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Before deciding what vocational school is right for you, make some decisions about the career you want and the good educational path to take you there.

Which Vocational Program Is Right For You?

Is everyone cut out for a four-year college or university education? "No," says Dennis Redovich, retired director of the Center for the Study of Jobs & Education in Wisconsin. He suggests that people take a closer look at vocational schools, saying that if there were "more programs that prepared students for jobs in the real world they are entering, they might find school to be more relevant to their futures."

Redovich was talking about recent high school graduates, but many adult learners also need job training, and a vocational school is a great place to get this. Many of these adults want to change careers or are unemployed and need to retrain to quickly find employment. Others are retirees interested in a second career opportunity. All of these people are perfect candidates for a vocational education, but how do you decide which vocational school program is right for you?

What are your career goals?

Are you looking for your first career, a new career, a second career or do you need to retrain because of unemployment? Do you need to enter the workforce quickly or can you afford to take some time? Are you looking for extra income or do you need a decent wage as soon as possible to support your family? Are you pursuing a passion: something you've always wanted to do but didn't have the time for until now? Each of these reasons can guide you to a different type of career and vocational program. Make sure to have a clear idea of your career goals.

What are your interests and aptitudes?

You might not want to make a decision about the rest of your life based solely on what you think might be an interesting career. What are you good at? What are you interested in? Take one or more online career assessment tests to help you define what career might be a good fit for you. Not everyone is a people person and not everyone is good with his or her hands.

What are the prospects for your career?

Look at the average wage or compensation in your area for the field you plan to enter. Can you live on it? Is there a solid job market for this career where you live? If not, are you prepared to move for a job? You might want to talk honestly with someone already working in the career to find out the pros and cons, what the job market is like, and what educational path might be the best to take.

How much vocational education do you realistically need to succeed?

Once you've decided on your career path, how much vocational education do you really need? Vocational schools have a variety of programs:

  • Diploma
  • Certificate
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree

Talk with employers in your field and find out if a diploma or certificate is sufficient or whether you will have better career and job prospects if you continue on and earn a degree. Will you study on campus or online? Some careers require an apprenticeship, externship or hands-on training in addition to time in the classroom. If you plan to enroll online for your educational program, how will you manage any in-person requirement?

What are the next steps?

You can see that there are many decisions to make before you can even begin comparing different vocational programs and schools. Once you have defined the careers you have an aptitude for and interest in, and talked with professionals and researched your career choice, you're ready to make an informed decision about your goals and the right educational path to meet them.

Vocational & Technical Schools by State

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