The dubious promise of postsecondary vocational education: Its payoff to dropouts and graduates in the U.S.A.

Wellford W. Wilms, Stephen Hansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The longitudinal study described in this report investigated the effects of postsecondary public and proprietary school vocational training on students' subsequent job success in the United States. The study surveyed dropouts and graduates from public and proprietary schools in six vocational programs in four major cities, and compared their personal characteristics, job placement and earnings. Results showed that, compared with graduates, dropouts were more frequently males who were black, older, of lower socioeconomic status, and more likely from public programs. Also, few students who studied for upper status jobs (accountant, computer programmer, and electronic technician) got those jobs, regardless of whether they had graduated from or dropped out of their vocational programs. On the other hand, the majority of students who studied for lower-status jobs, in which women typically predominate, (secretary, dental assistant and cosmetologist) successfully found those jobs. Further, graduates fared significantly better in job placement than dropouts. Finally, persistence in, and graduation from a program (persistence and graduation) were unrelated to students' first earnings. However, students in lower-status occupations had higher later earnings if they completed their programs. These results suggest that vocational training, which may be done more efficiently in proprietary than public schools, enhances placement and later earnings only in lower-status jobs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-59
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1982

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The dubious promise of postsecondary vocational education: Its payoff to dropouts and graduates in the U.S.A.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this