Trade Schools That Don’t Require A GED Or High School Diploma

Last Updated on May 14, 2024.

Technical schools are also referred to as trade schools. Usually, these schools require applicants to hold a high school diploma or equivalent, a GED. Sometimes, it is possible, though, to sign up for these schools without holding either.

Online GED Classes

Get a GED Diploma quickly.
It doesn’t matter when you left school.

Easy Lessons | Practice Tests | Add-ons


There are quite a few schools that provide free GED prep instruction and testing as part of their regular academic packages.

This website also helps you discover if achieving a GED with our free GED online classes and practice tests is a good fit for you. If it is, sign up for Onsego’s full GED prep course to prepare for the GED test.

Onsego GED Online Prep is, as one of just 20 online courses, awarded with the predicate “Fully GED Test Aligned” by GED Testing Service®, the publisher of the official GED test.

There are also schools that allow students to enroll in their courses based on factors other than just holding a high school or GED diploma.

Several technical colleges or trade schools require applicants to take and pass a proficiency test in a specific trade field in lieu of a high school or GED diploma.

Online GED Classes – Fast and Easy

Prepare Quickly To Pass The GED Test.
Get Your Diploma in 2 Months.

Columbia-Greene Community College, for example, in Hudson, New York, is one of the schools that accept students without a GED or HS diploma as long as the applicants are meeting some other pertinent requirements in the field of their choice.

You should do some research on technical colleges that are offering the field of study that you’re seeking to pursue and make a list of the schools that have your interest. Go diligently over their admission policy to find out if they require applicants to hold a high school or GED credential or not.

You will see that there are quite a few trade schools and community colleges that require students only to pass a specific proficiency test in the desired areas of study before admission.

Contact all of the schools’ admissions counselors and explain your specific situation. You’ll see that quite a few schools can and will help guide applicants through their admissions processes.

You may also get in touch with a local high school advisor or guidance counselor near you and ask for advice and information. Often, these guidance counselors have lots of admission information on multiple trade schools, technical schools, universities, and colleges.

It is their job to advise students about the best options if they want to continue their education, even if they don’t have a GED or HS diploma. And don’t worry. They’ll be glad to help you.

Many options for a college education

You should prepare a list of your concerns and questions and jot down the answers that you’ve received, including the names of the counselors you talked with. College may be hard, but there are more options, as you see.

When you quit high school prematurely, you may think that it means your education road has stopped there, but you can always get back right on track. Even without a high school diploma or GED, you still have so many options available if you want to pursue a college education.

It is true that most 2 and 4-year colleges and universities require applicants to hold a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll in their degree program. However, quite a few community colleges have adjusted their admissions criteria and are now more flexible.


There are states, for example, California, where applicants without a GED or HS diploma need to be only 18 years of age to get admitted. Students will be required, however, to take a placement test and remedial course so the institution will know which academic courses these students may successfully complete.

There are states that require students to take classes or the GED Ready practice test before they can take the GED test.

Students who can demonstrate evidence of their academic achievements via alternate projects and studies may also qualify. Several colleges additionally assess an applicant’s previous accomplishments, skills, and abilities through personal statements or essays or through recommendation letters from professional colleagues and/or teachers.

In many cases, applicants will be required to submit scores from standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. These tests are generally taken by high school students, but they are open to adults as well.

Learning a trade is a great way to enhance your earning potential and boost your career opportunities. Usually, a trade school education will take you less time than earning a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in college.

Ability to Benefit (ATB)

There are trade schools that do not require a GED or high school diploma, but keep in mind that state licensing requirements for a number of professions vary by state. So please get familiar with your state’s specific licensing requirements to learn if you will be allowed to practice the trade you’ve learned so hard upon graduation.

You should also learn more about ‘Ability to Benefit’ or ATB. This allows students who did not receive a GED or high school diploma to qualify for financial aid (Title IV aid).

To be eligible, these students must successfully complete some government-approved exams and alternative requirements. These ATB provisions were cut in 2012 but were reopened after revision in 2015.

