What is a Vocational Degree?
A vocational degree is a certificate from an academic institution that is awarded to students who have completed degree requirements for a specific field or trade. Vocational degrees are different than traditional degree programs, such as a bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees. The former takes less time than the latter and allow students to begin working in the field or trade immediately.
A vocational degree is specific, depending on the desired career or trade for a student. They are usually taken at a non-traditional post-secondary institution, such as a trade school, technical school, or a community college. However, they can also be taken at traditional colleges and universities.
Traditional Degree Programs vs. Vocational Degrees
A traditional degree program, such as a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Business Administration (MBA), is a way for students or aspiring professionals to advance their careers and reach their professional goals.
However, in order to meet the requirements of a traditional degree, there is a focus on developing the overall intelligence of students and critical thinking skills from a broad sense. Students of traditional degrees can expect to learn more than just the raw skills needed to perform a job.
Vocational degrees, on the other hand, are more narrowly focused. They aim to provide training and education that is directly related to a specific field or trade. Some examples include:
- Audio engineering
- Automobile mechanics
Of course, there are other vocational degrees in many different fields.
Benefits of a Vocational Degree
A vocational degree is attractive to students for several reasons, including:
1. Less time
Vocational degrees generally take around two years to complete, whereas a bachelor’s degree takes four years, and a master’s degree takes six years, etc. It is valuable for students who are looking to get into a trade and start working quickly.
Also, for students looking to switch careers, or add a new skill to remain marketable in the job market, vocational degrees are extremely attractive due to the shorter timeframe.
2. Less expensive
They are generally much less expensive. The average cost of completing education at a trade school can be equivalent to just one year at a college or university.
3. More direct
For students with a goal and clear career direction, they can pursue a vocational degree and get the necessary skills needed for the career without all of the extra courses and requirements that would be needed for a traditional degree program.
4. Different career opportunities
Vocational degrees are offered for a variety of different trades and fields. It allows students to try specific trades and fields that they are interested in.
Downsides of a Vocational Degree
Vocational degrees come with some downsides compared to traditional ones, including:
Vocational degrees are very narrowly focused, as mentioned earlier. They do not offer a lot of opportunities for the broad development of skills and the potential to find other passions. They provide a very specific set of skills that may not apply to any other field outside of one specific trade.
2. Lower earnings potential
In general, vocational degrees offer lower earnings potential because there is less commitment needed to complete the education, and therefore, it leads to a greater supply of students and lower demand from employers.
3. Less career advancement opportunities
Since vocational degrees train a very specific set of skills that are not usually applicable to other roles, the opportunities for career advancement without taking additional education are limited.
4. Supplement education
As mentioned above, vocational degrees are an extremely attractive education option for those with an established career already in one field but are looking to supplement their existing skills with an additional proficiency or discipline.
Given the rapid advancements in technology, more jobs are being automated, and traditional careers may need to look towards upgrading their skills in order to remain marketable within the job market. For example, understanding information technology (IT) and possessing computer programming skills are essential to navigating the developed world.
Technology is giving rise to completely new jobs and fields that did not exist even just a few years ago. The opportunity to quickly learn a new discipline with a vocational degree is very valuable to stay relevant. An example of a new field is cybersecurity. They refer to skills and knowledge that are focused on protecting computer systems and confidential information from viruses.
CFI offers the Certified Banking & Credit Analyst (CBCA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful: