kitchen table math, the sequel: Steve H on vocational education

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Steve H on vocational education

I asked about education and jobs for students who like math but aren't going to major in math, by which I probably mean students who 'like numbers' or 'like arithmetic'...(I don't want to be more specific than that in a post.)

Here is Steve H:
Actually, the vocational path might be best for students who are not so great in math, but want a degree and a technical education. You might get math courses that are more appropriate for your needs.

See New England Institute of Technology. ( It's all about getting an associate or Bachelor's of Science degree. It it very well regarded, but not cheap. They are very focused on specific careers. You can get the degree piece of paper AND be trained for a specific career.

Here are some of the careers they list.

Clinical Medical Assistant
Surgical Tech
Medical Engineering Tech
Interior Design
Physical Therapy Assistant
Construction Management
Multimedia and Web Design
Video and Radio Production
Digital Recording Arts Tech
Automotive High Performance
Automotive Tech
Auto Collision Repair
Electronics Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Game Development & Simulation Programming

I found the course catalog and can find math prerequisites for courses, but I haven't found a list of math courses for each degree. I did find that the Electronics Engineering Bachelor's Degree requires a course called Calculus II.

"The Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology is accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET,..."

I don't know whether businesses worry about who accredited your degree. Those who know about the school would never compare this engineering degree with one from the state's university, but will that difference matter in 10 years in an area that doesn't know about the school?
I should have asked what you mean by "like math"? Lots of jobs might need people who can put together spreadsheets and not have a fit with empirical equations. That is probably the best venue for these people. You probably won't find a posted job that asks for a spreadsheet guru, but you might be able have a job where you can evolve into that person.

There is also computer-aided design that is in demand by architects and engineering firms. If you are really good at 3D geometric modeling (e.g SolidWorks or Rhino), you will most likely always be in demand. I don't know if you would call that math.

In general, I would make a distinction between those who want to do math and those who want a job which will take advantage of their ability to handle math-like attention to sequence and details. I've met a number of people without degrees who have an amazing ability to handle technical details, some of which involves math.


Bonnie said...

I am not sure I understand your point about 3D solid modelling. If someone is just going to draw designs using AutoCad or something, then yeah, they don't need that much math. But if they are going to write code that interacts with these models in any way, they need a lot of math.

I also don't see how anyone could do serious game programming/simulation without having a good background in mathematics and graphics algorithms. I am guessing that is a junk degree program, and that grads do not end getting really good jobs in that area.

On the other hand, Web Design does not take a lot of math background. It is pretty easy, really, and mainly requires attention to detail and a good visual sense.

SteveH said...

CAD and game programming offer a large number of job levels; some requiring more math than others. It's never all or nothing. Pixar doesn't hire just mathematicians.

As long as students are not fooled into thinking their education is something more than it is, then what these schools offer can be quite valuable. There is a world of difference between simple 2D CAD and 3D solid modeling. There is also a difference between rough modeling for animation purposes and the accuracy and detail required for industrial design and construction.

So, whether it is a "junk" degree or not has to be analyzed on a degree-by-degree, and a school-by-school basis. I know that NEIT cares very much about career paths. Go to their site and see what they say. There is a world of difference between what they try to do and what the community college does in terms of providing kids with marketable skills. The added benefit is that there are paths to the state university without having start over. This is not some old idea of vocational school.

You could also say that a community college degree is a "junk" degree. My niece has a degree in film editing from UCONN, but she is now a waitress. Her boyfriend has a degree in psychology from Ithaca, but he is a waiter.

There is still the problem of vocational school scams. I just read about a class action lawsuit against a culinary school in California. They over-sold the potential job market. Has anyone seen this sort of lawsuit against a major college? Perhaps they are saved because they never claim anything.