What is CTE
    and How Can It
    Help Students
    Like You?

Career and technical education (CTE) programs have risen in popularity over the years. Whether this is an indication of a renewed interest or a way to fast track career goals, it has transformed from being just an alternative or a backup into an innovative need.

CTE programs help ensure your future, empower and prepare you for your professional goals after high school, and allow you to learn while you earn.

These programs give students the chance to learn and master transferable skills. They are intended to help students find their place in the workforce even as they pursue college or are continuing education. CTE programs innovate and focus on work-based learning, where students are encouraged to extend their classroom learning to the work or professional environment.

What is CTE?

Career and technical education, also known as CTE or career tech ed, are programs that are a combination of academics and career skills development. It allows students to earn college credits, experience on-the-job training, internships, industry certification, and job shadowing. CTE classes prepare students for work. 

Are CTE Programs and Vocational Education One and the Same?

Some people refer to CTE as vocational training or education. In a way, they are right because both have the goal of preparing students to enter the workforce. However, CTE is a step above the vocational training programs from the previous generations.

Where vocational education  specifically focuses on non-college degree classes, such as plumbing and sewing and tailoring; career tech ed is more innovative and wide-reaching as it includes areas of studies that are related to or connected with bachelor’s and associate’s degrees.

What is a CTE Class Like?

In most schools offering CTE, students divide their day between studying core subjects and career training programs. It can be in their school or a partner campus. The four focus areas of career and technical education are:

The primary objective of career and technical education programs is to train students and equip them with the skills needed for  a successful career and college education. The programs are designed to complement certain industries and their required skills. They utilize innovative techniques and advanced technology along with proven educational and work-focused tools.

To put it simply, career and technical education programs help prepare students interested in continuing their education and entering the workplace after program completion.

Some examples of programs under CTE are physical therapy, hairstyling, fire science, emergency medical technology, precision machining, welding technology, and medium/heavy diesel technology.

How Many Students are Currently in CTE Programs?

The numbers per state vary. In Arizona, for example, the latest numbers are:

Across the United States, there are approximately 12.3 million students under the CTE programs.

What are the Similarities and Differences between Traditional College Programs and CTE Programs?

Although both traditional college programs and career tech ed programs help students prepare for the workforce and their career goals, they each have specific training, activities, and paths. Traditional college education offers various curriculum and different courses. Some colleges and universities even add new courses every school year. On the other hand, career tech education programs focus on providing students with training designed specifically for specific careers. Other differences include:

Broad Curriculum vs. Specialized ProgramsBroad Curriculum vs. Specialized Programs

Traditional college education has a broad curriculum that combines standard academics, theories, conceptualization and analysis, decision-making, and critical thinking.

Career tech ed programs are intended to prepare students for the career of their choice. Training and preparation are focused on students’ specialized skills. Thus, every activity and learning opportunity is driven toward specific professional goals or careers. For the duration of their stay in the program, students spend their time developing and honing specific job skills.

In other words, CTE programs are more hands-on and practical than traditional college programs.

Broad Curriculum vs. Specialized ProgramsDiminishing Value vs. Increased Value

Public four-year colleges and universities have become more costly over the years. Since 1980, tuition and  fees have been increasing 19 times faster than the average family income. This continuing increase has diminished the financial return and value of completing higher education.

Those who graduate with CTE associate degrees (such as health practitioners, computer-related occupations, and architecture and engineering) get the best of their degrees because they can earn as much as or over $2 million to $2.8 million in their lifetimes. These figures are highly competitive and are equivalent to bachelor’s degree holders’ median lifetime earnings. 

Some sources also state that CTE associate degree holders are often paid $10,000 more annually compared to other associate degrees.

Expensive Tuition vs. Practical FeesExpensive Tuition vs. Practical Fees

Traditional college or university education often leave students in debt long after they have graduated. Tuition  for a four-year course is more expensive than CTE tuition. Most of these students spend the first few years in the workforce paying off their student debt.

CTE programs are also shorter by at least two years, so students are already entering or in the workforce while traditonal college ed students are still in school. Expenses are lesser because of the shorter terms.

Skills Mismatch vs. In-Demand SkillsSkills Mismatch vs. In-Demand Skills

Approximately ⅕ of students who complete college education typically find it challenging to get into a job that their degree requires. 

In-demand and established industries prefer to hire employees with CTE experience. Around 77% of them consider CTE-related knowledge and skills as primary requirements.

With 74% of companies and employers having difficulty matching skills they need with the skills that their applicants or prospects have, CTE can offer the best solution by providing educated and skilled workers.

Large Classes vs. Personalized, Smaller ClassesLarge Classes vs. Personalized, Smaller Classes

A traditional college has a broad curriculum, so students with different interests and career goals are packed in one classroom. CTE classes, on the other hand, are personalized and geared towards specific careers. As such, there are fewer students in a classroom. Instructors can conveniently and easily connect and interact with their students.

Academics-focused vs. Specialized SkillsAcademics-focused vs. Specialized Skills

Businesses and industries have been gradually shifting to automation, which means more and more jobs are being taken over by machines and computers. Career tech ed programs are committed to careers with a specialized skill set, so students have better opportunities and ample options for building a stable career path.

How Can CTE Help You (or Students Like You)?

There are two ways career and technical education can help you or students like you:

  1. Allow you to pursue continuing education
  2. Prepare you for the workforce/a career

If you enroll in a CTE program, such as physical therapy, you can earn valuable industry credentials. This provides you with the opportunity to further develop your skills. You can also start building your career. The program makes it easy for you to enter the workforce because of the extensive training you received.

You can also choose to pursue your education and get additional training. Some programs offer continuous career and skills training even when you’re already in the workforce. Thus, career and technical education programs act as springboards to your professional journey (or continuing education).

In Conclusion

CTE or career and technical education is for students who want to keep learning, improving, and growing. It is the best option for those who value continuing education and developing skills for a successful career.