As the market is flooded with new technology in every field, technical studies and other forms of vocational training are becoming increasingly important.
There’s no strict definition of technical studies. The term is used to apply to a wide range of education disciplines, from accounting and fashion design through public administration and welding. Some writers include in the category fields that other writers exclude from it.
The Association for Career and Technical Education supports “education that prepares youth and adults for careers.” The implication is that technical curricula stress non-academic subjects.
In general, technical studies include:
Programs addressing the mechanical, practical aspects of a discipline
Programs in disciplines generally considered career-focused rather than academic. Examples are engineering and computer science.
Programs leading to an industry-recognized credential, such as a license
The ACTE’s membership shows that technical studies are found in the middle, secondary, and post-secondary schools.
Technical Studies: Post-secondary Schools
Colleges and universities offer degrees in technical studies at every level.
Associate’s degrees generally involve two-years of full-time education. Bachelor’s degrees usually involve the full-time equivalent of four. Postgraduate degrees are available in many technical fields; master’s degrees generally require one or two years of study.
Technical schools often offer training in skills that you won’t find at an academic institution. Some of the most popular programs in technical studies are:
– Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning training schools
– Automotive training schools
– Photography schools
– Nursing schools
– Computer schools
– Criminal justice schools
Although some theoretical study may be involved in a program, the salient characteristic of a technical program is that it’s expected to offer hands-on experience, either in class or in the industry. In scientific fields, programs are likely to include laboratory work.
Technical Studies: Careers
A technical degree is a lucrative career credential. Indeed, the vocational outlook is one of the factors that administrators of technical schools consider on developing the curricula.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “new graduates with degrees in the technical fields tend to benefit from their relatively low supply. There is more competition for their skills, driving up their salary offers.” In fact, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top three careers of 2010 college graduates, in terms of salaries, are engineering fields.
One reason for this advantage is that most technical studies programs include internships. They not only give you experience, they also introduce you to the industry. An internship gives you the opportunity to earn a professional reference and make you familiar with the mechanics of the business.
In scientific fields, programs are likely to include laboratory work as well.
Technical Studies: Skills
Because technical studies are found in many fields and lead to a range of careers, there is no single set of skills suited to them. It’s best to think in terms of the vocation for which the program would prepare you.
However, people with motor proficiency skills such as manual dexterity, fine motor precision, and bilateral coordination are more likely to be suited for technical studies than others.
Steve Greechie (MBA, MSLIS, MA) is a freelance business writer in New York City. He’s published extensively in a range of publications, including The Boston Business Journal, Information Outlook, Online, Architectural Record and The Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship. He contributed to The Core Business Web, which The American Library Association named The Best Business Reference Book of 2003. His internet copy appears widely.