What Are Vocational Schools?[What You Need To Know]

what are vocational schools

There are so many vocational schools in the United States that offer vocational education that allows the students to gain practical skills and experience with very few general education requirements. According to recent studies, vocational education improves the probability of employment, increased participation, and wages, among other benefits.

Vocational schools are learning institutions that offer training in various fields and programs designed to equip recent high school graduates and working professionals with special skills for different jobs. These institutions offer practical courses, including sewing and tailoring, mechanics, plumbing, medical assisting, cooking, and jewelry design.

In this article, I will uncover everything you need to know about vocational schools, the different career options it offers with their respective annual salaries, and the benefits of vocational education, which I will discuss.

What Are Vocational Schools?

A vocational school is a type of postsecondary education that offers different types of training in various fields and practical experience to equip the learners with specialized skills. The nature of the vocational school programs is brief and can take as fast as two weeks to complete.

The students from vocational schools are exposed to real-world experience to handle different problems and become productive in their areas of specialization. This is because there are so many vocational courses and programs that vary by nature.

It is also important to note that these programs are helpful in any society since they serve to bridge the gap that exists by offering instant solutions to day-to-day problems.

Why Should You Consider A Vocational School?

Many reasons would make one consider enrolling for vocational education or training in a vocational school. Some of the reasons include the following:

Hands-On Training

Vocational schools are known to offer the best learning or training as well as practical experience. This is because most of them are equipped with the necessary facilities that make it easy for students to learn through practicums. Also, they connect students with internships that help prepare them for the experience they need in the real world.


I can say this is an advantage vocational schools offer students since they equip them with skills and experience within a short time. However, it is important to note that most programs offered in vocational schools are short and take less time compared to academic training and general education courses offered in universities and ordinary colleges.

Specialized Programs

Vocational schools offer specialized courses that equip the learners with different practical skills useful in everyday life. These programs are short and streamlined, so you venture into one study area where you gain skills and experience in that field.

However, many trade schools offer associate degrees in addition to certificates to many high school students while pursuing their high school diplomas. 

How Long Does Vocational School Last?

how long does vocational school last

The length of time to study in a vocational school will depend on your course. However, most courses or programs run for six months on average. Some are even short, and you can complete them in a period of 2 weeks, while the long ones can go up to a year.

Therefore, if you plan to enroll in a vocational school, you need to know the length of time that your specific course will take since timelines vary.

How Much Does Vocational School Cost?

Vocational or trade schools will cost an average of $33,000 to complete in the United States. However, it is important to note that the cost of the training will vary based on the program and the length of time that a program takes for you to complete.

For instance, the short programs that take only two weeks to 6 months are less expensive than the programs that can take up to 12 months to finish.

What Types Of Careers Come From Vocational School?

There are so many careers that come from vocational schools. As I noted, vocational or trade schools offer a significant number of courses ranging from short to long ones. The long courses can take up to a year to complete, while the short ones take six or fewer months.

These programs equip the learners with essential specialized skills in different areas. They are trained to solve everyday problems such as fixing an electrical fault, leaking pipe, or even installing appliances. Such careers include but are not limited to the following:

Electrical Technician

electrical technician job from a vocational school

Electrical technicians are people who are specialized in handling electrical wiring systems, installations, and troubleshooting electrical faults. They install lighting systems in the homes, fix electrical appliances, and handle anything that requires the skills of an electrician.

It can take a year or less to obtain certifications from a trade or vocational school to become an electrical technician. However, it is also a worthwhile career for those passionate about the electrical field.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary of an electrical technician in the United States is about $55,166, according to different salary statistics. But, of course, the pay depends on various factors that would make it more or less. Therefore, if you want to earn well, you should accumulate your experience, advance your skill set by gaining additional skills, and may even further your studies in the same field.

Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist is a specialist tasked with examining and interviewing patients suffering from breathing problems and cardiopulmonary disorders. As I have mentioned, respiratory therapists are not doctors but are certified to examine and diagnose patients with breathing or lung problems.

They also create a treatment plan for these patients and may perform other functions related to their area of specialization.

Average Annual Salary

According to Money News of the United States, a respiratory therapist earns an average salary of $62,810 per year. However, the highest salary can go up to about $75,950, and the lowest can go to about $54,170 per year.

The salary of a respiratory therapist can vary based on several factors, including the level of education and experience but mainly depending on the state where one practices. For instance, the highest paying states for respiratory therapists include California, Nevada, New Jersey, Alaska, and New York.


carpentry skills learned in a vocational school

Finding a vocational school that doesn’t offer this program is difficult. It is an excellent and rewarding craft where the skilled professionals in this field earn from construction-based projects, including buildings, furniture, and installation works.

