What Is Vocational Training?

Nov 01, 2019

Vocational training is used to prepare for a certain trade or craft. Learn more about what is included in vocational training and the different ways this training is delivered at the high school and post-secondary levels.

What Is Vocational Training?

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

Decades ago, it used to refer solely to such fields as welding and automotive service, but today it can range from hand trades to retail to tourism management. There are vocational programs that focus on auto mechanics, retail skills, plumbing, along with many others. Vocational training provides education only in the type of trade a person wants to pursue, forgoing traditional academics.

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

Vocation Education 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 different types 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.

Post-Secondary Vocational 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 Vocational Training 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. Some examples of vocational programs include a Diploma in Information Technology, a Certificate in Automotive Service Technology, or a Certificate in Electrical Construction.

Associate-Level Vocational Training Programs

In associate degree programs focusing on a particular trade, 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 four or five 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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