It is a common myth that for Americans to have a successful career that they must attend a four-year college or university after they get a high school diploma.
However, many job positions and fields that offer a prosperous career track do not require a four-year degree. You just need to know where to look.
Career paths such as those that include construction, culinary arts, mechanical engineering, and other trades are the result of programs offered at technical or career schools. These schools specialize in programs that do not require an undergraduate or graduate degree. Typically, these education institutes cost less than traditional four-year colleges, but they provide specific job training and networking opportunities in the field that you choose.
Whether you are looking to start a new career or further your skills, you may want to consider enrolling in a career or technical school. Career schools, often called trade or vocational schools, offer an array of educational and training programs aimed at specific job skills, that can help you get the experience you need to make the income that you deserve.
What are the types of career and technical education programs?
There are two basic types of career institutions: technical and vocational schools. Technical schools aim at providing traditional education programs which include a classroom setting, while vocational schools focus on learning training methods. Both of these schools award its graduates with an Associate of Science degree and prepares them for any appropriate licensing exams.
Typically, career programs at technical and vocational schools fall under one of the following three categories:
- Consumer and homemaking education: Although no longer as common, these programs are available at the high school level and teach topics such as life management skills, consumer education, and child growth and development.
- General labor market preparation: These programs offer career preparation through apprenticeships and training programs. Courses in these programs include introductory industrial skills, computer proficiency, and general labor skills.
- Specific labor market preparation: These programs prepare its students to enter a career with particular skills and certification. Most vocational or trade school programs fall into this category, such as business, agriculture, and industrial trade preparation.
Career and Technical Education versus Traditional College
If you are thinking about going back to school or enrolling for the first time, you may be wondering if you should take part in a technical education program or enroll in a traditional college. It is common to hear that if you attend a four-year college or university that the high costs of your education will be worth the investment since employees with a college degree tend to have a higher average salary.
However, as tuition costs for formal colleges and universities continue to soar, and stagnant wages and job markets increase, the payoff of a formal degree does not have the same allure that it used to have.
So, when should you enroll in a career education program or a traditional college? If you want to follow a career path of a teacher, doctor or lawyer, then you will need to enroll in a conventional college.
However, traditional colleges are not the only option to start a career path. Technical and vocational schools are appealing to students who wish to enter a more specialized career but who do not want to attend a traditional college.
With the growing number of jobs and trades that do not require a traditional four-year degree, more people entering the workforce receive a career and technical education that sets them up for a well-paying and fulfilling career.
The main benefit of enrolling in a trade school over a traditional college is the length of programs. While a bachelor’s degree typically requires at least four years of study at a conventional college, most trade school programs only require schooling from several months up to two years.
Participating in a shorter education program will not only reduce the price of tuition since you will be spending less time in school, but it will also get you out into the workforce sooner. Meaning, that you will be making money while your counterparts that enrolled in a traditional college are still working towards their degree.
When you enter the workforce after you complete a four-year program at a traditional college, you will most likely have little to no work experience in your field. In contrast, students who graduate from a trade school typically finish their program with the work experience that they need to gain employment right away. With low tuition prices and short program lengths, career schools are a lucrative education option.
How can you pay for your education?
Although technical and vocational schools cost less than traditional colleges or universities, paying for a career and technical education is similar to traditional education. Meaning, that if you need help paying for your education, you might be eligible for financial aid, either through the state or federal government, your school, or private organization.
Financial aid is the amount of money a student gets for tuition. It includes tuition payments, fees, textbooks, and even room and board, which you do not have to pay back. However, to be eligible for financial aid by the U.S. Department of Education, your school must accept it.
Another option to pay for your technical or vocational school is by taking out student loans. Some schools that participate in the federal aid program offer their own student loans, called Perkins loans. However, they depend on the availability of the school. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Education also offers federal loans, which include:
- Federally subsidized loans: Also known as Stafford loans, students who receive these loans are enrolled in a degree or certificate program at least part-time and demonstrate financial need. These loans have lower interest rates than standard loans and have better repayment terms.
- Federally unsubsidized loans: This loan does not have a financial need requirement, meaning that any student enrolled in a degree or certificate program can take out this loan.
- Federal PLUS loans: These loans allow parents to borrow on behalf of students, but with a higher interest rate than other federal loan programs.