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What Things to Look for in a Career Training School

If you are interested in careers like medical assistant or medical billing, use these 6 important steps to help make your decision

In a time when four-year college tuitions are on the rise, some people are turning to career training schools, which train students in accelerated, career-focused programs that are designed to prepare students for the workforce. Most programs can be completed in about one year, and prepare students with the hands-on skills they need to begin a new career field.

When considering a career training school, it’s important to do your research. You want to be sure you are choosing a promising field, enrolling in an accredited school with a high job placement rate, and finding aid to help you afford your education.

Step One: Choosing a Promising Field
Many career training schools will advertise their job training programs on television, in public transportation stations, and at shopping malls. Before you believe the advertising about job growth in a particular field, do a little research on your own. One good place to evaluate different career fields is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor. This online handbook profiles hundreds of different career fields, and includes their job outlook (predicted job growth) by geographical region. Make sure you are choosing a field that has a positive job growth outlook in your region.

Step Two: Finding Schools that Train in your Field
Once you have chosen the career fields that interest you, it’s time to find out if there are schools near you that provide training in those areas. A good resource for searching nearby schools is the College Navigator. The National Center for Education Statistics runs this website, which provides a search tool to help you find schools near you. Once you find the nearby schools, you can review their websites to see what programs they offer. Make a list of the schools that provide training in your selected field.

Step Three: Checking if the Schools are Accredited
There may be many schools in your area, but deciding which ones are reputable schools might take a little time. One important measure is accreditation. An accredited school has successfully met standards required by a third party accrediting board. To find out if your potential schools are accredited, use the U.S. government’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. If a school is not accredited, it may not be a good choice for you.

Step Four: Visiting the Schools in Person
The websites and marketing materials for a career training school might look appealing, but be sure to visit the school in person so that you can decide how it feels for you. Schools should offer to give you a free tour, and should provide an admissions representative who will spend time with you. Take your time at the meeting. Bring a list of questions with you, and write down the answers so you can keep track of the information as you are comparing schools.

Here are some questions to consider when visiting a career training school:

  • How long has the school been operating?
  • How long has the job training program that I am interested in been offered?
  • How long has the school been accredited?
  • When were the classrooms and labs last renovated?
  • What industry-related equipment is available for real-world learning?
  • How long does the program take to complete?
  • Are there both daytime and evening options?
  • What hours will I be expected to be at the school every day?
  • Does the school offer internships or externships? (These are unpaid, short-term, supervised job placements where you gain real-world experience that can be included on your resume.)
  • What kinds of financial aid does the school accept? Is it eligible for Federal Student Aid? (If you are a veteran, also ask if it is eligible for GI benefits.)
  • Are there financial aid advisors who will help me navigate the financial aid process?
  • What is the job placement rate in the job field I am choosing?
  • Does the school have a Career Development office that can help me prepare my resume and find job leads?
  • How many other students are in the program?

Step Five: Taking Your Time: Don’t Feel Pressured
During the process of visiting schools, you will probably find that each school will have an enthusiastic admissions representative who will encourage you to enroll right away, but make sure it is the right thing for you before you agree to anything. Do not sign anything during your initial tour that commits you financially to the school. If you like the school, you can fill out an application, but just be careful not to sign anything that commits you, because you still need to look at other schools, and investigate financial aid options.

Step Six: Starting the Financial Aid Process
Once you have a list of schools that are possibilities, you can start to apply for financial aid. Most people begin by completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. Visit Five Things to Know about the FAFSA to find out how to get started on the financial aid process. Different schools may offer you different amounts of financial aid, so be sure to include all of the schools that you are considering on your FAFSA application.

We hope that taking this measured approach to finding a career training school will help get you started on a successful path to your future. Taking some time to research your options and select the right school will go a long way to getting started on the right foot!

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Founded in 1965, the Harris School of Business provides career development advice in our Career Services section. If you are interested in learning more about the career training programs offered at the Harris School, visit our homepage, and find out if our programs are the right answer for you.

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