5 things to consider when choosing a vocational education program
Once you've researched the career path that you want to take, it's time to look at the programs offered by different vocational schools and make a choice. But how do you go about it? Asking yourself the following questions may help you compare your options before you sign on the dotted line.
1. What Vocational Education Do You Realistically Need to Be Successful in Your Chosen Career?
Do you need a certificate or diploma? Or would it be better to have an associate or bachelor's degree? You need to determine exactly what level of education is best for the career you want to pursue. You may also opt for obtaining a certificate now so that you can start working as soon as possible, leaving open the possibility of returning to school later to earn a degree for advancement in your career.
Visit a local career center and talk with counselors who are knowledgeable about the level of education currently being required by employers in your chosen career and in the area where you live. Some careers may only require a certificate, but your employment opportunities might increase significantly if you have at least an associate degree.
2. Is the Vocational School Accredited?
All schools that you're considering should be accredited. Accreditation is a process that ensures the school's overall quality of education, and attending a school that is not accredited could result in some of these problems:
- Employers may not accept the school's degrees or other educational credentials.
- Accredited schools generally don't accept transfer credits from unaccredited schools.
- You are not eligible for federal financial aid.
Don't be afraid to ask vocational schools if they are accredited and the name and phone number of their accrediting body.
3. Are the Vocational School Classes Convenient?
Many students have to work or take care of family obligations while they attend vocational school. Will you be taking classes online or on campus? Are you only able to take night and weekend classes? Does your vocational education program place you in an internship or externship if it's required by your career? You might also want to find out if the school offers a hybrid or blended program where you can take online and campus classes.
4. What Are the Vocational School's Placement Statistics?
Placement statistics are data collected by the school about its graduates: how many students find employment in a field related to their education after graduating, how long it took them to get a job plus salary information. Ask each school about their placement statistics for the program you're interested in. Did the school help students find their jobs? Does the vocational school work with employers in the community to place its students? You want to know if the school is doing its job.
5. What is the Best Program and Vocational School for You?
Now that you have decided on a certificate or degree and have a list of vocational schools that meet the criteria above, you should also look at:
- Cost: Look at what the vocational school offers versus what it costs. The most expensive may not be the best and the cheapest may not be the worst.
- Financial aid: Do you need it and does the school offer it?
- Complaints: Check with the Better Business Bureau to see whether complaints have been filed or legal action taken.
- Transferable credits: Make sure that if you decide to change schools or go on for a higher degree that your credits are transferable.
Compare Vocational Schools
Compare your top vocational schools using the items mentioned above, and some clear winners should become apparent. The more research you do and the more information you have, the better choice you can make about your vocational education.