Vocational Schools

Choosing a Career or Vocational School

If you’re considering a new career – or just want to improve your existing skills – a vocational school is a great idea. Vocational schools offer training students for a variety of jobs that require specialized skills, including dental or medical assistant, hair stylist, interior designer, computer technician, paralegal or truck driver. Many schools also help students find employment after they’ve finished, with counselors who specialize in job placement.

While many vocational schools are reputable – often credentialed by national educational organizations – others may not be as trustworthy. Their only goal is to sign up as many people as possible, often by making elaborate promises that they know they can’t deliver. Be wary if a vocational school promises that you’ll earn a huge salary in a given career, or guarantee employment on graduation. If they’re probably exaggerating the effectiveness of their job training programs, they’re probably also overstating the abilities of their teachers and their connections to certain businesses and industries.

Check before you sign up

It can be difficult to determine whether or not a vocational school’s on the level, but there are a few things you can do to make sure a certain school’s reputable. When you first start researching vocational schools, determine before you go much further whether you actually need need additional training to get the job you want. In many cases, you can learn the skills you need on the job – scour the employment ads and, when you find a position that interests you, call the employer to learn what kind of experience is important for those positions. You may find that you already have a number of skills that they want, and they’ll be able to teach you the rest.

Before you sign up for vocational school, take a look at your other options, like community college – it may cost much less to enroll there than to pay for vocational school. Some industries also offer apprenticeships or on-the-job training. If you do decide on vocational school, compare programs before you commit to one. Study the informational materials from different schools to learn what is required to graduate, and what you’ll get when you do – a certificate in your chosen field, perhaps, or eligibility for job placement. Check to see if the training you’ll receive is transferable, if you decide to pursue more training later – reputable schools and colleges say they won’t accept credits from the vocational school as earned credit, it may be a sign that the vocational school doesn’t have a very good reputation.

Before you sign up, find out as much as you can about the school's facilities. Ask about the types of equipment that you’ll be using , and what books, tools and supplies you’ll need to provide. Visit the school and take a look at the classrooms. If you can, talk to current students and ask them what they think of the school. Also, ask about the instructors' qualifications – good vocational schools have highly qualified instructors, often experts in their field who teach part time. Look into the success rate of the school, too – ask what percentage of students complete the program, how many find jobs after graduation, and what the starting salary is for those graduates. And, of course, find out how much it’s going to cost. Books, equipment, uniforms and lab fees should be included in the tuition, but they may not be. Then ask about financial assistance, as a reputable school will be able to hook you up with one of the many student aid programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Whether starting a new career or increasing your skills in your current field, vocational schools can offer the raining and credentials you need to further your career. Just take the time to determine that the vocational school of your choice is reputable, and you’re on your way to a better career.

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