Online Vocational Training
President Barack Obama set a goal that by 2020, the U.S. will once again lead the world in post-secondary education. To meet this goal, community colleges, trade schools and vocational schools will need to play an important role in educating U.S. citizens.
In today's skills-based labor market, research shows that the targeted skills gained through associate degree programs and certificates can result in excellent job prospects and, in some cases, higher pay than those learned through four-year degrees. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by 2018, there will be a shortage of 3 million degree holders in the workforce. They also estimate a need for at least 4.7 million new workers with post-secondary certificates.
Vocational schools offer associate degree and certificate programs ranging in length from a few months to two years. Fields of study at vocational schools can vary from trades such as plumbing, HVAC or construction to technology-focused programs in computer support or computer networking. Students can also attend vocational school to study cosmetology, massage therapy or other specialties in the personal care industry.
Certificate programs at vocational schools offer career training that focuses specifically on a particular skill or industry. According to a 2010 report by Complete College America, certificates are "practical and often underutilized credentials that can provide graduates with an appealing combination of rapid postsecondary achievement and portable skills and knowledge. Certificates can position graduates for immediate workforce success, while establishing solid foundations for future academic achievement."
The report, Certificates Count, found that the 750,000 certificates awarded in 2007-2008--a number they hope to double by 2015 and again by 2020--were distributed as follows:
- Health care (43.3 percent)
- Personal and culinary (12.7 percent)
- Mechanical (8.9 percent)
- Business (7.9 percent)
- Security (3.4 percent)
- Transport (2.5 percent)
- Construction (2.3 percent)
- Engineering tech (2.1 percent)
- All other (17 percent)
Vocational schools also offer associate degree programs. Unlike certificate programs, associate degree programs include general education requirements as well as career-specific courses. Associate degree programs generally take two years to complete, and those offered at vocational schools have an applied or occupational focus.
Because vocational training emphasizes skills that can be applied directly to the workplace, many vocational training programs are hands-on in nature. Online vocational schools may require students to complete laboratory requirements at a nearby college campus or provide internship opportunities so students can get the practical experience they need to be successful in the job market.
Students in beauty and cosmetology programs may work at student-run salons at nearby schools or do an internship at a nearby barbershop, while students in plumbing, welding or HVAC programs may apprentice with local tradesman to gain on-the-job experience and networking connections.
Online vocational training schools may also make use of instructional videos and laboratory kits to help students hone practical skills at home.
Careers and wages for vocational school graduates
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many careers that students train for at vocational schools have a promising job outlook and salary figures to match. The following careers generally require a certificate or associate degree (listed along with 2009 mean annual wages and 2008-2018 job outlook from the BLS):
- Plumbers: $49,870, 16 percent job growth
- Electricians: $50,850, 12 percent job growth
- HVAC: $43,670, 28 percent job growth
- Cosmetologists: $27,070 20 percent job growth
Vocational schools offer programs designed to help students finish school quickly and begin working. These entry-level degrees allow workers to begin gaining industry experience and building a resume without spending years in the classroom. After gaining some work experience, students may choose to go back to school to earn a bachelor's degree or higher and move into management or supervisory positions. For example, while a certificate or associate degree is sufficient for many professions within the construction filed, most constructions managers hold a bachelor's degree in their field. However, the importance of practical knowledge and on-the-job experience in many vocational fields means training from vocational schools is often the best way to get started.
- Vocational schools offer certificates and associate degrees. In 2008, over 43 percent of all certificates awarded were in the field of health care.
- By 2018, 4.7 million new workers with certificates will be needed.
- Graduates of vocational training program can earn approximately $50,000 a year in fields such as construction, plumbing or HVAC.
Online Degree Programs in Vocational
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- Auto Mechanics
- Heating and Air Conditioning
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