Vocational Careers Training

Read on to learn more about vocational education and vocational careers.

What is a vocation or a vocational career?

The word "vocation" comes to us from a Latin word meaning "to call," according to Merriam-Webster. Originally used to describe a religious "calling," it has more recently also come to mean an occupation, a craft or a skilled trade to which someone is drawn or for which he or she is suited or trained.

Why would someone want to enter a vocational training program?

Vocational training programs are historically related to apprenticeships programs, which teach the skills necessary for a very specific career path. According to an Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) report published in 2010, many students do not see the relevance of a traditional college education to their real-world lives. For many students, sitting in a classroom for 6 hours at a stretch without seeing the practical application of that knowledge can stifle their desire to learn. They may be looking to enter or, in the case of those seeking career change or retraining, re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible. And, because many vocational programs are shorter in length, they can cost less, particularly at a community college.
Many vocational programs are closely allied with businesses in local communities. They work to provide a "well-trained, skilled workforce" and to facilitate job placement in local businesses after graduation. Vocational schools can also adjust their program curricula to meet the changing needs of local employers.

Are vocational programs taught at the same colleges as other programs?

Vocational programs are taught at regional high schools, vocational and trade schools, community and technical colleges, private career schools and adult education centers. Fully online and hybrid vocational programs are also available. Hybrid programs are those that offer course work online and on-site instruction for programs that have a hands-on component.

What can someone do with a vocational degree?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the 30 occupations with the largest projected employment growth between 2010 and 2020, only four occupations require more than an associate degree. Of the 30 occupations with the fastest projected employment growth for the same period, less than half require a degree above an associate degree. These occupations include nursing, health care support and technical support, personal care careers, and office and administrative support -- careers that tend to require vocational training or a vocational degree.

Vocational degrees can also open the doors to other career opportunities, such as electronics, interior design, and truck driving, or for those interested in becoming paralegals or computer technicians.

Do vocational schools even offer degrees?

In addition to high school diplomas, postsecondary diplomas and certificates, vocational schools also offer associate degrees and some even offer bachelor's degrees.

How does one advance in a vocation?

According to the ACTE report, graduates need a combination of knowledge and skills to succeed and advance in their careers or vocations. Employers in the 21st century are looking for the critical 4 Cs:

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity

In addition to technical skills, they want employees who are ethical, have a strong sense of social responsibility, have a solid work ethic, are self-directed, and who embrace the concept of lifelong learning.

Prospective students need to determine what type of vocational education best meets their career needs. Obtaining a certificate now to immediately enter the workforce and returning later to earn a degree for career advancement may be a smart strategy.