A vocational school, trade school, or career school, is a school providing vocational education with students taught the skills needed to perform a particular job.
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A vocational school offers two year programs that focus specifically on the training in the field that is relevant to a student’s chosen profession. Most people attend these schools once they know exactly what career they want to pursue. They then go to a vocational school to start getting hands-on training in that specific field of study. For example, if you were interested in becoming a medical technician, a trade school would get you working with the equipment right from the start. Because vocational school programs are so specialized, students walk out of the programs knowing exactly what to expect out of their first job.
Students attend vocational schools in place of a four year college or University. Many students opt for a vocational program right after high school, while others attend vocational school after working for a few years. This post-secondary education path is known to be extremely flexible, so they work well for those who want to further their education while still continuing to work or raise a family.
How to Pick a Vocational School
Knowing what career path you want to take for the rest of your life is no easy task. Many people either work a few jobs in a few different industries, or they attend a 4 year university before realizing what it is they enjoy. Once you have a specific career in mind, no matter how long it took you to get there, it is time to start considering education options. One great option for those who know what they want to do is vocational school. Vocational schools are not designed to give you a “well-rounded” education, but rather aim to focus on the skills you will need to perform a specific job. They are flexible with your schedule, offer hands-on training, and are usually more affordable than a traditional program. The best news: This can often be completed in one to two years.
While there are some professions that require a degree from a 4 year college or university, careers such as a carpenter, legal assistant, chef, medical billing and coding specialist, computer programmer, or graphic designer require only the much shorter and faster vocational degree. For a list of many more professions that accept a vocational degree, visit the Vocational Information Center.
Once you know what you want out of your education, it’s time to start finding the right vocational school. It is important to do your research to make sure you get a quality education for your money. This may seem overwhelming at first, but asking yourself a few basic questions should help narrow down your search. Consider a few of the basic questions listed below:
5 Things to Ask Yourself before Choosing a Vocational School
1. Is the school accredited?
Most agree that going to an accredited vocational school is crucial when it comes to your education. An accredited school simply means that the school has met quality standards that were established by an accrediting agency. If your school is accredited, your degree will be taken seriously and you will have a better chance of employment once your program is over. Accreditation is also the key to financial aid in many cases. If you go to an unaccredited vocational school, you may be stuck paying up front and out of pocket.
2. Does the school offer hands-on instruction with updated equipment?
One thing a vocational school has to offer is the ability to get their students involved. While many 4 year universities require students to sit through lectures, vocational schools have the luxury of really focusing on one specific skill, which allows more hands-on interaction. Visit the school and make sure the students are doing more than writing papers, and check to make sure the equipment they are using is quality and up to date.
3. What courses are available? What is the typical class size?
Do not be fooled by looks. A school may have nice looking classrooms, but check to make sure they offer quality courses. For example, if you are interested in baking, but they only offer one baking class, this would be a problem. Ask to take a look at their available courses and/or sit down with someone who can help you map out exactly which courses you would be taking (this will also help you determine just how long your specific program will last). Also ask about the professors and class sizes to make sure you will like the learning environment.
4. What is the retention rate?
Once again, you cannot be fooled by the way a school looks. A great way to get the feel for a school is to hear what the students have to say. If you cannot talk to a student directly or find any feedback online, ask about the retention rate. In other words, find out the percentage of students who drop out.
5. How much will it cost?
The cost completely depends on the school you choose and the courses you take, but expect to spend around $4,000 to $5,000. Ask about financial aid or scholarships that the school offers to make sure the school is affordable, but do not stop there. With vocational schools, there can be a lot of hidden fees that do not fall under the “tuition” category. Since you will likely be working with lots of equipment and doing many hands-on activities, there could very well be a lab fee, uniform, or safety equipment cost.
A vocational school will show future employers that you have the specialized skills needed to succeed. After completing your program, you will have the knowledge in your area of interest, which is why this option is so great for those who know exactly what they want to do in their careers.