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Tennessee Vocational and Technical Schools

Those choosing an educational and career path in Tennessee need look no further than the many vocational and technical schools in the state. In addition to completing a degree or certificate program in two years or less at Tennessee technical schools, students can look forward to numerous financial incentives, such as a favorable housing market and no state income tax. Retire Tennessee reported that the state's cost of living is nearly 11 percent lower than the national average -- and that number might be even lower in rural areas.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Leaders & Laggards Report, Tennessee is home to 39 public two-year schools, not including the numerous private colleges or career schools. Those who choose to pursue a two-year degree tend to stick with it; the completion rate for students who embark on an associate degree ranks in the top ten in the nation.

When the education is complete, graduates can look forward to a better financial situation. Tennessee residents who earned their associate degree made $10,300 more per year, on average, than those who held only a high school diploma.

Vocational trends and opportunities in Tennessee

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, some certificates, diplomas and degrees stand out for those attending Tennessee technical schools. The table below indicates the most popular areas of study in Tennessee, including the number of certificates awarded in that particular field of study in 2010:

  1. Health sciences: 8,257
  2. Manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation: 4,640
  3. Consumer services: 2,849
  4. Business support: 1,135
  5. Engineering, architecture and science technology: 351
  6. Protective services: 239

Those who choose to pursue a two-year associate degree focused on the following career paths; these numbers reflect how many students were awarded the associate degree in each field in 2010:

  1. Liberal or general studies: 3,723
  2. Health sciences: 2,869
  3. Business management: 1,056
  4. Engineering, architecture and science technology: 802
  5. Computer and information sciences: 432
  6. Communications and design: 353

In addition to offering a wealth of possibilities for career paths, students can find other advantages at Tennessee technical schools. Since most students will be entering careers that require hands-on work, their classroom time will be focused on practical training. They might enjoy flexible education hours, including some online courses. They will also find that technical or vocational schools might be less costly, leading to financial advantages even before graduation.

Careers for graduates of Tennessee trade schools

Those who graduate from Tennessee vocational schools can find a wide variety of work. As more automobile manufacturers move into the state, there will be a greater need for mechanics, automotive repair workers and assembly line workers. Business Climate reports no less than 902 auto manufacturers and suppliers in the Volunteer State, all poised to hire workers fresh out of career or technical schools. Other top industries in the state include:

  • The energy sector
  • Film production
  • Health care
  • Manufacturing

The central location of Tennessee, including the major transportation hubs in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, as well as low business costs, ensure that industry will continue booming in the coming years. In fact, Tennessee was named Economic Development 'State of the Year' for the second consecutive year by Business Facilities.

The following chart shows vocational jobs with the most growth in Tennessee from 2012 to 2022, according to Projections Central.

Career

Job Growth (2012-2022)

Average Salary (2014)

Degree Required

Computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers

49.8%

$45,640

High school diploma or certificate

Paralegals and legal assistants

48.7%

$49,070

Associate degree

Skincare specialists

46.5%

$35,940

Certificate

Diagnostic medical sonographers

42%

$60,690

Associate degree

Ambulance drivers and attendants

41.6%

$21,680

High school diploma or certificate

Veterinary technologists

39.4%

$29,170

Associate degree

Helpers - brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons

39%

$26,530

High school diploma and apprenticeship

Welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters

37.2%

$34,730

High school diploma or certificate

Ophthalmic medical technicians

35.9%

$33,770

High school diploma or certificate

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 (Tennessee), and Projections Central

Expert advice on vocational education in Tennessee

Sometimes an expert in the field of vocational or technical education can provide a unique perspective. Rich Sykes, manager at Amtek Company, regularly advises vocational schools and community colleges on their 2-year programs primarily related to engineering, manufacturing, HVAC, automotive, automation/robotics, renewable energy programs and more.

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

Vocational education can be a better fit for career security and longevity because it is more specifically tailored to the job market and the needs of employers than university education. Community colleges are not held to the same state-mandated learning outcomes or course codes as universities, which means they can adapt to changes in the industry very quickly. If a new topic or trend needs to be covered within a field of study, community colleges can make that change in their curriculum within a semester or two, whereas this might take a university a few years.

Employers often work directly with the Workforce Development department of a community college to ensure the skills they desire in job candidates are covered in the college's curriculum. Graduates from these community college programs have all the skills they need to find secure, well-paying jobs.

Which industries seem to be best suited for graduates of technical schools, and why?

Any industry that is more technical based is better suited for graduates of technical schools. This includes power, manufacturing, gas and oil, and renewable energy industries.

You'll often find university programs don't cover the technical skills in these industries to the same degree as a community college. Experience at a community college is largely hands-on, so [are] graduates of technical schools, which is why employers look to community colleges to fill these more technical job openings.

What are the most popular technical degree programs for students today? What do you see as being in high demand in the future?

Reshoring has boosted the popularity of two-year degree programs in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and other similar technical related jobs. There's a huge demand lately for mechatronics and electro-mechanical programs.

Civil programs are popular and are very hands-on. Power and energy is another big one.

Health sciences may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of technical training, but health-related fields are growing in popularity. Many vocational schools have entire buildings dedicated to nursing programs.

About the Expert

Rich Sykes is the manager at Amtek Company.

Sources:

  1. Cost of Living, Retire Tennessee, http://www.retiretennessee.org/cost-of-living/
  2. Interview with Richard Sykes, Manager at Amtek Company, July 18, 2015
  3. Long Term Occupational Projections, Tennessee, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  4. State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Tennessee, May 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
  5. Tennessee Economic Development, Business Climate, http://businessclimate.com/tennessee-economic-development
  6. "Tennessee Named Economic Development 'State of the Year' for Second Consecutive Year," Tennessee Newsroom and Media Center, January 5, 2015, https://news.tn.gov/node/13385
  7. Tennessee Report Card, Leaders and Laggards, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reportcard/tennessee/
  8. Tennessee, State Level Data for Career/Technical Education (CTE) Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/index.asp?LEVEL=COLLEGE
  9. "Top 5 Industries in Tennessee: Which Parts of the Economy Are Strongest?," Newsmax, April 9, 2015, Shawndra Russell, http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/industries-in-tennessee-economy/2015/04/09/id/637560/
Vocational Schools in Tennessee
 
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