All About Career Schools

By Susan Aaron, The Learning Coach

June 04, 2008

All About Career Schools

Ever wonder about those schools that advertise on daytime TV? Can you compare traditional American colleges to schools that say they will prepare you for a career in just a few months? As it turns out, you can. Francis Giglio, former director of Enhancement for the (ACICS), the accrediting body for many of these schools, offers some insights into the nature of these institutions.

The Career School Niche

Career institutions are similar to traditional colleges and community colleges in some ways, yet have a niche all their own. The ACICS works with “independent, nonpublic career schools, colleges and organizations.” That means none of these institutions are overseen by a state’s board of governors or enjoy state tax funding. According to Giglio, “the majority of these schools are for-profit. Some are publicly traded, some are privately held, and a few of them are nonprofit.”

The key qualifier for a career school is its mission — preparing students for specific careers. The education offered is very practical. Most of the majors offered are skill-focused, such as accounting, information technology and drafting. Success is defined by placement of students in jobs after graduation, and the track record those students establish in their jobs. Like community colleges, career institutions are bly linked to local interests. Part of the criteria for ACICS accreditation is that schools work with local businesses to create their curriculum, notes Giglio.

Many programs at career institutions are two-year or associate’s degrees. There are also bachelor’s and even master’s degrees available. Among ACICS accredited institutions, Giglio says career schools follow the “same credit requirements and requirements of faculty members” as an academic college or university.

Look for Accreditation

Career schools are accredited just like nonprofit colleges and universities, and the ACICS is approved by the US Department of Education (DOE). According to Giglio, “There’s a tremendous amount of federal funding (for education) and accreditation is a way the Department of Education can have oversight of educational quality.”

Schools not accredited by a DOE-approved agency may have a license to operate, but their students may not benefit from Federal financial aid money.

Other reasons for accreditation include:

* Fulfilling company requirements for educational reimbursement.

* Transferring credits from other institutions.

* Helping employers rate the value of an applicant’s or employee’s education.

* Qualifying graduates for licensing/certification exams.

Why Choose a Career School?

* Career-Oriented Mission: If the education you need is to prepare you for a career, these schools may be the right place for you.

* Focused Education: Career institutions provide a very practical education. Working closely with businesses to fulfill local needs, these institutions can help you find a job in your immediate geographic area.

* School and business networking opportunities: Career institutions often provide an intimate atmosphere. “I think the things that attract students are smaller classrooms, real-life training and more accessibility to people,” says Giglio. “Most of these institutions are housed in one building. You are in contact with the people who run the school every day.”

Finding a Career School

Career schools are growing. Giglio notes that in 1996, there were 280,000 students in ACICS-accredited schools, and in 2000, there were 365,000. To learn more, follow these steps to research schools and their reputations:

* Start by locating the institutions in your area that provide an education in your field of interest.

* Check to see if these schools are accredited, and if the accreditation information is up to date.

* Visit the school and ask questions. Inquire about business contacts in the community and past graduates’ placement rates. Ask for contact information for past graduates and ask them about their experiences.

* Use the to search for ACICS accredited schools by area or interest.

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