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Is a Technical, Vocational, or Trade School Right for You?

Maybe, you've always known what you wanted to be when you "grow up." Maybe, you'd like to start earning as soon as you can. Maybe, the idea of poring over reams of lessons just doesn't appeal to you and you'd like to learn from doing.

It may even be that you already have a thriving career in one field, but you'd like to explore another area of interest, upgrade your current skills and become more marketable.

Whatever your reason, attending a vocational, technical or trade school could prove to be your passport to a brighter future at less than half the cost of university!

Why a Trade School is better than a University
It's more marketable
With a trade school background, you become a market savvy professional. These days, many employers prefer candidates from a trade school, as they require the specific skills required for the job and saves training costs.

According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau, more than one-third of the fastest growing occupations require either an associate's degree or a postsecondary vocational certificate.

The top ten fastest growing occupations in 2006 required technical knowledge, with average earnings varying from $20,190 to $43,590. Source: acinet.org (Fastest Growing Occupations)

It's more career-focused
Attending a vocational, technical or trade school guarantees one thing for sure, a job! Vocational or trade schools have one objective, making you a master in one specific trade.

Courses would therefore tend to leave out a lot of abstruse theory and focus instead on industry-relevant areas.

A good program would always have an eye on industry trends, upgrading its curriculum periodically to ensure that you get the scoop on the most recent technologies and industry know-how.

It's more adventurous!
A technical background gives you the liberty to start your own shop, business or consultancy. Moreover, since courses are of a shorter duration (some certified courses last only for a few weeks), you can explore various career options before settling down to one.

Its return on investment is very high
It would take you a considerable while to break even on the amount that you've invested in a four-year degree. Compared to this, technical trades allow you to start earning lucrative salaries faster. In fact, the top five highest paying occupations of 2006 included salaries over $60,000, fashion designers ($62,600), dental hygienists ($62,800), nuclear technicians ($65,500), radiation therapists ($66,200), computer specialists ($68,600).
Source: acinet.org (Highest Paying Occupations)

Moreover, degrees are shorter and help you save on tuition and accommodation.

What to Look for in a Technical or Vocational School
There are over 300 "reputed" trade schools in USA. With each one touting its superiority, how do you find one that's right for you?

Step 1 - Formulate a basic list: Select a few schools that are in keeping with your objectives. Not every school may have the course of your choice; some may be located in a state where you do not want to relocate and so on. Having a basic set of criteria will help you narrow down your choices.

Step 2 - Check the accreditation: Once you have a list of schools that are seemingly right, check to see if they are accredited by a reputed agency. Go ahead and eliminate those that aren't. When you choose an accredited and licensed school, you know that your degree is meeting a basic set of standards.

Some resources you could use:

List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies
Directory of Higher Education Officials

Step 3 - Research: Check with the State Attorney General's Office, the local Better Business Bureau and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation if the school has ever been blacklisted or has an offensive reputation.

Check out student forums and networking sites like Facebook and Orkut to locate present and past students. Get in touch with them and hear them out. If your overall impression is favorable, visit the school.

You should also try to get an overview of the
following aspects:

Industry Reputation: Which companies have hired the school's graduates? If well-established enterprises are picking up students, chances are that the school has a good reputation. Also visit Questions to Ask Schools You are Considering for further insight into what subjects you should discuss with prospective colleges, trade schools or universities you are considering to attend.

Curriculum: Choose a school that is versatile and offers a fair balance of theory and practical training. Also, see when the curriculum was last revised.

Facilities and services: Find out if facilities include the latest equipment and technologies. Since hands-on training plays such a crucial role in technical courses, it's essential that every facility is in keeping with the latest industry standards. Does the course offer internships and help students with placement upon graduation?

Admission Requirements: Find out if you meet the minimum entry requirements, either by visiting the school or researching online.

Tuition: Check if the school offers a financing plan that suits your pocket.
At the end of your research, you should have a clear idea of the schools that fit your bill, and if you're cut for the trade. If you aren't, don't lose heart. There are scores of other technical courses to choose from!

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