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How Short a Time Is Too Short When Training for a Career?
Nobody wants to spend years training for a career. It doesn't matter if you're fresh out of high school, switching careers, or just getting back to work after a lengthy absence...

Beware of so-called "fast track" training trade school programs that will leave you with very little practical knowledge about the career path you want to take. Nobody wants to spend years training for a career. It doesn't matter if you're fresh out of high school, switching careers, or just getting back to work after a lengthy absence. Most people want to get through the job training process quickly and get going with their profession so they can start earning a good paycheck. It's why fast track training appeals to some people. But at the same time, students want and need to become proficient in their choice of trade. These skills don't come in a flash or fast track training. So, take the time to consider the groundwork you lay in your trade school training.

These days, there are lots of options for pursuing a new career. Of course, there are traditional routes like community college or a state university that can take years to accomplish, especially if you proceed to graduate-level studies for a Master's or Doctorate. You can attend a vocational school for a few months to a year to learn a new trade. More recently, online, fast track training courses have grown in popularity because training only lasts a couple of weeks for some but not all career paths.

With so many options, it can be hard to choose the right training path. Is college worth four years and all that money? Is a trade school worth it? Can someone start a new career with online fast track training in as little as four weeks? In this article, we'll discuss these career path options and tackle the big question: How short is too short a time period when training for a career?

Choosing the Correct Career Path

Before deciding which path to take, you need to have a rough idea of what you'd like to do for a career. It doesn't have to be specific ( “A molecular scientist for pharmaceutical development at the Mayo Clinic”), but more of a general idea ("I want to work in medicine"). If you know exactly what you want to do, that's perfect, but there's no need to stress if you're still figuring it out. A general idea of what you want to do is enough to get your start at the right institution.

College or University

If you want a four-year degree, head to a college or university. Four-year degrees – which used to be the Gold Standard in education – are still the best option if you want to be a:

  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Teacher
  • Engineer
  • Pharmacist
  • Economist

For advanced degrees, like a Master's or Doctorate, you'll need to finish graduate school, which can be another two to four years of study.

Although they are often lumped together, there is a difference between colleges and universities. The difference comes in program offerings and degree types. The term "university" means larger institutions with undergraduate and graduate programs. In contrast, "college" refers to community colleges, technical schools, and liberal arts colleges.

Community College

The primary difference between a community college and a university is that most degrees at a community college take two years to complete. In comparison, university degrees commonly take four years to complete. Some of the top-paying community college degrees include:

  • Computer Science
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Software Engineer
  • Project Management
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Nuclear Medicine

Some students begin their secondary education at a community college, then transfer to a four-year college or university after one or two years. Most community college courses will transfer to a four-year school, especially if the schools are in the same state. Community college can be an excellent option to earn basic credits without paying higher tuition costs at a university.

Trade School

Vocational schools, or trade schools, have been around forever and have long been a practical option for those looking to advance their career without spending significant time learning a new trade.

Trade schools offer a solid background and career training in about a year of time. In most instances, you can attend a trade school, graduate, and begin working in less than a year. For example, Medical Assistant training at Austin Career Institute (ACI) takes 10 months. The Electrician Tech program at ACI takes about six and a half months to complete.

Online Career Training

Online career training is often called "fast-track training" because courses are accelerated and designed to be completed in only a few weeks. This kind of career training only provides the basics so you can get your foot in the door and start working right away. From there, you can continue with additional education as time allows. Many people like this route because it gets them working and earning money immediately, which can be used to pay for additional training down the road. The most popular online training courses that can be completed in less than a month include:

  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Home Health Aide
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Website Designer
  • Truck Driver

Online training usually ends with a certification that shows you have completed the course and have a basic working knowledge of the trade. This training is popular with those who know someone experienced, have connections, or have a "foot in the door" for a job once they are certified. If you learn a trade online, you will often need additional training or a connection in the industry to get working. This is primarily because these industries compete with many qualified workers – and employers typically hire those with the most experience or the best training.

How Short Is Too Short When Training for a Career?

Many students find the "sweet spot" for career training at a trade school. Four-year schools are a good option for those with the time and the money to attend. Community colleges are more affordable and have less of a time commitment – but it's still two years in most cases. Trade schools, with training in six months to around a year, are relatively quick to get through and graduate, and the price is more affordable for most students. Trade schools also have excellent financial aid programs with grant and scholarship funding available, where the grant may not have to be paid back if you graduate from the course and start working in the industry. Many students at trade schools like ACI receive total, or at least some, financial assistance.

The other benefit of a trade school is you're training for a job you excited to do. Online courses are quicker and get you working, but it's at an entry-level position that doesn't pay well. In most cases, you'll need additional training or plenty of years on the job to start making a reasonable wage. At trade school, you can learn a specific skill that pays well when you graduate and start working. From there, you can pursue additional training and increase your salary tremendously as you begin to specialize in a specific aspect of your trade.

Completing a fast track training online course to become an HVAC Technician or a Medical Assistant isn't the best path. That's because you can't take an online course to get one of these jobs – you would need additional training. Both careers mentioned above require hands-on training under the supervision of professionals. You may earn a basic certification, but you won't be able to advance very far without completing additional coursework. This is where trade school hits the "sweet spot", because you get the proper hands-on training. And it doesn't take years to accomplish.