Online Vocational Schools and Colleges

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Instead of taking 4 years of your life to get a degree, a vocational school will let you get it done in two years (or less)! You can even complete your studies online if you prefer.

Vocational Schools Colleges

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Before we dive-in and introduce you to the opportunities that await you, we will start by answering a frequently asked question: What is a vocational school?

What Is a Vocational School?

A vocational school is a career-focused school that prepares and trains students for specific occupations. Vocational schools – also called trade schools, technical schools or career schools – offer a number of advantages to students.

  • Faster completion times. Most vocational school programs take from a few months to two years to complete, which means you can enter the workforce quickly.
  • No general education courses. Your education will focus only on the skills necessary for your career, with few or no extras.
  • Smaller classes. With fewer students in each class, instructors can provide hands-on learning opportunities, and be more accessible to their students.
  • Lower cost. The cost of attending a vocational school will vary depending on the program and location, but it will be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars less than attending a traditional college program.
  • Highly specialized training. Your education will involve hands-on training specific to your field, and will likely take place in a setting similar to your future workplace. As a vocational school graduate, you should need very little on-the-job training.

One potential drawback to vocational schools is that they can limit your options. Because the programs are highly specialized from start to finish, once you begin you are committed to that path and there is little room for exploring alternatives or changing your mind.

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But for many students, the specialized programs offered by vocational schools are exactly what they’re looking for to get them started in their career field without wasting time or money.

Getting the Skills You Need From the Comfort of Home

A teacher guiding a student in plumbing class

If you are working full-time or juggling other responsibilities, you may find that attending school online is the best option for you. Instead of attending night or weekend classes, you log-in to your courses from the comfort of home at a time that is convenient for you.

If you are a self-starter and want to get the skills you need without sacrificing your current job or family time, this might be an option worth considering. A number of universities offer vocational training through online study. Check out the list below and click on any college to get more information about their online programs.

How Long Is Vocational School?

Most vocational schools offer a diverse list of programs that vary in length from a few months to up to 2 years. How long you attend will depend on the field, the program and school, and what level of training you choose to pursue.

Here are a few examples:

Vocational Program How long does it take to finish?
Paralegal 8 months
Optician 7 months
Web Page Designer 6 months
Dental Assistant 4 months
Hotel / Restaurant Management 4 months
Small Engine Repair 4 months
Occupational Therapy Aide 1 month


Some programs will award certificates or diplomas, while others are designed to prepare students for career-specific licensing exams.

What are the Most Popular Vocational School Programs?

A Pharmacy Technician doing inventory

The best vocational school programs are those that pay well and offer long-term job security. You want to enter a field in which you can grow professionally, and where your skills will be in demand for years to come.

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Vocational school programs in the healthcare, business and legal fields tend to be popular choices, but schools such as accredited online career school Penn Foster Career School offer a diverse range of options. Here are some of the career possibilities in a variety of fields:

Medical, Dental, and Pharmacy

  • Medical Billing and Coding – Medical Billers and Coders analyze patient’s medical documentation looking for diagnoses and treatments, then determine the appropriate code and record that for insurance billing purposes. They are the middle person between physicians and insurance companies, managing important, confidential data.
  • Dental Assistant -A Dental Assistant works directly with the dentist, preparing instruments, assisting with procedures, taking impressions and discussing dental care with patients. They may also take on administrative tasks such as updating records or scheduling appointments.
  • Pharmacy Technician -Pharmacy Technicians communicate with patients and relay their needs, questions and concerns to the Pharmacist. They also handle pharmaceutical inventory.

Physical Therapy

  • Physical Therapy Aide – An important part of the support team, Physical Therapy Aides set up therapy rooms, help patients into the room and wash linens. They may also take care of clerical tasks.
  • Occupational Therapy Aide – An Occupational Aide is a support person during occupational therapy, preparing the room and equipment for patient appointments and sometimes taking care of clerical tasks such as scheduling appointments and ordering supplies.

Veterinary

  • Veterinary Assistant – This position takes on duties such as feeding, weighing and taking the temperature of animals, cleaning cages, providing medicine and basic care-giving before and after procedures. They may work in veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, shelters and/or zoos.

Trainer / Instructor

  • Certified Personal Trainer – This fitness guru evaluates clients’ abilities, sets fitness goals, and provides feedback and encouragement to help them succeed. They are also educated in health and nutrition.
  • Dog Obedience Trainer / Instructor – A Dog Obedience Trainer / Instructor teaches commands to dogs and owners. They may work on basic commands like sit and stay for house pets, more complex tricks for show dogs, or even train future therapy or aide dogs.

