welder at vocational school

What Is Technical Training? Career Prep Alternatives to College

welder at vocational school

The skilled labor shortage, the middle-skill gap and new-collar jobs—what do all these have in common?[1] They deviate from the notion that college is the only path to a good career.

America’s labor market is evolving rapidly. Companies need workers with the right skills, and NOW. So many, in fact, the problem has been dubbed “the economy’s War on Talent.”

Many firms simply can’t wait four years for workers to acquire the qualifications for the job from a university education. Offering streamlined career preparation, technical training programs are considered a solution and as the new place for companies to “collect potential job candidates.”[2]

What exactly is technical training? How does it compare to college and other career prep options? And, most importantly, where could it take you in the job market?

Technical Training: Focused Career Preparation

One of the main reasons technical training, also known as vocational training, is stealing the spotlight from college is that it’s quick.[3] Typically, ten weeks to two years.[4]

Some programs like welding training can be completed in a little as seven months.

How can technical training be so fast? Because trade schools teach students only the skills they’ll need for the career for which they’re training.

You won’t find English or social studies courses required in a refrigeration technologies or electrical applications program.4 Only the fundamentals of refrigeration, electrical wiring and similarly career-focused classes.[5]

Who can benefit from technical training? Those who know what career they want and can prepare for it in trade school, as opposed to college. Trade school is generally a path to jobs requiring specific technical skills like fusing metal, drawing blood or coloring hair.4,[6]

By contrast, college is often the route to careers in which extensive theoretical knowledge of a subject is necessary. Think lawyers and doctors who have to become experts on complex laws and the innerworkings of the human body before they can enter their fields.[7][8]

Whether you’re a high school student set on learning a skilled trade, a mother reentering the workforce or someone who wants to change their career, technical training could be a good option for you.4

Technical Training Vs. University, Community College and Tech Boot Camp

working in a machine shop

Continuing your education after high school can have many benefits. Higher earnings and lower levels of unemployment are two of the big ones, as noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When it comes to earning a postsecondary education, you have many options: university, community college, trade school and technical boot camp.

Which one should you should choose? That depends on several factors:

  • Whether you learn better by doing or studying in a classroom.
  • How much time and money you have to spend on your education.
  • The credential and career you want after graduation.

Let’s look at how technical training compares to the other options mentioned above when considering these factors.

Career Preparation Comparison

Factors University Community College Technical Training Tech Boot Camp
Learning Style Classroom lectures, reading and studying concepts Classroom lectures, reading and studying concepts Lab instruction, hands-on training Lab instruction,hands-on training
Focus General and specific education General and specific education Career-specific training Specific technological skill
Time 4 years or more 2 years or more Weeks to 2 years 8 to 10 weeks
Cost $26,120 a year in 2015-2016 $10,432 a year in 2015-2016 $3,000 to $15,000 a year $11,000 to $20,000 per program
Credential Bachelor’s degree and higher Associate degree Certificate Certificate
Career Options Professional careers or advanced studies Professional and technical Careers or transfer to university Technical or vocational Careers Technology careers

[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Technical Training Career Options

What kind of technical careers could be waiting for a trade school graduate? There are options in many fields, and some are expected to see healthy job growth through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Below we take a look at some careers in the skilled trades. Keep in mind that the national average job growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.[16]

Skilled Trades Careers

  • HVAC technician: 15 percent[17]
  • Electrician: 9 percent[18]
  • Solar photovoltaic installer: 105 percent.[19]
  • Pipefitter: 16 percent[20]
  • Ironworker: 13 percent[21]

Align Education With Career Goals

Technical training can prepare you for a wide range of careers at a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional university. One of the most important considerations when choosing a postsecondary education, however, is the career you want.

If you’re interested in entering the skilled trades, the medical field or the beauty and personal services industry, trade school could be a good option for you.

Discover more about the benefits of trade school.

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