Press FAQs on Career and Technical Education
Q: I’ve heard both the terms “vocational education” and “career and technical education” (CTE) used. What is the history of these terms? Which one should I use?
The term “career and technical education,” or “CTE,” evolved from “vocational education,” which traces its roots back more than 100 years and originally referred to agriculture, home-making, and trade and industrial education. Today, education that prepares students for career success much broader than it used to be. Today, students can take courses in 16 different Career Clusters® that lead to 79 different career pathways and hundreds of different careers requiring varying levels of education. To reflect the changing nature of this type of education, we no longer use the term “vocational education,” but instead use “career and technical education.” In 1998, ACTE changed its name to reflect the changing nature of CTE from job-specific vocationalism to education that can prepare all youth and adults for long-term career success. The vast majority of states followed suit as a way to better describe today’s education system. In 2006, Congress responded by replacing “vocational” with “CTE” in the major federal law impacting secondary and postsecondary CTE programs.
Q: How is CTE delivered in high schools? What about postsecondary CTE?
CTE is delivered in a variety of ways, and can differ by state and locality. At the secondary level, CTE can be delivered in comprehensive high schools, magnet schools, area CTE centers, career academies, early college high schools and other unique models. At the postsecondary level, CTE is most often delivered at community or technical colleges or area CTE centers, depending on the state model.
Q: How many students are enrolled in CTE nationwide?
According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 94 percent of high school students have taken a CTE course by graduation, and it encompasses 8.4 million postsecondary students seeking certificates and associate degrees in CTE fields. For additional information on enrollment data, including a breakdown by state and Career Cluster®, visit the Department of Education’s Perkins Data Explorer (please note this data is calculated using a different method than the NCES data).
Q: What kinds of careers are available to CTE students?
Careers that touch virtually every sector of the economy are available to students who pursue CTE. From livestock geneticist to nuclear engineer, CTE’s system of 16 Career Clusters® and dozens of career pathways helps guide students to the career of their dreams. Learn more about different industry sectors and how CTE prepares students for a variety of careers.
Q: What are career and technical student organizations (CTSOs)?
Career and Technical Student Organizations are intra-curricular organizations that allow CTE students to build leadership skills and pursue and develop their career interests with colleagues across the country. Participation in CTSOs is linked to academic motivation and engagement, better grades, college aspirations, and employability skills. DECA, FFA, FCCLA and FBLA are all examples of CTSOs. Find more information about CTSOs on ACTE’s website here.
Q: What is a credential and how do students earn them?
The term “credential” encompasses educational certificates and degrees, apprenticeship certificates, industry certifications and government-issued licenses. Students can earn various credentials through their secondary and postsecondary CTE coursework. Find more information on credentials here.
Q: What are some of the benefits that students derive from CTE coursework?
CTE is proven to minimize the risk of students dropping out of high school, increase high school graduation rates, and increase students’ earning potential, among other things. For more information, visit the CTE Today and CTE Works fact pages.
Q: Is there a demand in industry for CTE students?
Yes. More than 80 percent of manufacturers report a talent shortage, nearly half of talent recruiters at Fortune 1000 companies report trouble finding qualified candidates with a two-year STEM degree, and between now and 2024, 48 percent of all job openings will require education beyond high school but less than a four-year degree.
Q: How are CTE programs funded?
Similarly to the broader education landscape, for public schools at the secondary and postsecondary levels, funding largely comes from state and local sources. However, the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act provides roughly $1.1B in funding annually to secondary and postsecondary programs in all 50 states. At the postsecondary level, the Higher Education Act also provides funding that supports CTE students through financial aid, and some other federal programs, including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, provide funding which benefits CTE programs and students as well. Find ACTE’s policy agenda here.