Trades, Crafts

There are quite a few skilled trades that require apprenticeships and hundreds of on-site, hands-on training but not a high school or equivalent diploma. Front Range Community College in Colorado, for example, offers a series of certificate courses that do not require any educational prerequisites.

Students can get hold of, for example, a welding certificate that requires just over forty school hours and can be completed in three semesters. A GED or HS diploma is no prerequisite. Students will be educated in fields like allied cutting processes, safety for welders, and fabrication and layout.

Beauty Academy

In every state, beauticians and cosmetologists need to meet licensing requirements, but to apply for beauty school, not every state requires applicants to be holders of a GED or HS diploma. For example, the Georgia Beauty School merely requires applicants to be at least 16 years of age, and in Illinois, you may apply to a beauty school in that state without holding a secondary education credential.

Keep in mind that your course load usually depends on your state’s licensing criteria and your field of concentration. In Georgia, at The Georgia Beauty School, students will be educated through courses such as the theory of hair cutting, the theory of nail & skincare, manicures and permanent hair waving, and pedicures & nail shaping. If you decide to get your GED diploma, make sure to check our free GED practice tests.

Massage Therapy Academy

Massage therapists, just like cosmetologists, need to be licensed by the states where they want to practice, and in some states, applicants must hold a high school or equivalent diploma.

In those states that do not, you may be admitted to massage therapy school even if you didn’t receive any formal education.

In Maryland, for example, the Community College of Baltimore County provides a program in this way where students need to partake in internship programs while they’re completing their academic coursework.

Students are trained via courses such as the Human Musculoskeletal Structure and System, Massage Introduction, and Massage Modalities.

Keep also in mind that today, there are many jobs that didn’t even exist a decade ago and that don’t require a high school or GED diploma!

Certified Nursing Assistant

A certified nurse assistant (CNA) works alongside RNs (Registered Nurses and doctors. They usually provide basic healthcare services to patients, such as companionship and transportation.

Students may become licensed or certified nurse aids without holding a high school or equivalent diploma, but please be aware that if you would like to go on with your education and become a nurse, finishing high school or getting your GED is required.

The U.S. Red Cross organization offers CNA training programs all across America. Completion of the program takes a total of 160 hours, of which 60 hours are classroom instruction in the theory of nursing and 100 hours include training in a supervised clinical setting. Now, let’s take a closer look at some colleges and universities that accept applicants who don’t hold a high school or GED diploma.

The following is not a complete list; we just want to highlight a few schools with flexible admissions policies.

Colleges and Universities that do not require a high school or equivalent diploma for admission

