Texas is a great place for students and young people looking to start a career. According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, a number of factors are expected to continue building a strong economy in Texas. Meanwhile, the state's housing sector is also having an uptick, with higher prices and a boom in construction growth.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the state is home to nearly 500 colleges, universities, trade and technical schools, and community colleges. Texas vocational schools offer degrees and certificates that take less than two years to complete, and many also offer two-year associate degrees that can also lead to vocational careers.
Trends at Texas Trade Schools and Vocational Programs
But contrary to popular belief, two-year degrees and postsecondary credentials aren't the "runners up" in higher education any longer. In fact, these fast-paced career training programs can often lead to promising careers. A report from CollegeMeasures.org even shows that degrees from a vocational school can lead to even better outcomes than bachelor's degrees -- at least right out of school. Here are a few important findings from the report:
- Associate degrees in technical fields paid off more than bachelor's degrees in Texas -- at least at first. On average, a year after graduation, students with two-year technical degrees reported first-year median earnings of more than $50,000, which was $11,000 more than the state's bachelor's degree holders.
- Vocational and technical associate degrees paid off more than academic degrees. According to the report, graduates with two-year technical degrees earned $30,000 more than graduates with academic-type two-year degrees.
In addition to high pay, technical and vocational students enjoy other benefits compared to students who attend traditional, four-year schools. Quick entry into the force is one of those benefits, since vocational and technical degrees and certifications often take less than two years to complete. In Texas there's been growth in energy, construction, and the tech industry, which has strengthened the state economy. The Texas Workforce Commission predicts exceptional growth in a number of industries, including some which are vocational or technical in nature:
- Construction: There are many specializations within the overall construction sector. Though the BLS reports that college education is not mandatory, it's typically a good idea to pursue some type of postsecondary education, and we suggest earning a credential in a specialization of your choosing, such as roofing, welding, glass installation, or even management.
- Education: The need for teachers is always there, and since Texas is such a large state with many big metro areas, you may find some opportunities here. Typically teachers require a four-year bachelor's degree at an entry level, but if you're interested in a shorter route, you may consider preschool teaching, which only requires an associate degree.
- Health Services: The health care industry is a popular one for vocational-type education. There are a multitude of jobs within health care that you can become educated for in two years or less, and many of these are known as "allied health" jobs. They include many helper positions such as nursing assistant, medical technician, or phlebotomist (someone who draws blood).
- Computer Technology: Another popular choice for vocational students, the tech industry is one that's really opened up to alternate types of education. While in many cases a bachelor's or even master's degree might be preferred, a number of students are getting educated through fast-track programs, like coding bootcamp, that train them in a specific field of computer programming or IT, and prepare students for quick entry into the workforce.
Career and Salary Info for Texas Trade School Grads
With technical degrees leading to exciting outcomes, it's no wonder that so many students are lining up for these programs. With industries like health care, construction, computer science, energy and transportation leading the way in job creation, a degree from technical schools in Texas could be your best investment yet. Among vocational and technical careers, however, some offer more promise than others. The following chart calls out some of the popular technical and vocational careers in Texas, with recent salary data for each.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||46880||41440|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||4070||40400|
|Construction and Building Inspectors||7280||55150|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||21810||42830|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||35300||45630|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||55020||43580|
Expert Advice on Vocational Education in Texas
To gain an insider's perspective on technical and vocational schools in Texas, and their respective degree programs, we reached out to Alicia Strieker, regional director for Manpower.
Alicia Strieker is a regional director for Manpower, an organization for employment and development opportunities.
RWM: How do employers view vocational education, as opposed to a four-year degree?
Strieker: Right now, competition for top talent is fierce, and an individual with the right skills and experience has many options. For some roles, skills and experience are more important than a four-year degree. Beyond that, some of the hardest positions to fill don't require a four-year degree. ManpowerGroup's 2015 Talent Shortage Survey found that skilled trades roles, drivers and technicians are among the top 10 hardest jobs to fill in the United States. While all require licensing, certification or training of some sort, none typically require a four-year degree.
RWM: What are the benefits or drawbacks to technical training or trade school?
Strieker: Technical training programs and trades schools are a critical component of the educational system. They prepare students for career readiness, equipping them with a skill that will help them on a career path. Students need to know that these career paths, from welder to dental technician, offer marketable skills that bring long-term employment security at a time when job security is no longer a guarantee. It's time to remove the stigma and reinvent the image of technical training and associated technical careers. On the practical side, technical and trade school programs usually take less time and money than a four-year degree. However, there is less opportunity to easily shift gears if a student determines their path of study isn't a good fit.
RWM: What should students look for when considering a program?
Strieker: In selecting training, students should look at the longevity of a program, the caliber of the instructors, cost in comparison to similar opportunities in the market, and the job placement rate among graduates. It can also be beneficial to talk with students that have previously completed the program.
RWM: Which industries are suited to vocational and technical education?
Strieker: There are opportunities across many industries. Two of the most popular are manufacturing and healthcare. There are also opportunities in the legal industry, leisure and hospitality, transportation - really almost any industry you can think of.
RWM: How does Manpower view vocational or technical education when placing workers with clients?
Strieker: Workers with vocational or technical education are a real asset for Manpower. That type of credential is appealing to our clients, and it gives the job seeker an edge over other candidates. Not only does it give evidence of a skill, it also demonstrates a person's commitment to learning and achieving goals.
RWM: Do you have any advice for someone hoping to enter the workforce through vocational or technical education?
Strieker: The advice I give to anyone choosing their career path is find the overlap of a career that interests you and a skill that is in-demand and offers long-term employment opportunities and growth.
Financial Aid in Texas
If you attend school in Texas, you'll have a huge number of opportunities to apply for financial aid. There are both federal and state funded financial aid programs, and you can typically apply to as many as you can.
The first step that most students take when applying for financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA application -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the base application for most other scholarships, and filling out the online form can typically lead you to many other scholarships, awards, grants and loans. Here are a few examples of financial aid programs in the state:
- Texas Educational Opportunity Grant Program (TEOG) - This is a need-based grant for students from low-income families, specifically for those who want to attend two-year colleges in Texas.
- Kenneth H. Ashworth Fellowship Program - This is a program specifically for Texas residents, for students attending graduate school. It is also a need-based program, meaning you must show proof of financial need.
- TEXAS (Towards EXcellence, Access and Success) Grant - This grant was created by the Texas government to reward outstanding students for their academic work. You must be a Texas resident and college student in order to apply.
- Texas Public Educational Grant - This is a grant for students with financial need, and does not need to be repaid. It is for Texas residents only.
- 2015 Texas Economic Outlook: Strong Growth to Continue, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio Branch, http://www.ttara.org/files/document/file-5447e9b0cb5a7.pdf
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- Higher Education Pays: The Initial Earnings of Graduates of Texas Public Colleges and Universities, CollegeMeasures.org, http://collegemeasures.org/post/2013/05/The-Initial-Earnings-of-Graduates-of-Texas-Public-Colleges-and-Universities.aspx
- Interview with Alicia Strieker, Regional Director of Manpower, July 8, 2015
- Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
- May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tx.htm
- Postsecondary Completers and Completions: 2011-12, Web Tables, U.S. Department of Education, March 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014033.pdf
- Projections - Industry, Texas Workforce Commission, http://www.tracer2.com/cgi/dataanalysis/indPrjReport.asp?menuchoice=indprj