Is your child considering trade school? Tap into your 529

Is your child looking for ideas for the future but not sold on college? Did you know that there are hundreds of job opportunities that don’t require a traditional degree? What’s more, you can use tax-free distributions from your 529 account to pay for your student’s qualified educational expenses.

529 plans can be used to pay for post-secondary education at thousands of eligible institutions, including trade schools and apprenticeship programs. Distributions from your 529 account can be used to cover books, supplies, and equipment—even room and board, in many cases. 

There's a wide range of trade—or vocational—schools nationwide, offering diverse programs. Trade schools typically take less than two years to complete and can be much cheaper than traditional colleges. In fact, the average cost of a trade school is approximately $33,000.1 Compare that to the more than $88,000 you could pay at a public college for a four-year degree as an in-state resident.2

Good jobs abound

There are many well-paying careers that don’t require a traditional bachelor’s degree, including MRI technician (median salary $73,424), aircraft mechanic ($64,085), real estate appraiser ($57,013), and electric lineman ($72,509).3 Job growth for many trades is high and expected to remain so through the rest of the decade. Here's just a sample of some of the growth opportunities in various fields.

Opportunities for growth⁴

Occupation Projected growth potential through 2029
Home health and personal care aides


Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors


Restaurant cooks


Animal caretakers


Software developers and quality assurance analysts 


Medical assistants


Social and human service assistants


Industrial machinery mechanics


Most schools require a high school diploma or GED. The Federal School Code Lookup tool provides information on which trade schools are eligible. Your child can also visit to research qualified programs.

And while thinking about your child’s options, be sure to sit down with your financial professional, who can help you make decisions on affordability and can help you implement a plan, including the use of your 529 education savings account.


1The Average Cost of Vocational School in USA 2020,” Vocational Training HQ, January 2020. 2Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020,” College Board, October 2020. 3The 24 Highest-Paying Trade Jobs—No Bachelor’s Degree Required,” SkillPointe, June 2021. 4 Employment projections, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2021.

This material does not constitute financial, tax, legal, or accounting advice, is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as investment advice. Please consult your tax or financial professional before making any decision.

John Hancock Investment Management Distributors LLC is the principal underwriter and wholesale distribution broker-dealer for the John Hancock mutual funds, member FINRA, SIPC.

John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, LLC offers administrative or recordkeeping services to sponsors and administrators of retirement plans. John Hancock Trust Company LLC provides trust and custodial services to such plans. Group annuity contracts and recordkeeping agreements are issued by John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), Boston, MA (not licensed in New York), and John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York, Valhalla, New York. Product features and availability may differ by state. Securities are offered through John Hancock Distributors LLC, member FINRA, SIPC.