Contrary to popular belief, having a successful, fulfilling and well-paying career does not require an expensive traditional four-year college degree.
Not having an undergraduate or graduate degree does not mean having to limit yourself to a dead-end job and a less than great income. Vocational career paths offer great jobs with competitive salaries and a greater opportunity to achieve your professional and personal dreams.
Most vocational careers do require some post-secondary education, which can be completed at a technical or vocational school or at a community college. Programs typically take up to two years to complete and end in a professional certification, licensure or an Associate of Science degree.
Careers in the health sciences are among the most popular of vocational tracks. Health science careers give those who are interested in medicine the opportunity to work in the field without having to attend a expensive and time-consuming paths through medical or dental school. Health science workers, such as nurses, dental hygienists, paramedics and phlebotomists, are always in high demand and offer higher pay than many other vocations.
Nurses are among the most sought after in the health sciences field, as there are more job openings available in the country than there are nurses. The shortage of nurses in such a high-demand field makes well-paying jobs with great benefits easier to come by. There are different kinds of nursing licenses, each with a different level of required education and working experience.
Those who are interested in a medical career but prefer a fast-paced work environment might do best as a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT). Paramedics and EMTs are first responders that provide medical aid to victims of accidents or medical emergencies at the scene and on the way to the hospital. Paramedics have more medical training than EMTs, but both career paths are well-paying and become more lucrative with experience.
Working in a medical setting does not always require medical training. Medical coding and billing careers allow those who want to serve in the medical field to work alongside doctors and nurses without providing any medical services. Medical coders and billers handle the business side of medical practices, working with data, patient paperwork and insurance claims.
If you prefer jobs that are more technical and hands-on and are still in high demand, a skilled trade may be for you. Skilled trade jobs include plumbing, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and carpentry. Most of the skills required for these career paths are learned either through a vocational career school or through a working apprenticeship program, both of which lead to certification or licensure.
Skilled trade careers offer a variety of professional paths. Marine mechanics, for example, can work on either private fishing and recreational boats or commercial fishing boats. Most marine mechanics are specialized, working on specific boat repair and maintenance needs, such as diesel or gasoline engine repair or corrosion repair. Likewise, electricians and carpenters can specialize in specific aspects of their respective career paths. A career in a skilled trade has the added benefit of giving workers the option to start their own business or work for an employer.
Corporate jobs in the business and legal career fields are also an option for those looking to go to a career school or community college. There are a variety of jobs in either field, from bookkeeping to real estate and event planning. Some career paths allow more flexibility in scheduling, where an individual can work independently with clients if not with an employer. Real estate agents, event planners and private investigators, for example, can work through an employer or be self-employed by taking private clients.
Other career paths in the business and legal fields are typically held through traditional modes of employment, but offer competitive salaries with the opportunity to advance to higher-level positions. Bookkeeping jobs are great for those who enjoy using math at work and have strong organizational skills, since bookkeepers are tasked with maintaining and keeping track of the finances of a company or client. Similarly, paralegals keep track of documents and manage files for their employers, but are required to have strong writing skills as opposed to the math skills bookkeepers need. Paralegals work under lawyers, and aid in lawsuit investigations, managing case files and filing court documents.
Careers in technology and design are among the most skill-inclusive of vocational careers. Those who work in technology and design use a variety of different skills, including mathematical, engineering, technical and creative skills. The fields of technology and design have seen much growth in recent years, and are expected to continue to grow as more technology is developed. While there are many certifications available for each career path in either field, many jobs only require knowledge and work experience, especially for those who are freelancers or are self-employed.
The most technical of the vocational career paths in the technology field is that of computer support technicians. These technicians work with clients to solve any technological issues they are having, either in person, over the phone or through online chat. Computer support technicians, also known as Information Technology technicians, sometimes work at call centers assisting customers with computer issues, but many work in larger corporations, maintaining the company’s network.
Design jobs also make up a large part of the growing career fields. Web design and graphic design often go hand-in-hand, though they are different careers. Both require designing for internet use, but one focuses more on the usability of a website while the other designs the look of a site. Web and graphic design careers require knowledge of certain software needed to complete designs, as well as some knowledge of coding languages such as CSS and HTML.
Architectural drafting is another career in design that is high paying. However, architectural drafting jobs require not only designing skills, but technical, mathematical and engineering skills as well. Those in this field design blueprints for buildings, such as homes, garages and office buildings, and design certain aspects of infrastructure, like bridges and roadways.