Career education is for those looking to change careers or advance in their current field. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to finance certificate or training programs. Here's where to look.

It seems that student loans are available just about everywhere if you’re planning to attend college. But what about personal loans for career education?

That’s the type of schooling that generally doesn’t involve earning a recognized degree. It can be a training program, certificate program, or a technical or vocational school. Are there financing options for that type of education?

There are actually several, including two available from the federal government, and several from private sources.

Federal loan programs

Surprise! You can get assistance in taking personal loans for career education through the federal government. You can do this using either Federal Direct Subsidized Loans or Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. These loans are sometimes referred to as Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans.

They usually have the most affordable terms available, including low interest rates. And like federal loan programs for college, they come with a six-month deferment.

Before applying for any federal loans, you must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In order to be eligible for either loan program, you must attend a participating school.

Federal Direct Subsidized Loan

This program applies to undergraduate students who have a demonstrated financial need. You must be enrolled at least “half-time” in a program that will lead to either a degree or a certificate.

Interest on the loan will be paid by the US Department of Education (USDOE) while you are still in school and during the deferral period.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans

This program is available to all students (financial need not required). You must also be enrolled at least half-time in a program leading to a degree or certificate.

Unlike the subsidized loan however, you will be responsible for accrued interest even while you are still attending school.

Even Financial

There’s a great new loan aggregator run by Even Financial (our partner) that helps you find personalized loans based on your individual qualifications and needs. It has an option for students to help the user find the best loan available for educational purposes.

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae’s Career Training Smart Option Student Loan provides financing for professional training and trade certificate courses at non-degree granting schools. Like the other loans on this list, there is also a six month grace period following completion of your educational program.

The minimum loan is $1,000, or up to 100 percent of your school certified costs. They offer variable interest rate loans, with APRs ranging between 5.50 percent and 12.62 percent. You will be responsible for paying interest while you’re in school and during the six month grace period. After that, you will begin making principal and interest payments.

They even throw in your free quarterly FICO credit score.

Learn more and read our review on Sallie Mae – This Student Loan Lender Makes Borrowing Money Simple And Easy

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank offers loans for continuing education for “nontraditional students”. It’s called the Citizens Bank Student Loan. In order to be eligible, you must be enrolled at least half-time in a program that grants a degree or certificate.

You can borrow up to $90,000 for a degree program, but the exact amount will depend upon the type of education and the actual costs. Loan terms can range from five years to 15 years, and you can choose to have interest payments due immediately or deferred.

You must have a minimum credit score 620, however you can add a cosigner. Loans can be either fixed-rate or variable, and range between 4.29 percent and 11.99 percent APR.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo provides loans through their Student Loan for Career and Community Colleges program. They’re available for students attending a two-year school, a career training program or a non-traditional school.

You can borrow up to $15,000 per year for a two year public, private, or proprietary school, with a lifetime maximum of $40,000 including federal loans. You can borrow up to $20,000 per year for a four-year proprietary school, with a lifetime maximum of $100,000.

There are no upfront loan fees. They also offer a six month grace period after you complete your education. Rates range depending if you want a variable or fixed rate.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders

The rise of P2P lending platforms creates yet another financing option for career education. Platforms like Lending Club and Prosper provide personal loans with flexible terms.

P2P lenders generally don’t have specific loan programs for educational purposes. But since they allow you to take personal loans for just about any purpose, you can use the funds for career education or training.

They will generally allow you to take an unsecured loan of up to $40,000. Loan terms are three years or five years. All are fixed rate, unsecured and require no prepayment penalty.

One major negative is that P2P platforms typically charge an origination fee. That fee is equal to between one and six percent of the amount borrowed. In addition, you must qualify for a P2P loan based on your income and credit worthiness.

It’s not a perfect option, but if other sources are not available, these loans may be able to get you financing for the additional education you’re looking for.

What about SoFi? This is another P2P lending platform, and the one best associated with educational loans.  SoFi also offers student loan refinances. Refinances must be on student loans taken to get at least an Associate’s degree.

So if you’re looking to advance your education, and you need financing, try one of these options and see which works best for you.


There are plenty of options for career education loans—you just need to know where to look. Many of the traditional student loan companies also offer loans for those looking to get a certificate or two-year degree.

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About the author

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Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed “slash worker” – accountant/blogger/freelance web content writer – on Out of Your He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides “Alt-retirement strategies” for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires. He also frequently discusses the big-picture trends that are putting the squeeze on the bottom 90%, offering work-arounds and expense cutting tips to help readers carve out more money to save in their budgets – a.k.a., breaking the “savings barrier” and transitioning from debtor to saver. He’s a regular contributor/staff writer for as many as a dozen financial blogs and websites, including Money Under 30, Investor Junkie and The Dough Roller.