It’s the age-old debate: university vs. technical college, which is better? They both have their pros and cons depending on your situation, but when it comes to adult learners, career school has some obvious advantages.
Also known as trades or vocational colleges, career schools are focused on teaching you what you need to take on a variety of entry-level careers. The focus is on both theoretical and practical training that each industry specifically requires.
Here are eight of the considerations when deciding to go to a career college as an adult.
Going to university takes time. If you have a full-time class schedule you may be lucky enough to complete it within four years, but any dropped courses, fail marks, or further qualifications could mean up to ten years spent on your university education. The other problem with long drawn out study programs, it is so much easier to lose interest or fail! It’s a lot of time to invest when the outcomes aren’t guaranteed. Indeed, over 40% of university students drop out before they finish their degree. It has also been argued that a two- or four-year degree is a myth, with a report showing that only 5% of those studying a two-year associate’s degree finishing within the allocated period. The rates are higher for bachelor degrees, where 19 to 36% of students finish their degrees on time.
There are not many adults who have this kind of time available to devote to their career training, especially when they have other work and family responsibilities. At vocational colleges, programs are usually intensive, only taking few months to a year to complete and the education you receive is specific to your career goals, so you don’t waste time on general education or study a variety of topics that you won’t actually use once you’re employed. This means not only do you have to devote less time to your tertiary education, but you are also career-ready much sooner.
Tuition costs are considerably higher for university degrees, and you also have to take into account the additional costs of having to move to a new city to attend school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, attending university can cost up to $30,000 each year. This really adds up over the course of a degree especially if you have to move to attend or if you can’t finish within four years, It’s no wonder 50% of university graduates end up with over $50,000 in student loan debts. The cost of attending a career college is significantly lower and I’m not just talking about the much lower costs of tuition fees. At technical school, there’s also the possibility that you might be eligible to receive federal financial aid. Add to this the fact that you don’t need to move or give up your present employment to study, and the cost savings of career college is clear.
Despite the huge difference in costs, there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding high employment rate of university graduates either. According to a long-term study of almost 16,700 students undertaken by the U.S. Department of Education, of those who completed a bachelor’s degree, 87% were employed compared to 77% of those who completed a certificate. That’s 10% more chance at success at over five times the cost, not very good odds! In fact, the same study showed those who had completed an occupation-specific credential were more likely to be employed after six years, and 74% had a job in their chosen field, compared to only 53% who received an academic credential. Furthermore, 41% of university college graduates were working in a position that did not need a degree and 63% said that to get the job they wanted they would need to undertake further training.
When you go to junior college, you are stuck with the timetable you are given. You have to take classes the times they are offered and can usually only enroll in courses once or twice a year. Also, usually you’ll need to move away from home to study unless your hometown has a good university available.
Career colleges have program openings throughout the year and often allows for flexible learning methods. At CCI, we offer hybrid courses where you spend time studying online and on campus at either our Dallas or Arlington location. Not only does this mean you can study without it disrupting your family life or current job, it means you can live at home and avoid incurring additional accommodation costs.
Class size can make a huge difference to your learning experience. At university, classes can be huge, with hundreds of students attending lectures and vying for the attention of lecturers. Not only is it easy for you to get lost among the crowds, but many adults also do not find this type of environment conducive to learning.
At career college, classes are smaller which allows instructors to give you one-on-one attention, answer any questions you may have, and provide practical, hands-on learning such as that offered in CCI Training’s computer and medical labs. You’ll also have more opportunity to get to know your classmates and they are more likely to be closer to your age.
University and junior college usually provide a broad education base, but many adults want to focus on the specific skills and certifications they need for the career they want. Trade schools usually specialize in specific industries so that you can learn all you need to know in one place. In career college, your instructors are specialists in their field of expertise, so you can learn from people who have experience in their industry and who are learning on-the-job in their career every day.
Not only does this experience improve your skills base, but it can also help your career by expanding your professional network. CCI Training also offers lifetime employment assistance, so you will be able to contact them for careers advice even after you graduate, along with counseling, job search and employment assistance, careers assessments and guidance, jobs fairs and other networking opportunities.
6. Work Experience
University graduates rarely have practical experience in their chosen field, and it is often expected that they will undertake unpaid internships after their degree is complete, which can take a further year on top of at least four years of education.
When you study at CCI, you don’t just sit in classes listening to teachers lecture you each program involves a practical component. The computer and network administration program features a hands-on IT lab, which in the medical programs you can use the labs to learn how to draw blood, take EKGs, compound medicines and deal with sterile products. If you decide to take up CCI’s business accounting program, you will get to start and operate your own simulated business.
At vocational college, not only do you get extensive hands-on experience in your chosen career through the course material but they can also arrange the externships and work experience that employers are looking for.
7. In-demand Careers
At university, there is a huge variety of subjects to choose from, and a single degree can consist of everything from theatre, science, literature, mathematics, the list goes on. While a college degree can be a huge investment, unemployment rates for university graduates have almost doubled in the past ten years with 8.5% without a job and 16.8% underemployed.
At technical college, the study programs are job-specific so you learn what you need for a given career and, more importantly, they teach you the skills you need for careers in industries that need employees. For example, in Texas demand for entry-level healthcare careers are expected to increase by over 30% in the next seven years. Each year there are expected to be 870 new medical records and health information specialists, 3,070 new medical assistants, and whopping 3,580 new positions available for medical secretaries in Texas alone. The situation is similar in IT, with the growth rate to reach between 20 and 30% for entry-level positions in Texas, where there are expected to be 320 extra information security jobs; 600 new network support positions each year; 1,080 new network systems administrators; and, 2,100 extra desktop support technicians.
With the level of growth in the number of positions available and a shortage of candidates with the appropriate skills, those working in growth industries such as IT and healthcare are likely to experience job security as employers do not want to risk losing skilled employees. Also, these jobs are unlikely to be outsourced or automated, because they are positions whose responsibilities are time sensitive and often require face-to-face customer service and creative problem-solving.
Finally, and potentially most importantly, technical schools give you all the information you need to undertake certification exams. Certification proves that you have the skills and the understanding you need to undertake the tasks you are certified for. University degrees give you general skills to apply to a range of positions, but to establish a career you need to undertake further hands-on work experience to prove your ability. Careers college gives you the specific knowledge you need for the job AND the practical experience to show you can put that knowledge into action, certification provides the evidence of your knowledge and experience.
Certifications are usually industry-specific and maintained by respected industry organizations. For example, CCI Training’s Computer and Network Administration program prepares you for nine separate certification exams including four essential Microsoft certificates and the highly regarded CompTIA A+.
CCI’s Health Information training provides the preparation you need to sit the National Healthcareer Association’s (NHA) certification exams to become a medical administrative assistant, a billing & coding specialist and an electronic health record specialist. CCI’s Medical Assisting program prepares you for the NHA’s medical assistant and phlebotomy technician certification exams.
If you undertake Pharmacy Technician training will also be able to sit their phlebotomy exams, as well as the Pharmacy Technicians Certification Board’s pharmacy technician certification and the National Pharmacy Technicians Association’s sterile product and compounding certifications.
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the organizations that provide certification in IT and allied health careers as well as the individual certificates they offer. For more information on how vocational college can prepare you for a new career or build on your existing skills, fill out the form on this page or get in touch via Facebook.