Carpenters are highly sought after for projects that include construction, installation, and repair of wooden structures or even those made from other materials apart from wood, such as kitchen cabinets, among other structures.

Average Annual Salary

This job, in most cases, pays on a per-hour basis. According to Indeed job statistics, a carpenter can earn an average of $23.13 per hour. Regarding annual salary, a carpenter can make about $49,520 per year. However, some states have the best pay for carpenters, including New York and Vermont. The average salary, of course, depends on the skill level and the carpenter’s reputation, among other factors.

HVAC Technician

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Any home, office, store, or building needs efficient and adequate ventilation, and HVAC technicians do the air conditioning system and the installation works.

There are many duties that an HVAC technician can do, including installation, testing, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of HVAC systems. It is a worthy career field, and you can learn this from any trade school.

Average Annual Salary

According to Talent statistics in the United States, the average annual salary of an HVAC technician is about $54,597. However, most HVAC jobs pay hourly, and the average is about $28 per hour.

HVAC is also a vast field, and its specializations include that of a thermal engineer – one that pays the highest in this field, HVAC project manager, Air conditioning engineer, HVAC estimator, and HVAC design engineer, among other options. The average salary, therefore, depends on the unit where you are specialized, among other factors.


Ironworkers are tasked with constructing structural frameworks in accordance with the drawings by construction engineers or architects. They create columns, girders, and other structural frameworks by using steel. They also work as certified welders and mainly in the construction industry.

Average Annual Salary

Most people interested in this field would ask, “do ironworkers make a lot of money?” But, of course, they do. Ironworking is an art that earns a decent salary of about $58,550 per year, according to Salary Explorer.

Ironworkers are generally paid on a per-hour basis, but those employed permanently by construction firms earn monthly. When it comes to payments per hour, an ironworker can make about $25.17 per hour, according to Indeed statistics.


A plumber installs and repairs water and drainage pipes in buildings and outside buildings to ensure an efficient flow of water, gasses, and fluids within the system. Of course, plumbing is one of the most renowned professions that employ a good number of technicians who work around the clock to ensure the efficient flow of water or sewage from one place to another.

Average Annual Salary

Most plumbing jobs are manual, and the earnings are primarily per hour. This is because they are not steady jobs since most involve fixing leakages and installation works that may be seasonal.

The average salary per hour is about $26.37 per hour. For companies that employ plumbers, the average annual salary is approximately $56,330 per year, according to Money News of the United States.

Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is a professional tasked with the overall hygiene of the teeth. This includes using techniques and tools to remove the plague, stains, and tartar and improve the dental health of the patients, among other functions. It is one of the great career paths that reward well.

It is important to note the difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist. The former is a doctor, and the latter is not. To be a dentist, you need to pursue a dentistry course that takes more time than that of a dental hygienist that you can pursue in a trade school for a short span of time.

Average Annual Salary

According to Money News and salary statistics of the United States, dental hygienists earn a decent income per year. On average, a dental hygienist earns about $78,311 annually. But, of course, this depends on the level of experience and the state where you practice, among other factors.

Web Developer

web developer skill learned at a vocational school

A web developer is a professional tasked with creating, testing, and maintaining websites, web applications, and systems. To become a web developer, you need to have mastered programming languages, analytical skills, testing and debugging skills, and SEO skills, among others.

Of course, suppose you are passionate about being a web developer. In that case, you need to pursue a path in any field, such as software engineering, computer science, or programming, among other related fields.

Average Annual Salary

Based on statistics, web developers earn decently compared to many other professions. For example, according to Indeed job statistics, a typical web developer would make an average of $72,692 per year. The salary, therefore, would depend on the level of skill, experience, and proficiency in the industry, among other factors.

Geological And Petroleum Technician

Geological and petroleum technicians are professionals who work in the lab or the field, and their work is to analyze geological samples such as rocks, minerals, or soils. They conduct experiments and tests in the attempt to discover valuable minerals and as well as to examine the different characteristics of the petroleum content, among other functions.

This career is only suitable for professionals with a passion for science and in subjects such as chemistry, geography, mathematics, and physics. Petroleum technicians also conduct drilling operations for oil and gas.

