For some students, attending a traditional four-year university or community college after high school may not be a fruitful choice.
But for this generation, continuing education is much more important than ever before. According to the Department of Labor, by 2014, 85 percent of U.S. jobs will require education and training beyond high school.
One path to getting that job is to earn a certificate, degree or diploma from a career college or technical school.
While there was a time when career-training programs were viewed as intellectually inferior to traditional education, times have changed. Today's career school students are just as smart, savvy and driven as the college-bound. Most programs require a high school diploma or GED for entry, SAT/ACT scores and/or a passing score on an entrance exam.
Technical and career schools offer programs that run from two months to two years and focus on using "real world" equipment to simulate the work environment. There are plenty of advantages; hands-on instruction, career programs, job placement, a wide variety of courses, personalized degree tracks and practical schedules. These schools are also a low-cost option and can be the quickest way to get trained and certified for certain jobs.
Some of the most popular tech school majors to consider:
• Business and legal: paralegal, court reporting, criminal justice, private investigation
• Trade and industrial: automotive technician, carpentry, construction
• Health occupations: nursing, dental and medical technicians, medical transcription
• Marketing and consumer sciences: culinary arts, cosmetology, massage, merchandising and retail
• Technology: Web design, manufacturing, electronics installation, communications, aviation, biotechnology, graphic design
Florida has 45 public career-technical centers that offer certificate programs. Locally, Marchman Technical Education Center in New Port Richey and Pinellas Technical Education Center in Clearwater offer a variety of programs listed above. Many high school students can begin their career training while in high school and complete their programs after graduation.
There is some funding out there, too. High school students who meet Bright Futures Scholarship eligibility requirements can apply for the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholar Award that pays 75 percent of tuition and fees to attend a career-technical center. Financial aid and scholarships are also available.
Those interested in pursuing a technical degree should do some research to find the program that best matches their skills, abilities and interests. Use the library and the Internet and be sure to talk to your high school guidance counselor or career specialist.
Michele Chamberlin is the Career Specialist at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey.