About CTE

CTE Works for High School Students

High school students involved in CTE are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates.
  • Taking one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out of 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.
  • 91 percent of high school graduates who earned 2-3 CTE credits enrolled in college.

CTE Works for College Students and Adults

Postsecondary CTE fosters postsecondary completion and prepares students and adults for in-demand careers.
  • Students can attend public community and technical colleges for a fraction of the cost of tuition at other institutions: $3,520, on average, in 2016-2017.
  • 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.
  • Oklahoma’s economy reaps a net benefit of $3.5 billion annually from graduates of the CareerTech System.
  • Colorado Community College System alumni in the workforce contribute $5.1 billion annually to the state economy.

CTE Works for Business

CTE addresses the needs of high-growth industries and helps close the skills gap.
  • Half of all STEM jobs call for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree.
  • Health care occupations are projected to grow 18 percent by 2026, adding more than 2 million new jobs.
  • 3 million workers will be needed for the nation’s infrastructure in the next decade, including designing, building and operating transportation, housing, utilities and telecommunications.
  • Almost half of the energy workforce may need to be replaced by 2024, and demand for solar and wind energy technicians will double.
  • More than 80 percent of manufacturers report that talent shortages will impact their ability to meet customer demand.

More Key CTE Statistics


  • 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.