Support for vocational education is increasing as the U.S. economy demands an appropriately skilled workforce. Whether you want to try a new career, are currently unemployed or want a retirement job, vocational schools can provide the tools you need to succeed.

Choosing a New Career

If you've decided to embark on a new career, it's a major but exciting step. Whether you already have a job and just need a new challenge, have been downsized and need to quickly find a new career, or have retired from one career and are ready to start a second one, vocational school may be the right choice.

According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, vocational education provides the following advantages as compared with a post-secondary academic education:

  • Classes with real-world relevance
  • Job related skills and workplace ethics
  • Second chance education
  • Programs that quickly evolve with the changing global economy

A number of studies have shown that students who can see a direct connection between what they're learning and the application of that knowledge in the real world tend to persist toward the completion of their education.

Is a bachelor's degree necessary for employment?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 23 of the 30 careers with the largest employment growth potential between 2008 and 2018 require short- to long-term education or an associate degree. Five require a bachelor's degree, and two require a professional or doctoral degree. The careers with the highest projected growth are home health aides at 50 percent, personal and home care aides at 46 percent and medical assistants at 33.9 percent, per the BLS. The most common educational path for these careers is a one-year certificate or diploma. Students wanting a career as registered nurse, projected to experience 22.2 percent growth, can work on a two-year associate degree. A vocational education could have you on the job in two years or less.

Vocational education for the real world

Many vocational schools also focus their educational programs on careers that are in high demand in their communities, or that fill the workforce needs of community employers. For example, one vocational school offers a 40-hour program for home energy and auditor education as well as a 10-week program in aerospace pre-employment, because both careers are in high demand in the region. Vocational schools also offer classes for homemakers and career counseling, computer software, skills assessment, job search techniques and a variety of other "get to work as soon as possible" programs. Vocational schools have found that incorporating student services with classwork helps students to persist in program completion. Along with educational courses and hands-on skills, vocational schools also teach good work habits such as honesty, reliability and respect for authority.

Some vocational schools tailor their services specifically to the adult learner, helping students with things like child care, transportation, online and evening classes, plus possible free tutoring and remediation. Others have 50-plus recareering programs offered for mature learners who are looking for retirement jobs or for that second dream career they've always wanted to pursue.

Support for vocational schools increasing

The December 2010 bulletin of the Association for Career and Technical Education reports that "support for CTE programs in high-demand areas is widespread, with state and federal resources being targeted toward this approach." Many states have set up vocational education programs to address on-the-job learning. For example, the state of Tennessee offers Tennessee Technology Centers that respond to the needs of employers and adult learners through a Cooperative Work Program. 

So whether you're looking for a career change, a post-unemployment career or a second or retirement career, vocational schools have much to offer in almost every industry sector. If you want or need to be in the workforce as soon as possible, a vocational education could provide exactly what you need.


Vocational & Technical Schools by State

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