Career College FAQ's

While they have gained a great deal of attention lately, career colleges are part of a long tradition of trade and career-focused post high school education in the United States. Career and vocational schools are not for everyone, but they offer great opportunities to gain job-specific skills and job placement assistance. If you have wondered if career or vocational school might be right for you, this article can get you started.

What exactly is a career college?

Unlike a traditional four-year university, a career college offers education programs that are designed to train students for specific job or career. Most career college degree programs last eighteen months to two years, though some schools offer professional certificate programs that take less than a year. Career colleges are also known as vocational schools, tech schools, and trade schools.

What kind of skills can I learn at a career college?

Different colleges offer different programs, generally based on the demand for qualified applicants in their region. You can find career programs for medical and dental assisting, computer administration, criminal justice, and accounting just about anywhere. Vocational schools offer programs in auto repair, HVAC service, and other technical and mechanical skills. Art and design vocational colleges offer degrees in animation, computer-illustration, and graphic design. There are career colleges in New York and Los Angeles that focus on performing arts and technical aspects of the entertainment  industry. Just about any job skill or specialization that you can think of is probably offered by some school somewhere.

What is the difference between career colleges and community colleges?

Community colleges are non-profit educational institutions—usually run by states, counties, or cities—that offer a wide variety of low-cost college courses and Associates degree programs. You can also take courses individually without being in a degree program. Admission to community colleges is open, meaning that anyone who lives nearby can take courses. Community colleges offer general education courses, language courses, and art courses in addition to career-oriented skill courses.

Career colleges are usually for-profit, and offer educational programs that are more targeted to the skills that employers in certain fields are looking for. Career colleges often hire experts to teach their courses, and work with employers to develop curriculums specifically for workers in that industry. Unlike community colleges, career colleges do not offer single courses outside of degree programs. While admissions to a career college are not open, admissions standards are much more relaxed than in four-year colleges. Career colleges offer a bare minimum of general education courses, and even they are usually developed with the career-specific focus in mind.

Are career colleges accredited?

When a school is accredited, it means that its programs, faculty, and administration have met certain quality standards set by regional or national accrediting bodies, which themselves are approved by the US federal government. Accreditation is a voluntary process, which means that schools do not have to be accredited to operate. If you are considering a career college, however, you should always be sure that your school is approved by one of the four national accrediting associations for career and vocational education. Schools will typically be very clear if they have been accredited, but make it very difficult to learn if they haven’t.

Will my career college credits transfer to a two- or four-year college?

If you decide down the road to pursue additional education at a community college or traditional four-year college, you will want to transfer as many of the credits as you can from your career college so you don’t have to waste time and money taking the same courses over again. If your career college is accredited, chances are good that the core classes (the ones that teach you the specific career skills you are looking for) will transfer to college programs in the same field. General education credits earned at career colleges are less rigorous than tradition schools, however, and they rarely transfer.

How long does a career college program take?

The length of career college programs varies depending on the skills you are studying and the degree you are pursuing. You can earn a certificate or diploma in nine months, while Associates degrees typically take eighteen months to two years to complete. Your schedule and ability to take courses also affects program length, though most career colleges strongly encourage completing degrees on time.

How likely am I to get a job after attending a career college?

Almost every career college has a job placement office that works with local employers to get graduates hired. After all, the more graduates a school successfully places, the better their reputation. There don’t seem to be any hard statistics about how likely you are to get a job in your field after completing a career college program. Schools, programs, faculty, and local job markets all affect graduates ability to land jobs. Before applying to a career college, ask about their job placement services, and their success rate. Also remember that the biggest determining factor to whether you get a job is you.

How much does a career college cost?

Career college tuitions, fee, and book costs vary by school and program. This should be your first question when applying to a school. Ask both the admissions department and a few students. Many career colleges have funding counselors to help you get loans, grants, and scholarships to help pay the costs of your education. Because career colleges are for-profit companies, they are required to have refund policies, so you should ask about that as well when applying.

Some things to keep in mind

Every college campus is different, even career colleges that are part of larger companies. Before committing yourself to a potentially lengthy and expensive educational program, be sure and check out a college thoroughly to make sure it is the right fit for you. Visit the campus in person, ask for a tour, and ask the questions in this FAQ, to make sure that the school will be a good investment in your future

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