  • Central Community College-Grand Island, NE
    At Central Community College, applicants 16 years old or older can enroll in the school’s GED program. Adult education classes are free, but applicants do not qualify for financial aid.
  • College of Central Florida-Ocala, FL
    Ocala’s College of Central Florida allows students who don’t hold a high school or equivalent diploma special permission if they pass the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education), among other requirements.
  • Colorado College-Colorado Springs, CO
    For admission to Colorado College, holding a high school or equivalent diploma is not required. Applicants need to submit information about their academic achievements and competency levels. Additionally, submitting an application essay about their extracurricular and intellectual achievements, SAT/ACT scores, and three letters of recommendation are required.
  • Colorado State University-Fort Collins, CO
    Colorado State allows applicants without a high school diploma to enroll if they hold an equivalent diploma (HiSET or GED), submit high school transcripts and satisfactory ACT or SAT scores, write a personal academic explanation, and submit recommendation letters.
  • Columbia Greene Community College-Hudson, NY
    Columbia Greene Community College accepts applicants without a high school or equivalent diploma if they are at least 17 years old, are officially withdrawn from high school, and pass a placement exam.
  • Community College of Baltimore County-Hunt Valley, MD
    At the Community Coll. of Baltimore County, mature applicants can pass the External Diploma Program to receive a secondary education degree. The program doesn’t include courses, but it is self-paced. Applicants need to be at least 18 years of age and pass a pre-test to demonstrate at least grade 9-level reading and math skills.
  • El Camino College-Alondra Park, CA
    El Camino College provides free GED and HiSET courses for applicants who couldn’t finish high school. Applicants are required to submit official transcripts from the high school they last attended.
  • Gateway Community and Technical College-Covington, KY
    At Gateway Community & Technical College, applicants can be admitted if they plan to pass the GED test. They must submit satisfactory ACT or COMPASS results before enrolling in the school’s academic courses. Students without a high school or GED diploma do not qualify for financial support or enrollment in associate’s degree programs.
  • Hinds Community College-Raymond, MS
    At Hinds Community College, students without a high school or equivalent diploma can enroll via the school’s MIBEST program, which allows students to develop basic employment skills for careers. Additionally, through Hinds’ Vocational Admissions program, students can be admitted into one of the school’s academic programs after an admissions interview with one of the school’s advisors. Financial aid is not available under these programs.
  • Houston Community College-Houston, TX
    At Houston Community College, students without a high school or GED diploma can be admitted through the Ability to Benefit program. Applicants must pass the Ability to Benefit exam or sign up for an official Career Pathway program. To determine eligibility, applicants must first complete the ACCUPLACER program.
  • Lamar Institute of Technology-Beaumont, TX
    At Lamar Institute of Technology, applicants without a high school or GED diploma may be accepted in the school’s Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree programs if they meet the school’s admission criteria. Applicants must submit TSI (Texas Success Initiative) scores upon applying.
  • Lawson State Community College-Birmingham, AL
    At Lawson State Community College, students without a high school diploma or equivalent may be admitted if they pass the Ability to Benefit assessment provided by the school.
  • Niagara County Community College-Sanborn, NY
    For admission to Niagara County Community College, students can attend the school’s High School Equivalency program, which allows them to complete 24 credits required to receive their high school equivalency diploma. In the program, students do not qualify for financial aid, and applicants must first reach satisfactory placement assessment scores.
  • Oklahoma City Community College-Oklahoma City, OK
    At Oklahoma City Community College, students without high school or GED diplomas may be admitted if they meet the school’s requirements. Applicants 21 years of age and up also don’t have to submit transcripts. Bear in mind, though, that students without a high school or GED diploma may not qualify for receiving financial aid.
  • St. Charles Community College-Cottleville, MO
    At St. Charles Community College, students who don’t have a high school or GED diploma may be admitted if they have satisfactorily completed an academic skill and placement assessment to find out if they qualify. They must meet with one of the school’s academic advisors to see if they first must attend the school’s ABE (adult basic education) program.
  • Tidewater Community College-Norfolk, VA
    At Tidewater Community College, applicants who did not complete high school and don’t have a GED diploma may still be admitted if they attain sufficient scores in reading, writing, and math on the school’s placement test. Please note that students without a high school or GED diploma do not qualify for financial aid.
  • Union County College-Cranford, NJ
    At Union County College, students may qualify for admission under the Ability to Benefit program. After applying to the school, students need to take and complete a placement test. Please note that students without a high school or GED diploma do not qualify to complete the school’s associate’s degree programs and that they do not qualify for financial support.
  • University of California-Riverside, CA
    At the University of California, students without a high school or GED diploma may be admitted if they hold a Certificate of Proficiency. Applicants are still required, though, to meet the school’s GPA requirements or attain sufficient results on the GED test.
  • University of Hawaii Community College-Honolulu, HI
    At the University of Hawaii Community College, applicants without a high school or GED diploma may be admitted if they are at least 18 years of age. Applicants between 18 and 21 may qualify for admission even if they work toward their high school diplomas, and applicants 21 and older may be admitted while working towards their GED diplomas.
  • Wayne County Community College District-Detroit, MI
    At Wayne County Community College, applicants 18 years old and older who don’t hold a high school or GED diploma may still be admitted if they meet the school’s academic placement criteria. The school provides assistance with orientation, admission, and registration. Please note that applicants without a high school or GED diploma do not qualify for financial support.
  • This is not a complete overview. More colleges and universities accept applicants without high school or equivalent diplomas.