Vocational Colleges and Technical Training ProgramsIf you are a high school graduate and do not plan to attend college to get a four-year degree, you have other choices. You can get a low-wage job in fast food or retail, or you can prepare yourself for a much better-paying career by attending a trade school for specific training in a particular skill.
Unlike four-year colleges, which offer a broad education leading to a bachelor's degree in liberal arts or business, a trade school or technical institute focuses on the subjects and technical training that are directly applicable to a specific job. A trade school or technical institute can issue a diploma or certificate to students who successfully complete the program. You can also attend a community college, many of which offer associate's degrees in career-related subjects.
Technical Training in Many Careers
Today you can find a trade school or technical institute that offers training in jobs ranging from automotive to construction to computer programming and repair to medical technology. An automotive trade school may train students in auto body repair, driveline systems, or diesel engine repair. Medical trade schools offer training in medical assisting, X-ray and ultrasound technology, medical administration, and nursing. A computer technical institute teaches students hardware and software troubleshooting techniques.
Other trade schools deal in such wide-ranging subjects as:
• Culinary arts
• Truck driving
• HVAC systems
Technical institute and trade school programs are typically six months to two years in length, depending on the complexity of the subject. Costs vary widely, also depending on the particular career area. The most economical programs are usually found at your local community college. Costs can be offset by student aid programs from state or federal governments and trade associations.
For veterans, the GI Bill and other programs can cover the cost of vocational training at a trade school or technical institute. For those who have work or family obligations that prevent full-time attendance, many programs offer online distance learning options.
Career Prospects for Technical Institute Graduates
Employment prospects in nearly all fields served by trade schools and technical institutes are good. Growth is expected to hold steady from 2008-2018 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, jobs in the medical field are projected to grow significantly due to a number of factors, including an aging population and a growing obesity epidemic. Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow by 34 percent by 2018, and jobs in medical imaging technology are predicted to increase by 17 percent. According to 2009 BLS statistics, medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $28,650, and radiologic technicians' median annual compensation was $53,240.
Another area projected to experience high job growth was HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). The BLS projects a 28 percent growth in HVAC technician jobs by 2018 and puts the median annual wage at $41,000.
Technical Training for the Future
For those interested in new technology, programs are now available in the rapidly growing field of environmental technology. Many technical institutes now have programs in solar, wind, and geothermal energy production. With a projected growth of 29% and median annual income of $40,790, this is a career path to consider seriously.
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