What is The Difference Between a Vocational School and On-The-Job Training? – An Important Choice!

Difference Between a Vocational School and On-The-Job Training

Embarking on a career path or seeking to enhance your professional skills involves making crucial decisions about your education and training. Two popular routes to gaining the expertise needed for success in various fields are vocational schools and on-the-job training (OJT).

While both offer valuable experiences and learning opportunities, they differ significantly in their approach, structure, and outcomes.

This post delves into the distinct worlds of vocational schools and OJT, breaking down their definitions, focus areas, curriculum styles, and overall goals. By contrasting these two methods of skill acquisition, we aim to provide a clearer understanding of what each path entails and how they cater to different learning styles and career objectives.


Whether you’re a fresh high school graduate, a career switcher, or someone looking to upskill, this comparison will help you make an informed decision about the next step in your professional journey. Join us as we explore the ins and outs of vocational education and on-the-job training, shedding light on these pivotal steps toward a fulfilling career.

Aspect Vocational School On-the-Job Training (OJT)
Definition Educational institutions focusing on skills and knowledge for specific trades or careers. Training method occurring in a working environment, provided by employers to new employees.
Focus Specialized training in fields like healthcare, technology, culinary arts, automotive repair, and construction. Practical learning tailored to the specific role and needs of the job and organization.
Curriculum Combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience. Highly practical, learning by doing under supervision.
Goal To prepare students for specific jobs in their chosen field. To enable employees to gain necessary skills to perform their job effectively.
Example A student in a culinary program learning kitchen techniques and recipes before applying them in a kitchen. A new hire at a tech company receiving training in a specific programming language or software used by the com

On-the-Job Training Defined

On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training (OJT), on the other hand, is a method of learning that takes place in a normal working environment. This training is provided by employers to new employees to help them understand the ins and outs of their specific role within the company. OJT is highly practical and allows employees to learn by doing, often under the supervision of a more experienced colleague.

The main focus of OJT is to enable employees to gain the skills necessary to perform their job effectively. It’s tailored to the specific needs of the job and the organization. For instance, a new hire in a tech company might receive OJT in a specific programming language or software that the company uses.

Comparison of Curriculum and Learning Approach

Vocational schools offer a structured curriculum designed to cover all aspects of a trade or profession. This often includes both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Students typically follow a set course of study that leads to a certification or diploma.

In contrast, OJT is more flexible and less formalized. The training is specific to the job and the company, focusing on the immediate skills needed for the role. There’s usually no standardized curriculum, and the learning pace can vary based on the individual’s role and the trainer’s approach.

Duration and Certification


The length of programs in vocational schools can vary, often ranging from a few months to two years, depending on the field of study. Upon completion, students usually receive a diploma, certificate, or, in some cases, an associate degree, which certifies their expertise in the specific field.

OJT duration is typically shorter and varies greatly depending on the complexity of the job and the skills of the trainee. There’s usually no formal certification provided at the end of OJT. However, the employee gains practical experience and skills that are directly applicable to their job.

Cost and Financial Implications

Attending a vocational school often requires paying tuition, although financial aid and scholarships may be available. The cost can be a significant factor for many students, but the investment is often justified by the potential for higher earning potential and job security.

OJT is usually provided at no cost to the employee, as it’s considered part of the job. In fact, employees are typically paid during their training period. This makes OJT an economically attractive option for many, as they can earn while they learn.

Job Readiness and Employment Opportunities

Employment Opportunities

Graduates from vocational schools are often seen as job-ready, having received comprehensive training in their field. This can make them attractive to employers who are looking for skilled workers who can contribute immediately without extensive additional training.

With OJT, employees are trained specifically for their current position within their company. This means they may need additional training if they switch jobs or roles, especially if moving to a different industry. However, the experience gained through OJT is valuable and can enhance an employee’s resume.

Choosing the Right Path

Deciding between vocational school and on-the-job training depends on individual circumstances and career goals. Vocational schools are ideal for those who wish to gain comprehensive knowledge and skills in a specific trade or profession. They are particularly beneficial for individuals looking to enter a field that requires a certain level of certification or technical skill.

On-the-job training is more suited for individuals who have an opportunity to start working immediately in a particular company or industry. It is beneficial for those who prefer a more hands-on approach to learning and who are looking to quickly apply their skills in a real-world setting.


Can vocational school credits be transferred to a traditional college or university?

It depends on the institution. Some vocational school credits, especially from accredited institutions, can be transferred to colleges or universities. However, it’s important to check with both the vocational school and the receiving institution, as transfer policies vary.

How do employers typically view vocational school degrees compared to four-year college degrees?

Employers often value vocational school degrees for positions requiring specific technical skills. In fields like healthcare, technology, and skilled trades, a vocational degree can be highly regarded. However, some employers might prefer a four-year college degree for roles that require a broader educational background.

Is on-the-job training paid or unpaid?

On-the-job training is typically paid, as it’s part of an employee’s job. However, the pay rate might be different from that of a fully trained employee, and this can vary across different companies and industries.

Can I switch careers easily after completing a vocational school program?

Switching careers after completing a vocational school program can be challenging if the new field is unrelated, as vocational training is highly specialized. However, the core skills learned, like problem-solving and technical aptitude, can be transferable to different careers.

Are there online options for vocational training?

Yes, many vocational schools offer online training programs, especially for theoretical components of the curriculum. However, practical skills often require in-person training, so many programs are hybrid, combining online and hands-on learning.

Can I do on-the-job training if I already have a degree in a related field?

Yes, on-the-job training can be beneficial even if you have a related degree. It provides practical, real-world experience and helps bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical application in a specific job role.

Final Words

In conclusion, both vocational schools and on-the-job training offer valuable pathways to acquiring skills and knowledge for career advancement. The choice between them should be based on an individual’s career aspirations, learning preferences, financial considerations, and the specific requirements of their desired industry or profession.