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North Carolina Vocational and Technical Schools

In the state of North Carolina, higher education is a key economic driver. More than ever, local and regional businesses are relying on North Carolina technical schools to produce skilled employees that can help them grow.

According to the Economic Development Partnership or North Carolina, key industries in the state currently include aerospace and aviation, defense, automotive, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, green and sustainable energy, financial services, and software and information technology. As you'll notice, many of these industries are vocational in nature, which means they require rigorous training from the state's community colleges, trade schools, and technical schools.

In fact, a recent study from North Carolina State University revealed that state job growth mirrors trends that are taking place on a national level -- low-wage, unskilled labor is being replaced with larger growth in industries requiring advanced training and technical skill. According to the study, the industries expected to see the largest surge in employment in North Carolina through 2020 include:

Educational trends and opportunities in North Carolina

Students who choose to pursue technical education in North Carolina will have a wide range of options to choose from. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 210 institutions of higher education call the state home. Included in that figure are 76 schools that offer bachelor's programs, 104 schools that offer associate degree programs, and 133 schools that offer certificates.

When it comes to the future of employment in the state, many industries that require skilled workers are expected to see exceptional growth. The following figures from the North Carolina Department of Commerce show how some vocational industries are expected to grow from 2012 to 2022:


2012 Employment Estimate

2022 Employment Estimate

Net Change





Health Care and Social Assistance




Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services




Accommodation and Food Services




Transportation and Warehousing




Within these industries, employment in certain careers is expected to surpass others. Jobs data from North Carolina shows the most viable careers for each level of vocational education:

Technical degree:

  • Registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses
  • Nursing aides and orderlies
  • Preschool teachers
  • Medical secretaries
  • Cosmetologists

High school diploma, on-the-job training, apprenticeship:

  • Construction & extraction managers
  • Office & administrative managers
  • Carpenters
  • Retail sales managers
  • Electricians

Employment outlook for graduates of North Carolina trade schools

According to government sources and figures, careers in industries like health care, construction, and the skilled trades are expected to surge in the coming years. The following chart illustrates some of the technical jobs in North Carolina with the biggest potential based on educational attainment:

Careers that require an associate degree:


Projected Growth from 2012 to 2022

Mean Annual Wage in North Carolina (2014)

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians



Dental Hygienists



Respiratory Therapists



Registered Nurses

20.4 %


Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians



Careers that require a postsecondary non-degree award:


Projected Growth from 2012 to 2022

Mean Annual Wage in North Carolina (2014)

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses



Surgical Technologists






Nursing Assistants






Expert advice on vocational education in North Carolina with Paul Dillon

As you can see, the opportunities for those with vocational and technical education are nearly endless. Whether you want to work in health care, begin a career in construction, or learn a skilled trade, North Carolina vocational schools have plenty to offer. To learn more about vocational education in the state, we sat down with Paul Dillon, Veteran employment and vocational education expert from Dillon Consulting.

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

Dillon: "Vocational" education is an older term -- "career and technical education" is more contemporary. The majority of employment positions -- about 65% -- fall in the area of career and technical education. [For comparison, about 20% require a four-year college degree and the other 15% require high school or less.] That is, they require some specific training beyond a high school diploma, such as a certificate program, associate's degree program, or apprenticeship program that may be provided by a community college or a technical college. Employers see career and technical education as great preparation for these "skilled" positions. Major components of career and technical programs include career skills, workplace skills, leadership, and teamwork, so students are leaving these programs ready to succeed in the workplace. In many ways, students coming out of career and technical education programs are better prepared for entry in the workforce than graduates of four-year degree programs, since job shadowing and internships are an integral part of the career and technical education experience.

What are the benefits or drawbacks to technical training or trade school?

Dillon: The primary benefit is the attainment of skills that provide an opportunity to earn a decent salary. As the baby boomers continue to retire over the next ten years, many "technical" jobs -- such auto repair, welding, plumbing, and HVAC technicians -- will experience large employment shortages -- there simply aren't enough people being trained to replace those that are leaving. Significant employment opportunities in the health / medical sector over the coming years will provide opportunities for thousands of new nurses, medical technicians, and billing clerks, etc.

What should students look for when considering a program?

Dillon: Investigate the schools or other training options in the desired field. Visit the school -- take a tour and speak with a teacher or representative. Ask about job placement, and ask for names of companies that have hired the students upon completion. Then contact the companies and ask them which school has the best graduates. Give extra weight if the businesses seem to prefer a school. Also, pay attention to the cost of the program.

Which industries are best suited for vocational education, for North Carolina specifically?

Dillon: Nearly all industries include a large number of "skilled" workers. The latest round of reform in career and technical education focused on career pathways -- a sequence of learning from high school through postsecondary education (four-year degree, associate's degree, or professional certification). As schools developed these career pathways, a major focus was aligning these pathways with the expected needs of industry. Thus, most states aligned their programs to meet their specific needs.

What role does your specific industry play in the community?

Dillon: The work that I am doing involves providing support services for veterans who want to start their own businesses. Many veterans would benefit from career and technical education. Just to cite an example, the "Helmets to Hardhats" program connects National Guard reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military service members with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry. Since many of programs of this type are approved at both the federal and state levels, veterans might be able to use their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while they learn valuable skills and job training. And, once they get enough experience, some veterans might want to start their own businesses.

About the Expert

Paul Dillon is a veteran employment and vocational education expert from Dillon Consulting.


  1. A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#north-carolina
  2. Expert Interview with Paul Dillon, Dillon Consulting, http://www.dillonconsult.com/ (headshot on page) paul@pauldillon.com
  3. Key Industries in North Carolina Overview, Thrive North Carolina, http://www.thrivenc.com/keyindustries/overview
  4. Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  5. May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, North Carolina, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nc.htm#47-0000
  6. National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.gov
  7. North Carolina Department of Commerce, http://www.nccommerce.com/lead/research-publications/the-lead-feed/artmid/11056/articleid/98/nc-industry-projections-for-2012%E2%80%932022-look-to-services-for-growth
  8. Predicting North Carolina's Job Market in 2020, North Carolina State University, http://iei.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/JobMarket.pdf
  9. State and County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/37000.html
Vocational Schools in North Carolina
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