Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed October 05, 2023
Vocational schools are also known as trade schools. These schools offer career and technical education (CTE) certifications. They equip learners with practical skills necessary for specific occupations.
Unlike a four-year college, trade schools offer programs aimed at immediate market needs. These schools significantly reduce the school years required for employment. They often lead to an associate's degree, certifications, or college credits.
This article discusses vocational schools in America generally.
General Information About Vocational Schools
Rather than providing a generalized education, vocational education trains students for jobs. Examples of these jobs are auto mechanics, cosmetologists, and medical assistants. Trade schools often offer on-the-job training in these fields through apprenticeships and internships.
Many European countries have added trade schools to their education plans. They are considered viable and respectable career options for students. In the United States, trade schools are often stigmatized. However, vocational schooling can lead to a fulfilling, specialized career for many students. There are many job opportunities for graduates of vocational programs.
Regulation of Vocational Schools
The Department of Education regulates vocational schools nationwide. The Department imposes specific standards. One key element of the regulation is accreditation. This is a validation process that ensures that the school programs meet particular requirements. Validation ensures that the coursework provided by the schools meets industry standards. This helps ensure the learners are ready for the labor market upon graduation.
Like most schools and colleges, the state usually regulates vocational schools. Some states impose graduation or teaching requirements on trade schools. They may also require a minimum number of hours of supervised practice before allowing a student to graduate.
Many of the professions taught at trade schools are regulated by the state. Regulations are made through license requirements. Many jobs require licenses to do business legally. Examples of these jobs include cosmetologists, private security officers, and mortuary service technicians. States often regulate these professions by imposing additional requirements which may include:
- A minimum amount of experience or hands-on training
- Specialized certification
- Passing score on a state-administered test
Eligibility for trade schools typically includes a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some programs allow middle school students to begin vocational training. The application process varies from one school to another. Generally, the application involves an English competency test. It might also include other standardized tests.
Trade schools, like other educational institutions, must adhere to special education laws. They must offer inclusive education programs for learners with disabilities.
Vocational Schooling in Place of High School
Trade schools can replace traditional high school education. In many public schools and home school settings, students can enroll in vocational programs. They can do this as part of their high school coursework. These programs align with standard high school graduation requirements. Additionally, there is a focus on practical job skills.
Nearly every high school curriculum has some sort of vocational course offering. These courses include auto workshops, woodworking, computer programming, and photography. These classes, however, are usually single-course offerings. They are generally introductory. Usually, they are not adequate to prepare students for a lifelong career in that field.
Many school districts offer a complete vocational education at an alternative high school. These trade schools allow students to attend alternative classes part-time. They can also learn a trade through a job placement. Many private high schools offer vocational education. There may be religious schools or private trade schools that charge tuition.
Enrolling in a vocational program is unlike enrolling in a typical public high school. Admission into a trade school usually requires prospective students to apply. Students may also be able to attend trade schools outside their district.
Some school districts have vocational programs only available to students who are invited. Students in these programs usually must meet specific requirements. These programs are often available only to students in danger of failing their high school classes. They are seen as a way to get them more engaged in their schooling by doing hands-on work that they enjoy.
Vocational Schooling After High School
Following high school graduation, many students choose to attend a trade school. They made do this instead of or in addition to a four-year college. These schools offer programs and education courses in a wide range of fields of study for students.
Many trade and technical schools are postsecondary institutions. Students can earn post-high school certificates and degrees. These programs usually require prospective students to have either a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma (GED) before attending.
Postsecondary vocational education programs are often more intense than their high school counterparts. They usually require a full-time commitment. However, students may benefit from financial aid opportunities. This help can make these training programs more accessible.
Trade school graduates may start working right away or choose to transfer the college credits earned to pursue a bachelor's degree.
Getting Legal Help With Your Education
Understanding the complexities of trade schools and education programs can be challenging. Seeking legal advice can be beneficial. Lawyers specializing in education law can guide you on these matters. They can help you make informed decisions about a student's educational options.
If you have questions about vocational schools and if they might work for you, consider speaking to an education attorney today.
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