Vocational Degree

Updated on January 4, 2024
Article byAswathi Jayachandran
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Vocational Degree?

A Vocational Degree refers to a certification obtained after the successful completion of a series of courses directly linked to preparing individuals for employment. It may be paid or unpaid in the fields of current and emerging jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree or other advanced degrees.

Vocational Degree

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These degrees emphasize imparting useful skills and training for certain trades or occupations. Its goal is to get people ready for jobs right away in a specific industry. These degrees are usually offered by technical institutes, community colleges, or vocational schools and are often of a shorter duration than conventional Bachelor’s degrees.

Key Takeaways

  • Vocational degrees are awarded for successful completion of courses that focus on providing practical skills and training for specific trades or occupations. They are designed to prepare individuals for immediate employment and often have shorter durations.
  • Vocational degrees offer career-specific training and can lead to quick entry into the workforce.
  • Its advantages include practical skills, quick entry to the workforce, and career-specific training. Disadvantages include limited flexibility, perceived stigma, and potential skill gaps.
  • Vocational degrees differ from traditional degrees, which encompass a broader range of academic degrees obtained from colleges or universities, and bachelor’s degrees, which are four-year undergraduate degrees.

Vocational Degree Explained

A vocational degree course offers programs intended to prepare students for paid or unpaid employment in present or emerging fields. According to the 1990 Perkins Act, a vocation education is defined as structured educational programs that focus on secondary and postsecondary levels and don’t require a baccalaureate or advanced degree.

A vocational degree prepares students to climb the professional ladder upon graduation. It has a strong focus on careers and gets people ready to start working right away. It is, therefore, more appealing for those unable to afford expensive degree programs like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or other undergraduate courses in various universities. Typically, technical institutes, community colleges, or vocational schools offer degrees in this field.

Vocational degree is primarily offered through three types of public high schools: comprehensive, area, and full-time vocational schools. Its goal is to prepare students for particular occupations. Agriculture, marketing and distribution, technical education, home economics, health, trade and industry, business and office, and other programs are included in this.

Some secondary vocational degree courses offer general labor market preparation in addition to an occupationally focused curriculum. Students, in general, are taught employment skills instead of preparing them for paid employment in a particular occupation, such as basic typing, career education, word processing, industrial arts and applied academic skills.

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The particular prerequisites for vocational degrees can change based on the school and program. To enroll in most programs leading to vocational degrees, candidates typically need a high school graduation or its equivalent. Additionally, certain programs could require entrance examinations or additional qualifications.

Similarly, there is no particular age limit (generally). Hence, job changers looking for a competitive new career route can benefit from these degrees. Those with college degrees or those in specialized industries can also use them. Particularly in highly sought-after industries, these degrees offer an opportunity to pursue employment not found elsewhere. When there is a shortage of professionals, obtaining a vocational degree with these abilities might quickly result in greater pay.


Let us consider some examples regarding vocational degrees to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Suppose Dan, a high school graduate with a passion for cars, is pursuing a vocational degree in automotive technology to gain practical skills related to his career as an automotive technician. The program will involve hands-on training in engine repair, electrical systems, and diagnostics, allowing Dan to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life scenarios.

He will also learn how to diagnose and fix mechanical issues, perform maintenance tasks, and stay updated with the latest automotive technologies. An internship or apprenticeship component may also come with the course to gain industry experience and network with professionals. Dan’s vocational degree will equip him with the necessary skills, expertise and knowledge to start working as an automotive technician, giving him a competitive edge in the job market.

Example #2

One example of a vocational degree job is electricians. Installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems is the full-time job of electricians. Most states need licensure, and they can obtain their education through technical schools or apprenticeships.

In May 2022, the median yearly salary for electricians was $60,240. From 2022 to 2032, the employment outlook may increase by 6%, resulting in an average of 73,500 job vacancies per year. Many of these positions might take the place of employees who retire or move to other professions. The majority of states mandate licensing for electricians.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of the vocational degrees are as follows:


  • Practical Skills: Vocational degrees focus on teaching hands-on skills that a person can directly use in specific jobs or careers.
  • Entry to Workforce: Vocational programs are shorter, so one can start working in their chosen field sooner than if they had pursued a traditional degree.
  • Career-Specific Training: Such degrees target specific occupations, which means students will receive training that prepares them well for the demands of their chosen careers.
  • Less time-consuming and less expensive: The design of the programs suits candidates for industry requirements, and the focus of the study is only on the necessary things. Since the programs are narrow in approach, it is less expensive than traditional degrees.


  • Limited Career Options: Vocational degrees are more specialized, which means students may have fewer choices for different career paths compared to traditional degrees. Such degrees need specialized skills that are usually not transferable to other professions; they offer limited options for career progression and make it challenging for graduates to pursue higher education.
  • Inflexible with less earning potential: Vocational degrees are highly specialized and provide few opportunities for broad skill development and passion exploration, and they are rigid. Since it takes less effort for them to finish their education, they also have a lesser earning potential.
  • Perceived Stigma: Some general public and employers may view vocational degrees as less prestigious than traditional degrees, even though they provide valuable skills.
  • Potential Skill Gap: Rapid advancements in certain industries may cause vocational programs to fall behind in teaching the latest technologies and practices, leading to a gap between what students learn and what employers require.

Vocational Degree vs Traditional Degree vs Bachelor’s Degree

The differences between all three are as follows:

Key pointsVocational degreeTraditional degree Bachelor’s degree
Concept Vocational degrees provide practical skills and training for specific trades or occupations.  This term is often used to refer to a broad range of academic degrees, including bachelor’s and master’s. A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate (UG) academic degree typically earned from a college or university. 
duration They are typically short and focus on immediate employment. They could be 1-2 years on average.They may be there for four or even five years, depending upon the course.It usually requires around three to four years of full-time study and provides a broad base of knowledge in a chosen field of study. 
purposeVocational degrees are to gain quick employment opportunities.The traditional degree is practiced to gain a systematic way of approaching studies or courses that help individuals secure a good job. Bachelor’s degree to provide a broad base of specialized knowledge in the chosen field.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is a vocational degree the same as a certificate?

No, a certificate and a vocational degree are not the same thing. A vocational degree is a more extensive program that combines practical training with broader coursework. In contrast, a certificate program usually concentrates on certain information or abilities connected to a particular occupation.

2. What types of jobs would require a vocational degree?

Professions in skilled trades like electricians, plumbers, automotive technicians, dental hygienists, medical assistants, and pharmacy technicians are examples. Cosmetology, graphic design, and culinary arts are a few more examples.

3. Is a vocational degree the same as an associate’s degree?

No, an associate’s degree and a vocational degree are not the same. Although both are regarded as postsecondary education, a vocational degree is more concentrated on practical skills for a particular career, and an associate’s degree is a more comprehensive curriculum that combines general education classes with specific major coursework.

4. Is nursing a vocational degree?

Nursing can be pursued through academic or vocational degree programs. Academic (associate’s or bachelor’s degree) or vocational (diploma or certificate) nursing programs are available. The current tendency, meanwhile, is for entry-level nursing professions to require a minimum of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

This article has been a guide to what is a vocational degree. We explain its examples, comparison with bachelor’s and traditional degrees, requirements, & advantages. You may also find some useful articles here –

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