Postsecondary education – whether from a college, university, or career-specific school – is becoming the norm. In fact, the Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that, by 2020, 65 percent of all occupations will require postsecondary training and education beyond high school.
In almost every field already, we see preference towards candidates who possess a college education, or formal training and experience to some extent. These indicate that an applicant is committed to the field, and has come prepared with the right skillsets and credentials.
If you are looking to break into the modern workforce, but need to prepare or fulfill certain prerequisites, you may be considering your options. Should you pursue specialized training, a formal college education, or take an alternative route? Is a technical school an option for you, and does it have the chops to get you into your dream career? Let’s start with the basics.
What are Technical Schools?
Technical schools are postsecondary institutions that provide practical, specialized training in a specific trade or profession. For this reason, they are often called “trade” or “vocational schools.” Students gain hands-on training in dedicated fields of study, helping them prepare for their future career. Technical schools award students with diplomas or certificates, therefore taking less than two years to complete.
Generally speaking, technical schools are designed for those who know what they want to do for a career. Students enroll in their chosen program and take very specific classes to prepare for their field of choice. Unlike most colleges and universities, technical schools do not require students to complete general education courses like English, math, or science. Rather, they emphasize hands-on training to build the skills needed for a very specific trade or career. Typically, technical schools also offer an internship opportunity for students, to help them gain real experience in a relevant work setting.
Due to the fast and focused pace of technical schools, training programs are usually limited to fields that are skills-based and – while they require training and preparation – do not require a formal college degree. These include career paths such as:
- Auto Mechanics
- HVAC Technology
- Electrical Installation and Maintenance
- Welding or Plumbing
- Culinary Arts
- Computer Technology
- Healthcare Support
- Floral Design
- Office Administration
- HVAC technology
- Carpentry or Construction
- Graphic Design
- Visual Arts
- Hospitality/Hotel and Restaurant Management
Now, it is important to keep in mind that there are also technical high schools, which are different than technical schools. Technical high schools provide training for specific career fields as well; however, they also cover general high school courses in math, science, reading, social studies, and more. Students of these schools graduate with a high school diploma, and can either jump into an entry-level position or go on to a technical or career-focused college to further hone their skills. Technical high schools usually prepare students for vocational subjects such as auto repair, welding, masonry, and electronics.
Is a Technical School Right for Me?
There are several reasons a person might choose a technical school over a traditional college education. They might know exactly what they want to do for a living, but need a launching point to get started, or a diploma/certification to qualify for the job. Technical schools are also an option for adults who are looking to re-enter the workforce or switch careers, and need to build certain skillsets first.
Deciding whether a technical school is right for you requires great thought. Consider your professional goals, and how far you wish to go in your career. Does your dream career require a college degree, to enter the field or to advance within it? If so, you might consider alternative options like a career-focused college. Does it require a general education, or would courses like Communication, Advanced Writing, and Computer Literacy allow you to excel? Courses that are “off-track” from your career focus may not be offered at a technical school, so it’s important to keep this in mind.
Finally, you should consider the amount of time you can commit to a postsecondary education. If you wish to get into the workforce fast, and only need specific training to do so, a technical school may be right for you.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Technical School?
In considering a technical school, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. The obvious advantage of a technical school is that it can get you into a career relatively fast – most students complete their training within one or two years. Some technical schools have even shorter certificate programs, that can be completed in just a matter of weeks.
While fast-track programs are a benefit of technical schools, students can find accelerated training programs in certain colleges, as well. At Goodwin College, for example, many of our career-focused degree programs are offered in an accelerated, 7.5-week format (vs. the standard 15 weeks), and can be completed in just a matter of months. Our certificate programs are even faster. You can click here to learn more about our flexible degree programs.
In terms of cons, people often steer away from technical schools due to their limited program and course offerings. Frankly, students are limited to a narrow list of career paths. And once you choose a program, there is little room to try out other fields of study – Whereas with a college, you can take classes in outside majors, or pivot program to program if you decide one is not for you.
In addition, technical schools offer little room for growth. The academic credits earned in a technical school typically will not transfer over to other colleges or academic programs. So, if there is a chance you want to further your education and earn a degree in the future, keep in mind you may need to repeat some coursework along the way.
What are my Other Options?
If you are not sold on a trade or technical school – but are also not sold on a traditional college education – you may be able to find a balance. Career-focused colleges, like Goodwin College in Connecticut, have similar goals to technical schools in that they want to fully prepare students for successful careers. Their curriculum involves hands-on training that is tailored towards in-demand careers like accounting, nursing, criminal justice, manufacturing, occupational therapy, and more.
For example, in Goodwin’s manufacturing training, students learn directly on cutting-edge CNC machines that are used in the industry today. In our vision care program, students help fit real people for glasses and contact lenses in our state-of-the-art laboratory. In the dental hygiene school, students work in our on-campus dental facility, helping real patients with their oral health. This is just the start.
However, unlike technical schools, these colleges go beyond the limitations of career-specific training. In addition to skills training and specialized courses, career-focused colleges also offer students the ability to explore various subjects as part of their education. Through general education courses (which are applicable to any career), students learn how to communicate effectively, think critically, solve problems in the workplace, and analyze both situations and data.
Career-focused colleges also offer different levels of education. Yes, you will find certificate programs that are just one semester long, or a year’s time. However, you will also find associate degree programs that can be completed in two years or less. Even more, you will find flexible bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, should you ever wish to advance your education or qualify for advanced positions. You will also find a variety of internship opportunities in organizations across the state, as well as lifetime job placement and career services, to help you find success.
Your career is calling. To learn more about the career-focused training programs at Goodwin College, do not hesitate to call 800-889-3282 today.
Goodwin College is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin College was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.