What is a Vocational School?

Vocational school student on graduation day

Vocational schools are career-focused postsecondary educational institutions offering job skills training programs that vary in length from a few weeks to one year or more. Unlike traditional four-year colleges, vocational schools emphasize hands-on career training to prepare students to enter the workforce in less time than a traditional college or university.

Prerequisites High school diploma or G.E.D.
Popular Trade Programs Welding, HVAC/R technician, electrician, truck driver
Popular Allied Health Programs Medical assistant, dental assistant, pharmacy technician, medical biller and coder
Earned Credentials Certificate of completion or diploma

How Much Does Vocational School Cost?

The average cost to attend vocational school in the United States is around $33,000[1]. That’s not the cost of a single semester, or even a full year, but an entire education. Vocational school students can train for a new career in a fast-growing and promising field for the same price as a single year at many four-year colleges or universities.Plenty of trade school programs cost even less. For instance, occupations that require a just a few weeks or months of training may cost less than the national average mentioned above. It’s important to note that cost will vary based on the length and career path you choose. The best way to get an idea of your potential costs is to speak directly with a vocational school about the training options and programs available.

Financial Aid for Vocational School

If paying cash for your career training isn’t an option, that doesn’t mean you can’t fund your education. In fact, many of the same financing options available to university students are also available to vocational school students. Let’s take a closer look at your options.

1: Federal Student Aid

Vocational school students are eligible for the same types of federal financial aid as traditional college students. The first step toward qualifying for financial aid assistance is filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA for short[2].The application can be completed online. It’s a bit time consuming, but worth the effort. It will help you get approved for educational grants or federally subsidized student loans[3].

2: Internal and External Vocational Scholarships

Internal: Many vocational schools offer their own internal scholarships for new students. If you know which vocational school you hope to attend, be sure to check the website for scholarship opportunities that can range from a few thousand dollars to full tuition.External: There are thousands of scholarship opportunities out there available to vocational school students. Once you’ve taken advantage of internal scholarship opportunities, you can start looking for private scholarships. There are plenty of online resources that will help you find the right opportunities for your field of study.

3: Private Student Loans

If a federally-subsidized loan isn’t right for you, private student loans are available through banks, credit unions and other private financial firms.

Can You Get a Degree from a Vocational School?

Most vocational school graduates earn either a diploma or a certificate of completion in a particular field of study, although some vocational schools do offer two-year associate’s degrees[4]. While these are not the same as bachelor’s or advanced degree, they will prepare graduates to enter the workforce in a specific field and prepare them to take the necessary state-level exams to become certified.Vocational schools are also a great option for continuing education. For example, a professional welder may want to advance his or her career or improve their skill set by attending a pipefitter continuing education course.

Is a Vocational School the Same as Trade School?

The terms vocational school, trade school or technical school are for the most part interchangeable[5]. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics defines vocational schools as offering coursework and training in several career areas, including:

Of course, that’s just a small example of the many career path training programs offered by vocational schools all over the country.

What Are the Benefits of Attending Vocational School?

Vocational schools are a popular alternative to traditional college for people who have time or monetary constraints. Some people just aren’t interested in spending four years or more training for a new career. Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of vocational school.

1: Fast Path to a New Career

Vocational programs vary in length from a few weeks to around two years. This attracts students looking for career-specific training that can be completed in less time. For instance, a bachelor’s degree takes at least four years to complete. Two years is spent studying general education courses unrelated to someone’s major.On the other hand, students who choose to attend vocational school start training for their new career on day one. Someone training to become an HVAC/R technician could be ready to enter the workforce in anywhere from nine to 12 months.

2: Great Option for Working Adults or Parents

Vocational training programs offer flexibility that many traditional colleges and universities cannot provide. One example is the option for students to take day or evening classes. This is a huge game changer for adults with busy schedules who may only be able to study during evening hours.

3: More Start Dates, Year-Round Classes

Vocational schools like Delta Technical College offer classes year-round. With more start dates available, new students don’t have to wait several months to start once they’re accepted into a program.

Popular Vocational School Programs

Which programs do most students choose? There are a handful of career paths students choose based on earning potential, job growth and interest.

Allied Health Programs

Dental Assisting: Delta Tech’s nine-month dental assistant program prepares students for a career assisting dentists by providing patient care and performing other related duties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics this fast-growing field is expected to grow by 19 percent through 2026, much faster than average.

  • Educational requirements: Vocational training and state certification (where applicable)
  • Industry growth: 19% through 2026[6]
Learn more about what a dental assistant does and how to become a dental assistant.Medical Assisting: Nine months of medical assistant training at Delta Tech will help prepare graduates for entry level employment as a medical assistant. This area is increasing in popularity due to its fast growth. It’s expected to grow by 29 percent through 2026.
  • Educational requirements: Vocational training and state certification (where applicable)
  • Industry growth: 29% through 2026[7]
Get more information about what a medical assistant does.Medical Coding Specialist: Students who want to become a medical coding specialist will typically spend nine months in a medical coding training program. This field is growing at a faster than average rate.

  • Educational requirements: Vocational training
  • Industry growth: 13% through 2026[8]

Skilled and Mechanical Trade Programs

Welder: Professional welders usually train for anywhere between seven and nine months. It’s a mix of technical and hands-on welding training that helps students develop the skills to find entry-level employment.

  • Educational Requirements: Vocational training or apprenticeship
  • Industry Growth: 6% through 2026[9]
Get more information about how to become a welder.HVAC/R technician: Becoming a professional HVAC and refrigeration technician requires technical and vocational training. An HVAC training program typically takes around nine months to complete.
  • Educational Requirements: Vocational training
  • Industry Growth: 15% through 2026[10]
Truck Driver: Training to become a professional truck driver can be completed in as little as 20 weeks. Truck driver training involves learning the concepts or professional truck driving and preparing to pass a state-level CDL certification exam.
  • Educational requirements: vocational training and passage of state-level commercial driving exam.
  • Industry growth: 6% through 2026[11]
Is Vocational Training the Right Move for You?If you’re looking for an affordable and relatively fast way to learn a trade or new career skills, vocational school might just be the right option for you. Many students are looking for an alternative to conventional college for a rewarding career. You could train for a fast-growing career in less time while also taking on less student debt.

  • [1] https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-04-12/the-financial-case-for-trade-school-over-college
    [2] https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college/choosing-schools/types#career-schools
    [3] https://fafsa.ed.gov/
    [4] http://education.seattlepi.com/degrees-can-earn-trade-school-3395.html
    [5] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs/web/95024-2.asp
    [6] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm
    [7] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm
    [8] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
    [9] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm
    [10] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm
    [11] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm
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