Vocational skills are skills you gain toward becoming knowledgeable in a specific trade or profession. In this lesson, you will learn more about vocational skills.

What Are Vocational Skills?

Mary has been laid off from her job as a bank clerk, and her counselor Jake has told her that one option she has is to gain vocational skills. Vocational skills, Jake explains, are practical or firsthand skills that help a person master a trade or a job. Often, vocational skills can be obtained through hands-on experience on the job. However, these skills may also be obtained at a vocational school. A vocational school, also called a trade school, provides technical education to prepare people for work in a trade, craft, or profession.

Vocational vs. Other Schools

But what is the difference between a vocational school and a traditional college? Well, vocational schools are less expensive compared to traditional colleges, offer focused practical training in one specific area of interest, and offer shorter programs that usually culminate in diplomas or certificates. Keep in mind that even though vocational training is career-oriented, some jobs require a college degree or higher education. For example, you cannot be trained for a career as a doctor at a vocational school. Fortunately, Mary doesn’t want to be a doctor, but she still wants to know more about vocational skills before making a career decision.

Advantages of Vocational Skills

So, let’s explore with Mary the benefits of vocational training. One big perk of vocational training is that it can help Mary obtain a job faster, because vocational workers are generally in high demand. These programs often take relatively little time to complete and are often relatively inexpensive in the larger scope of education. Also, since vocational schools tailor the programs to match what employers are looking for, the rate of job placement after graduation is generally high.

Examples of Vocational Skills

Mary is sold on the idea of a vocational career, but now she needs to explore her options. Jobs that require vocational skills range from the traditional blue collar jobs in which highly skilled personnel work with their hands, to white collar jobs in which formally trained professionals work in an office setting. Let’s look at a small sample of the types of vocational careers Mary might pursue.

One job title Mary has always been interested in is hairdresser. Mary could go to a hair design school where she can learn to cut, color, and style hair, and she will learn about sterilization and safety. Mary knows that hairdressers are always in demand, and training from a state-licensed cosmetology program is the first step toward a career as a hairdresser.

There is a dental clinic in Mary’s neighborhood, so another vocational skill she considers is working as a dental hygienist. At a vocational school, she can learn about the different dental procedures and the proper use of dental tools and equipment. She will have to earn at least an associate degree from a dental hygienist program, but it will qualify her for a job as a dental hygienist or dental assistant in a dental office.

Mary also is interested in computers and another job she is considering is working as a computer technician. Through a vocational school, she can earn a certificate or an associate degree to help her gain expertise and hone her computer skills. In vocational training, she’ll also earn vendor-specific certifications, such as certification in Microsoft Office.

Mary loves animals, so she is thrilled to learn that she can enroll in a veterinary assistant program and train for a career working with and helping animals. The training program will provide her with hands-on training in veterinary procedures and practices that would make her immediately marketable in the veterinary industry.

Mary could also become an accountant. Even though an accounting degree can be earned through a four-year college program, she instead can take a shorter vocational training course that leads to a certificate in accounting. This course teaches basic accounting principles and equips students with knowledge needed to work as an assistant in an accounting firm.

Lesson Summary

Vocational skills are practical or firsthand skills that help a person master a trade or a job. These skills may be obtained on the job or at a vocational school. A vocational school provides technical education to prepare people for work in a trade, craft, or profession. While vocational education isn’t for everyone, there are many benefits. For instance, vocational schools are

  • Less expensive compared to traditional colleges
  • Offer practical training for jobs in high-demand fields
  • Offer shorter, more focused programs
  • Often have a high rate of job placement after graduation

Some common vocations include hairdresser, dental hygienist, computer technician, veterinary assistant, and accountant.