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California Vocational and Technical Schools

Policymakers, including those at the White House, argue that today's economy demands a skilled, educated and trained workforce. By the year 2020, 30 percent of all job openings will require either an associate degree or some form of college education. And in California it's no different. The numbers in California mirror the national projections for job growth, with the state projected to have 6.3 million job openings by 2022, according to State of California Employment Development Department.

Health care is projected to be the best industry if you are thinking about vocational education.

Everyone from big industries to small business owners are seeking new and innovative ways to fill the millions of jobs opening up each year. And this starts with educating the workforce. Vocational schools in California offer credentials that are less than a four-year degree, such as certifications, technical training or associate degrees. Pursuing this type of career training and education at California trade schools makes sense for two major reasons:

  1. The number of educational options available in the state.
  2. The wide array of employment opportunities in multiple industries.

Education trends and opportunities in California

Of the 6.3 million job openings in California, 76 percent require less than a bachelor's degree for employment. This may be good news if you're considering a career in health care, manufacturing or business. Many of those jobs rely on online career and technical education (CTE) for employment training, a form of instruction that focuses on industry-specific training for entry into the field. You can complete CTE training in California at a variety of educational institutions, including community colleges, career and technical schools, industry training centers, and more.

A review of 2013 graduation data for students in California revealed the most popular vocational areas of study included:

  • Health care: 68,914 degrees
  • Business: 21,898 degrees
  • Protective services and law: 15,879 degrees
  • Mechanic and repair technologies: 11,132 degrees
  • Construction: 3,591 degrees

Unlike the bachelor's degree, vocational programs are designed to be completed in as little as a few months to two years of study. In California, the associate degree was the most common educational option in 2013, followed by programs lasting one or less years (e.g. certificate and diplomas).

If you're unsure which educational or career path to follow, it may help to look at the projected career growth in California. The top 50 fastest growing jobs in California are expected to produce 700,000 new openings (3.3 million total job openings) statewide between 2012 and 2022. Interestingly, nearly half of those jobs do not require a college education. A breakdown of entry-level education requirements shows that more than 4.8 million potential career openings in the state will require less than a bachelor's degree for employment.

  • Less than high school: 2,259,200 jobs
  • High school diploma or equivalent: 1,974,100 jobs
  • Post-secondary non-degree award: 289,500 jobs
  • Associate degree: 218,100 jobs
  • Some college, no degree: 87,800 jobs

Employment outlook for graduates of California trade schools

In turn, the state of California divides employment opportunities into two categories: The fastest growing jobs (producing the most new job openings) and the largest growing (producing the most new and replacement job openings). Based on a review of these two categories, health care is projected to be the best industry if you are thinking about vocational education.

Health care occupations allow for quick entry into the workplace, requiring two or fewer years of study to graduate. If you are considering associate-level programs, medical careers dominate the list. If you need a shorter preparatory program of study, consider becoming a licensed practical nurse, surgical technologist, or nursing assistant; all three can be completed in approximately one year of full-time study.




Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians



Dental Hygienists



Veterinary Technologists and Technicians



Respiratory Therapists



Post-Secondary Non-Degree Award



Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses



Surgical Technologists



Nursing Assistants



If you're looking for the occupations with the largest number of projected job openings, health care is the industry to consider. Registered nurses, dental hygienists, nursing assistants, medical assistants, and licensed vocational nurses should see nearly 210,000 new jobs open in the state between 2012 and 2022. The table below includes a breakdown of the occupational openings by career and the minimum educational requirement for employment.


Job Openings

Degree Required

Registered Nurses


Associate degree

Dental Hygienists


Associate degree

Nursing Assistants


Post-secondary non-degree award

Medical Assistants


Post-secondary non-degree award

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses


Post-secondary non-degree award

Expert advice on vocational education in California

We wanted to know more about the role of vocational and trade schools in today's industries. Most authoritative sources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, claim that earning a degree can improve your chances at getting a job. But is a vocational degree enough? We sat down with Sean Lynch, Public Affairs Manager for the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), to get his opinion on vocational education in California.

About the Experts

Sean Lynch is the Legislative and Public Affairs Manager for the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). He earned his Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science and German from St. John's University.

Q: How do employers currently view vocational education? Are technical diplomas and/or career preparation viewed in a positive light?

A: Employers are definitely getting more involved with CTE in greater numbers as they recognize the opportunity that these programs represent for their industry. A great example of this is in IT, which is predicted to be the fastest growing career cluster by 2018. This field requires professionals who can demonstrate to their employer that they have the skills they will need on-the-job - things like industry recognized certifications and credentials. And since employers are the ones that understand their needs for those qualifications, we're seeing them come to the table in a great way to partner with educational institutions and communicate how they can do what's best for students.

Q: Do vocational degrees help graduates land jobs? Are they gaining traction in the workplace as far as career placement after graduation?

A: Absolutely, CTE degrees and credentials help graduates get into valued careers in growing fields. I think it's important for students to begin with the end in mind - to think about what career they hope to obtain, and then identify what the best path to get there is. For many of those careers, it's going to mean some form of postsecondary education - for example, by 2020 82 percent of health care careers are only going to be available to individuals who have obtained some form of postsecondary education, and a healthy portion of those are best suited to those with associate degrees or postsecondary certificates.

Q: How does the state of California view CTE? Is it a supported educational avenue in the state?

A: California is doing some really interesting things related to CTE - many institutions are implementing the Linked Learning model, which contextualizes academic and technical curricula with a real-world profession to engage students. According to the U.S. Department of Education's data from 2012-13 (the most recent numbers available), there are 1,911,694 CTE students in California, and we're excited to see how those students are preparing themselves for their future.


State of California Employment Development Department, California Employment Projections Between 2012 and 2022, http://www.calmis.ca.gov/file/occproj/cal$occnarr.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.com/ipeds

Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/

Interview with Sean Lynch, ACTE, 3/26/2015

Vocational Schools in California
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