Big modeling agencies will teach you what they want you to know for the type of work that they want you to do. Just run off and become a super model and don't worry about any of this. For the rest of you, here are some suggestions.
There are always new books coming on the market about modeling and how to be a model. Some I have seen relate only to the top fashion market, some are just gossip books and some have good starting information. Add to this specialty areas, like makeup books, and there is quite a base of knowledge available on modeling. If one wants to learn about the modeling industry all you need to do is take time to read. I have book reviews and a list of modeling related books on the Book page. Can you learn to be a model from just reading a book? Well no, but it will give you some understanding of the industry, what it will take to be a model, and help you avoid some of the scams. I checked with my local library for books on modeling and found they had only nine books and only one of those was published in the last ten years. You may want to start with your school or local library, but you may have to purchase a book to get current information.
There are magazine and newspaper articles popping up on modeling all of the time. Most relate to the top level of fashion modeling and being a super model but sometimes other things will slip through. These articles do not teach you the how-to of modeling. They do, however, give some insight into the industry. I understand there are programs on cable TV about the modeling world. I have seen references to these shows and comments that they give some good insight into the world of fashion modeling. Sorry, I have not seen them. My MTV was 15 years ago.
I have worked with some modeling schools and I found most of them were harmless. One I worked with was more of a finishing school than a 'how to be a model' school. If you could find a school that really knew what a working model needs to know (in secondary market there is a lot to know) and could teach it to you quickly, it might be a good investment. All of the ones I have seen are better at teaching their model wannabes how to look and move well in public rather than how to work in front of a camera or on a cat walk. Remember, a school that promises you work when you graduate is giving you a "come-on" line.
The only way you will learn to model is to get in front of the camera. Any school that is teaching modeling and does not spend 50 to 75% of your training time in front of the camera is questionable. This time in front of the camera can be dry shooting (shooting without film) while video taping, digital shooting, or best, actual test photo shoots.
Now with that said, here is how I am view the current state of the modeling school market.
Many of the modeling schools around are franchise operations. Local operators buys into a franchise just like a hamburger joint. They may have no experience in the modeling industry, but after putting down a good chunk of change, they are now experts teaching classes. Chain operations include Barbizon Modeling Schools, John Casablancan Modeling, John Robert Powers Modeling and there are others. These chain schools can vary in quality just as independent schools can. Some operators do have extensive knowledge of the industry and can give students good insight into the industry - many don't. Although what these schools teach may not lead to a career in modeling, what one learns in their "image enhancement" or finishing school classes can be useful for later life. If you can afford one (these schools are very expensive), they can be a lot of fun and can improve one's self-esteem and confidence. A few of these school's students, and I do mean a very few, may even go on to a career in modeling. The main point is that these schools rarely lead to modeling careers and people who do go on to careers probably would have been accepted into agencies anyway had they never attended the school.
Schools tend to do a fair amount of advertising to attract new students, so they generally have high visibility with the general public. One of their favorite recruitment methods is to go to malls where they will tie in with a fashion show. They also advertise for model screening where any one who has money for tuition will look good to them. They often use pressure sales tactics like there are only two spots left for our class so sign up now' or when you complete our modeling classes you can be part of our modeling agency.' Don't get pressured into one of their contracts and no one in a major market hires models out of these schools.
There has been a new aspect added to modeling schools recently. This deals with the model competitions and conventions. Twenty years ago modeling schools were tied into the whole beauty pageant system. Back then part of the school's program was getting young women ready for these competitions. It seems these days the pageant system has fallen out of favor with the general public, but the market demand for the beauty contest has continued and now the modeling contest is filling that demand. As with the pageant system, the wannabes pour lots of money and time into the process of trying to make it to the top as they hope that some type of excellent career is waiting if they win; and it's Ok if thousands of others spend lots of money and end up with just an interesting (hopefully, personally rewarding) experience. It seems there are now a number of the chain schools and local schools that focus on the model competition path. Does this have much to do with modeling on the runways of Paris? Well, about as much as becoming Miss America has to do with becoming a famous Hollywood actress. It might lead to it but it is no guarantee. If your desire is to be a top fashion model and you have what it takes, there are more direct routes to a career then going through modeling schools, conventions, and competitions.
Local modeling schools can vary a great deal in quality. Many are like the chain schools and are better as finishing schools than teaching what you need to know to model. Others are run by individuals who are former models and really have worked at the top rungs of the fashion modeling industry. You would need to study carefully the qualifications of the instructors, what the classes cover, how much actual in-front-of camera time you get, and the biggest part, how many of the graduates go on to actual careers in modeling. These schools strive to get one or two graduates out working as professional models and use this as the hook saying "yes, you too could be a successful, high paid model" (top schools or agencies will have dozens of working models). A lot of these school, however, are run by individuals with no real experience in the modeling industry (maybe even as a hobby) and the classes are more finishing school oriented (how to stand up straight, put on street make-up, coordinate your wardrobe, and go to a job interview).
Modeling coaches and camps are a very special form of schooling and there are very few around. A modeling coach is someone who has extensive knowledge in one aspect of modeling and works one on one with a model in that area. An example is a runway coach who might work with a model for just a couple of hours of intense training. Another example is a photography coach who will photograph and teach in a short session how to work in front of a camera. Of course there are acting and voice coaches that we all hear so much about, too. A coach might be used if a model is weak in one curtain area or is having difficulty breaking through to a new skill level. Modeling coaches have many years of experience in their areas of expertise, are normally located in larger markets, and are expensive. A coach comes into a model's career after she/he is already signed with an agency and is starting to work. You do not start a career with a coach; they are more for improving your skills after you have started working.
Modeling camps, often tied in with acting camps, provide another short but intense learning situation. There are only a few of these around and they tend to be very selective and are fairly expensive. Modeling camps tend to be hard to find and you have to be "in the know" to locate one. So far, the scam artist and bad business folks have not reached into this area. I am sure it won't be long before they will.
I have found a lot of web sites on the net either have bad info or have hidden agendas (scams) behind them. There are a few sites that do have good information and will give you another perspective on becoming a model.
The number one teacher in this business is doing. Once you have been through a photo shoot things start to make more sense. And as you work with other professionals you can learn from them. But getting photo shoots when you are starting out can be hard to impossible. If a photographer has a job, he or she won't want to risk it on a wannabe model. And if you can't find a photographer to do test shoots, you may be left out. If you have to pay for shoots, that can truly be expensive and with no guarantee of ever earning your money back. Hopefully, a good agency can find test shoots, shoot where they want a new face or shoots where they want a less expensive model for you. Getting shoots, gaining experience and building your portfolio are the greatest challenges a new model faces.