What is a Vocational School and Is It Right for You?

Postsecondary education is a key requisite for many – if not most – industries today. To land a great job, candidates must have the knowledge, skillset, and credentials that employers are actively seeking. They must have a foundational understanding of their field as well as basic, hands-on experience within it.

Right now, you might have a solid idea of what you want to “be” or do for work. But as certain as you are about your career goals, you may still be unsure about how (and where) to start your career path.

If you are looking to break into the workforce – but need to fulfill the qualifications, first – you have a few different options: you can choose a vocational school, a technical or trade school, or a career-focused college. What is a vocational school, exactly, and what do these other alternatives entail? To help you decide the best path, Goodwin College breaks down the basics of vocational education below.

What are Vocational Schools?

Commonly referred to as trade or technical schools, vocational schools provide practical, postsecondary training for students looking to get into the workforce fast. Typically, vocational schools offer training for entry-level jobs that require special skills, or industries that do not require a bachelor’s or graduate degree, such as massage therapy. Following a higher education model, nearly all vocational schools award certificates, diplomas, and/or associate degrees.

Unlike traditional academic colleges, a vocational school is designed to prepare students for very specific occupations – Students enroll with a certain career goal in mind and follow a course schedule dedicated to that profession. Vocational education is usually not as abstract, “liberal,” or flexible as you’d find in most college institutions. Rather, it is very concrete and completely career-focused.

Who Should Go to a Vocational School?

Vocational schools are a great option for students with hyper-focused, definitive career goals – and whose dream career does not require an advanced college degree. For example, if you know you want to work in the automotive industry, but (knowing it’s a competitive field to get into) want to first get some experience under your mechanical belt, a vocational school would be a valuable next step.

Generally speaking, there are three types of individuals who may benefit from a vocational education:

  • Those who wish to enter a certain industry for the first time
  • Working adults who are looking to re-enter the workforce
  • Individuals looking to transition into a new career field, without going back to school

It is important to keep in mind that vocational schools are typically very limited in the types of programs (or career training) offered. Many vocational schools, for example, will just have one, dedicated program focus – such as a cosmetology school. Other vocational schools will comprise of a variety of training programs in unrelated, entry-level fields, such as:

  • Automotive training
  • Cosmetology
  • Culinary arts
  • Electrical installation and maintenance
  • Floral design
  • Medical transcription
  • Office administration
  • Welding or plumbing
  • HVAC technology
  • Carpentry or construction
  • TV or radio broadcasting
  • Emergency medical technician training
  • Graphic design
  • Hotel and restaurant management

What are the Pros and Cons of a Vocational School?

One of the most documented advantages of a vocational school is that it has relatively quick programs. In a vocational school, students can complete their training in just one to two years. Some institutions offer even shorter programs that can be completed in ten weeks or less. Compared with the traditional four-year college, vocational programs can be attractive for those wanting a jumpstart on their careers.

The fast-paced programs are a definite benefit of vocational schools, but it is important to note that students can find accelerated offerings at other schools, as well. For example, Goodwin College has career-centric programs (such as machining, nursing, accounting, and more) that are offered in accelerated 7.5-week formats or the standard 15-weeks. Goodwin students can also benefit from custom course schedules and a blend of on-campus and online classes. Click here to learn more about our flexible degree programs.

One of the downsides of a vocational school is the fixed course schedule it offers. Once you choose a career path, there is rarely any room to try out other things. Students in vocational schools cannot pivot from program to program or elect to take classes in another area of study. Whereas in a career-focused college that offers a range of degrees and programs, this added flexibility and room for growth is there.

Similarly, the academic credits earned in a vocational school typically do not transfer over into any further academic programs. If there’s a chance you’ll want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the future, keep in mind that you may need to repeat some coursework along the way.

What are Some Alternatives to Vocational Schools?

Career-focused education comes in a variety of forms. If a vocational school does not align with your career goals, you may consider applying to a:

Goodwin: A Career-Focused College in Connecticut

Goodwin College is a recognized, career-focused college in Connecticut. Like vocational schools, our college is dedicated to your professional success. All our programs are tailored and geared towards in-demand careers. Unlike vocational schools, however, Goodwin steps beyond the boundaries of job training alone – we also equip you with the personal skills and qualities desired by top employers today: critical thinking, problem solving, professional communication, ethics, theory, and analysis, among others. We also offer all levels of education – from the certificate-level to the master’s degree, and all that falls in between. At Goodwin College, there is always room for growth.

Goodwin offers an array of career-focused degree programs for students, including:

  • Accounting
  • Nursing
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Criminal Justice
  • Homeland Security
  • Manufacturing and CNC Machining
  • Environmental Studies
  • Medical Assisting
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Health Science
  • And more!

Within each program, students can expect formal college coursework combined with dynamic, hands-on experiences and practical career training. For example, in our manufacturing program, students learn on state-of-the-art machines and software. Our dental hygiene students benefit from a dedicated, on-site dental hygiene facility where they can work with real-life patients. Vision Care students gain on-the-job training in our advanced optical fabrication laboratory, contact lenses laboratory, and training store.

Goodwin College students can also benefit from a range of off-campus experiences. We maintain professional connections with employers throughout the state of Connecticut – linking you with many internship, volunteer, and job opportunities, as well as expanding your professional network. Unlike your typical liberal arts school, Goodwin College also offers lifetime career placement services.

Your Vocation is Calling

The Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that, by 2020, 65 percent of all occupations will require some form of postsecondary training and education. Why wait? Get started on the path towards your career today. Learn more to see why Goodwin College a leader in career-focused education in CT!