Vocational vs Liberal Arts education

<p>This is more for an AP eng research paper than admission. What's the difference between a vocational education and a liberal arts education? From what I've read, liberal arts has a focus on a general education while vocational is more for entering the job market straight out of college. However, I've heard 3 different specific definitions for the differences:</p>

<p>1) Liberal arts tends to be the 4-year colleges and universities, basically the majority of top tier schools. Vocational tends to be community colleges and other 2-year schools that provide the bare minimum needed to perform well in a career.</p>

<p>2) Liberal arts tends to be biology, biochem, english, etc. Vocational is pre-med, pre-pharmacy, etc. (If its the second one, can someone provide me with more examples? The only types I've seen are science related).</p>

<p>3) My friend told me that liberal arts education encompasses most of the college/universities students apply to and that vocational education was a limited number of 2-year colleges for blacksmithing, crafting, etc. I'm a bit skeptical about this one.</p>

<p>I know 1) and 2) are talking about different types of institutions and different types of majors respectively, but I'm not sure which one to focus on when I'm discussing vocational/LA EDUCATION. Can someone please help me out? Thanks.</p>

<p>Vocational isn’t really pre-med, pre-med is usually a liberal arts degree that meets the requirements for med school. A vocational degree is like nursing or engineering.</p>

<p>On the other hand, many students choose liberal arts majors for vocational reasons (though not always strictly correct ones):</p>

<li>Biology, chemistry: students feel that they need to major in these to do pre-med (any major with pre-med courses alongside is fine).</li>
<li>English, political science: students feel that these are good pre-law majors (any major is fine; math, physics, and philosophy majors tend to do best on the LSAT).</li>
<li>Math, statistics: aiming for finance or actuarial jobs.</li>
<li>Economics: seen as a substitute for majoring in business economics/finance (of which economics is the liberal arts base for).</li>
<li>Psychology: seen as a substitute for majoring in business marketing/organization (of which psychology is the liberal arts base for).</li>
<li>Art, music, theatre: dreams of being an artist, musician, or actor.</li>

<p>I think it’s safe to say, that just about any post-secondary major that isn’t 1) one of the basic liberal arts and sciences, or 2) derived from one of them, probably has a strong vocational component. IIRC, “Business” is the most popular American college major, so I would be careful about reciting your friend’s assertion in paragraph three.</p>

<p>OTOH, I think there is a high correlation between doing well academically and majoring in one of the liberal arts; highly intelligent people tend to be more intellectual and worry less about whether they’ll be able to make a living - in the long run - assuming there’s still a market out there for highly trainable people with writing and analytical skills.</p>

<p>When I think of vocational education, I think of colleges entirely geared to teaching a specific trade (ex. hairdressing school, car mechanic school). Most four year colleges prescribe some kind of core curriculum so students must take a wide variety of liberal arts classes no matter what their major is. In that way, they obtain a true liberal arts education regardless of if their actual major is leading directly towards a specific profession or not. For example, my S is a business major at a Jesuit school – in addition to business classes, he has taken 20 courses in a broad range of subjects including philosophy/theology/English/History/Science so I would say that he also has a strong liberal arts background as well as a strong business background. Just my opinion though.</p>

<p>To be liberally educated is to be capable of insightful analysis, critical thought, and effective communication. Liberally educated individuals are capable of understanding problems through multiple disciplinary lenses. That is to say that liberally educated individuals are better able to grasp the overall nature of any given problem versus individuals who can only understand the problem from one perspective. Liberal education is the result of a broad education that emphasizes the connections among disciplines and the importance of a variety of cognitive tools in the toolbox.</p>

<p>Note that completing a broad liberal arts education is not necessarily a given even if one majors in a liberal arts subject at a liberal arts college, since some such colleges have minimal or no breadth requirements, allowing the student to completely avoid major areas of the liberal arts (e.g. humanities, social studies, science).</p>