While the details of a vocational education can vary depending on the field, this educational path is intended to guide students in their journey towards a specific career. Instead of completing the broad range of general education courses that are part of an associate or bachelor's degree program, students who enroll at a vocational school work to hone in on their chosen discipline and the exact set of skills it requires.
A HVAC program taken at a HVAC school is the perfect example of a vocational education. Students in such a program are working to study HVAC repair so they can enter the workforce with the skills they need to succeed. Therefore, courses that are not directly relevant to repairing heating and cooling units -- such as history or English -- are not offered in such a program. Other careers that can be found as vocational programs include cosmetology, auto engine repair, carpentry and dental hygiene.
While you can pursue many of these fields of study at a traditional community college, programs for these careers are also available at vocational schools nationwide… and, on occasion, even through online programs.
Vocational Careers with Growth?
- Auto Mechanics are relied upon to diagnose and repair common engine and motor vehicle problems for individuals and businesses. Vocational degree programs in their field generally focus on the inner workings of engines and other components of motor vehicles. Considering how many cars there are on the road and all the wear and tear they experience, this is likely to be a career that can keep a talented professional in business for quite some time.
- Cosmetologists, also known as beauticians or aestheticians, perform a wide range of tasks that help their customers enhance their beauty. During cosmetology school, some students may focus on hair care and hairstyling, while others may focus on makeup application or skincare. Not only can cosmetologists find work in a salon or spa, but they could even open one of their own if they learn both cosmetology and business basics.
- HVAC repair professionals attend vocational school so they can learn about air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration. These workers are expected to learn how each of these systems works, as well as the common repairs and maintenance required. Since many buildings in many cities have some form of HVAC systems, workers in this field often have plenty of work. This is especially true for HVAC workers who have mastered both HVAC repair and installation of new systems. HVAC technicians can work for HVAC repair businesses or start their own as well.
Why Should You Consider a Vocational College Major?
One factor that often draws prospective students to a vocational degree program is the fact that the average vocational program takes less than two years to complete. For this reason, completing a vocational program typically costs less than pursuing a four-year degree program. This may make it possible for you to "pay-as-you-go" and finish vocational school without any debt. At the very least, it can help minimize the amount of money you need to borrow for school.
Aside from the costs of higher education, there are other reasons a vocational degree can be advantageous. Spending less time in school not only saves you money on tuition costs, but it can also help you enter the workforce and start earning money faster as well. If you're between jobs or fresh out of high school and looking for work, the fact that a vocational education could cut two years (or more) off your educational timeline can be a huge deal.
Last but not least, vocational careers tend to stay relevant in the workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job outlooks for HVAC and cosmetology careers are expected to grow "much faster than average" between the years of 2016 and 2026.
What Kind of Candidates Make Good Vocational Majors?
While a vocational education isn't for everyone, these programs are usually well-suited for students who want to learn a specific set of skills and enter the workforce quickly. Because many programs in this field lead to jobs that are hands-on, vocational schools are also ideal for people who like to work with their hands and don't want to sit at a desk all day.
Skills required for most vocational careers include attention to detail, a solid work ethic, and an attitude that anything is possible if you work hard enough. Manual dexterity can also be important for some vocational careers, while customer service skills are important for vocational workers who deal with the public. Last but not least, vocational workers very often need great troubleshooting and problem-solving skills to complete their job duties for customers and employers.
- Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
- Barbers, Hairstylists, and Cosmetologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/barbers-hairstylists-and-cosmetologists.htm
- Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm