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My Life, My Path

It’s Your Choice

Here’s the deal: there’s no “right way” to approach your life. So why would anyone tell you there’s a right or wrong way to approach your education and career after high school?

The reality is that you have options. From apprenticeships to degree programs and on-the-job training to certificate programs, there’s bound to be an education or training program that works for you and gets you one step closer to your goals.

Illustration by Michelle Sayles

You deserve clear information about your options after high school.

Explore below to find the right pathway for you.

(And don’t forget to check out our list of training providers in Vermont.)

But first…Why Education and Training?

1. More job opportunities. Education and training is the best way to build out your skills and increase your chances at being hired. This means more fulfilling job and career options.

2. Money, money, money. Vermonters with education and training after high school make thousands more dollars a year, and your salary will grow with your level of training.

3. Invest in yourself. So many of us have dreams, or goals, or plans that ignite joy and pride. Chase after them, no matter how big or small.

Explore Your Options

Expand each pathway to learn more about the type of credential, what you can expect from the training program, how long it takes to earn, and how much it costs. Your next step will be to find the best program for you.

High School Programs


If you’re in high school or attending a regional technical center and you’re ready for more, consider starting to earn college credit. Programs like Early College, Dual Enrollment, and Fast Forward allow you to take college classes at a reduced cost during your time in high school or a technical center – or become a full-time college student during your senior year of high school. If you know you want to earn a degree or credential, you can save time and money by getting a jump start on your college credits before you’ve even graduated high school!


The Details

Dual Enrollment

Who is it for: Vermont high school juniors and seniors

What is it: Take up to two free college courses while enrolled at your local high school

Where is it offered: Classes may be at a local college campus, online, or taught at your local high school

How does it work: Your guidance counselor can help you apply for a voucher through the Agency of Education, and then if your voucher is approved, you can sign up for courses on a partner college’s website – tuition free.

Cost: Free tuition with voucher. VSAC offers a stipend to help pay for textbooks if for students enrolled in Free and Reduced Lunch

Early College

Who is it for: Vermont high school seniors

What is it: Spend your final year in high school as a full-time student so you graduate high school with a year of college complete. If you are especially interested in science and technology, explore the Vermont Academy of Science and Technology (VAST).

Where is it offered: Attend classes full-time on a college campus or online

How does it work: Your guidance counselor can help you apply for a voucher through the Agency of Education, and then if your voucher is approved, you can sign up for courses on a partner college’s website – tuition free.

Cost: Free tuition with voucher. VSAC offers a stipend to help pay for textbooks if for students enrolled in Free and Reduced Lunch.

Fast Forward

Who is it for: Vermont Tecnical Center students

What is it: Take classes, taught by the Technical Center teachers, that will go towards both tech center and college credit.

Where is it offered: At your regional Technical Center

How does it work: Work with a guidance counselor or Technical Center teacher to apply for a Fast Forward ticket. Talk with an advisor at CCV or VTC to complete the steps for enrolling in your Fast Forward courses for free.

Cost: Free with Fast Forward ticket.

High school completion & GED

Not everyone graduates from high school, and we get that. There are a number of free or affordable programs that can help you earn your GED or high school diploma, no matter how old you are (well, older than 16). A high school diploma or GED will give you access to better paying jobs and allow you to continue your education and training. With a high school diploma or GED under your belt you could go on to earn a certificate or degree. A high school diploma or GED may be your first credential, but in some ways, it is your most important.


The Details

High School Completion

Who is it for: Anyone over the age of 16

What is it: Finish earning your high school diploma

Where is it offered: High school, Technical Center, college campus, or work-based learning site

How does it work: If you are eligible for the Vermont Completion Program, you will start working with an Education and Adult Literacy provider and they will work to understand what skills and knowledge you already have. From there, you will develop a Personalized Learning Plan to map out the best way for you to gain the remaining education you need to earn your high school diploma.

Cost: Free

Earn Your GED

Who is it for: Anyone who is over the age of 16 and not currently enrolled in high school

What is it: A computer-based test made up of 4 sections: Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Each section is 1-2 hours.

Where is it offered: Online

How does it work: You can register for the GED online where you can find all the information you need about dates, times, scoring, and studying.

Cost: $30 per test, $120 total.

Note: Many people decide to take a few classes to prepare for the GED test. These classes will help you with any specific skills you need to work on to prepare for the test. These GED preparation classes are free and are offered across Vermont.


Think about earning a certificate if you want to get more training and are looking for a short, affordable option. A certificate is a great way to show employers are ready for an entry level position in their industry. Or, if you already have training in a field, a certificate can show that you have knowledge about a specific subject that makes you an extra valuable employee. Certificate programs typically range from a few months to two years, depending on the program. The experience you gain in a certificate program can help you earn a degree or other credential faster if you decide to continue your training.


The Details

Who is eligible: Any Vermonter with a GED or high school diploma

What is it: A program focused on specific career skills and training

Where is it offered: Through colleges, universities, and Technical Centers.

How does it work: Students in certificate programs will complete a certain number of credits or instruction hours focused on a specific topic. They might learn in a traditional classroom, a hands-on learning environment like a lab or a workshop, or out in the world on a job site or field trips.

