Vocational school is a type of educational institution where students receive specialized training for a specific trade or occupation. The training received from these institutions focuses on the practical application of specific skills as it prepares students for their direct transition into the workforce. Though the stigma around choosing a trade school over the more conventional four-year college is still present, trade schools remain the preference of many individuals who find that their career aspirations are best supported by specialized education programs.
Generally, trade school differs from the typical community or four-year college in terms of duration, degree, and experience.
At the end of a vocational program, which can run for a few months or up to two years, you can obtain a certificate for a skilled trade. Trade schools also have fewer requirements for the application process, alleviating the stress of having to demonstrate academic excellence like in cases of four-year college applications.
Community colleges also award certificates such as those in cosmetology and nursing, but the end goal for most students enrolled in community college is an associate degree. Most community colleges are public and are the cheapest option out of the three, but their education is liberal arts-based.
Lastly, four-year colleges, the most expensive out of the three, allow students to receive a bachelor’s degree. Most four-year schools provide a well-rounded approach to education but focus more on skills applicable in and outside of students’ career paths rather than the specifics.
“My father graduated from vocational school to become an electrician. Much of his education only focused on the skills necessary for the job, but it still allowed him to become better at his craft,” Jennifer Martinez (’20) said.
Trade school careers can range from dental hygienists and electricians to radiation therapists and even geological technicians. One of the most obvious benefits of attending a trade school is the direct connection a certificate provides to a profitable career. Graduates of trade or vocational schools have an advantage over informally trained job-seekers because an independent institution certifies that they have the skills needed to successfully perform a specific, skilled occupation. Additionally, trade schools provide an environment where they are surrounded by like-minded individuals.
It is important to consider how limitless the opportunities are, but it is just as important to consider that trade schools, just like any other institution, vary in opportunity. One might find that they favor a more traditional college experience and more career flexibility.
“I think trade school is the right choice for certain students. A four-year college can be expensive and sometimes unnecessary for kids who want to follow a different path. Most kids have a vague idea of what they would like to do while they are in college and even then, as they explore their interests, that idea is subject to change,” Future 5 Student Advocate Madeline Massari said.
The importance of trade school is rooted in the idea that education does not always have to come in the form of a four-year degree and neither does success. Many individuals can obtain feasible, high-paying jobs that are accessible to workers with an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or any other post-secondary degree. Vocational jobs provide a stable structure for a market that is moving towards more technically skilled workers. Especially in today’s world, vocational schools are significant to the development of a diverse, skilled workforce.