Paris (Picture from Wikimedia)

Vocational education in France has become a major lever in improving the level of training for young people.

The reform aims to improve both the employment rate of young people and the rate of students continuing in higher education.

In secondary education, the vocational stream is characterised by developing the relationship between schools and enterprises together with innovative educational methods.

In the vocational pathway, diplomas can be obtained either through schooling or apprenticeships.


The French education system – 2017





The vocational pathway in France


Secondary education

In France, after going to collège (lower secondary school from 11 to 15 years), pupils opt either to continue studies in mainstream and technological education or go for the vocational stream.

The vocational stream prepares pupils with the aim of obtaining a diploma:
– CAP: Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle:  a certificate of vocational aptitude taken after 2 years of study
– BP : Brevet professionnel : a certificate of vocational aptitude in 2 years after the CAP
BAC professionnel: the vocational high-school leaving certificate taken after 3 years of study

The vocational pathway enables pupils to learn a trade by gradually moving from the school environment to the world of work in particular through dual training courses with some time spent in the workplace and other periods at school. These diplomas can be prepared through schooling at a vocational high school or through an apprenticeship in a Centre de Formation pour Apprentis (CFA apprenticeship training centre).

Lycée des métiers” (high school for trades) is a label of excellence awarded to over 800 vocational high schools.


Higher education

After the baccalauréat, students can continue their studies and obtain vocational diplomas in 2 years which open up good professional prospects:

  • Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS – higher technician diploma) and Brevet de Technicien Supérieur Agricole (BTSA – higher technician diploma in agriculture)
  • Diplôme Universitaires de Technologie (DUT – university technology diploma).

They can both be followed by directly entering the job market or else students can go on to do an additional year of studies:

  • Licence Professionnelle – a vocational bachelor’s degree
  • Formation Complémentaire – additional training.

There is also a broad range of specialised schools and institutes offering vocational training following the high-school leaving certificate that is recognised on the job market, with admission being based on competitive examinations or on the student’s record:

  • schools in the social sector which train social-service assistants, teachers of children with special needs, teachers for young children etc.
  • paramedical schools offering training for around 15 different professions including nursing, physiotherapy, speech therapy etc.
  • accounting and management, architecture and art schools etc.

After leaving the educational system, training can continue through lifelong adult education and validation of professional experience.



In France, apprenticeships are available for all vocational diplomas from the CAP up to the master’s degree including engineering and business schools.


Key figures

  • Nearly 29% of pupils in high schools in VET are enrolled in an apprenticeship program. (INSEE – 2012)
  • In 2012, 23.9% of high schools students got a vocational A-level qualifications (Bac pro). (INSEE – 2012)
  • Over 450 trades and professions can be learned through apprenticeships. (ONISEP – 2017)

Last update : 21/02/2018