What Is Vocational Training?

Vocational training is used to prepare for a certain trade or craft. Decades ago, it used to refer solely to such fields are welding and automotive service, but today it can range from hand trades to retail to tourism management. Vocational training is education only in the type of trade a person wants to pursue, forgoing traditional academics.

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Vocational training programs allow students to get ready for specific careers. Some high schools provide vocational training; at the postsecondary level, prospective students can consider standalone courses, certificate/diploma-granting programs, associate's degree programs and apprenticeships.

Vocational Training Overview

Vocational training, also known as Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Career and Technical Education (CTE), provides job-specific technical training for work in the trades. These programs generally focus on providing students with hands-on instruction, and can lead to certification, a diploma or certificate. Students may prepare for jobs such as:

  • Auto repair
  • Plumbing
  • Retail

Vocational training can also give applicants an edge in job searches, since they already have the certifiable knowledge they need to enter the field. A student can receive vocational training either in high school, a community college or at trade schools for adults.

In High School

Some vocational training is found in the form of high school CTE programs that include academic study as well as a variety of courses and work experiences designed to introduce students to a variety of trades, including:

  • Construction
  • Business
  • Health services
  • Art and design
  • Agriculture
  • Information technology

This form of education can be offered at high school campuses or separate vocational training centers. The ultimate goal of these programs is to prepare students for the job field and help them complete their high school education.

After High School

Community colleges and technical schools also offer a variety of vocational courses and programs. Within these programs, students take specific classes related to the job they're training for. These programs may also be offered in cooperative training formats, in which students work in the job they're studying for and attend classes.

Standalone Courses

For non-degree-seeking students, some schools offer single courses in a career-related area. At some schools, it may be possible to apply those credits toward a degree in the future.

Certificate/Diploma Programs

Certificate and diploma programs typically consist of a short series of job-specific courses. Unlike full degree or liberal arts programs, students may not be required to take general education courses in topics like math or English. However, such classes are sometimes prerequisites for admission. Program length varies, but certificate programs can generally be completed within six months to two years.

Associate's Degree Programs

In associate's degree programs in the trades, students usually take trade-focused courses alongside general education requirements. In total, they require two years of full-time study to finish.

Apprenticeship Programs

For some trades, apprenticeship programs are available. These can last for as many as 4 or 5 years, depending on the field. Apprentices work under the supervision of professionals in their field of interest, and they are paid for their work. They also take relevant classroom courses, so some apprenticeships result in a certificate or degree.

In summary, vocational training can prepare high school students and high school graduates for work in specific trades. Educational options include single courses, certificates, associate's degrees and apprenticeships.

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