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Arizona Vocational and Technical Schools

A major outcome of the Great Recession has been reorienting how parents and students alike think about postsecondary education. Students graduating with four-year degrees have increasing levels of student debt and in many cases face limited job markets. In turn, middle-skill jobs, which require less than a four-year degree but more than a high school diploma, have started to gain greater attention.

Although half the jobs in the state are considered middle-skill, less than half of the state's workers possess a middle-skill education.

According to the National Skills Foundation, more than 50 percent of all jobs in Arizona are middle-skill, and between 2010 and 2020, 52 percent of job openings in the state will be in middle-skill positions. While a skilled workforce is vital to Arizona's economic health, the state has an educational gap at the middle-skill level. Although half the jobs in the state are considered middle-skill, less than half of the state's workers possess a middle-skill education.

Vocational education trends in Arizona

The growing job market for individuals with a middle-skill education means it is a great time for students to earn a vocational degree in Arizona. Vocational education, known as Career and Technical Education (CTE), is a foundation of the state's educational system. It prepares both secondary students to transition into postsecondary programs and equips students with technical skills for entry-level employment. Major benefits of Arizona technical schools include:

  • Shorter time to completion
  • Opportunity for students to align their academic interests with professional fields

At the post-secondary level, vocational education typically results in a two-year or less academic award, such as an associate, diploma, or certificate. Students can find these programs at community colleges, trade and technical schools, and some four-year universities. A review of 2012-2013 graduation data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals more than 130,000 academic awards of less than four-years were granted in Arizona.

Academic Award

Total Degrees Conferred

Associate degree


Certificates below the baccalaureate total


Award of at least 1 but less than 2 academic years


Award of less than 1 academic year


Award of at least 2 but less than 4 academic years


Grand Total


Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

The ten most popular fields of study (by total degrees conferred), included the following:

Field of Study


Health Professions and Related Programs


Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services


Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities


Visual and Performing Arts


Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Service


Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians


Personal and Culinary Services


Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services


Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies


Transportation and Materials Moving


Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

Career opportunities for graduates of Arizona vocational schools

According to data from the Arizona Department of Employment and Population Statistics, 41 vocational-related occupations are projected to experience at least 20 percent employment growth between 2012 and 2022. The ten fastest growing vocational careers in Arizona include the following:


Projected Growth in Arizona (2012-22)

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers




Medical Equipment Repairers


Skincare Specialists


Occupational Therapy Assistants


Dental Hygienists


Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers


Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians


Physical Therapist Assistants


Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians


Source: Arizona Department of Employment and Population Statistics, 2015

Prospective students considering attending Arizona vocational schools may want to consider the health care industry. Of the 40 careers with the greatest projected employment gains, 72 percent are health-related occupations. The table below includes the ten fastest-growing health care career fields in Arizona:


Projected Growth in Arizona (2012-22)

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers


Skincare Specialists


Occupational Therapy Assistants


Dental Hygienists


Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians


Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians


Surgical Technologists


Medical Assistants


Source: Arizona Department of Employment and Population Statistics, 2015

Expert advice on vocational education in Arizona with Al Larson

The role of vocational education has changed in the past decade. To get a better sense of this impact on the job market and prospective students in Arizona, we interviewed Al Larson, Executive Director at Maricopa Skill Center.

What are the benefits of career and technical education?

The benefit of Career and Technical Education (CTE) is that it prepares students to be ready for high-skill and high-wage careers by providing technical, employability and job-specific skills.

How can a student decide if CTE is right for them?

When I am asked this question by prospective students, I first ask them, "How do you learn best, and what type of work would you like to do?" Some CTE programs are technical, some include learning a trade with specific skills and many programs prepare students for jobs that interface with others. According to the Association of Career and Technical Education, 81% of high school drop-outs say relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in high school. If you would like a career where you are working with your hands and your mind, CTE is for you.

What steps can students take to choose the right training path?

  1. Students can visit with a college counselor or career advisor.
  2. Meet with an instructor at a high school or college.
  3. Take a tour. Tours include seeing a program and receiving information about programs, the application process and ways to pay for school such as financial aid and scholarships.
  4. Use online tools such as YouTube to find jobs and careers that interest you or search the BLS website for career options that are based on your interest and abilities.

What should students consider in a CTE program?

When you are considering programs, find out if they match your interest and abilities. Are the jobs they prepare you for actually interesting to you? What do they pay? Are they in demand where you want to live? When you are researching specific schools and programs, consider the cost of school, are the graduates getting jobs, do you earn a credential that is recognized by industry and do instructors have real world experience that they can translate in a classroom. At Maricopa Skill Center, our programs are a lot more hands on and less classroom lecture so does that fit how you best learn?

What are the vocational trends in Arizona?

High demand occupations tend to be in the following areas:

  • Health care - includes 12 of the 20 fastest growing occupations
  • Information technology - includes cyber-technology and security
  • Manufacturing and skilled trades - high-tech and clean manufacturing jobs, like precision machining, are the fastest growing sub-sectors in Arizona
  • Human services - includes business and office program jobs, such as sales and customer care
  • Hospitality and tourism

In short, there are many different jobs in these career areas that match a variety of personal interests and abilities, as well as great salary potential.

In Arizona, how do employers view career and technical education?

In general, employers are looking for a trained workforce where prospects have industry credentials that match their needs. They are looking for training to include technical skills that relate to the job at hand, but they also are looking for employees that show up, get along with others and understand that a company needs to make money in order for an employee to continue to get paid. CTE programs produce exactly that.

About the Expert

Al Larson is an Executive Director at Maricopa Skill Center.


  1. ACTE, Issue Brief, https://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/Assets_and_Documents/Global/files/Publications/Transitions.pdf
  2. Arizona Department of Education, Career and Technical Education, http://www.azed.gov/career-technical-education/
  3. Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, https://cew.georgetown.edu/report/recovery-job-growth-and-education-requirements-through-2020/
  4. Interview with Al Larson, 9/25/2015
  5. National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.com/ipeds
  6. National Skills Coalition, Arizona, http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/middle-skill-fact-sheets-2014/NSC-Minnesota-MiddleSkillFS-2014.pdf
  7. Projections Central, Arizona, http://www.projectionscentral.com
  8. Arizona Department of Employment and Population Statistics, Arizona Labor Statistics, https://laborstats.az.gov/employment-forecasts
Vocational Schools in Arizona
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