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Because different trade schools and vocational schools have different training and educational options, prepared below is a search tool designed to help you find which school will best accommodate you and your educational desires.

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Berkeley Collegelearn-more-button1


Berkeley CollegeLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut aliquam diam semper velit vehicula viverra. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nullam ultricies, velit eget sodales laoreet, libero mauris facilisis est, finibus luctus quam diam in tortor. Suspendisse egestas quis lectus ac scelerilearn-more-button1

Baker Universitylearn-more-button1


Baker UniversityLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut aliquam diam semper velit vehicula viverra. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nullam ultricies, velit eget sodales laoreet, libero mauris facilisis est, finibus luctus quam diam in tortor. Suspendisse egestas quis lectus ac scelerilearn-more-button1

Argosy Universitylearn-more-button1


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Abilene Christian Universitylearn-more-button1


Abilene Christian UniversityLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut aliquam diam semper velit vehicula viverra. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nullam ultricies, velit eget sodales laoreet, libero mauris facilisis est, finibus luctus quam diam in tortor. Suspendisse egestas quis lectus ac scelerilearn-more-button1

Cardinal Stritch University learn-more-button1


Cardinal Stritch UniversityLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut aliquam diam semper velit vehicula viverra. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nullam ultricies, velit eget sodales laoreet, libero mauris facilisis est, finibus luctus quam diam in tortor. Suspendisse egestas quis lectus ac scelerilearn-more-button1

Ashland Universitylearn-more-button1


Ashland UniversityLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut aliquam diam semper velit vehicula viverra. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nullam ultricies, velit eget sodales laoreet, libero mauris facilisis est, finibus luctus quam diam in tortor. Suspendisse egestas quis lectus ac scelerilearn-more-button1

Exploring Vocational Programs

Vocational and career-oriented schools offer a specialized education for students who have specific career goal. Unlike community colleges and more general education avenues, students are able to focus solely on their career choice and receive training in the field.

What are Vocational and Trade Schools?

As defined by the U.S. Department of Education, career schools are also known as vocational, trade, or technical schools. These institutions may be non-profit or for-profit, public or private, and generally offer career-focused training programs that are two years or less. However, there is a slight difference between the curriculum of technical and vocational schools. Technical schools focus on a broader academic approach, teaching students about the principles of the field of study. Vocational schools often concentrate more on practical, hands-on skill building for specific occupational fields.

Beyond special vocational and technical colleges, students may also access career and technical education (CTE) at other institutions, such as the following:

  • Community colleges (two-year, public colleges)
  • Private two-year colleges
  • Public and private four-year universities
  • Regional training centers
  • Adult workforce education centers
  • Industry groups

CTE provides students with access to both occupational and non-occupational instruction in a variety of subjects and areas of interest. As sub-baccalaureate programs of study, CTE allows students to earn a certificate, credential, diploma, or complete coursework in preparation for a licensing examination. Although some CTE programs allow students to transition into an associate or bachelor’s degree, most CTE programs are terminal and, therefore, do not include transferable credits.

Instructional programs that highlight academic education (liberal arts, English, mathematics, physical sciences, performing arts, social sciences, humanities, behavioral sciences) are deemed not to be CTE in nature. Generally speaking, CTE teaches students specialized skills to pursue specific careers fields and is divided into 16 career clusters.

  • Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
  • Architecture & Construction
  • A/V Technology & Film
  • Business Management & Administration
  • Education & Training
  • Finance
  • Government & Public Administration
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality & Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Planning
  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Is Vocational School Right for You? High School Assessment

Today’s high school students have a variety of post-secondary options available. While traditional 2- and 4-year colleges may seem the most popular choice, many students are taking a more trade-focused route. Vocational and trade schools allow students to enter a hands-on career field in as little as 12 months (sometimes sooner). The following quiz can help new high school graduates determine if vocational school is right for them.

Vocational & Trade School In-Depth

Before enrolling in a vocational or trade school program, it’s important to learn the details, including the potential salary for your desired industry, who offers programs, and the pros and cons you might encounter along the way. See what many of today’s vocational programs have in store for future students.

Projected Job Openings

Prospective students have multiple educational pathways to consider when thinking about enrolling in a vocational training program. Some of the fastest growing industries in the country include numerous occupations requiring a vocational education for employment. In fact, the ten industries projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to experience the largest employment gains between 2012 and 2022 are all vocational in nature.

