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Best vocational courses for employment

Not every career requires a degree. Check out these vocational courses for inspiration...

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While gaining a degree is often cited as the best way to land a career, you do have other options. Whether you prefer to learn in a more practical environment, or you don’t have the money to spend on a three or four-year university programme, a vocational course may suit you better. Here, we explore some of the best vocational courses based on employment prospects, expected salaries, cost and sector growth. 


Before we get started, let’s make sure we’re clued up on the definition of a vocational course.


1. Dental hygiene


As a dental hygienist, you would be responsible for helping children and adults look after their teeth and gums, working as part of a dental team. Daily responsibilities include sterilising equipment, scheduling appointments, taking X-ray images, and ensuring patients feel at ease.


The employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow by six per cent between 2019 and 2029 as the population ages and this occupation grows increasingly in demand (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021). While dentists must complete a five-year degree, courses can be much shorter and less expensive for dental hygienists. You can study for a diploma in dental hygiene at community colleges and specialist dental training schools. This will typically take two years to complete. 


As an example, you can study for a dental hygiene advanced diploma for 90 weeks at Fanshawe College in Canada. This will cost CAD 7,596 at each level (2021/2022). Fees will vary depending on the institution, so make sure you check the university website for more specific details.

Dental hygienists typically earn starting salaries of between GBP 24,907 and GBP 30,615 per year in the UK. Specialist dental hygienists can earn GBP 31,365 and GBP 37,890 while experienced hygienists can earn up to GBP 44,503 per year (Graduate Prospects 2020). So, you can see why this profession is considered one of the best vocational courses for employment because you get a great return on investment and can earn a high salary.


2. Electronics


As demand increases for alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, so does the need for electricians. The employment of electricians is expected to grow by eight per cent between 2019-2029 (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021). 


Electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining electrical power in homes and businesses including lighting, control systems, devices, appliances, and other electrical products. This profession requires problem-solving skills, physical strength, and impeccable customer service skills.

To qualify as an electrician, you do not necessarily need a degree. Instead many electricians’ complete apprenticeships or attend technical school. Apprenticeships typically take two to four years to complete. To be accepted, it will be helpful if you have GCSE qualifications at grades D and above (or equivalent). 


What’s great about an apprenticeship is that you get on-the-job training, which will provide you with the real-world experience needed to start working straight away. The cost of an electrical apprenticeship varies from GBP 250 to GBP 1,420 per year depending on the school you decide to go with (electrician classes 2021).


Electricians can earn high salaries which makes this profession particularly appealing. The average salary for an electrician in the UK is GBP 34,157 (Glassdoor 2021). In the U.S., the national average is USD 59,190 (Forbes 2019). Of course, your salary will depend on your location and experience.


3. Construction


To work as a construction labourer or helper you do not need a formal education. However, there are apprenticeships available for aspiring construction workers. This would equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge, preparing you for the world of work.


As an apprentice you will receive a combination of on-the-job experience and in-classroom learning, giving you both theoretical and practical skills. These programmes typically take two to four years to complete. During a construction apprenticeship you can expect to cover the following:


  • Building construction
  • Machinery operation
  • Building structures (scaffolding/bridges)
  • Health and safety measures
  • Landscaping
  • Deconstruction 
  • Bricklaying


To qualify for a construction apprenticeship, you need to pass your maths and English GCSE’s, or equivalent. If you wish to start working straight away, you may not need any qualifications, but this depends on the employer and would mean learning everything on the job. 

Construction workers can earn an average salary of GBP 47,500 in the UK (Total Jobs) and USD 37,890 in the U.S. Plus, the sector is expected to grow by five per cent from 2019 to 2029 (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021). You may also decide to pursue a construction management degree if you wish to increase your level of knowledge and work on bigger projects.


4. Web development


Do you have a talent for tech? If you’re computer literate and want to work in the web development industry, you might be pleased to know that you can do a vocational course to work in this profession. This industry is set to grow by eight per cent over the next 10 years which is much faster than the average occupation (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021)


As a web developer, your role would involve designing and creating websites, coding, and testing for usability. To train, you can complete a coding course that will teach you the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, all of which are essential for a web developer or designer. In addition, you will also need to use design software such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver. 

There are many routes you could take to become a web developer or designer from gaining a certificate, diploma, degree to watching online tutorials. For example, you can study a diploma in UX and web design for 18 months on a full-time basis at Torrens University in Australia which will cost USD 15,094 per year for international students.


You can expect to study web design for one to two years at this level. You can also become a web developer after studying for a degree in computer science or IT if that’s the route you’d prefer to take. Other examples of web development courses include:



The average salary of a web developer or designer is GBP 32,500 in the UK (Total Jobs) and USD 77,200 in the USA (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021). With more experience, you can earn a higher salary. 


Want to keep searching for a course? Use our course matcher tool to find what’s right for you.


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