Taking Vocational Courses in High School

Find out how vocational education can help you get a head start on your career preparation.

No matter what your plans are after graduation—a two-year college, four-year university, or straight to the workforce—enrolling in vocational courses while still in high school can prepare you for the next stage in your education, career and life.

What Are Vocational Courses?

Vocational classes are designed to teach a skill and/or trade that will help prepare you for college or a specific career field.

There are two types of vocational courses – career and technical education (CTE) classes and vocational courses.

CTE classes traditionally focus on non-academic practices and activities within a specific industry – such as applied science, economics, engineering, and medicine. In these courses, you will receive hands-on training related to a specific profession – such as an electrician, dental assistant and physical therapist.

Vocational courses emphasize certain skills necessary for college, like reading, writing, mathematics and computer science. These courses differ from traditional high school courses in that they are tailored to provide you with knowledge that all college students are expected to know.

For example, most college mathematics courses require a strong understanding of algebra. Enrolling in intermediate and advanced algebra vocational classes will strengthen your skills and also help prepare you for the college-level coursework.

You may find that certain vocational courses teach skills applicable to both hands-on job experience and academic work as well. A child education class, for example, may provide technical training by working with children in a classroom setting, while also emphasizing psychology and theory literature.

Why Take Vocational Classes?

If you have decided that college is not in your immediate future, taking vocational courses is a great opportunity to explore your post-high school options outside of college. A CTE course will teach you many of your on-the-job responsibilities, preparing you for a full-time or part-time job in the real world.

If you are planning on attending a two-year college, vocational classes are a perfect complement to your schedule. While your classes will provide you with the general academic background needed for your intended career, the experience gained from vocational courses will be comparable to an internship.

Even if you are enrolling in a four-year university, there are numerous benefits to vocational courses. You will get a look at potential careers that traditional coursework can’t offer. Many times, students graduate with a degree in a specific field of study, only to find they don’t enjoy their daily, on-the-job responsibilities. By taking vocational courses, you will have a better idea as to whether or not a career field is right for you.

Benefits of Vocational Classes?

The National Assessment of Vocational Education (NAVE) conducted a three-year study to determine what benefits, if any, vocational classes offered high school students. Their findings, which were submitted to congress, concluded that students who took vocational courses in high school saw an increase in their academic performance. Equally encouraging was the fact that these same students had higher earnings than their peers who did not take such courses.

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