If you aren’t sure that a university experience is right for you, consider vocational training. Focused on developing specific skills in career fields like auto repair, cosmetology, welding, medical billing and more, you can earn your degree in two years or less.

Benefits of Vocational Education

There are many advantages of vocational education. Your classes will focus on the knowledge and skills that you need for a particular job, and the time and money that you expend is less than a four-year college program.

One of the benefits of vocational training is that you can jump right into classes that speak to your career passions. Unlike a university degree, you won’t have to take general education classes that are unrelated to your career field. The reduced seat time for most certificates and degrees means that you’ll begin learning new skills right away.

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Gain Practical Experience

One of the advantages of vocational training is that instructors are often industry professionals. The opportunity to learn from someone who works in the field will give you deep insight about what it takes to be successful on the job. Most programs include externships that will allow you to work in the industry for course credit. You may earn an apprenticeship or even a job as a result of this practical experience.

Get a Flexible Class Schedule

Vocational training is designed to help nontraditional students go to school while juggling a job or family. Flexible class schedules include options for evening, weekend and online education. If you are trying to develop new career expertise, you can continue to work full time while going to school.

Enter the Work World Quickly

One of the advantages of vocational education is that you can complete your vocational training in a short period of time. Program times vary, but some training can be completed in less time. For example, if you want to be an emergency medical technician, you can be ready to work after going to school for one semester.

Pursue Specialized Training Programs

The programs that are offered at vocational or trade schools are unique. Most four-year institutions don’t have career-based programs that focus on learning practical skills. Here’s a sample list of common programs found in a vocational school.

  •             Auto repair
  •             Blacksmithing
  •             Carpentry
  •             Catering and culinary arts
  •             Cosmetology
  •             Medical billing
  •             Massage therapy
  •             Paralegal studies
  •             EMT and paramedic
  •             Pharmacy technician
  •             Welding
  •             Small engine repair

Learn in a Smaller Environment

Smaller class sizes and hands-on instruction are among the benefits of vocational education. Since you’re learning practical skills, you can expect individualized attention from professors. You’ll also have the opportunity to get to know your peers since you’ll move through the vocational program together.

Spend Less Money

Vocational training is less expensive than attending a college or university. In 2018, a full-time student paid between $5,100 and $5,600 to study full time for a year at a community and technical college in Minnesota. A Minnesota state university experience was between $7,900 and $8,700 for the same time period. Since vocational training programs are two years or less, the total cost is drastically reduced.

Get a Job that Pays Well

Most vocational schools publish job placement data to inform prospective students about the likelihood of employment following graduation. Job placement for vocational graduates is generally high, but it varies by job type. Similarly, industry needs impact job availability. The same can be said about starting salaries.

Here’s a sample list of vocational jobs and the average starting salary as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017:

  • Electrician ($54,110)
  • Pharmacy technician ($31,750)
  • Welding ($40,240)
  • Auto repair ($39,550)
  • Paralegal ($50,410)
  • EMT/paramedic ($33,380)

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.