Electrical Technician

  • Computer Support Technician – This individual must be up-to-date on computer hardware, software, and related equipment, as well as trends, viruses and other threats. He or she must have strong communication skills to help understand and troubleshoot problems with users.
  • Electronics Technician – In this position, professionals are equipped to design and install electrical equipment, but spend most of their time troubleshooting and repairing problems. They work with communication equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, computers and more.
  • PC Maintenance and Repair – Whether it’s hardware, software, or networking issues, this person can resolve the problem and keep computers operating successfully. They may be employed in large corporations, small businesses or own their own repair business.
  • Residential Electrician – Residential Electricians plan, install, repair and upgrade electrical fixtures and control equipment within residential homes. Using specialized instruments, they ensure that the electrical components inside homes are up-to-code and safe for residents.
  • Appliance Repair – Working in customer’s homes or in repair businesses, these individuals install and repair appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, televisions, air conditioning units and more.
  • Basic Electronics – While pursuing a degree in Basic Electronics, students learn to design, troubleshoot and repair a wide variety of electronic components. They work with lasers, fiber optics, robotics and computer technology.

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Trades

  • Plumber – Plumbers install and repair systems used for drinking water, sewage, drainage and even heating systems. Since a plumber’s work is as needed and oftentimes an emergency situation, these individuals may need to work odd hours.
  • Home Inspector – These individuals are knowledgeable about many aspects of a home! They perform function and safety inspections – looking at the roof, attic, floors, walls, ceilings, stairs, windows and doors, plumbing, electrical system, foundation, basement or crawlspace, and everything in between – and advise potential buyers of any repairs that may need to be done.
  • Gunsmith – A Gunsmith may design, build, modify or repair firearms. This field requires mechanical expertise as well as a level of artistry or craftsmanship.
  • Landscaping Technology – People in this occupation are responsible for the care and upkeep of public and private outdoor spaces, including gardens, yards, parks, golf courses or even indoor greenhouses. They must have an understanding of horticulture as well as irrigation and landscape design, and be able to operate a variety of tools and equipment.
  • HVACR Technician – HVACR or HVAC technicians work with heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. They may specialize in instillation or maintenance and repair.

Software and Technology

  • Web Page Designer – Those who are skilled in technical and creative areas may enjoy a career in Web Page Design. In this field, people build or redesign web pages so that they are functional, user friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Microsoft Office – Students in this certification program will become proficient in Microsoft software including Excel, Word™, PowerPoint and how to integrate the various applications – all skills that are required in a variety of work environments today.
  • Drafting with AutoCAD – AutoCAD Drafters work on dimensioning, plotting, and printing, digitized 3D drawing, geometric construction and tolerancing, and electronic schematic drafting. They may find employment in engineering firms, government agencies, automotive companies or dealerships, construction, landscaping, or patenting companies.

Environmental

  • Wildlife / Forestry Conservation – Wildlife and Forestry Conservationists are passionate about animals and natural resource preservation. They work to preserve forests and natural habitats in order to protect various animal species.

Automotive

  • Small Engine Repair – This occupation involves the maintenance and repair of small engines. Examples may include chain saws, trimmers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, lawn mowers, wood chippers, go-carts and snowmobiles.
  • Motorcycle Repair Technician – In this occupation, individuals are responsible for maintenance and repairs of motorcycles, as well as similar vehicles such as motor scooters, all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and mopeds.
  • Diesel Mechanics / Heavy Truck Maintenance – These repair persons inspect, diagnose and repair brakes, steering, engines, electric components, transmissions and more on diesel vehicles. They may work on diesel automobiles, trucks, buses, tractor trailers, or construction vehicles, for example.

Carpentry

  • Carpenter – Carpentry is one of the most versatile construction occupations. They may construct skyscrapers or bridges, install framework or flooring in an office building, or put up molding in a private home.
  • Furniture & Cabinet Maker – These skilled woodworkers design and create beautiful pieces of furniture and cabinetry. They may work in a retail store, manufacturer, repair shop, home improvement store or own their own woodworking shop.
  • Home Remodeling & Repair – With this background, individuals could find careers as construction laborers, construction managers or carpenters. They may evaluate interiors and exteriors of homes, inspect building materials, draw plans and establish contracts.

Creative and Design

  • Certified Wedding Planner – A Wedding Planner is a liaison between the bride and groom and the various wedding vendors. They organize and coordinate everything so the couple can enjoy their special event.
  • Floral Design – Floral Designers, or Florists, arrange live, dried and/or silk flowers and greenery for decorative displays. They may work in floral shops, nurseries, markets, for wedding or party planners or own their own businesses.
  • Dressmaking and Design – Students who wish to become tailors, work at fashion design agencies, design patterns or clothing, or start their own dressmaking business should choose this major. They will learn about fashion, embroidery, and altering, among other things.
  • Jewelry Design and Repair – These artists create, repair and modify jewelry, which may include bracelets, earrings, rings or necklaces. Some work in appraisal, and with precious metals and gems.

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Culinary

  • Caterer – A caterer coordinates the delivery, preparation and presentation of food for clients. This could be at a wedding reception, rehearsal dinner, family reunion, workplace meeting, birthday or anniversary party, or any number of special occasions.

Legal Studies

  • Legal Transcriptionist – These professionals transfer audio recordings from the civil and criminal court system into written documentation using a word processor. They understand legal terminology, do intensive legal research, and handle sensitive, confidential information.

Interior Design

  • Interior Decorator – Using paint, lighting, fabric and other elements, Interior Decorators strive to make an owner’s living space match his/her personality. They balance taste with budget and function.

Business and Management

  • Travel and Tourism Specialist – These specialists are adept at using reservation systems, arranging transportation, and booking hotels, and they know about all the best tourist destinations around the world.
  • Hotel and Restaurant Management – Hotel and Restaurant Managers run the daily operations of restaurants or hotels, including managing staff, maintaining facilities, and ensuring customer satisfaction. They also handle administrative and financial records.
  • Bookkeeping – Bookkeeping clerks or Bookkeepers handle some or all of a business or organization’s accounts. This may include payroll, revenue, expenses, assets and liabilities and more.
  • Child Day Care – Child Care Providers handle general care of children either in their home, in a center or in the home of the child. This background can help individuals secure jobs as Teacher’s Aides, Preschool Aides, In-Home Child Care Providers or Nannies, for example.

What Is the Difference Between a Vocational School and on-the-job Training?

A student learning mechanics in a Vocational school

Vocational school and on-the-job training are both focused on strengthening your skills in a very specific field; however, there are important differences between the two.

  • On-the-job training is generally arranged and provided by your employer, at no cost to you. Vocational school is an educational venture that you have chosen to pursue as an investment in your own future. You choose the program and you pay for it.
  • On-the-job training is often taught by co-workers who merely know how to do the job. Vocational school instructors are experts in the field and are also skilled educators.
  • On-the-job training is narrowly focused on the skills needed for a specific job with a specific employer. Those skills may or may not transfer to a future position. Vocational school, on the other hand, will provide a broader understanding of and training in the field which will be of value to current and future employers.

Generally speaking, vocational school is above and beyond training and can offer more long-term benefits to you as a professional.

How Much Does Vocational School Cost?

A dental office assistant encoding patient's data

The cost of vocational school will vary by program and school, but let’s take a look at a few in particular so you have a good idea of what to expect.

At Penn Foster Career School, the average monthly cost is $49 or less. Students may also opt to pay for an entire program in full (including tuition, books and course materials) and save up to 20%. As an example, if paid in full, the Medical Transcriptionist program costs $669, the Hotel and Restaurant Management program costs $699, the Medical Billing and Coding program costs $839, and the Paralegal program costs $699.

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Career programs at Ashworth College also average $49 per month, and offer a discount for students who pay in full. Their Dental Office Assistant program is $599 if paid in full, while the Graphic Design program costs $649, and the Online Tax Preparation program is $699.

Can You Complete Vocational Training Online?

Yes! Online vocational training is available in a wide variety of specializations. Here are just a few examples:

  • Advanced Medical Coding
  • Computer Services and Repair
  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Dental Office Assistant
  • Diesel Mechanic
  • Graphic Design
  • Home Health Aide
  • Interior Decorating
  • Landscape Design
  • Medical Billing
  • Medical Transcription
  • Paralegal
  • Personal Trainer
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Real Estate Law
  • Retail Management
  • Small Business Management
  • Tax Preparation
  • Teacher Assisting
  • Travel Agent
  • Veterinary Assisting
  • Wedding Planner

Vocational training online is an excellent option for those who have other commitments, such as a job or family, that they need to maintain while earning a degree or certification. While the majority of the training can be completed online, some online vocational training programs include additional hands-on courses at a campus or workplace in the student’s area.

Is there a Difference Between a Vocational College and a Trade School?

No, they refer to the same thing: a streamlined education program that provides the hands-on training necessary for a specific career.

There are many terms we use to describe these schools, including: trade schools, vocational schools, vocational colleges, technical schools, vocational trade school, adult vocational school, vocational training programs and career schools.

What Is a Vocational School and How Does It Relate to Trade Schools or Career Schools?

No matter what it is called, a vocational school is the same as a trade or career school. They describe the same thing, much like how the terms college or “university” or higher education are used almost interchangeably.

Selective Skills

students watching the mentor in a vocational school for chef

Still wondering what is a vocational school? Are you great at fixing motorcycles or want to be a chef? Then you you might want to look into a vocational school! Do you want a way in to the heating and air conditioning industry or service and repair marine engines? A vocational school could be the perfect option for you!

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What is vocational school? When you know what you want but just need a way to get there, vocational schools are the answer! Earn your degree in less time (and usually a lot less money) than your typical four year college while learning skills in the specific field that you want! It’s hands-on and, in many cases, in-demand!

