Vocational Education: An International Perspective

60 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2020

See all articles by Celeste Carruthers

Celeste Carruthers

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Christopher Jepsen

University College Dublin (UCD)

Date Written: 2020


Vocational education is formal education about work, and vocational programs of study typically target a narrow subset of middle-income occupations. In this chapter, we trace vocational education from competing 20th century education philosophies to its varied structures throughout the 21st century world. We then review the body of economic research on labor market returns to vocational education. Three themes from this rapidly expanding literature are that (1) workers with a vocational education tend to have a flatter age-employment profile than workers with an academic education, (2) individuals who seek and gain access to more secondary vocational education tend to have better attainment and early-career outcomes, whereas the effects of large-scale changes to tracking in secondary grades are more ambiguous; and (3) vocational postsecondary education is associated with improved labor market outcomes relative to no or incomplete postsecondary education, particularly for multi-year programs. We close by highlighting areas where more empirical research is needed, which include a deeper understanding of the long-term and inter-generational effects of vocational education on stability and growth in earnings, and the effects of vocational education in the developing world.

JEL Classification: I260, I230, J310

Suggested Citation

Carruthers, Celeste and Jepsen, Christopher, Vocational Education: An International Perspective (2020). CESifo Working Paper No. 8718, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3740330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3740330

Celeste Carruthers (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee, Knoxville ( email )

The Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

HOME PAGE: http://web.utk.edu/~ccarrut1/

Christopher Jepsen

University College Dublin (UCD) ( email )

Belfield, Dublin 4 4

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