Vocational schools, also known as trade schools or career colleges and sometimes vo-tech schools, provide specific, focused job training. Vocational school can be an alternative to high school or a post-secondary education choice.

Some vocational schools offer on-site training, and others train by distance-learning options, which may include on-line or correspondence programs. Of course, whether distance learning is possible will prepare on the occupation you are training for�"you may find it for travel and tourism careers; you are unlikely to take that route for a culinary arts degree which requires hands-on experience.

Vocational schools contrast with liberal arts colleges, which aim to give students a broad background of knowledge in a variety of fields�"sometimes having requirements in the social sciences, physical sciences, humanities, and life sciences�"and without aiming to make students employable with their diploma. Many liberal arts students must go on to an advanced degree or professional training in order to meet specific job requirements.

Fields of Study

There are many types of vocational school. The fields include:

Health Care 

  • Dentistry 
  • Holistic Health 
  • Massage Therapy 
  • Medical Administration 
  • Medical and Dental Support/Assistance 
  • Medical Specialty 
  • Nutrition 
  • Optometry 
  • Pharmacy


  • Architecture 
  • Commercial Art 
  • Cosmetology 
  • Design
  • Fashion 
  • Floral Design 
  • Graphic/Computer Design 
  • Interior Design


  • Musical Instrument Maker/Repairer 
  • Watchmaking/Repair


  • Culinary Arts 
  • Restaurant Management


  • Aviation 
  • Computer Maintenance/Repair 
  • Construction 
  • Criminal Justice 
  • Electronics 
  • Gemology 
  • Mortician 
  • Office Jobs 
  • Travel and Tourism 
  • Trucking

Finding Legitimate Training

Some vocations are licensed by states and may require an examination, a fee, and a review of the applicants record. Note that in the case of state-regulated occupations, a degree and a license to practice are not the same thing. In order to qualify for a license and to be hired in the occupation of your choice, you should seek a school that is accredited and that will offer adequate preparation for the qualifications that apply. Since scam schools�" which take students money and offer them inadequate training by unqualified instructors�"have been reported, it is very important to know the qualifications, including training, for the job you seek.

Since licensing is not national but is legislated by each state, it is also essential to know the requirements for the state(s) in which you wish to practice. License requirements may include a fee and an examination, as well as training by a legitimate (and accredited) institution. For more information, check the consumer protection advocate Council of Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) web site, which gives access to regulatory boards, professional associations, and state offices of professional regulation. Also the State of Minnesota runs a website called CareerInfoNet to help you find accurate information about licensed careers in your state.


  1. Choosing a Vocational School ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/services/votech.htm; ed.gov/students/prep/college/consumerinfo/finding.html
  2. Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation clearhq.org/boards.htm
  3. America's Career Info Net acinet.org/acinet/licensedoccupations/lois_state.asp?by=occ&nodeid=16

Written by Mary Elizabeth