Vocational School vs. College Degree – What’s the difference?

There are 5 major differences between attending a vocational school and earning a traditional college degree: time, cost, focus, career opportunities and earning potential.

  1. It takes around 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree from a traditional college or university, but vocational schools offer programs that can be completed in less than 2 years (some in a matter of months!). This means you can enter the workforce and start earning an income 2 years earlier than university graduates.
  2. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the average cost of a bachelor’s degree is $127,000. Vocational schools, on the other hand, costs an average of $33,000. That’s a savings of $94,000!
  3. Traditionally, university students are required to complete – and pay for – general education courses that provide a broader educational experience. At vocational school, there are no general education courses; each course you take will directly relate to and prepare you for your chosen occupation. If you’re studying to be an electrician, you won’t have to take British Literature.
  4. Career opportunities. College degrees prepare students for a wide variety of careers. For example, those who graduate with a degree in Communications may work in journalism, marketing, human relations, event planning, administration and a number of other areas. Those who attend vocational schools will receive more specialized training, preparing them for just one line of work.
  5. Earning potential. People often assume that those who attend a vocational school will earn much less than those with a college degree, but that’s not necessarily the case. Take a look at these occupations you can enter as a vocational school graduate, and the respective earning potential for each.
Careers Annual Median Salary
Dental Hygienist $74,070
Electrician $67,990
Web Developer $54,110
Private Detective / Investigator $50,700
Paralegal / Legal Secretary $50,410
Heating, air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanic / Installer $47,080


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Indeed there are important differences between vocational school and earning a college degree, but there are advantages to each path. If you are looking for a less expensive, more focused education that you can complete quickly, vocational school may be an excellent option for you!

Vocational School Coursework

A female student of carpentry vocational school

While students at four year schools have a varied list of core subjects to complete before college graduation, vocational schools are highly specialized. What is a vocational school? Two words: hands on! In vocational school, you won’t just read out of your college textbook, you’ll get in there and get dirty! Depending on your career path, you’ll take classes that reflect your field.

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Need an example? You won’t only learn how to read and understand blueprints and schematics but learn how to apply them in real life. Interested in becoming a chef? You won’t just study what happens to milk when it is heated, you’ll learn how to make sauces and gourmet meals.

Trade School vs. Vocational School – What’s the Difference?

Nothing! Trade school vs. vocational school vs. technical school vs. career school – they all refer to the same thing. These schools provide shorter, more focused educational programs that are designed to prepare you for a specific occupation.

Each course you take will be relevant to your field, providing the exact skills you will need in your profession. Choosing this type of school will help you save money and get started in your field sooner.

What Is a Trade School?

Instructor teaching students at automobile trade school

A trade school is a career-focused school that provides students with the skills necessary to succeed in a specific trade or occupation. Trade schools may also be called vocational schools, career schools or technical schools – they are all the same thing!

The programs offered through trade schools are more career-focused than programs at traditional colleges. Typically you are not required to take general education courses at trade school; instead, you will dive right in and move through the specific training required in your field. This, of course, means that the programs are shorter – most take two years or less to complete – and cost less money.

Trade school is an excellent option if you are already sure about which career you want to pursue.

Top 15 Most Popular, Best Paying Trade School Careers

  1. Computer Network Architect
  2. Applications Software Developer
  3. Electronics Engineer
  4. Construction Manager
  5. Computer Programmer
  6. Welder
  7. Auto Body Repairman
  8. Carpenter
  9. Heavy Equipment Operator
  10. Plumber
  11. Electrician
  12. Home Inspector
  13. Dental Hygienist
  14. Web Developer
  15. HVAC Technician

But this is just a sampling! Trade school programs can qualify you for hundreds of other positions that pay well and have excellent job security.

Top 15 Most Popular Vocational Certificates

Certification Annual Median Salary
Dental Hygienist $74,070
Web Developer $67,990
Electrical or Electronics Engineering Technicians $63,660
Drafter $54,170
Computer Support Specialist $52,810
Plumber, Pipefitter and Steamfitter $52,590
Food Service Manager $52,030
Lodging Manager $51,800
Private Detective or Investigator $50,700
Paralegal or Legal Assistant $50,410
Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installer $47,080
Bookkeeper, Accountant or Auditing Clerk $39,240
Medical Transcriptionist $35,250
Medical Assistant $32,480


According to Bureau of Labor Statistics

Tools of the Trade

students in a vocational school taking exam

Vocational school students frequently leave their colleges not only with a degree and a firm background in their field, but they often leave with tools of the trade.

Those mechanically inclined may have the cost of name-brand tools as part of their tuition. Likewise, a future chef will usually exit the doors of the school with a snazzy set of sharp knives. Still looking? Try using our college search tool below to find the right vocational school programs to match your career goals and vocational job interests.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.