Find a program that suits your needs for a new profession
There are lots of reasons to explore alternatives to a traditional four-year college. You may be eager to get out into the working world, or unwilling to spend the years of studying—and thousands of dollars—it can take to earn a traditional degree. It can be a relief to know that there are several other options available, especially in terms of professional training schools. The key is to know what you’re looking for, and how to find a program that will help you get where you want to go.
There are shorter-term programs that can provide the training you need in months or one or two years, so you can be out on the job market and earning sooner rather than later. You should let your interests guide you to a program that feels like a good fit. Salter College’s two campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, MA, for example, offer relatively short-term programs in several fields:
The objective of these programs is to provide skills and practical experience so that motivated individuals can put their training to work. What’s essential is choosing a program that is going to set you up for the career track you want.
How do I choose a school?
Does short-term training appeal to you? First, it’s wise to consider what you need to know about choosing a career school, vocational program, or trade program. According to the financial magazine Forbes, here are some strategies for choosing a reputable short-term program that will result in a solid training experience:
- Do some research about the industry
It helps if you know where you want to end up, professionally. This can include what kind of work environments a certain field can offer you, as well as what kind of salaries these positions offer. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook with useful details about what different kinds of jobs entail and how much you can expect to make.
- Get to know your options
In addition to community colleges and vocational schools, there are private career schools to consider. Look at all the options available to you, to get a sense of what will best meet your needs. Do online research, make phone calls to admissions representatives, visit campuses, and speak for current students focusing on the field you’re interested in.
- Talk to recent graduates
Alumni are one of the best sources for evaluating a program. They can provide honest feedback about the training as well as how it helped them in their career. Do a search on LinkedIn, but also ask an admissions counselor to connect you with a recent graduate working in the profession that holds your interest.
- Get to know the school’s rep
Do employers in your area think well of students who emerge from that program? Do some online research, and then ask people at the school about their placement rate as well as what kind of jobs their graduates tend to get.
- Look for accreditation
Ideally, you want to choose a program that has been evaluated by a third-party organization and met all of its accrediting standards. If you’re not sure about a certain school, just ask if their accreditation is up to date, or check online their status with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- Figure out your finances
Every school will have different tuition and offers in terms of scholarships and loan options. Meet with a member of the financial aid team at each school, about how much the tuition will cost and what aid you’re eligible for. Use these meetings as information gathering, and don’t sign any documents until you’ve taken the time to evaluate several alternatives.
- Get details on loan payments
It can be tempting to sign up for a loan now so you can get started , and then worry about your loan payments later. You want all the details up front about what the payments will be, so you’re not surprised when you start paying them—including interest—after you finish the program.
- Take your time
Don’t let anyone put pressure on you to enroll too quickly, before you’ve had the chance to gather information. People who represent the school should support you in taking the time to make the choice that’s right for you. If you’re feeling rushed, it’s probably wise to slow down and evaluate other possibilities.
What to ask when you visit a school
If you come up with a list of questions in advance, you’re gathering the same information when you visit each potential school. A good place to start is a list of questions offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Here are some examples:
1. How many students are in a typical class?
If you like large lectures, you’ll be looking for something different than a school that emphasizes small classes and individualized instructions. Everyone is different in terms of what helps them do their best.
2. What real-world experience do instructors have?
It’s useful to know whether teachers actually work/have worked in the field. Ask about how much experience they have as instructors. Sit in on a class and see what you think.
3. What is the success rate for the program?
Find out from the admissions officer about what percentage of students completes the program, and what percentage lands a job in that field after graduation.
4. What will the total cost for the program be?
In addition to tuition, look out for additional costs, such as books, equipment, and uniforms, so these aren’t a surprise once you enroll. Compare the total costs required at each one you’re considering.
5. Are the facilities up to date?
A program with modernized facilities and equipment is more desirable, because you’ll be training on the same instruments you’re likely to use one you’ve found a job in your new field.
6. How does this fit in with my life and goals?
Get a sense of the day-to-day realities of the program: not just how long it will last, but what the class schedules are like (e.g., are night classes available?). Find out about the school community: how many other students are enrolled, details about internship placements, and whether there’s a career development office to help you make the transition into your new career. You’ll want to take advantage of these resources when the time comes.
Once you’ve spent some time researching the answers, you’re in a better position to select a school that will be a good fit for you. This can pay off in preparing you for the job you want. For potential students in Massachusetts, we hope you’ll consider the programs we offer at Salter College. We could helps you launch a new career!
This article is part of the Salter College weekly blog. Contact us today to learn more about our various career training programs, or to request more information via our simple online form. Call our Chicopee campus at 413-206-0300 or our West Boylston campus at 774-261-1500. We look forward to hearing from you!