Traditionally, a vocational school, also known as technical education, offered training in careers that require practical expertise. This includes specific trades such as welding, blacksmithing, or mechanics, or more general education geared to the retail or beauty industry. Now, however, more and more of these types of schools are now offering courses to cover information technology and the tourism industry. Other careers that are typical at a vocational school include plumbing, electricity, carpentry, professional locksmithing, floral designer, and motorcycle repair technician. Other careers, which may not be so obvious, include medical transcription and medical insurance clerk, home inspection, professional bridal consultant, veterinary assistant, and hotel/restaurant management.
In the United States, a vocational school is usually post-secondary, with classes being offered through community colleges or institutes of technology. In recent years, it has become standard for these types of schools to offer online certifications, especially in areas where practical experience is not essential. Many vocational schools are private. Although this is not typical, attending a vocational institute can sometimes take the place of a traditional high school education. Courses such as wood and metal shop and home economics are a good example of vocational courses that are sometimes taught in traditional high schools. Other schools, however, may focus more on this type of courses and less in traditional subjects.
A vocational school is sometimes the best way for an adult to reenter the labor market. Adult education programs, such as the Work Incentive Program (WIN) and the Job Corps, are in place for unemployed adults that are currently in welfare and in need of an educational push before they can go out and find a new job. The U.S. Department of Education also provides financial aid for adults wishing to attend a vocational institute.
Whatever your reason for considering a vocational school, always investigate all options before making a final choice. If you are interested in qualifications and quality of classes, a community college is a great option, but if you prefer a small class size and more hands-on experience, a private vocational school may be a better choice.