How to choose a vocational school


Now is the time of year where many young people are contemplating what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Should I go to college? Should I just get a job? There are a plethora of scenarios.

The key to success lies in having some goals in mind. For people who choose not to or are unable to go to college, there are many opportunities to earn a living by learning a trade. Back in the day, job training was a fundamental part of high school.

Thinking about vocational school? Here’s what to know

Vocational schools are a viable option for people interested in relatively short programs that prepare graduates for the real world. As opposed to a four-year curriculum for colleges, vocational and correspondence schools offer programs as short as nine to 12 months.

Despite the awesome opportunity these schools present for people looking to learn new and updated skills and get into the workforce quickly, there are some pitfalls to be aware of.

RELATED: 17 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree

“While many of these schools are reputable and teach the skills necessary to get a good job, others may not be,” the Federal Trade Commission warns on its website. “They may promise more than they can deliver to increase enrollment — and their bottom line.”

Here are 4 things you need to be wary of when considering a vocational school:

  • Salary potential of certain jobs: Vocational schools love to tout how much money prospective students can make. And yes, they can make nice money. But oftentimes it takes years of experience, good fortune and more. Research any field that you desire to go into. That way, you’ll have realistic expectations about pay.
  • The availability of jobs: Yes, trade schools as well as companies often overstate the number of jobs in the market. Although the U.S. is experiencing a labor shortage right now, do your homework and talk to real-life professionals in the field.
  • The staff’s qualifications: Don’t be fooled about how many years of experience the school’s staff purportedly has. These programs have a vested interest in buffing up their employees’ resume (ironic, isn’t it?) so that they can appear to be more knowledgeable and job-savvy than they really are. Again, do your homework. Google the instructors. Find them on LinkedIn and verify their credentials.
  • Their connections to businesses and industries: Many institutions boast about their vast networks you can tap into upon graduation. But you should be able to verify some of these claims before you sign up. Ask about alumni and other former students they can put you in touch with who have gone on to success.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, there are some other things to consider.

Here’s Clark’s advice on choosing a technical school

Money expert Clark Howard says when choosing a vocational school, the #1 thing is to make sure it’s accredited. “You can see a checklist at the Department of Education website,” he says.

He also says a practical way to approach the matter of tuition is to ask yourself this: “Is the cost of the program more than what you’re going to make in your first year on the job?”

“There are so many ways for you to get the skills necessary for you to get a great job without going to college,” Clark says. “All across the country there are wonderful state-supported technical schools … that will help you connect to jobs that are in much demand with great starting pay and great potential for career advancement.”


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