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, and a wide list of booming industries to choose from when building a strong career.
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 the best option for those who want to enter the workforce in the Sunshine State.
Vocational trends and opportunities in Florida
Aspiring students in Florida can choose from 79 two-year institutions in the state, and many are already taking advantage. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that 79,644 students received an associate degree from 2009 to 2011; that's almost on a par with the bachelor's degree awards, which numbered 83,471 during that same period.
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. In fact, the cost of completion for students pursuing education at Florida two-year schools is among the top five most affordable of all states in the nation.
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 were the most popular among graduates in 2010:
- Health sciences: 41,535
- Consumer services: 11,569
- Manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation: 9,766
- Protective services: 7,250
- Engineering, architecture, science technology: 3,351
Those who chose to pursue their associate degree from Florida vocational schools or community colleges chose the following programs in 2010:
- Liberal or general studies: 51,094
- Health sciences: 13,303
- Business management: 3,013
- Protective services: 2,166
- Consumer services: 2,157
The numbers make sense, considering that one of the largest employment fields in Florida is healthcare. 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 healthcare 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.
- 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/