Vocational schools are learning institutions that focus on preparing students for the practice of a particular trade. Rather than providing a generalized education, a vocational education trains students for jobs such as auto mechanic, cosmetologist, and medical assistant. Vocational schools, also called technical schools, often provide on-the-job training in these fields through apprenticeships and internships.
Many European countries have integrated vocational schools into their education plans and are considered viable and respectable career options for students whose desired professions do not require full university degrees. In the United States, vocational schools are often stigmatized as learning institutions for struggling students. However, for many students, vocational schooling can lead to a fulfilling, specialized career.
Regulation of Vocational Schools
Like most schools and colleges, vocational schools are usually regulated by the state. Some states impose graduation or teaching requirements on vocational schools. Additionally, they may require a minimum number of hours of supervised practice at a trade before allowing a student to graduate.
Many of the professions taught at vocational schools are regulated by the state through license requirements. Jobs such as cosmetologist, private security officer, and mortuary service technician usually require licenses in order to legally do business. States often regulate these professions by imposing additional requirements, such as a minimum amount experience, a specialized certificate, or a passing score on a state-administered test.
Vocational Schooling in Place of High School
Nearly every high school across the country has some sort of vocational course offering, ranging from auto shop and woodworking to computer programming and photography. These classes, however, are usually single course offerings not necessarily targeted toward practical job skills for a lifelong career in that field.
In addition to offering vocational classes as part of a typical high school curriculum, many school districts offer a full vocational education at an alternative high school. These vocational schools allow students to attend alternative classes part time while also learning a trade through job placement.
Unlike enrolling in a typical public high school, admission into a vocational school usually requires prospective students to submit an application and report cards, similar to applying to a community college. Additionally, admissions policies usually allow students to apply to vocational schools located in other school districts in their state, not just the school district where they live.
Though most vocational high schools are desirable programs that accept applications from all types of students, some school districts have vocational programs only available to students who are invited or who meet certain requirements. These programs are often made available only to students in danger of failing their high school classes as a way to get them more engaged in their schooling by doing hands-on work that they enjoy.
In addition to public vocational high schools run by the state, there are many private high schools offering vocational education. Like other private schools, these may be religious schools or private vocational schools that charge tuition.
Vocational Schooling After High School
Rather than functioning as alternative high schools, many vocational and technical schools are post-secondary institutions where students can earn post-high school certificates and degrees. These programs usually require prospective students to either have a high school diploma or to obtain a general equivalency diploma (GED).