Not all vocational training is received in a school: apprenticeships and on-the-job training are time-honored ways of learning certain trades and learning them well. But if you’re looking for a vocational school, make sure you find an accredited one.

Vocations and Licensing

A number of careers that you can receive training for at a vocational school are licensed by each state. This means that the state sets criteria for when a person is qualified to practice this profession. The state may designate which training programs fulfill its requirements, as well as prescribe a licensing exam and other requirements. There are often government agencies to oversee aspects of this process. For example, each state has a cosmetology authority, although the names vary somewhat. For example, you will find:

  • Alabama Board of Cosmetology
  • State Board of Barbers and Hairdressers (Alaska)
  • Board of Barbering & Cosmetology (California)
  • Office of Barber and Cosmetology Licensure (Colorado)
  • Examining Board for Barbers, Hairdressers and Cosmeticians (Connecticut)
  • Division of Professional Regulation - Professional Services Section (Illinois)
  • Dept. of Professional and Financial Regulation - Office of Licensing & Registration (Maine)
  • State Board of Barbering Cosmetology and Esthetics (New Hampshire)
  • Department of State, Division of Licensing Svcs. (New York)
  • State Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners (North Carolina)
  • Health Licensing Agency (Oregon)
  • State Board of Examiners of Beauty Specialists (Puerto Rico)
  • Cosmetology Commission (South Dakota)
  • Texas Dept. of Licensing and Regulation

So, choosing a program recommended by your state is a good step towards making sure the program will suit your needs. But it may be that your state will accept degrees from other programs and you have a broader choice. In this case, you can use accreditation to insure the quality of the education you will receive.

Accreditation of Vocational Schools

There are six regional accrediting agencies for vocational schools that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and you can learn more about them at the Council of Recognized National Accrediting Agencies website: At the bottom of the page are the logos for each of the 6 accrediting agencies that you can click to reach their websites. They are:

  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) founded in 1912
  • Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) founded in 1926
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) founded in 1965
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) founded in 1968
  • Council of Occupational Education (COE) founded in 1971
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) founded in 1974

Besides assuring quality, accreditation is important for another reason. Only a vocational school accredited by an accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education qualify a student to receive Federal student financial aid. In other words, students can't get Federal financial aid for just any school. And it makes sense that the government would want funds like student loans to go to students attending institutions that will help qualify them for careers that will allow them to repay those loans.

Finding Accredited Vocational Schools

There are two really good places to look for accredited vocational schools. One is the “College Navigator” offered by the United States Department of Education at:

Here's how you use the “College Navigator.”

  1. If you are looking for a particular school to see if it's on the list, simply type its name in the first box “Name of School.” If the name is a common one, adding a state choice will help specify.
  2. Choose one state using the drop down menu or multiple states by clicking on the map icon. As you click on multiple states on the map, you can see them “light up.”  Close the map by clicking the x in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Enter the ZIP code - this would be your own ZIP code and use the drop down menu to indicate how many miles (in increments of fives) you are willing or able to travel.
  4. Select the programs and/or majors you are interested in using the “Select” button. Inside are instructions about making selections. Note that the “College Navigator” is for all colleges, so there are other programs and majors visible besides those offered in vocational schools. Simply ignore them.
  5. Choose the type of degree you're seeking by clicking on the check box. You can choose more than one, if you're not sure. Holding the cursor over the question mark provides more information.
  6. Click on the institution type. You can choose more than one, if you're not sure. Holding the cursor over the question mark provides more information.
  7. Click the “More Search Options” choice to add information about tuition and fees, enrollment, housing, campus setting, admissions requirements, and affiliation, and distance learning opportunities.
  8. Click the “Show Results” button to see the results of your search. The “Guide Me” button at the bottom provides step-by-step instructions to help you out if you get stuck.

The other way to look for accredited vocational schools is on the websites of the accrediting agencies starting from here: This can be valuable because you are more likely to find only vocational school choices. The listings are under the following headings:

  • “Directory”
  • “Accredited Institutions”
  • “Membership”
  • “Member Institutions”
  • “For Students - Directory of Institutions”
  • “Accredited Institutions & Programs”

They have various search facilities available, differing by website.