Employers want to hire workers who are able to carry out their job duties and achieve desired results. Every job has a minimum training requirement based on the complexity of the duties workers in that job are expected to perform.
If you want to be competitive in the labor market, whether you are just entering a job, looking to advance, or trying to change jobs, you need to know the required training for the jobs that interest you and look for ways to get that training. Those whose training best matches the job-training requirements have a competitive edge in the labor market because they are the workers employers want to hire.
Training includes course work at educational institutions or online and work/learning experiences such as apprenticeships, internships, and on-the-job training. Other ways to get training can be through volunteering and service learning. You can show proof of your training with certificates, diplomas, and documentation of experiences. You should realize that just getting the minimum level of training is usually not sufficient to be competitive in the labor market. Getting a certificate, diploma, or degree does not guarantee getting a high-paying job. It is usually a combination of academic preparation and experience that makes a person most competitive in the job market.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers projections on the expected growth of occupations during 10-year time spans.
As of this writing, occupations that require a master’s degree or higher are expected to grow the most (+15 percent) from 2019 to 2029. Jobs that require a bachelor’s degree will have the second-highest employment growth—6.4 percent through 2029. You can enter many jobs in the U.S. labor market with a high school diploma and receive short-term, on-the-job training. However, these positions generally offer the lowest pay and benefits. As a rule, the more training required to enter a job, the higher the pay. Consulting with a career counselor is often an excellent way to learn about training options and financial resources for obtaining training.
Two- and Four-Year Programs
Higher education is educational programming beyond high school. It includes course work from two- or four-year institutions and from graduate schools. People who successfully complete these educational programs receive degrees, either associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or professional. On average, workers who have earned bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or professional degrees have higher incomes and lower unemployment rates than workers with less education.
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An associate’s degree is considered a two-year degree, which means that it normally takes two years of full-time enrollment to complete. Employment opportunities for those with an associate’s degree are expected to grow by 6.2 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
A bachelor’s degree is a four-year degree and is often referred to as an undergraduate degree. It is usually designated as either a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of science (B.S.) depending upon the area of academic study and may be conferred with honors, that is, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, if the student maintains a high grade point average (GPA). Occupations that usually require a bachelor’s degree to enter are projected to grow by 6.4 percent from 2019 to 2029, although many careers are enjoying even stronger growth.
The completion of an internship has become a prerequisite for entry into many careers that require a bachelor’s degree. Completing at least one internship or other experiential learning opportunity (such as a practicum) while in college will provide you with a competitive advantage in the job market. A practicum or an internship is an opportunity to perform the job duties expected of an employee in an actual work setting. It provides two advantages: (1) you can determine if you are on the right career path by seeing if you enjoy working in the occupation and (2) you can start developing a professional network of contacts who may be able to help in finding employment after graduation.
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Cooperative training programs involve a combined effort between a school and a sponsoring company, government agency, or nonprofit organization. The programs vary, but the student will generally spend one portion of the school year at the organization in a training program and the rest of the year in school. The student is paid for the work period (a trimester or semester, usually) and then attends school for the rest of the year in regular school programs. The co-op program routinely lasts three or four years during college. Some programs involve extending the undergraduate program to a five-year period because of the training periods.
Master’s, doctoral, specialist, and professional degrees are awarded as graduate degrees and typically require two to six years of additional studies after earning the undergraduate degree. Some colleges, universities, and institutes of specialized study are accredited to award graduate degrees. Some programs of graduate study require students to be awarded a master’s degree first and then seek a doctoral degree, while others admit students with the intention that they will complete their studies with the award of a doctoral or professional degree.
Master’s degrees usually require you to earn between 36 and 64 or more graduate semester credit hours and usually to complete them in not less than two years of full-time study.
Advanced Graduate Studies: Specialist, Doctoral, and Professional Degrees
There are a variety of degrees that may be earned in graduate studies beyond the master’s level, such as a specialist degree, as in education specialist (Ed.S.); a doctoral degree, as in philosophy (Ph.D.), education (Ed.D.), or psychology (Psy.D.); and a professional degree, as in doctor of medicine (M.D.), doctor of dental science (D.D.S.), juris doctor (J.D.), or master of laws (L.L.M.). It is helpful to be knowledgeable about the occupation for which you are seeking further training, to be able to clearly articulate how this training will further your personal career path, and to suggest how you intend to contribute to the profession.
Other Postsecondary Training Options
Currently, the U.S. labor market provides a wide variety of occupations that you can enter without a higher education degree. Sometimes training is provided on the job. Training may also be available from a wide variety of programs. Think of yourself as a consumer of educational programming and carefully examine the training options available to help determine what training program best matches your time commitment, financing, learning style, and career goals. It may be helpful to do information interviews with local employers to determine what sort of training programs they prefer their employees to have completed.
Adult Education Courses
Many public school systems sponsor adult education classes that offer course work both to obtain General Education Development (GED) certification and to get vocational training. GED certification is the equivalent of a high school diploma. These classes are also referred to as continuing education or professional development courses. Students who successfully complete vocational classes usually receive a certificate.
Trade and Technical Schools or Colleges
Trade and technical schools or colleges are usually private, for-profit institutions that offer vocational training. Sometimes they are referred to as private career schools, vocational schools or colleges, or proprietary schools. These schools may be accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Office of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, and other organizations. They may be licensed or registered by state boards of education. Typically, their programs of study emphasize training for a specific occupation.
Care Facility Training Programs
Hospitals and other care facilities, such as nursing homes, may offer opportunities to train to enter health care occupations. This training may combine academic course work and on-the-job training, or it may be on-the-job training only.
Apprenticeships have been a traditional way to enter the occupations referred to as “skilled trades” or “blue collar.” These include occupations in building trades and construction, such as carpenter, electrician, floor layer, painter and paperhanger, and plumber. They also include machine trades or industrial trades that employ boilermakers, ironworkers, machinists, tool programmers, millwrights, and tool, die, mold, and pattern makers. More than 150,000 U.S. employers (including UPS, Ford Motor Company, Google, Apple, Boeing, and CVS/Caremark Pharmacy) offer apprenticeships.
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Service Learning and Volunteering
Service learning means working as a volunteer in a community service agency. Service learning helps you gain a sense of civic and social responsibility as you develop personal, professional, and academic skills by applying classroom learning in a work environment. There are volunteer opportunities in all occupational areas. Volunteers learn about jobs in different occupational fields and can participate in activities that develop skills. If you are not a student, you may find that volunteering in a service learning position provides experiences that aid you in career transitions or job advancement.
Distance Learning or Distance Education
Distance learning or distance education offers the availability of educational programming close to home. You do not have to go to the educational institution to take courses; instead the academic faculty comes to you online. There are many different forms of educational opportunities that are called distance learning. Today this type of learning is also referred to as online education. In fall 2018, there were 6,932,074 students enrolled in distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Nearly 17 percent were enrolled exclusively in online courses.
Adapted from “Training for Job Entry and Career Development,” Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance, updated February 2021, Ferguson’s, an Infobase Company.
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