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Vocational & Trade Schools: A Growing Trend

Advantages to Learning a Trade

With high school graduation fast approaching, you are likely considering what the next step along your educational journey should be. Should you enroll in a 2 year community college or head straight to a 4 year college or university? One option you may want to consider is enrolling in a vocational or trade school.

Vocational and trade school educations are popular vehicles for students who want to fast-track into well paying highly skilled careers. Vocational training is also perfect for adult students looking to advance in their current career or even change careers altogether.

Trade schools have a long history in the United States of giving students the training to succeed in an ever changing workplace. If you are considering a vocational school you should know just what they offer, and whether or not they are right for you.

vocational degrees

Vocational School: Practical vs. Academic

Vocational schools, often referred to as trade schools, are post-secondary educational institutions that provide training and instruction in highly skilled jobs and professions. Vocational schools teach job specific skills designed to enable a student's advancement in any of a number of high skill, high paying professions. Vocational and trade schools place an emphasis on the practical, as opposed to the academic, education. Course studies at a vocational school are specific to certain trades, running the gamut from auto repair to hair dressing; construction to IT.

Many vocational schools now offer degree-transfer programs, allowing a student to transfer some of their credits to a four year college or university. These degree-transfer programs allow students to leverage a vocational education as useful stepping-stone to a baccalaureate degree.

How to Choose a Vocational Trade School

There are more than 300 Vocational Schools in the United States, and choosing the right one for you will rely on a number of important factors:

  • Placement Rate: How many graduates are actually placed in their career field? A high percentage will tell you that the school works hard to prepare its graduates for the work force, but you should investigate their success rate.
  • Student Completion Rate/Graduation Rate: How many students successfully complete their course of studies. This is often called the "retention rate" and is an indicator of institutional commitment to student education.
  • Facilities: Are the facilities up-to-date? Vocational and trade schools often have some of the latest technology and equipment. Avoid those with outdated labs, and training equipment. Remember, when you enter the work force you'll often be required to jump right in and work on state-of-the-art equipment and the vocational school you choose should be able to prepare you for the modern workplace.
  • Services: Does the school offer any extra services? Is there a career guidance office? Will they assist you in finding employment once you've graduated? Can they help you find internships/co-ops while you're a student?
  • Tuition/Fees: How much will it cost to attend the program? Are there any hidden fees? Is financial assistance available to you?

Remember,students who choose a vocational track may also qualify for Federal and private student loans to help them finance their trade school education.

vocational education

Vocational Trade School Degrees

If you're considering a vocational school you'll find a range of degrees from which to choose. Most vocational schools award associate degrees, diplomas and or certificates. Many highly skilled trades will require certification before you can take up work in your field, licensed electrician, plumber or builder for instance. Vocational schools will prepare you to take the required tests necessary to obtain those certifications that will allow you to begin working at your new career.

Vocational Education Career Options: Use the Career Office

Vocational and trade schools offer a wide variety of programs from which to choose. The career center on campus will be able to assist you in determining which program suits your needs and your ambitions. Several career tests are available, and your career/guidance counselor will use them to guide you to various fields that match your skills.

Although programs may differ at each vocational school, the programs listed below are some of the most common and most successful:

  • Computer-aided Drafting (CAD) and Design: learn to prepare technical and digital drawings and plans for builders and contractors.
  • Criminal Justice: training for careers in law enforcement and corrections.
  • Culinary: food preparation for hotels, restaurants and business.
  • HVAC: installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
  • Information Technology: web design, network security and computer programming.