DEFINITION of 'Vocational Degree'

A vocational degree is an educational certificate that specifically prepares an individual to work in a chosen field. By contrast, a college undergraduate degree focuses on developing an individual's all-around intelligence and critical-thinking skills, but may not prepare an individual for a specific job, depending on the major that is chosen. Vocational degrees offer training for careers such as medical coding and billing, auto mechanics, cosmetology, electrical work and legal secretary work, among many others.

BREAKING DOWN 'Vocational Degree'

Sometimes it is possible to get a bachelor's (college undergraduate) degree in a program that is also offered as a vocational degree, but not all vocational degrees can be obtained through a traditional four-year college. For example, it is possible to become a paralegal by completing law school or by completing a paralegal vocational degree, but few, if any, colleges offer bachelor's degrees in cosmetology.

How Vocational Degrees Apply in the Workforce

The parameters for what qualifies as a vocational degree may vary by state. Two years of nursing education in California, for instance, is quantified as a technical degree but in other states that same curriculum might be recorded as non-vocational. The length of curriculum for vocational degrees can vary drastically from a couple of months to two years to complete.

The value of vocational degrees can vary with some estimates showing that shorter term programs can offer higher career returns on the investment into the curriculum. The range of salaries for jobs open to those with vocational degrees can vary widely.

Vocational degrees are sometimes sought by individuals who have already established a career in one field but are looking to be trained in supplemental areas. This sort of activity may be common in industries that have undergone tangible evolutions where new required skill sets have come into play to remain employed in a particular role. For instance, many careers now require an understanding and use of information technology and computer programming skills as a part of daily work.  

Vocational degrees may also be used for job-changers who are seeking a fresh, more competitive position in the job market on an entirely different career path. They might even have college degrees in specialized fields. A vocational degree is an opportunity to pursue work that might not otherwise be available to them. This can be especially true if certain industry positions see a sudden rise in immediate demand with few professionals available to fill the roles. Pursuing a vocational degree that offers such skills may be an opportunity to achieve a higher salary in a short amount of time.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Juris Doctor - JD

    Juris Doctor, or JD, is the highest education available in the ...
  2. Degree Of Combined Leverage - DCL

    A degree of combined leverage (DCL) is a leverage ratio that ...
  3. Encore Career

    A second vocation in the second half of one's life which seeks ...
  4. G.I. Bill

    The G.I. Bill refers to any U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ...
  5. Education Credit

    An education credit type of tax credit available to students ...
  6. Associate In Research And Planning ...

    Associate in research and planning (ARP) is a professional certification ...
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Online Degree Programs With Big Demand

    Are online degrees as respected as traditional college degrees?
  2. Personal Finance

    A Double Undergrad Can Cost You Your MBA

    Many college students prefer to do a double major to broaden their education, but this can hinder them - financially and professionally - in the long run.
  3. Personal Finance

    6 Alternatives To Going To College

    It may be the natural next step for high school seniors, but it isn't the only option - and it isn't always the best option.
  4. Small Business

    4 Common Degrees Small Businesses See on Candidates' Resumes

    Understand why the business environment is changing and how it benefits small businesses. Learn about the top degrees small businesses see on resumes.
  5. Managing Wealth

    Post-Grad Degrees That Pay The Highest

    A post-graduate degree could be well worth the extra time and expense.
  6. Personal Finance

    Top Bachelor Degree for a Hedgefund Career

    From economics to statistic analysis, certain bachelor's degrees make graduates more qualified for landing highly sought hedge fund jobs.
  7. Personal Finance

    Jobs That Pay Over $100K and Don’t Require a Medical or Law Degree

    Don't want to spend half of your life in med or law school? Don't worry - there are other jobs that pay over $100,000 a year.
  8. Personal Finance

    4 Pieces of Good News for Job-Seeking Grads

    There are more jobs and higher salaries on offer for the Class of 2017.
  9. Personal Finance

    3 MBA Double Majors That Boost Your Value

    Find out how to fast track your MBA degree with a double major to help give your career the edge it needs and create a focus in an area of expertise.
  10. Financial Advisor

    Want To Be A Financial Planner? Eye These Schools

    If you're interested in becoming a financial planner here's a quick look at what to expect and short list of the top schools.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How do I calculate the degree of operating leverage?

    The degree of operating leverage is a measure used to evaluate how a company's operating income changes with respect to a ... Read Answer >>
  2. What's the average salary of a loan officer?

    Read about the average yearly salary for a loan officer. Learn about what these professionals do and what determines their ... Read Answer >>
  3. What kinds of financial analysis jobs are there?

    Read about some of the different types of financial analysts, including those considered to be on the buy side and those ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center