Career Colleges and Technical Schools (page 4)
What kind of career and technical training do you want?
Career One-Stop provides information on determining your training needs and assessing your skills.
Career Voyages helps you explore career options and careers with the fastest growth rate.
Occupational Outlook Handbook describes the education and training needed, earnings, and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations.
Which schools offer the training or program you need?
The Department of Education's College Opportunities Online (COOL) Web site can help you search for career colleges and technical schools. When using COOL, be sure to click the box labeled "Title IV participating" at the bottom of the search page if you plan to apply for federal student financial aid. Only schools accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are able to enroll students who receive federal student financial aid. Also, contact the licensing agency in the state where you want to go to school to find information on schools offering the training or program you're interested in. Those agencies can tell you whether the school you are considering is operating legally in the state or if the state requires the school to be licensed or certified in order to offer instruction.
What preparation do you need for a particular job?
Do you need to complete a specific education program to get an entry-level job in the field you are interested in? Do you need to get a license or certificate in order to work in your field of choice? To get the answers to these questions, check with your high school guidance counselor, people already working in the field, and professional licensure agencies or certification organizations in your state. Also, find out if any special license or certification is needed to get a job in the field of your choice. If you need a certificate or license, ask any school you are considering if its graduates are eligible for licensure or certification after they complete its program. It is also good to ask the school for the number of students who take and pass their licensing exams. Also, ask the school what percentage of its graduates find jobs in their field. For more information about the skills and training you'll need for a particualr job, look at these helpful web sites: Occupational Information Network, an interactive Web-based tool providing information on skills and training required for different occupations. CareerOneStop, providing information on occupational trends and occupational skills, knowledge, and abilities.
Will employers accept the training as preparation for employment?
Call the employment office or human resources department of some businesses or companies where you might like to work. Ask if they expect employees to have a certificate or license in order to be hired. Also ask if they can recommend a career college or technical school that provides the training required for employment.
More information on schools that match your interests and goals.
Choosing a School
Is the school you are considering accredited and licensed?
Accrediting and state licensure agencies are gatekeepers that help make sure that you receive a quality education and get what you pay for. To learn more about accreditation and state licensure, read over the short descriptions below:
Accreditation is a good basic indicator of quality, although not every school chooses to be accredited. If a school is accredited by a nationally recognized agency, it means it has met certain quality standards established by the accrediting agency.
To find out if a school is accredited by a nationally recognized agency, check to see if the accrediting agency is included in the U.S. Department of Education's List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies.
Most states have laws requiring that career colleges and technical schools be licensed or certified to offer instructional courses and programs. If a school has a license or certificate to operate, it means it has gone through a process to make sure that it meets certain standards. Some states do not require certain schools to be licensed or certified to operate legally in the state.
Contact the state licensing agency where the school is located to find out if it is operating legally in the state, using the Directory of Higher Education Officials.
What are the requirements for admission? Are there minimum entry requirements at the career college or technical school you are considering? Is a high school diploma or GED required? Contact the school and ask about their admission requirements, or go to your local library and look up information on the school.
Will your coursework transfer to another school? When looking for a school to attend, you may want to find out if your coursework will transfer to another school for academic credit. Courses you take in one school do not automatically transfer to another school. To find out whether coursework will transfer to another school, call the admissions or registrar's office and ask if the institution will accept credits from the career or technical school you are considering.
To learn more about transferring credits from one school to another, take a look at "The Student's Guide to Transfer of Credit" by The Distance Education and Training Council.
Is crime at the school a problem? The number and type of criminal offenses reported by a college or school to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) can be an important factor to consider before enrolling in a school. Criminal offenses at over 6000 colleges, universities, and career and technical schools in the United States can be found on the OPE Campus Security Statistics Website.
Should you visit the school? Yes, visit the school you are considering. While you are at the school, get a copy of the school catalog and take some time to look at the equipment and facilities to see if they are similar to equipment that you will be using on the job.
