I’ve gone to several community colleges and graduated from one of them. My husband has gone to both community colleges and vocational schools. He has certification from two vocational schools.
It used to be very simple to choose between the two. If you wanted to enter a career and weren’t looking for academic training, or didn’t have the time for two or more years, you chose to attend a vocational school. If you wanted the academics or were planning to pursue a higher level of education that required going to a community college since the credits needed to be transferable and vocational training was often not accredited the same way and was often not accepted by an academic institution.
Nowadays, both institutions have gotten quite competitive and in some cases can be interchangeable except that the transfer of credits can still be a problem. It depends upon what you are looking for as to which institution will most successfully meet your needs.
The vocational schools can often be more expensive than community colleges since they’re often for profit private schools whereas most community colleges are public and are supported by public funds.
First, you need to consider what it is you are looking for in an education and what kind will best suit you and your needs.
It used to be that vocational schools more often offered only certification for a specific vocation with hands-on classes in that particular field without a lot of academics. That’s still available today. However, they can now, also, offer AA’s and BA’s with academics. But depending upon their reputation and accreditation, their certification or diploma may or may not be accepted by employers or be transferable to another school.
Vocational schools also tend to have their class schedules set up differently than academic schools. They often offer courses in six to eight week intervals in small class sizes where all of the students move together through the courses all through the year with small breaks between terms. The students usually take one or two classes per term. There is usually no summer break.
The qualifications for attending a vocational school can be different from that of a community college. The requirements can be less academic. The testing has a different focus. It’s more specialized to the particular field that you’re planning to enter. So if you’re not interested in academics or are not academically inclined, then a
vocational program might be a good choice for you.
A vocational college is also a good choice if you want to go into a field that has specialized training, such as hairdressing, welding, flight attendant, trucking, gemology or insurance to name a few.
However, as I mentioned earlier, the community colleges have increased their certificate and career specific diploma programs in the past few years. There are a whole range of certificate and diploma options offered at the community colleges beyond the chef’s school, police science and nurse’s training that they offered during our parent’s time.
They offer a lot of what the vocational colleges offer, often in the traditional 12 week two semester year with an optional summer semester. Full time class load is usually four classes. A lot of the career offerings can be taken as certificate programs, AA programs or as fully academic transferable programs.
Community colleges don’t often have a problem with their credits being transferred to another community college or to a four year school. They also are a very good bargain. Often high school counselors will advice students to get all of their basic required classes done at a community college since the same class would be a whole lot more expensive at a four year institution for the very same credit.
Community colleges do have more required academic testing than do vocational schools. They also have more required prerequisites for entering certain programs and often some of the more popular programs are impacted, in other words, closed to low qualified students or have a long waiting list even for those who do qualify.
Both schools offer financial aid. But the community college can offer some other scholarship options and on campus work study because it’s connected into the local state system. It can also offer a more efficient job placement. Also, because they must be regionally accredited to be able to transfer their students to a four year institution, they are obligated to provide an education that can be used in the professional world.
Both types of schools often offer an on-line option to their course loads.
It depends upon the particular vocational school as to the quality of the education and ability to be transferred into the workplace. Some of the schools have a higher rating or cachet in their chosen field than a community college would and would open doors to prestigious careers in their chosen field. Other vocational schools will just take your money and run.
You need to investigate your choices to make sure that what is offered is actually what they say it is, that it’s transferable to a real career. It’s advised that you check out the local Better Business Bureau in the area where your choice of a vocational school is located.