Trade school programs offer training in literally hundreds of different fields, and give their students the opportunity to gain first-hand work experience as they study for a professional certification or degree. Graduating from an accredited program not only sets the individual up with the skills required to immediately succeed in his or her chosen career path, but also the professional credentials needed to quickly land a job. With that said, there are important differences between vocational education programs that one must be aware of when choosing which program to enter.
Classroom Study vs. Online Programs
Most trade schools and vocational colleges specialize in multiple related fields (e.g. health care and dentistry) and employ staff and facilities especially suited to specific programs. Some of the larger schools (e.g. University of Phoenix) take the approach of offering as wide a variety of programs as possible, supplementing their on-campus courses with programs that can be taken wholly, or in part, online. Others cater to students who work or have family responsibilities, and offer the entirety of their curriculum online.
Deciding which of these approaches is best for you is an entirely personal matter, and is really dependent upon your own personal time commitments and tastes. One of the greatest advantages that trade school programs have over traditional schools is the flexibility they offer in scheduling and teaching styles. Take full advantage of this and find a school that accommodates you.
Because of their programs’ recognized excellence in a certain field, a degree or certification from some trade schools is highly prestigious (e.g., information technology degrees from ITT Technical Institute). A byproduct of this is that these schools’ popularity creates tremendous competition for admission and, as a result, extremely selective admission requirements.
For the majority of trade school programs, however, either a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED) is enough to satisfy their admission standards. For applicants to some programs, a minimum score on a standardized placement test may also be required.
Programs for some careers will accept students without high school degrees or GEDs, but usually request a professional letter of recommendation from an employer, proof of related work experience and other supporting materials prior to granting acceptance.
Trade School Programs Accreditation and License
Two important things to look for in a vocational school are its accreditation and license. A school’s accreditation indicates that it has met basic quality criteria established by either a state or federal accrediting agency. The absence of an accreditation does not necessarily mean that the school is inferior (some schools choose to be accredited for a variety of reasons), but degrees from fully-accredited trade programs are usually viewed in a more positive light by employers.
Because most states in the U.S. require trade schools and colleges to be licensed to teach and certify students in a given profession, it is also important to make sure that any school you are considering holds an appropriate license for the program it is offering. If a school has been licensed, it will be regularly reviewed by a state agency to ensure that it is continuing to meet certain safety, competence and compliance standards. Should the school fail to uphold these standards, it can face severe disciplinary actions as is the case in California where trade schools can be fined or even lose their licenses permanently.
Job Placement Assistance through Trade School Programs
The final factor that you should consider when choosing a trade school program is its job placement assistance program. Most schools assist graduates in finding a job in their profession upon graduation, and you will find that the majority of programs use their success rate at job placement as part of their sales pitch to prospective new students. Compare the rates of students placed within six months of graduation from the schools you are considering, and make sure to get as much information as possible about the companies where they are now employed, starting salaries, etc.
Recommended Trade School Programs in California!
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