Vocational education is any sort of formal training program that trains students for work in a particular trade. In most cases, training is somewhat short, usually only one to two years. Unlike most college programs, which focus on providing a broad and varied education, vocational schools — sometimes also called technical schools — are usually geared towards a specific job. Plumbing, dental hygiene, hairstyling, and mechanics are only some of the many trades that can be learned through vocational education.
Students choose to undertake vocational training as a way to prepare for a specific career. Upon graduation, students are able to immediately begin work in areas that are often in very high demand. Students train under experts in their chosen field, and participate in a lot of hands-on work. It is often the case that more time is spent in labs or practice studios than in classrooms studying from books.
Students and Basic Requirements
Most vocational education programs want their students to have a high school diploma or equivalent, but other than this there are very few entry requirements. Applicants may choose programs in areas in which they have some expertise, but this is not essential. Most programs are designed to teach students everything they need to know about working in a particular field, and are usually able to transform people who enter with no developed skills into expert-level workers.
As an Alternative to University Education
Many people look to vocational schools as a form of higher education, often in place of college or university coursework. Vocational schools are almost always less expensive than degree programs, and job prospects are often much more certain. Though much depends on individual students and market dynamics, most people can find stable work within a few months of program completion. Many of these jobs pay well, and most offer growth potential far into the future.
The on-the-job learning common to vocational programs is very attractive to most employers. Someone with a vocational certificate or diploma can usually start work immediately with little or no training required.
As a Path to a Second Career
Not everyone who attends a vocational program is a new high school graduate looking for a way to break into the workforce. Many people see this sort of training as a way to start a new career. Those who have worked for a long time in a job they dislike may see vocational school as a way to re-train for something more exciting. Similarly, those who are unemployed may also see training as a way to re-invent their potential and get back into the job market.
Licensing and Career Counseling Services
Vocational education programs typically equip students for all aspects of work within a particular trade. This means that the schools often coach or assist with local licensing requirements, either by providing students with information or actually helping them earn their credentials. Many programs also offer job placement services, which match recent graduates with employers.
Societal Need for Training Programs
Most communities need a balance of workers with different skills in order to be productive. Mechanics, repairmen, and plumbers are often seen as essential to social order, while dental hygienists, beauticians, and medical aides are important to quality of life. In order to encourage qualified people to enter these trades, many governments help subsidize vocational education programs. Others work to promote vocational awareness in high schools, and may even offer financial incentives to students who show promise in one or more trades.