocational and trade school programs should realize they also have ample opportunities for financial support. Both need-based and merit-based scholarship and grant programs, as well as scholarships geared toward specific majors, exist for students in all sorts of vocational programs.

[Watch for these scholarship trends in 2014.]

Opting for a trade school instead of a traditional college or university doesn't mean you're not eligible for federal financial aid. Trade school students can receive Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants – free money that doesn't need to be repaid.

To apply for these programs, all you have to do is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In fact, students should fill out the FAFSA before doing anything else.

Are you or is one of your parents a member of a trade union? Union Plus, an organization that provides products and services to union families, offers scholarships ranging from $500 to $4,000 to union members and their families for traditional four-year colleges, as well as trade and technical schools.

The 2014 scholarship application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014, so you still have some time to apply. Don't forget to also dig into potential scholarship opportunities offered by your own union.

If you're headed to a technical or trade school, you've probably made up your mind about what trade you will be going into. This means you can take advantage of scholarships that are offered for a specific course of study.

[Learn how to save money on community college.]

Students going into agriculture may be eligible for grants and scholarships from the National FFA Organization, which distributes approximately $2 million in grants and scholarships each year.

Are you more interested in becoming a mechanic? Universal Technical Institute, a nationwide provider of technical education training for students seeking careers as entry-level automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine technicians, offers scholarships and funding resources on the school's website.

Find scholarships at the local level by visiting your school's financial aid office. If you live in Maine, for example, you can take advantage of the scholarships offered by the Maine Metal Products Association. These scholarships are available only for students who will be attending a Maine college and plan to pursue careers in the metalworking industry.

If you're still undecided about your career interests, or if your major fits into a different category, there are many scholarships for students pursuing general trade programs.

[Find an apprenticeship program that's right for you.]

Outlaw Student offers $1,000 scholarships four times each year for trade school students. You can get started by visiting their website to find the scholarship program that best fits your education plans.

You can also find general scholarships based on your home state and background. The Oregon Community Foundation awards the Verl and Dorothy Miller Native American Vocational Scholarship to eligible residents seeking vocational training or certification, for example.

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation offers scholarships on a rolling basis that are specifically for students who are not pursuing a bachelor's degree. The organization's Medallion Fund was created by leaders of local businesses to support the growth of the skilled workforce.

You may have noticed many of these programs are sponsored by community-based or regional organizations. Find out what businesses and organizations in your area might be interested in supporting students in vocational and trade programs. Don't hesitate to contact them and ask about funding, as two-year programs can be incredibly valuable, but potentially costly.

Finally, don't limit your search for scholarships specifically geared toward vocational or trade school students. Many organizations that offer traditional, four-year scholarships also recognize the value of two-year degrees. Take advantage of those opportunities, too.

Angela Frisk holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and is a former scholarship recipient. She joined Scholarship America in 2012.