Average Annual Salary

According to PayScale, the average salary of a geological or petroleum technician is about $74,470 per year. From this, you can note that it is a rewarding career worth pursuing if you have an interest in the petroleum field. But, of course, the salaries differ from state to state depending on the level of experience, among other factors.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

medical sonographer skill learned from a vocational school

A diagnostic and medical sonographer is a technician that performs medical diagnosis by creating images of the body parts, including tissues and organs, using ultrasound equipment. This uses a transducer that produces sound waves into the body that are then converted into visual images.

Average Annual Salary

According to Money US News, a diagnostic medical sonographer earns a decent salary of about $75,920 per year. But, of course, the salary varies from state to state, with the highest paid being in California, Washington DC, and Hawaii.

Wind Turbine Technician

A wind turbine technician works on wind turbines to ensure they are efficient and effective. They install, maintain, inspect, test, repair, and maintain the turbines, among other functions. It is a worthwhile career path that rewards well and does not need a college diploma or a degree.

Average Annual Salary

According to salary statistics, the average salary of a wind turbine technician is $56,230 per year. The salary depends on the state, skill level, and experience. Some states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, and Kansas pay slightly higher than most other states.

Legal Assistant

A legal assistant is a person trained and qualified to support lawyers by performing administrative tasks. In most cases, legal assistants delegate duties such as attending meetings, supporting the lawyers with different work responsibilities, and conducting legal research, among other functions.

Average Annual Salary

The average salary of a legal assistant is about $52,064 per year in the United States, according to salary statistics. However, this can vary from one state to another or depending on the employer and job responsibilities.

Elevator Installer And Repairer

As the name says, these are professionals trained to install, maintain, repair, and replace elevators, chairlifts, and other similar equipment installed in buildings to help in the elevation of people and luggage.

Average Annual Salary

According to different salary statistics, the average base salary of an elevator installer and repairer is about $76,238 per year. So, as you can see, it is a well-paying career that earns a decent salary than most other professions.

Automotive Industry Careers

automotive skills and vocational skills

There are many automotive industry careers ranging from vehicle inspector, auto electrician, auto mechanic, tire technician, and car detailer to auto instructor, among other jobs. Technicians or auto professionals are trained in different or specialized fields to perform specific tasks within that line.

Average Annual Salary

The average automotive industry salary is about $67,791 per year in the United States. However, different specializations in the industry pay differently. For instance, the highest paying jobs in the automotive industry include those quality testing engineers, process engineers, automotive designers, and automotive sales managers.

Creativity And Design

Creativity and design is a profession that involves shaping the visual aspect to create appealing designs for branding and marketing purposes. Usually, this is done for packaging solutions, book covers, magazines, or even for websites and other software items.

Average Annual Salary

According to Glassdoor statistics, the average salary of a creative designer in the United States is about $62,612 per year. However, the salary can differ from state to state depending on the area of specialization in creativity and design.

Medical, Dental, And Pharmacy

medical, dental, and pharmacy skills and vocational schools

Medical dental is a profession that works to enhance oral health, dental implants, and other duties related to dental surgery and care. It is a worthwhile career option that pays well, and professionals in this field are trained in dental care and procedures that involve surgery and dental medication, among other areas.

Average Annual Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a medical dentist is about $164,010 per year. Pharmacists in this field also earn a decent wage and are a worthwhile profession that pays well.

PayScale statistics show that pharmacists earn an average of $128,570 on average. This indicates that the industry is lucrative and pays more than most other professions.

Software And Technology

Software and technology are worthy career paths that employ many professionals. If you have studied computer science, software engineering, IT, or programming, among other related fields, you can pursue a career in software and technology.

There are so many opportunities in the field of software and technology. It ranges from web design, web development, system applications design and testing, maintenance, and troubleshooting, among other related jobs.

Average Annual Salary

The average salary of a software technologist in the United States is $74,848 per year, according to Glassdoor. But, of course, the salary can vary based on experience and the specific field in which you specialize. In addition, the salary of a software technologist and related profession may vary from state to state.

Different Types Of Vocational Training Programs

Vocational training comprises many programs that offer the skills for solving different real-life problems. These courses are offered in trade schools, and you can pursue them within a shorter time than the courses offered in universities and ordinary colleges.

To mention some of the types of vocational training programs that are offered in vocational colleges include the following:

  • Small-scale industries skill development programs
  • State governments’ vocational courses
  • Industrial Training Institute Courses
  • Polytechnic Courses
  • School Curriculum Vocational Courses

The Top Vocational School Careers

top vocational school careers

Many great vocational school careers equip the learners with unique skills that reward them well. Therefore, if you don’t have a college education, you can equip yourself with a certificate program or technical education from a trade college and venture into a career in that field.

