How To Start a Vocational School When you open a new school, you’re really starting a new business. You couldn’t
go to a banker and ask for business start-up funds without having a written and
detailed business plan. The same is true if you want to start a school and need approval from your State’s Approval or Licensure Agency. All State Approval Agencies want to see that an organization has a well thought out and researched strategic plan before it is willing to grant an approval. After all they are
responsible for student protection as well as a quality assurance. So it should be of no surprise that most applications ask the very same
questions that one has to answer when writing a business plan.
A Development Process A good business plan and/or application to your State’s Postsecondary Approval Agency can be seen as using a development process.
The point of using a development process is to succeed at “product development” or in this case establishing a vocational school. You should want to start a private career school that meets students' needs in the field or profession you are targeting. You are
naturally also going to want to do this in the right time frame and at the right cost, in a way that maximizes your financial return on
your investment. Since establishing a vocational school is inherently complex and often risky, and since the push for financial return often mandates speedy development, the process should
be geared to providing a framework and specific tools for efficiently and predictably reaching
The steps that I would recommend you follow are:
Ask yourself the following questions
• Why do you want to
start a school?
• Who will you serve
and what will you offer that’s valuable and marketable?
• How will your
school be organized?
• Is your school
financially sound and stable?
• How will your
school operate day to day?
• Who will teach in
• How will your
operating procedures ensure that students are always informed and protected?
• How will you use
graduate follow-up data (job placement) to improve your programs?
Organize the information for your business
plan. Include information on you and your partners, the course outlines, the
type of students that you would be targeting, an analysis of the area you want
to establish the school, other schools of the same type in the area,
qualifications of faculty needed to teach the courses you are intended to offer
and potential risk.
Write an executive summary. This might be the first section of the plan, a
description of all the elements covered in more detail later.
Describe your company. Spell out the purpose of your school. Write a mission
statement. Talk about the skills you and your management team have.
Explain your program offerings. Detail how you will teach them. Analyze the
costs associated with this process. List your supply sources for equipment and
Talk about the market you're entering. Discuss general trends in the industry
(Medical or IT perhaps). Include details about the market segment you are
pursuing, the niche you are targeting and your target customer/student; provide
demographics on your potential customers/students. Establish a need for the
program by researching the demographics of the area and the job placement
possibilities for your graduates. Analyze your competition.
Describe your admission/marketing plan. Explain how you will generate enrollment
through advertising, promotion and public relations. Estimate all costs
Detail your yearly revenue projections and your expenses.
I believe the best way to realize your vision is to write a thorough business plan. I have assisted many clients to formulate their business plans thereby making the task of applying for licensure a great deal easier. A well written business plan for a college or school will incorporate many of the items that are required for a successful application.
If you need a business plan with sizzle or want to start the
application to your State’s Approval Agency, please
contact me or call me at 818-666-1333 and we can discuss how to get
started. I can help take your ideas and strategies and put them down on paper in
a well thought-out road map for success.
Florida has two very useful templates that applicants must
complete during the approval process for the Commission for Independent
Education. The template works for any state. You can download them here: