What Are Career Colleges?

Find the right college for you.

Options for Life After High School

Do you dream of being a pastry chef? Want to build cars? If you have specific career goals, consider a college that trains you in that particular area.

To prepare for some careers, you may need to attend a specialized college, such as a culinary college. For others, especially more technical jobs, you may need to go to a vocational college.

Accredited institutions like these that prepare students for specific skill-based careers are known as career and technical colleges. These programs require 2─4 years of study, depending on the extent of training required.

Although many students choose to attend career and technical colleges, other students pursue these interests at community colleges, which often have lower tuition costs. Consider which type of college best suits your needs as you explore your options.

A Variety of Programs

Consider choosing a career college if you're pursuing a career in these fields (among others):

  • Computer technology
  • Radio and television broadcasting
  • Business administration
  • Nursing
  • Culinary arts
  • Paralegal studies
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Commercial art
  • Firefighting
  • Dental hygiene

You can find career colleges with excellent programs in about every city and region in this country. Many of these classes are taught by an adjunct professor. These professionals teach a course or two in their field to college students.

3 students looking at laptop

Academic Programs

At career colleges, you typically don't take general education classes in core subjects like English and math. Instead, you focus on career-related courses. And at many career colleges, you complete the program in one uninterrupted period of anywhere from 10 to 18 months of study. You receive a certificate of completion or an associate of science (AS) degree when you complete your program.

Finding the Right Program

To find an accredited career college that fits meets your specific needs and interests, visit your counselor. Use College Search.

Once you find colleges that meet your needs and interests, be sure to consider the following:

  • Cost: How much does the program cost (i.e., tuition, commuting, and books)? What types of scholarships and other financial assistance does the college offer?
  • Requirements: What kinds of classes, in addition to the hands-on training, do you need to earn a degree? Can any of the classes you took in high school be applied toward these requirements?
  • Credentials: Is the college licensed by the state? Is it accredited? If yes, by whom?
  • Faculty: What teaching approaches do they use? What are their qualifications?
  • Classes: What are the classes like? How big are the classes?
  • Training/internships: How much hands-on training is there? What are the internship opportunities?

Catalogs, websites, and your counselor can answer some of these questions, but you should plan a campus visit to get a feel for a college. While you're there, speak to students and faculty members. Schedule time to sit in on a class.

Placement Services

A critical aspect of any career or vocational colleges you explore will be their job placement services. You’re about to make a substantial financial investment in your future. It’s important to understand all the implications before you begin.

Ask the admissions officers how job placements are handled. Request specific job-placement statistics for the field you’re interested in. Make sure that a substantial percentage of students get placement in suitable jobs before you commit to enrolling.

Reviewing All Options

While career colleges have their benefits, remember that training in a specific field may limit your options if you decide to change careers later. You're also giving up the well-rounded education that a liberal arts program has to offer. So, before committing to a career college, be certain you're choosing a career that will keep you happy and fulfilled in the coming years.


What does it mean to be a career college?

A career college provides vocational or career-oriented training programs for particular professions or industries. These colleges prepare students for the workforce and offer programs of varying lengths. They have a practical approach to education and emphasize skills development. They have streamlined curricula focused on distinct career paths. Career colleges are beneficial for individuals who want to enter the workforce quickly or change careers.

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What’s different about a career college?

Because career and technical colleges prepare students for definitive professions, they have shorter programs focused on practical skills and specialized training. They offer flexible schedules, real-world experience, and dedicated career services. Usually, they don’t offer traditional courses such as math, English , or history.

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Are career colleges accredited?

Reputable career colleges have accreditation from the U.S. Department of Education and other relevant authorities. Accreditation is important because it assures the institution meets certain quality standards.

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How do career colleges support job placement after graduation?

Career colleges often have dedicated career services departments that assist students with job placement and career development. Additionally, some career colleges have partnerships with local businesses and industries, which can provide networking opportunities and access to job openings.

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Can you transfer credits earned at a career college to a traditional college or university ?

Although some traditional colleges and universities accept transfer credits from career schools, others have limitations or specific criteria for credit transfer. Access the website of the college you wish to attend. Consult with the college’s admissions office to determine its transfer credit policies and requirements.

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