Also, sit in on a class or two and talk to the instructor and current students. Here are some questions to ask that will give you first-hand knowledge about the school:
- Do the instructors seem knowledgeable?
- Do students like the program?
- Are they learning what they need to know to get a job?
- What is their opinion of the instructors?
- Have they had any problems with the school, the instructors, or the classes?
- What do they like most and least about the school or program?
Here are more resources to help you in choosing a school: Degree.net: A five-step procedure for investigating schools National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools Better Business Bureau: Choosing the Right Career Training School
More Information on finding and choosing a school.
Paying for Your Education
How much will you pay for the program or training? Be sure to ask any career college or technical school about the total price of the training or program you are interested in. Also, ask if there are items not included in the total price that you would have to buy in order to successfully complete the training or program. Does the price cover books, supplies, and equipment, if needed? Prices for similar programs can be quite different from one school to another, so it's best to know ahead of time what it will cost you to get a certificate, degree, or diploma. Ask about the price of the program before any student aid, and then what it may cost if you get student aid.
Is financial assistance or student aid available?An important question to ask a school you're interested in is whether financial assistance or student aid will be available to you. In particular, you might ask if the school participates in the federal student financial aid programs administered by the Department of Education. Also, ask if the Department of Veterans Affairs approves it for veterans educational benefits and whether or not a student is able to attend the school with funding from the Workforce Investment Act. For more information on student financial aid, see:
The U.S. Department of Education's various financial aid publications: The Student Guide; Looking for Student Aid; and Funding Your Education. The U.S. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), the fastest way to apply on-line for student financial aid.
FinAid! The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid for an online calculator to determine student aid needed. The U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration for grants and funding for individuals with disabilities. Will you have to sign an enrollment contract? If you make a decision to attend a career college or technical school, you will probably need to sign an enrollment contract. The contract will probably say that the school agrees to provide the program of instruction and other services outlined in the catalog and, in return, you agree to pay a certain sum of money and abide by the rules and regulations of the school.
Read the contract carefully and remember that the contract is a legally binding document between you and the school. Ask someone whose experience and advice you trust to review it with you. Make sure the contract specifically explains:
- How much the program will cost you;
- How long the program will last; and
- The school's refund policy.
Don't sign a contract that has blanks in it. Read the entire document thoroughly before you sign, and do not sign unless you understand it. Once you have signed the agreement, be sure to keep a copy for your records.
What is the school's refund policy? Take the time to review the refund policy published in the school's catalog. Every school is required to have a refund policy; however, policies will vary from state to state.
Will your program be delivered by distance education? If your program or training will be delivered "at a distance," you will want to find out as much about the school and the coursework as possible. It is important that you find out if the school is accredited by a nationally recognized agency. Because distance education programs allow you to work in the convenience of your own home and at your own pace, it's important that you find out if this is the right learning style for you. Two helpful guides are: The Distance Learner's Guide published by the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications and the Federal Trade Commission's Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools. More information on distance education. Does the school offer job placement assistance? Many career colleges and technical schools provide job placement assistance as part of their service. If the school does offer job placement assistance, ask about the job placement rates (the percent of graduates placed in jobs) and compare the placement rates with those of other schools. Ask for information about recent graduates, and find out where they went to work. Whenever possible, ask former students about their experience at a school you are considering. Did the training they received prepare them for the job they wanted? How can you avoid diploma mills? Unfortunately, there are some schools--often called "diploma mills"--that are more interested in taking your money than giving you a quality education. Information about how to avoid these types of schools can be found at:
- U.S. Department of Education: Diploma Mills and Accreditation
- Oregon Student Assistance Commission:
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation:
Have students filed complaints against the school?
If you want to find out if any complaints have been filed against a school, you should contact one or more of the following authorities: Accrediting Agencies - U.S. Department of Education's List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) or other organizations can provide information regarding customer complaints in local areas. The BBB Web site lists local telephone numbers.
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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