You’re on the last leg of your high school education. The world is your oyster and you’re about to head out on your own and take it on. Understandably, you feel powerful. You’re finally going to live life the way you want it! You’re going to start forging your own path. However, with great power also comes great responsibility. You must now choose which path you will take to fulfill your dreams. There are many options and myriad careers available to you and the possibilities are endless. The first step is deciding what kind of training and education you will need to achieve those goals. So, what are your options?
This is probably the most readily understood concept out of the four we list. Those who go to college obtain a general academic education that can prepare them for a variety of careers. This education typically takes four years. It also requires students to select a “major” or concentration. Your major or concentration is the field of study that you plan to focus on in your time at college. Aside from a few majors that are career-specific such as engineering or accounting, colleges don’t specifically prepare you for a trade. Instead, they provide you with a solid base of academic knowledge that you can apply to a number of different career paths.
Tech school, aka vocational school, is almost the complete opposite of college. Rather than receiving a broad education, you enroll in a course of study and take very specific classes to prepare you for a particular job. A few examples include culinary arts, massage therapy, office management, cosmetology, fashion design, information technology, etc. Although vocational classes are typically found in community colleges, there are also a large number of technical institutes that provide this kind of training. ITT Technical Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) are two prominent technical schools in the US.
This type of school awards advanced academic degrees, such a Ph.D. or Master’s degree. It falls under the category of “post-graduate education” because you need a college or undergraduate degree in order to apply. Typically, students go to graduate school because to embark on a specific academic career that requires or recommends an advanced degree. Graduate schools are usually part of a larger university and are attached to an undergraduate institution.
This type of school also awards advanced academic degrees. Specifically, they award degrees such as a J.D., M.B.A. or M.D. and do so with a focus and profession in mind. Like graduate schools, professional schools are post-graduate institutions. They require a college or undergraduate degree in order to apply. Law school, medical school, and business school are all examples of professional schools. Although professional schools could fall under the definition of graduate schools, we list them separately because they are similar to technical schools in that they provide students with an education with a particular career in mind.
How Can These Options Help You?
Although they’re all different, each educational option is beneficial to different types of students. In order to determine which path is right for you, first consider what you want your career path to be. What must you do to get there? Keep these things in mind.
- Unsure of what you want to do or which career to pursue? College may be your best option. Why? College allows you to “try on” various different disciplines. It lets you see which one suits you. You can start off your college career with one major in mind and change to another after a year. Changes are usually seamless and easy. This is not the case with a technical or vocational school. Change is usually harder and more involved.
- You know exactly what to do. In this case, technical school might be the right choice for you. This is particularly true if the career you’re interested in requires you to have hands-on technical knowledge and experience. One of the great aspects of technical school is the amount of practical experience you obtain during your course of study. It will directly translate to the job you’ll have post-graduation.
- You want to embark on a career path in academia, teaching, or counseling. Chances are, graduate school is in your future. Typically these positions require at least a Master’s degree, if not a Ph.D. They also look favorably upon those with extensive research under their belt. Even more so if you have published work. You can obtain both of these academic achievements in graduate school programs.
- You want to be a dentist, attorney, doctor, nurse, veterinarian, etc. Professional school is absolutely in your future. These professions require specific advanced degrees. Why? These degrees build on the foundations of college education and post-graduate knowledge. Certain upper management and government positions may also look favorably upon or require professional degrees.
What if You’re Not Sure About What You Want to Do?
Some of you may already know exactly which career path you want to pursue. However, if you don’t know, don’t worry, you’re not alone! There are many options available to you and the world is still a blank slate to you. It may take a while for you to decide, and that’s okay. Talk to your parents, friends, teachers, and counselors. Tell them about some of the career choices you’re considering or ask them for suggestions. If you need to, take time off between high school and your next academic step to really think about where you want to go and how you’ll get there.
Remember: This could set the stage for the rest of your life. Taking some time to really think about what you want to do and what will make you happy is just as important as deciding where you’ll go to make your dreams happen.