There are hundreds of vocational schools throughout the U.S., and these range in quality. Some are run by world-famous non-profit medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Others are fly-by-night operations, and have the negative Yelp reviews to prove it.
With the increasing popularity of for-profit education companies, more and more complaints have been made from students who feel misled by unethical companies looking to make a quick buck. The Federal Trade Commission has this to say:
While many of these schools are reputable and teach the skills necessary to get a good job, others may not be. They may promise more than they can deliver to increase enrollment — and their bottom line. They may mislead prospective students about:
- the salary potential of jobs in certain fields
- the availability of jobs
- the extent of their job training programs
- the qualifications of their staff
- the nature of their facilities and equipment
- their connections to businesses and industries
That’s why this article was written- to give you the knowledge to ask the right questions before you write your school that tuition check. Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate the school:
What are my other options?
Public schools (i.e. community colleges, public universities, etc.) frequently offer health career-related courses. They are non-profit, meaning there is little risk that the school will disappear once you’ve paid your fees. This also means your degree or certificate is more likely to be recognized by employers 10 years down the road. Some public schools have established relationships with local hospitals and doctors’ offices, which means it can sometimes be easier to find an externship. Finally, it might be easier to get financial aid if applying to a public school than a for-profit school, since public schools are more often accredited.
However, programs at public schools can take longer, and are usually offered less frequently (i.e. on a semester or quarterly basis, as opposed to on a rolling basis). Also, the fact that public schools are funded by the government mean their incentive to exceed students’ expectations is dampened compared to those of a for-profit school. Conversely, the fact that for-profit schools stand to gain financially from wowing their students means that some of them care deeply about seeing their students succeed, since doing so helps their reputation in the industry.
Apprenticeships or internships can be another option. Not all states require phlebotomists to attend a phlebotomy training program, earn a certificate, or become licensed. If you’re able to receive on-the-job training, for instance as a volunteer with the Red Cross or another recognized organization, this can be a great way to get your foot in the door without spending thousands on phlebotomy classes.
What are my goals?
Do you want to learn a skill, prepare for a certification exam, or brush up on skills you already have? The answer to this question can determine which phlebotomy training program is right for you. For example, if your goal is only to refresh your current skills and you already have a job, you may be OK with attending a school which doesn’t offer help finding an externship at a clinic or hospital. If your main goal is to start your career as a phlebotomist, then a lack of help finding an externship may be a deal-breaker for you.
Is the school accredited and licensed?
Some states, such as California, require students to complete a certain number of classroom hours in a state-approved phlebotomy training program. Accreditation is the state’s way of ensuring a school’s students get the education they paid for. If you attend a non-approved program, you may be required to re-enroll in an additional, approved program before applying to take your phlebotomy license exam.
What are the requirements for admission?
Is a high school diploma or GED required? Contact the school and ask about any prerequisites you’ll need to complete before attending.
What does the school provide?
Books, lab equipment, immunizations, proof of CPR training, state examination and license fees, and other necessities may be part of your phlebotomy training process. Be sure to ask if any of these are included in the cost of your tuition, or if they’ll be added on top of the tuition fee.
How safe is the school campus?
Does the school have a reputation for student misconduct? Is the school in a safe neighborhood? Find the address of the school from its website and plug it into a website like CrimeReports.com to see how many police reports were filed in that area recently.
Can you visit the school and view the facilities?
Schools, especially for-profit ones, spend lots of money on websites, brochures, and other promotional materials to portray their facilities as beautifully as possible. Especially if the school is local, you owe it to yourself to make an in-person inspection. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be more than happy to let you see the facilities for yourself. Your visit is also a good chance to ask all those questions you’ve been meaning to ask, such as:
- What job placement assistance does the school offer its graduates?
- Can I see a copy of the syllabus or class schedule?
- Can I speak with any current students and learn what they think of the program?
- Does the school accept financial aid?
Don’t be afraid to ask those questions! A reputable school will be happy to answer any questions you have about its programs, will have your best interests in mind, and will want you to pick the school that’s right for you.
A good check list when visiting a school, provided by Peterson’s:
When you head out the door to check out campuses and make your final choice, take this checklist of dos and don’ts with you:
- DO find out what the institution has to offer in student services, such as career placement and assistance in finding housing.
- DON’T assume that if a program isn’t exactly what you want, things will work out.
- DO pay close attention to the college environment, noting things like how you’re greeted when you walk in the door.
- DO look at who is on the advisory board. Knowing who is included will give you an idea of the kind of employer you could be working for.
- DO determine if credits are transferable.
- DO read and understand everything you sign.
- DON’T enroll without a high level of commitment.
- DON’T think a career education automatically ensures you a job.
A good checklist of questions, provided by study.com:
The following questions and research tips may help you when looking for a vocational school:
- Does the school offer the program you want?
- Is the school/program licensed or accredited? If so, by whom?
- What are the instructors’ credentials?
- Could I obtain the training I want from another school, such as a community/junior college?
- Do I even need this additional education, or will the employer likely train me on-the-job?
- What is the total cost (include tuition, books, uniforms, lab fees, etc.)?
- Is financial aid available?
- Have any complaints been filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or State Attorney General’s Office?
- What is the school’s reputation in the industry?
- What other services does the school offer students and graduates?
- What are the facilities and equipment in the labs like? Are they up to date?
- Are there other tools or supplies you must purchase?
- What are the program’s completion and job placement rates? Debt upon graduation rate?
- Will all my credits transfer if necessary?
For more information, check out the following links:
Career Colleges and Technical Schools – Choosing a School (from the U.S. Department of Education)
Choose A Career School Carefully (from Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education)