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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

CTE Information

What Is CTE?

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Today’s cutting-edge, rigorous and relevant career and technical education (CTE) prepares youth and adults for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers. Check out fast facts below, or learn more with our Policy and Advocacy Publications, State CTE Profiles and the CTE Prepares the Qualified Workforce summary of employment projections.

What Is CTE? infographic

History of CTE

Career and technical education as we know it today has its roots in the founding of the United States. Learn more

CTE Works for High School Students

High school students involved in CTE are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates.
  • 81 percent of dropouts say relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in high school.
  • The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80 percent.
  • More than 75 percent of secondary CTE concentrators pursued postsecondary education shortly after high school.

CTE Works for College Students and Adults

Postsecondary CTE fosters postsecondary completion and prepares students and adults for in-demand careers.
  • 4 out of 5 secondary CTE graduates who pursued postsecondary education after high school had earned a credential or were still enrolled two years later.
  • According to research in Texas, Colorado and Virginia, graduates with technical or applied science associate degrees out-earn bachelor's degree holders by $2,000 to $11,000.
  • 27 percent of people with less than an associate degree, including licenses and certificates, earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.

CTE Works for the Economy

Investing in CTE yields big returns for state economies.
  • In Wisconsin, taxpayers receive $12.20 in benefits for every dollar invested in the technical college system.
  • In Washington, for every dollar invested in secondary CTE programs, taxpayers receive a $9 return on investment.
  • In Tennessee, CTE returns $2 for every $1 invested. At the secondary level, CTE program completers account for more than $13 million in annual tax revenues.

CTE Works for Business

CTE addresses the needs of high-growth industries and helps close the skills gap.
  • The skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill in the United States, with recent data citing 1,019,000 jobs open in the trade, transportation and utilities sector and 315,000 jobs open in manufacturing.
  • Health care occupations, many of which require an associate degree or less, make up 12 of the 20 fastest growing occupations.
  • STEM occupations such as environmental engineering technicians require an associate degree and will experience faster than average job growth.
  • Middle-skill jobs, jobs that require education and training beyond high school but less than a bachelor's degree, are a significant part of the economy. Of the 55 million job openings created by 2020, 30 percent will require some college or a two-year associate degree.

More Key CTE Statistics

Secondary:

  • CTE serves 94 percent of all high school students, including male and female students, students from many races and ethnicities, and students from higher and lower income backgrounds. However, at the start of the 21st century, male students; students from smaller, lower income or rural schools; students who have disabilities; and students who enter high school with lower academic achievement were more likely to participate in secondary CTE at higher levels.
  • In the 2013-2014 school year, according to the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, there were 7,502,727 secondary CTE participants, or students who took at least 1 credit of CTE.
  • In 2009, the average number of credits earned in CTE by high school graduates was 3.6 credits. Over time, the percentage of students taking a few credits of CTE and students spreading their CTE credits across multiple career fields has increased, while the percentage taking a higher concentration of credits in one field has declined. This is due in large part to increased academic coursetaking on the part of all students, pointing to a convergence in academics and CTE.
  • In 2002, 88 percent of public high schools offered at least one CTE program. In addition, many high schools are served by area career centers--1,200 in 41 states, as of 2002.

Postsecondary and adult:

  • CTE students on the postsecondary level are also a broad and varied group, but they are more likely than other students to be older, married and working part- or full-time. They are also more likely to come from a family background of less educational attainment.
  • In the 2013-2014 school year, according to the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, there were 3,948,554 postsecondary CTE participants and 121,952 adult CTE participants, or students who took at least 1 credit of CTE. The National Center for Education Statistics, which uses different criterion, puts the number of undergraduates enrolled in career education programs in 2011-2012 at 15.2 million: 8.4 million seeking a subbaccalaureate credential and 6.8 million seeking a bachelor's degree.
  • CTE is offered at all levels of postsecondary education, including two-year and four-year colleges. In 2005, more than 5,700 postsecondary institutions--90 percent of all Title IV eligible schools--offered career education. In addition, about 3,200 postsecondary institutions awarded certificates that take at least one year but less than two years and more than 2,500 institutions awarded associate degrees and less-than-one-year certificates.
  • The number of students earning subbaccalaureate credentials in CTE fields rose 71 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared with a 54 percent increase in all undergraduate awards.
The above data and citations are available from our CTE Today Fact Sheet and from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Assessment of CTE and other publications from RTI International and MPR Associates.  

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