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Illinois Vocational and Technical Schools

Illinois has long been a driving force in innovation and modern change. It is the home of the first skyscraper (built in 1885 in Chicago), the first open heart surgery, and the world's first all-color television station. And the positive changes keep coming. In February 2015, Illinois lawmakers proposed a minimum wage of $11 per hour; the state is already home to the highest minimum wage in the Midwest, offering employees $8.25 per hour.

Illinois has a cost of living that is slightly below the national average, especially in the areas of groceries and housing. The state also ranks better than the national average in terms of education, where 87.3% earned a high school diploma or higher (as compared to the national average of 86%), 67.5% own their own homes (as opposed to 65%), and 14.1% are below the poverty level (as opposed to 15.4% nationwide).

When it comes to education, Illinois is home to numerous renowned colleges and universities, private schools, and a multitude of other educational institutions. The state is served by 12 four-year public institutions and a whopping 48 public two-year institutions; keep in mind that these numbers do not include private college, vocational and technical schools, or online schools that offer courses in Illinois.

Vocational trends and opportunities in Illinois

Illinois technical schools are poised to help students move directly into the workforce upon graduation. Those who earn an associate degree might stay in school for two years, sometimes less, especially if they opt to take some courses online. In 2010, the following were the most popular associate degrees awarded in Illinois, according to the National Center for Education Statistics:

  1. Business management: 7,175
  2. Health sciences: 5,866
  3. Interdisciplinary studies: 5,056
  4. Consumer services: 1,482
  5. Manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation: 1,378

In addition, 12,261 students chose to pursue the general studies or liberal arts associate degree. Most students turn to this field as a stepping stone to the bachelor's degree at a four-year institution.

Those who chose to earn their certificate or diploma are often ready to move into the workforce within a year or less. The following were the most common fields chosen by students in 2010 in Illinois, according to the NCES:

  1. Health sciences: 24,401
  2. Manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation: 9,578
  3. Consumer services: 7,258
  4. Business management: 1,906
  5. Protective services: 1,353

According to the Leaders & Laggards Report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, those who opt for a two-year degree might see much better pay over the long haul, as well as better job security. Those who earned the associate degree made 27% more per year than a high school graduate without a degree, and saw an unemployment rate about four points lower. Students who graduate from Illinois vocational schools are poised to begin making that better money immediately, as they usually graduate with the skills necessary to move right into the workforce and start making headway on their new career.

Careers for graduates of Illinois trade schools

Some industries are perfectly suited for graduates of Illinois technical schools, and the demand for workers is expected to grow fast between 2012 and 2022. Some of the top industry performers include healthcare and social assistance, employment services and computer systems design.

In keeping with the very high rate of graduates in health sciences and the demand for new workers in the industry, several of the jobs expected to see the highest growth in the state are in healthcare. According to Projections Central, the following jobs look to be most promising for graduates of Illinois vocational schools; all salary information is courtesy of the Illinois Department of Economic Security.


Projected Growth in Illinois (2012 to 2022)

Mean Annual Wage in Illinois (2014)

Home health aides



Skincare specialists



Occupational therapy assistants



Physical therapist assistants



Massage therapists



Diagnostic medical sonographers



Medical equipment repairers



Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Other jobs that are hot include mechanical insulation workers, machine tool programmers, helpers of brickmasons and stone setters, riggers, medical equipment repairers, welders, and other positions that are necessary to keep heavy industry, construction and manufacturing moving. Illinois technical schools are ready to help graduates make the most of these promising opportunities and more.

Expert advice on vocational education in Illinois with John Dewar

To gain further insights into the expectations of the labor market in the Midwest, we spoke to John Dewar, engineering recruiter for the Messina Group, about the important points surrounding vocational education and employment in the Illinois area and beyond.

How do employers view vocational education, as opposed to a four-year degree?

Depends on the school -- respected educators like DeVry offer vocational/technical programs that are highly sought after. Students should research a school's reputation with major employers before considering.

What should students look for in a vocational program?

As above, it's all about the reputation of the school. Look for institutions with strong career centers and publicly advertised recommendations from major employers within the areas of study that they cover.

Which industries in Illinois are suited for graduates of technical schools?

Hands-on electronics and hands-on manufacturing are very well suited. Good schools offer affordable programs, with curricula specifically intended to provide the nearest equivalent to on the job training as is possible.

What degrees or certifications are in high demand in Illinois?

  • BSEET [Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology]
  • Associates in Manufacturing Engineering Technology
  • Industrial Technologist type programs

Do you have any advice for new students?

Be diligent in researching quality schools/programs - use the career centers to their fullest and be flexible!

About the Expert

John Dewar is a Senior Recruiter at the Messina Group. He earned a degree in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Human Resources) from the Valparaiso University.


  1. 10 Chicago Firsts: Famous Inventions, Wolfstad.com, January 24, 2009, http://www.wolfstad.com/2009/01/10-chicago-firsts-famous-inventions/
  2. Career/Technical Education (CTE) Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/index.asp?LEVEL=COLLEGE
  3. Cost of Living in Illinois, Sperling's Best Places, http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/illinois
  4. Illinois, Leaders and Laggards, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reportcard/illinois/
  5. Illinois Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  6. Illinois Quick Facts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17000.html
  7. "Illinois Senate Passes Bill to Raise Minimum Wage to $11," Progress Illinois, February 5, 2015, http://progressillinois.com/news/content/2015/02/05/illinois-senate-passes-bill-raise-hourly-minimum-wage-11
  8. Interview with John Dewar of Messina Group, August 19, 2015
  9. Occupational Wages, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Wage Data: 2014 Annual, http://www.ides.illinois.gov/LMI/Occupational%20Employment%20Statistics%20OES%20Wage%20Inform/statewide2014.PDF
  10. State of Illinois Industry Employment Projections (Long-Term), 2012 to 2022, Illinois Department of Employment Security, http://www.ides.illinois.gov/LMI/Employment%20Projections%20EDR/IL1222LTInd.pdf
Vocational Schools in Illinois
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