Going to a career college can represent a significant investment of both time and money. If your goal is to get trained for a rewarding career, then it’s definitely worth it. But how do you know you’re training for a career field that is growing and will have opportunities in the future?
America’s accredited career and technical schools have the same concerns as you. They know that their success is measured by how many of their graduates are able to find good jobs in areas where there is growth and opportunity. A high job placement rate means that the college is succeeding in its mission. But if their graduates aren’t getting jobs, then the reputation of the college will suffer. When schools train students to succeed in growing career fields, everyone wins.
How do career schools decide what programs to offer? Mostly by studying trends and statistics. The best source for employment statistics is the U.S. government. The Labor Department has a division called the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS publishes vast amounts of employment information and data on its website. It’s free and available to anyone.
In the publication “Occupational Outlook Handbook” the BLS tracks and evaluates hundreds of occupations such as medical assistant, truck driver, carpenter, accountant, cosmetologist, motorcycle repair, law enforcement, graphic design, and many more. A description is provided for each job, along with information about training and advancement opportunities.
There’s also a section called “Job Outlook.” This section gives the BLS projection of the job’s future potential. That’s what career colleges want to know.
For example, here’s what the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition predicts for dental assisting:
“Employment is expected to grow 36 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. In fact, dental assistants are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations over the 2008-18 projection period.”
This is a very positive expectation. It means that despite difficult economic times in which the unemployment rate is unacceptably high, the field of dental assisting is expected to continue to create new jobs. Career colleges use this type of information to help them plan their curricula. Many career schools offer programs in dental assisting because they are confident that their graduates will be able to find opportunities in that field.
Career Fields That Are Declining
Let’s look at another example-file clerks. File clerks classify, store, retrieve, and update office information. In many small offices, they often have additional responsibilities, such as performing word processing, entering data, sorting mail, and operating copying or fax machines.
Does training to be a file clerk sound like a good idea? Here’s what the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition has to say about opportunities for file clerks:
“Employment is expected to decline rapidly. Employment is expected to decline due to productivity gains from office automation and the consolidation of clerical jobs.”
The job outlook for file clerks is terrible! Career colleges recognize this. Chances are the career college or technical training school that interests you will not offer a program in file clerking. If they trained students to be file clerks, their graduates would enter a job marketplace with few opportunities.
Finding the Career College for You
Career schools are not employment agencies, and cannot guarantee you a job. But when you choose a program at a reputable career college, you can be assured that the school has done its research and is offering educational programs that reflect the current job marketplace. And that’s good to know!
So how do you choose a career college? The best way is to start online. You can read the Occupational Outlook Handbook online at http://www.bls.gov/oco/. See which careers are expected to keep growing. Then go to a reputable college directory website such as Education-For-Careers. You’ll find a search engine that allows you to specify your search terms and get information about schools that are appropriate for you. A good college directory website will have information about online programs (also called distance learning), financial aid, job placement services, and much more.
Choose four or five schools that offer what you are looking for. Compare programs and then contact them. You can apply to as many schools as you want. Once you are accepted, apply for financial aid. When you have all the information you need, then make your choice. One thing is for sure-no matter what accredited career school you choose, it’s very likely that the school has researched which careers are growing and has crafted its curriculum to meet the demands of employers.