Choosing A Career
Or Vocational School
- Investigate several types of training programs before committing yourself to a career or
- Learn about the school's faculty and classroom facilities.
- Ask the school's administrator about the success rate of the programs.
- Investigate the job placement aspect of the program and ask about job placement rates.
- Find out about financial assistance.
- Know the tuition costs and understand the school's cancellation and refund policies.
- Ask the names of the school's licensing and accrediting organizations.
- Check out the school with consumer protection offices before enrolling.
- Ask to review a copy of the school's contract.
Whether you are entering the job market for the first time, or
changing careers, you may need to learn a special skill to qualify for the job you want.
To help you reach your goal, you may need to attend a private career or vocational school.
Such schools offer a wide variety of training programs: dental assistant; hair stylist;
automotive technician; machinist; truck driver; paralegal; interior designer, to list a
few. These programs usually take less time to complete than the degree programs offered by
two or four-year institutions. Some career or vocational schools also may help you in
locating prospective employers and submitting job applications.
While many private career or vocational schools are reputable and teach skills necessary
to get a good job, others make promises they do not deliver. The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) has brought charges against several schools for false advertising.
This brochure describes some deceptive practices found by the FTC in its investigations.
It also recommends some precautions to take before enrolling in a career or vocational
school. Further, it suggests questions you might ask school representatives in an early
Common Deceptive Practices
The FTC has received complaints and ordered some private schools to correct the way
they represent training and employment opportunities. For example, some schools:
- misrepresented chances of future employment in certain industries.
- misrepresented earning levels for certain careers.
- failed to tell students about cancellation and refund policies or failed to make refunds
in keeping with their policies
- misrepresented the thoroughness of their job training.
- misrepresented their business connections with specific industries.
Before enrolling in a career or vocational school, the FTC offers the following
Regarding Information and Problems
Investigate several types of training programs before committing yourself to a career
or vocational school.
Community colleges often offer programs at lower costs than private schools, although the
college programs may take longer to complete. Businesses also may offer educational
programs through apprenticeships or on-the-job-training.
Learn about the school's faculty and classroom facilities.
Ask about the qualifications of the instructors and the size of most classes. Look at the
school's facilities and check the equipment to find out if it is the type you are likely
to use on the job after graduation.
Ask the school's administrator about the success rate of the programs.
Find out what percentage of the students graduate. A high dropout rate could mean that
students were not satisfied with the program. Also, ask for a list of recent graduates and
talk to them about their experiences with the school.
Investigate the job placement aspect of the program and ask about job placement rates.
If a school says it will help you find a job, what does this include? Will the school
contact potential employers and set up interviews? Will you receive counseling on how to
interview, obtain, and keep a job? What percentage of the graduates are placed in promised
jobs? According to the U.S. Department of Education, if the school advertises its job
placement rates, it also must publish the most recent available data about employment
statistics, graduation statistics, and any other information necessary to support its
Contact the personnel offices of appropriate companies. Ask if they have hired, or would
be willing to hire, graduates of the school(s) you are considering. If the company will
respond, their answers may be useful.
Find out about financial assistance.
Try to get information on all Federal, state, local, private, and institutional financial
aid programs. Ask the school about the procedures for submitting applications. Remember,
you likely will be obligated to pay at least part of a loan back to the lending
institution regardless of whether you complete your training at the school or find a job.
Most financial aid programs are backed by, or available through, the U.S. Department of
Education. This agency can provide information about Federal student financial-aid
programs and help you complete a financial-aid application. Their toll-free number is
Know the tuition costs and understand the school's cancellation and refund policies.
The school must explain its refund policy in writing. Also, it must tell students about
any changes in that policy.
Ask for the names of the school's licensing and accrediting organizations.
Accreditation means a private educational agency or association has evaluated the school
and found it meets certain minimum requirements. In most states, private career schools
are licensed through the state's department of education. However, in some states, truck
driver training schools are licensed through the state's transportation department.
Check out the school with consumer protection offices before enrolling.
You can contact your local consumer office and Better Business Bureau to learn if they
have any complaints against the school you are considering.
Ask to review a copy of the school's contract.
Read the contract carefully before you sign it. This is important because the contract
explains your rights and responsibilities in dealing with the school. Make sure all the
school's promises are in writing.
If you are dissatisfied with the quality of instruction provided by your school, talk
to faculty members, the school administration, or contact your state board of education.
If you experience a problem related to your contract with the school, try to resolve the
dispute with the school, but if you do not succeed, report your problem to your local or
state consumer protection office. You also may file a complaint with the FTC. Write: Correspondence
Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580. Although the FTC generally cannot
intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of
possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.
If you received Federally-backed financial assistance funds to pay for private career
school training, you also can call the Department of Education to report your problem. The
toll-free number is (800) MIS-USED, or in the Washington, D.C. area, call 202-205-5770.
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