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What is Vocational School?

4 min readaugust 24, 2021


🔎 One Alternate College Path

Are you here because you’re wondering what vocational school is–and perhaps considering if this is the right path for you? If so, welcome 👋! You’re in the right place.
check out these 7 Alternatives to College Pathways for more options.

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🤔 What is Vocational School?

What’s the definition of vocational school anyway 🤷‍♀️? This type of education will train you specifically for a particular field. Unlike college, which is more academically-focused 🤓, vocational school is more focused on the skills and practices you will actually need to be successful in the workplace 👷‍♀️ So, basically, all those things that “aren’t taught in school” is the meaning of vocational school.

👩‍🎓 Types of Fields

Students in vocational school are most likely to choose careers in the healthcare, business 💼, and legal fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some of the top jobs you’ll be trained for in vocational school, as well as their annual salaries 💲:
  • Electrician ($56,180): Installing and maintaining electrical systems
  • Paralegal ($51,740): Assisting lawyers with legal research
  • Chef ($51,530): Working in commercial kitchens
  • Dental assistant ($40,080): Working and performing treatments under dentists
  • Pharmacy technician ($33,950): Helping pharmacists fulfill patients’ medication orders.
Let’s look at both the pros and cons of vocational school so you’ll have a much better idea 💡 of what it is!

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✅ Pros of Vocational School

⏰ Length of Vocational School

Unlike 4-year colleges, vocational school is shorter, and some programs can even be completed in a few months 😱  Because vocational school is much more focused on the skills for the career, you won't have to take all those extra unrelated classes 📚 (like you will in college!). If you have a dream job in mind 🧠, vocational school will allow you to start working much sooner.

💸 Vocational School Cost

According to the Midwest Technical Institute, a 9-month vocational program will cost around $12,000–$15,000. Many schools will also offer 🤲 grants and scholarships. The cost of vocational school is very different from a 4-year college 👩‍🚀

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📊 Type of Education Received

Like I mentioned before, vocational school will educate you specifically for a certain field in the workforce. You will be a competitive applicant in growing 📈 work fields, with an education from highly trained professionals. You will also have a community of classmates 👥 who are as dedicated as you, and you'll be able to practice in real-world 🌎 settings.

🤕 Cons of Vocational School

🗿 Your Decision Is Set in Stone

One drawback of vocational school is that you’ll have very little flexibility 🤸 to explore other fields or change your mind once you choose your field. If you aren’t absolutely sure of what you want to do for your future career, committing to a specific field in vocational school can be difficult 😥

💵 Future Earnings

Although you may be able to find a job very quickly after coming out of vocational school, many of the positions are lower-paying 🏧 These careers are more blue-collar, which means you’ll most likely be taking on more manual jobs 👩‍🔧 that are more physically strenuous. These kinds of jobs may not be for everyone, so be sure to take this into consideration 🤔

🚀 Vocational School vs. On-the-Job Training

These aren’t 🙅 the same! Let’s take a look at some of their differences.

Vocational School

  • More focused on giving you a long-term education 📝
  • Based on your own investment (you choose the program, and you pay for it)
  • Taught by experts 👩‍✈️ in your field
  • Provides a broad education of how to work in your field 
  • Can be applied to many jobs and employers of a particular area in the future 🎯

On-the-Job Training

  • Provided by your employer for free
  • Taught by co-workers 👨
  • Only focused on the skills you’ll need for THAT position

🤗 Closing

Give yourself a high-five for making it to the end of this article 🙌 Making the big decision between college and vocational school can be difficult. However, make sure you think things through 🧐; consider the type of field you want to go into in the future. Would college or vocational school make more sense? 
For more information on alternatives to a traditional college path, check out these Fiveable articles. Good luck on your journey, and make sure to join the Fiveable college program for more resources 💯

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