Cost before financial aid: Low

Registered Apprenticeship

Learn a trade while you earn a paycheck. It’s that simple. Registered Apprenticeships prepare people for the workforce through on-the-job training plus related classroom instruction. With increased skills comes increased pay. After just 1-2 years, you will be a skilled worker ready to land your next job. If it seems like it’s too good to be true…we assure you that it’s not. A Registered Apprenticeship is an excellent option for anyone who would rather learn on the job than in the classroom.


The Details

Who is it for: Anyone, you do not need prior training or experience

What is it: Apprentices start as entry level workers who learn on the job from someone who has worked in their field for many years.

Where is it offered: Businesses, colleges, and other training organizations offer apprenticeship programs.

How does it work: Your employer will make sure you have all the knowledge and skills necessary to become licensed in your profession when your apprenticeship is finished.

Cost: No cost, plus you get paid for your work

Associate Degree

Get a degree that focuses on building skills and knowledge for a specific job or career. Many Associate degree programs can be flexible, making it easier to continue to work, raise kids, or meet other life demands while earning a degree. Associate degree programs typically last 2+ years. An Associate degree shows an employer that you have the foundation to launch a career and build on your experience. It also shows a 4-year college that you are ready to take on a Bachelor’s degree if you choose to continue your education.


The Details

Who is eligible: Anyone with a high school diploma or GED

What is it: A 2+ year long degree program that builds your skills and knowledge for your career

Where is it offered: Community colleges, as well as some 4-year colleges and universities. Programs can be offered 0nline, in-person, or both.

How does it work: You will take at least some of your classes in a traditional classroom setting, and you may also learn in a hands-on environment or on the job. Associate Degree programs require you to take some general education classes like writing, math, social studies, and science to help you build your general knowledge and skills. The major, or specific area of study you choose, will determine what subject matter of the rest of your classes.

Cost before financial aid: Medium

Bachelor's Degree

The famous college degree. A bachelor’s degree sets a student up with academic and career opportunities, prepares them for a wide range of jobs, and can lead to more advanced degrees. A bachelor’s degree shows an employer that you have a wide range of knowledge and that you can handle lots of different responsibilities at once. Plus, college student groups, internships, and networks can connect you to people, places, and opportunities that can help you meet your goals. Students traditionally earn their degree in four years if they attend full-time, which means a student takes at least 12 credits (about 4 classes) per semester.


The Details

Who is eligible: Anyone with a high school diploma or GED.

What is it: A 4+ year academic program to build general and career knowledge and skills.

Where is it offered: Colleges and universities. Programs can be offered in-person, online, or both.

How does it work: To earn a bachelor’s degree, you must complete general education classes like writing, math, social studies, and science. The rest of your courses will focus on the major and minor you choose. These courses will build your knowledge, skills, and experience in a specific area of study to help prepare you for a career. At least some of your classes will be taught in a traditional classroom setting, and you may have the option to take classes that are hands-on or off-campus.

Cost before financial aid: High


Learn About Credentials

Stackable Credentials:

Imagine you have bread, deli meat, and lettuce in front of you on a plate. You could eat them separately for your lunch. Or, you could layer the meat and lettuce between the two pieces of bread to make a sandwich. The three pieces were fine when they were separate – but they’re even better when you put them together. Plus, you could go to the fridge and choose mayonnaise or mustard. Either option will make your sandwich even more delicious, it just depends on which option works better for you.

Now, imagine this as your career. You could earn three different credentials that are all helpful on their own. Or, you could fit them together to create even more opportunities. Connecting the credentials you work so hard for clearly shows employers your skills and knowledge. Choosing to stack your hard work can make you more likely to get hired for a job and earn more money. That’s why we love stackable credentials.


The three models:


Advance your career by growing your knowledge about a certain thing. Think of this as climbing up your career ladder towards your dream career.


Earn different credentials across a couple of different career fields or focuses. You now have a wide range of knowledge that can help you be flexible in your job.


Gain more detailed knowledge about a few different subject matters. This means growing in both directions and combining the best of vertical and horizontal stacking.

Industry Recognized Credentials (IRC)

Each industry has certain credentials that are industry-approved. This means that employers may prefer a job candidate with an IRC over someone with a different type of credential. IRCs show that you have the knowledge, skill, and ability to be successful in a job because you have the training they are looking for. An IRC can lead to work in healthcare, energy, construction, manufacturing, and nearly any other industry. When all is said and done, you’ll have a skillset to make more money and open doors to career growth opportunities in your desired industry.

What type of credential is an IRC?

IRCs can be Apprenticeships, certifications, licenses, or degrees. Affordable price tags and shorter programs allow you to fit training into your life.

How long does it take to earn an IRC?

You can earn some IRCs, like Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA10), in just 10 hours. Or you can become a Certified Production Technician in a 90 hour program, or a Licensed Cosmetologist after 1,500 training hours or a 24-month apprenticeship. The length of program depends on the IRC.

Where do I earn an IRC?

Many people earn their IRCs through regional Technical Centers, colleges, or some independent non-profit organizations who offer them.

Stay In the Loop

So now you’re thinking about your education and career options. What next? Advance Vermont is building an online one-stop-shop called MyFutureVT that will help you take the next steps. You’ll be able to explore your career options, learn about different training programs, or get connected to a support network. Submit your name and email and we’ll let you know when MyFutureVT is ready for you. (Think early 2021).

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