Vocational Training

5 Differences Between an Academic Education & Vocational Training Program

Academic courses are based on logical reasoning. Many of these courses are compulsory and set by a school/college/university curriculum. Whereas vocational courses are practical on-hand courses that help the individual learn and adapt to a new skill. A vocational course is a complete training program that deeply focuses on practical work and less on traditional academic exams.

Differences Between an Academic Education & Vocational Training

Nowadays, most institutions around the world are combining both (academic and vocational courses) to equip individuals with a well-rounded learning experience that can help them progress in the world. However, when it comes to completing such courses, some notable differences set the two a class-apart. Today, we are going to discuss both types of education programs. These will help you get a more in-depth detail about the two and help you learn how they differentiate. Although, we aim to clarify the concept between the two:

Education & Training Curriculum

To begin with, the most apparent difference between the two is the difference in specialization options. When you opt-in to complete a particular course academically in a specific field, you are not only biased to completing that single course. Instead, you have to pass general education courses such as science, literature, history, mathematics and other similar multiple fields. You get a high end exposure to a variety of learning material and regardless of what you choose to study, these courses are mandatory to complete. In academic learning, you start off with an associate-level course, excel to bachelor’s, and then masters and then doctoral degree programs.

In vocational learning, you enroll yourself in a specialized education or training program. Unlike academic learning, vocational learning doesn’t inquire about mandatory general education sub-fields. Instead, you have to achieve different proficiency levels to move up the ladder from being an apprentice to becoming a master of art. For example, students in Australia get certificates when they complete their Level 1 and Level 2 basic proficiency levels. Once, you’re equipped with the basic proficiency, then you can further move on to the next certification level which is the advanced training program and get a license.


The biggest differentiating factor between the two is the cost incurred in completing the programs. The cost of completing a community college degree program might be equivalent to that of completing a vocational training course. The associate degrees and the bachelor’s program can cost as high as up to $25,000 – $30,000 per year on average. The overall cost of completing a trade school program or a vocational training certification is equivalent to the same amount.

Although the cost of a vocational school and an academic program can greatly vary depending on the type of school you enroll in. What may cost you for completing an academic school year might be equivalent to an entire vocational training program right from start to completion.

Course Lengths and Certifications

While, academic programs can take up to 2 years for intermediate graduation, 4 years for bachelor’s program, 2 additional years or up to 3 years for master’s program depending on the field you choose. If you pursue your career in the doctorate program, it can take up more additional years.

However, the basic proficiency certifications can go from weeks to a couple of months or more. Whereas the advanced certifications can easily extend up to 6 months or a whole year depending on how long the candidate takes to gain proficiency. On completing every vocational training program, you get a certificate and a license on complete training.

Student Life Environments

In academic environments, students are more accustomed to the cloistering effect. Since they are more fine-tuned to living in a dormitory environment, eat-in student cafeterias, spend time together in libraries & classrooms, their lives mostly revolve around staying & learning together. As a result, they end up developing a specific culture that they promote within the university.

In vocational training environments, students don’t get the chance to live on campus and are more likely to spend their time in a training center. Once they gain the skill and become masters in their art, they receive a license and start working. Unlike university graduates, they don’t survive by some vocational school culture. They adapt to the culture of the society in which they live and progress accordingly.

A Difference in Approach to Learning

Vocational school training is more dependent on hands-on learning experiences. All the knowledge which an individual gains while enrolled at a vocational school prepares him to have the real-world experiences where they will be required to work with relevant tools & technologies. In short, a vocational training approach equips a person to work with the standards of the industry. They adopt processes and practices that contribute to their personal/professional progression.

Academic schools, on the other hand, are more focused on theoretical learning. The knowledge and learning that a person gains at a college or university clarify their concepts. It equips the individual with a complete understanding of the industry itself. Their minds are built around adopting strategies that can complement the processes & practices commonly followed by a particular industry. They become more equipped with knowledge rather than the practices. Unlike a skill master, they can think and produce better solutions or improvise existing ones critically.

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