Rank

Industry

Projected Job Openings

1

Home health care services

715,700
2

Individual and family services

711,500
3

Outpatient, laboratory, and other ambulatory care services

522,300
4

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services

456,000
5

Computer systems design and related services

608,700
6

Cement and concrete product manufacturing

57,300
7

Office administrative services

144,900
8

Offices of health practitioners

1,225,800
9

Veneer, plywood, and engineered wood product manufacturing

19,700
10

Facilities support services

38,600

Vocational School vs. Four-Year College

Vocational SchoolFour-Year College
Degree TypesDiploma, Certificate, Associate, Vocational CoursesAssociate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
Curricula FocusVocational & Technical Training, Clinical & Professional ExperienceAcademic, General Education, Liberal Arts & Sciences
Length of Program3 – 24 months2 – 8+ years
DemographicsNon-Traditional, Older, Returning StudentsTypically 18 – 24 year olds
Admissions RequirementsHigh School Diploma or GED, Course Prerequisites, GPA RequirementsHigh School Diploma or GED, Standardized Test Scores, Minimum GPA Requirements, Letters of Recommendation, Admissions Essay

Pros & Cons

During the past three decades, vocational education has become a respected approach for career preparation, providing students the opportunity to study and learn in context–that is, develop skills specific to an occupational field. As policymakers and educators alike focus on the commitment to building a qualified and skilled workforce, the importance of vocational education as a quality pathway to career success will only increase. However, prior to enrolling in any vocational program, prospective students should examine both the positives and potential drawbacks to completing an occupational degree, credential, certificate, or diploma.

Increased Market Competitiveness.

Vocational education is directly aligned with a graduate’s market competitiveness as it prepares them for a specific occupation or specialized vocation.

Improved Career Opportunities.

Salary data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) both reveal one important point: Education pays. In 2013, individuals with an associate degree earned 19.3 percent more per week than those with only a high school diploma. And, individuals with an associate degree have unemployment rates of approximately 5.4 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for those with a high school diploma.

Shorter Programs.

Bachelor’s degrees typically require at least four years of full-time study to complete, while vocational programs can generally be finished between three to 24 months of study, depending on the subject matter and specific program.

Stigma.

Although a important and growing part of the education sector–and workforce–vocational programs still deal with a general stigma, with some viewing them as lesser options than four-year academic programs offered at universities.

Limited Career Flexibility.

Because of their career-specific nature, many vocational programs can actually limit career flexibility in two ways: 1) they do not transfer to future four-year academic programs and 2) they may not be accepted as an educational requirement for employment in advanced related fields, like an academic degree.

Lower Average Salaries.

Although a vocational education can lead to better earning potential, individuals with associate degrees still earn less than those with a bachelor’s degree (31.2 percent less). In 2013, the average salary of an individual with an associate degree was $35,720.

Before Enrolling

  • Success rate. The success of an institution’s students is a direct reflection of its quality. Prospective students should get an understanding of the following three statistics: admission rate, graduation rate, and job placement rate. High admission rates may indicate the program is not competitive, while low graduation rates may mean instruction is low quality. And, low job placement rates may reveal the institution does not properly prepare graduates for career success.
  • Program cost. For many students, the top priority is the program cost. However, cost is not solely determined by tuition alone. Are there technology or lab fees? Do students need to pay for additional equipment or software? What are the average book costs? Getting a sense of the total cost of attendance can help prospective students make a practical decision regarding their educational investment.
  • Accreditation.Generally speaking, accreditation is a vital–but often overlooked–factor of the review phase. Accreditation means the college or institute has invested time and effort to meet quality, success, and educational guidelines set forth by accrediting agencies. Secondly, many certification and licensing agencies for specific professional areas of practice (e.g. diagnostic medical sonography, medical coding, etc.) require students to graduate from an accredited program of study. While the Department of Education does not accredit programs directly, it does maintain a list of approved accrediting bodies for post-secondary institutions and programs. Students can review the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions and Programs for more information.
  • Admission requirements. Not every institution or vocational program requires the same admissions materials or requirements. Before enrolling, students should ask about the program’s admissions process. Does the program require a high school diploma or GED? Do students need professional experience in the field to be admitted? Are standardized testing scores necessary?
  • Instructor Background.The success of any program hinges on the quality of the faculty and instructional staff. For the particular area of study (e.g. medical assisting), students should review the academic background and professional experience of the faculty. Do they have training and degrees in that field of practice? What certifications do they possess? How long have they worked in that specialty?

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