Florida is often the destination for college students headed for spring break. But it doesn't have to be just a place for vacation -- Florida is home to numerous colleges and universities, as well as technical, vocational and career colleges that make up an impressive list of opportunities for those pursuing a degree.
Those who graduate from Florida vocational schools and choose to stay in the state can look forward to a lot of great Florida perks. The state has one of the lowest tax rates in the nation, a climate that is perfect for year-round recreational fun, an overall cost of living that is slightly lower than the national average. When it comes to income, those who graduate from Florida vocational or technical schools might enjoy a median wage that is 31 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma, as well as better unemployment numbers. These are just a few of the many good reasons why an education from Florida schools might be a good option.
Vocational education trends in Florida
Aspiring students in Florida can choose from 79 two-year institutions in the state, and many are already taking advantage. The popularity of degrees earned through Florida technical schools continues to grow, and much of that might be due to the incredible advances made in higher education in the state. According to the Leaders & Laggards Report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, two-year colleges in Florida rank far above the national average for completion rates, retention rates, and cost per completion.
Those who attend Florida technical or vocational schools tend to look toward certain degrees that promise to enhance their career prospects upon graduation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the following certificates and associate degrees tend to be popular in Florida:
- Liberal or general studies: Liberal arts is a broad category, and tends to be one of the most popular fields of study for associate degrees in Florida. If you are earning a degree from a liberal arts school in Florida, you may study English, writing, literature, film, humanities and more. A liberal arts or English degree could be a good choice for students who don't know what specific trade they want to get into, but still want to earn a degree.
- Health sciences: Health care is usually the most popular choice for students who are earning postsecondary certifications, and it is also a popular choice for associate degrees. There is a lot of growth in the health care sector, and most of these jobs require some kind of degree or certification. Students may consider an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) as a great way to enter the field, but some other health care jobs that require specialized skills, such as radiology technician, may consider a certification program to help them with direct entry into a specialized field.
- Consumer services: Certificates and associate degrees in consumer services is another popular choice for Florida vocational programs. Because of its huge tourism industry, Florida has a big need for specialized services for consumers, including hairstylists, chefs, massage therapists, house cleaners, plumbers and more. Students who are interested in retail, sales or advertising may also consider this field of study. This type of certification or degree may be a great choice for those who want to start their own business in one of the many consumer services.
- Engineering, architecture, science technology: This is another field that has shown strong growth in Florida, as well as the rest of the U.S. Engineering and science technology are broad categories, and can cover everything from computer engineering to civil engineering. This type of degree would be great for anyone who's interested in math and problem-solving. While many in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field opt for a bachelor's degree or higher, there are a number of vocational options for this field, and a number of jobs that require only an associate degree for entry level employees.
One of the largest employment fields in Florida is health care. Other industries are also making waves, such as tourism, the space industry, international trade, agriculture, construction and more -- all of which have plenty of room for graduates who complete Florida technical schools with a certificate or degree.
Careers for graduates of Florida trade schools
Jobs in construction are booming in Florida right now, according to Projections Central -- jobs such as that of stonemason, iron worker, glazier, and solar panel installer are among the top ten growing jobs in the state. Some of these jobs show much higher than usual growth; for instance, helpers for carpenters are expected to grow in demand by over 90 percent.
There are numerous jobs in the health care field that are also expected to be in high demand in Florida. Here are some of those, with expected employment growth from 2012 to 2022:
- Home health aides: 52% growth (high school diploma or certificate)
- Personal care aides: 45.6% growth (high school diploma or certificate)
- Diagnostic medical sonographers: 42.6% growth (associate degree)
- Veterinary technologists and technicians: 37.6% growth (associate degree)
- Physical therapy assistants: 35.6% growth (associate degree)
- Dental hygienists: 35.5% growth (associate degree)
Students who are ready to jump right into the workforce upon graduation can benefit from earning their education at Florida technical schools. From certificates that take only a few months to earn to the two-year associate degree, vocational and technical schools in the Sunshine State are poised to help students embark on a promising new career path.
Expert advice on vocational education in Florida with David Ruggieri
Hearing from experts in the education field can always help students make important decisions on where to attend a degree program. We spoke to Mr. David Ruggieri, the CEO of Florida Technical College, to get some insight into the technical and vocational schools in the state.
How do employers view vocational or technical education, as opposed to a four-year degree?
It depends on the industry. But there are many fields, like health care and IT, for instance, in which there is always demand for workers with vocational training. Employers in these industries view vocational training favorably because they fully understand its practical value.
What should students look for when considering a vocational or technical program?
They should visit at least three schools and keep an open mind. Don't be sold on looks, fancy equipment, or a sales pitch. Pay attention to how the school plans to help you reach your goal and what resources are they going to dedicate to support you every step of the way.
Which industries in Florida seem to be best suited for graduates of technical schools?
Florida has remained at the forefront of info-tech innovation since the birth of IBM in Boca Raton. The industry strengths are diverse, and range from photonics, to mobile technologies, to communications equipment, to modeling and simulation, and beyond. Vocational school graduates can find their niche in any of these areas. Sure, the industry needs engineers, but it also needs project managers, IT technicians and many other types of workers with vocational training to support the industry's explosive growth.
How proactive has the state of Florida been in supporting technical schools?
The state of Florida recognizes that the state's economic development depends on our ability to prepare individuals for occupations that will sustain our growth. Governor Scott designated the month of February as a Career and Technical Education month to raise awareness about the many jobs available to individuals with this type of training. No doubt the state needs them.
David Ruggieri is the CEO of Florida Technical College.
Financial Aid in Florida
Financial aid is a popular choice for many students, even those who can afford to pay for college. The government sponsors a number of federal grants and awards, including the FAFSA -- Free Application for Federal Student Aid -- which is the standard application for financial aid. We recommend starting your financial aid search by filling out the FAFSA application. From there, you should be given many of suggestions for the hundreds of state scholarships and awards.
Florida, like most other states, has hundreds of financial aid programs for its residents and students who are attending Florida vocational schools. Here are a few of the options that you may come across in your search for financial aid in Florida:
- Access to Better Learning and Education (ABLE) Grant Program - This grant is for Florida residents, and specifically for students who are enrolled in Florida schools and colleges. Because it is a grant, this award does not need to be paid back.
- Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program - You must be an outstanding student to apply for this scholarship program, and most high schools should provide support for this. The program gives out three awards, and is lottery-funded.
- Florida Incentive Scholarship Program - This is a merit-based scholarship, which means that you must have received a National Merit or National Achievement Scholar award during your time in high school. You must also be a Florida resident and enrolled as a full-time student.
- Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) - This award is for Florida residents who are also planning on attending a college in Florida. You must meet the minimum GPA requirements to both qualify for the award and keep your award once you've been accepted.
- Cost of Living in Florida, Sperling's Best Places, http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/florida
- Interview with David Ruggieri, CEO of Florida Technical College, July 12, 2015
- Florida Career/Technical Education Statistics, Associate degrees and certificates, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/index.asp?LEVEL=COLLEGE
- Florida, Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
- Florida Quick Facts, State of Florida, http://www.stateofflorida.com/facts.aspx
- Florida State Report Card, Leaders & Laggards, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reportcard/florida/