Some of the top vocational school careers that make a great career include web developer, dental hygienist, pharmacy technician, electrician, automotive technician, plumber, iron worker, legal assistant, HVAC technician, and geological and petroleum technician, among others.

These are just a few fields that offer students the hands-on experience needed in daily life.

The Difference Between A Vocational School And A Trade School

A vocational school is more of an umbrella term, but there is no difference between a trade school and a vocational school. The names can be used interchangeably because they mean the same thing.

There is also a technical school under the vocational school umbrella, and all offer the students the opportunity to obtain the essential skills in different fields within a short period of time.

Vocational or trade schools offer short hands-on training to students who pursue different programs in different skilled trade fields. These programs can qualify one to pursue a career in the same field without having to attend other academic institutions such as a university or college.

Popular Vocational Programs

Some popular vocational programs include welding, carpentry, plumbing, pipe fitting, wiring, and graphic design.

These are the best professions that employ many professional technicians who are skilled and experienced in the same fields.

Of course, so many vocational training courses are popular in the market. Moreover, you can pursue these courses within a shorter time than the ones you can pursue in a four-year college program.

Pros And Cons Of Vocational School

pros and cons of vocational school

As I have discussed above, vocational schools offer different training programs that equip the students with skills needed in the job market. There are so many benefits that come with vocational schools, but there are also a few disadvantages:


There are so many benefits of studying in a vocational or trade school. You get prepared to handle complex problems and be exposed to different industry sectors, hence a better chance to get employed. Some of the benefits, therefore, include:


Vocational training offers the students the highly sought-after vocational skills in the job market. This makes it easy for the students to find work without much stress.

Shorter Duration Of Study

Vocational education takes a shorter time than a four-year degree that you can pursue in a university or college. Some programs even run for only two weeks, but others can go for up to one year or more, depending on the nature of the field.

Hands-On Experience

The good thing with vocational schools is the hands-on experience that you get. The studies are not theory-based but are more on practicums and real-life work experience. This helps the students gain technical skills that will help them build their careers.


Apart from the benefits, some disadvantages come with vocational schools or education. These include the following:

Lack Of Diversity

One of the disadvantages of vocational education is that you don’t get a chance to diversify your skillset. The educational experience here is specific to one field you have chosen to pursue, and everything you learn is within the area you have specialized in.

High Competition

One other disadvantage of vocational schools is that they graduate so many students within a short time. Compared to universities and colleges that take 3 to 4 years, vocational schools can graduate from weeks to months. Hence, the number of graduates within a short time leads to increased competition for jobs.

Vocational School Vs. Four-year College

four-year college versus vocational schools

There is a considerable difference between a vocational school and a four-year college. The first difference is that vocational schools take a shorter time while a four-year college, as the name puts it, takes four years.

The other difference is that a vocational school offers specialized training in one specific field while a four-year college may cover different areas essential in the market. That means a four year-college is more diverse than vocational training.

In addition, vocational schools offer students with hands-on experience and thus take smaller class sizes in each field than a four-year college that equips the students with more theoretical knowledge and doesn’t care much about the class size.

Best Vocational Trade Schools

There are so many trade schools in the United States and worldwide. Of course, not all of them are good, but some are more specialized than others. Therefore, some of the best vocational trade schools include the following:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Vocational School The Same As College?

Vocational schools are not the same as colleges because of the nature of the programs they offer and the duration of the same programs. Vocational schools provide short programs that take less than two years, while colleges can take up to 4 years or more to complete.

In addition to that, vocational school programs are more specialized while college programs are more diverse.

Is Nursing School A Vocational School?

A nursing school can be a vocational school, for instance, the community nursing trade school. However, those that offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing are not vocational schools.

A nurse with a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university or college can qualify as a registered nurse. At the same time, those from vocational schools are vocational nurses, and their duties can differ.

What Is The Main Purpose Of Vocational Education?

The main purpose of vocational education is skill development. Therefore, its primary focus is to equip the students with practical skills in a wide range of fields. In addition to that, it mainly focuses on one area of study. Therefore, you should need very little on-the-job training as a vocational school graduate.

Final Thoughts

At this point, you have noted that vocational schools are important in equipping the students with practical skills and hands-on experience needed in the job market. They are also referred to as career schools because they are the best for developing different careers among the students through their diverse educational programs.

Therefore, if you are interested in any particular field of study, don’t hesitate to enroll since it takes a shorter time than a university degree or college diploma.