Career and technical education (CTE) provides an important pathway to success for high school students and offers each student opportunities to personalize his or her education based on their career interests and unique learning needs. CTE refers to courses and programs designed to prepare students for careers in current or emerging professions. At the high school level, CTE provides students with opportunities to explore a career theme of interest while learning a set of technical and employability skills that integrate into or complement their academic studies. High school CTE is meant to connect with and lead to postsecondary programs of study or additional training after high school, which may include more specialized technical instruction. These pathways can culminate in postsecondary degrees or certificates, apprenticeships, or employment. Learn more about CTE.
A critical workforce challenge in the United States is the skills gap, particularly among jobs that require either a high school diploma, postsecondary certificate, or associate’s degree. Jobs requiring these “middle skills” outnumber the adults in the workforce who possess them, and this gap presents a barrier to American economic competitiveness. There are 30 million jobs in the United States that do not require a bachelor’s degree that pay median earnings of $55,000 or more.  CTE provides an important avenue for young adults to gain these skills beginning in high school. How do we engage a new generation of young Americans and prepare them for rewarding careers? Last year, Congress reauthorized the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act for the 21st Century (also referred to as Perkins V), the federal legislation that supports CTE programs and whose purpose is to address these critical issues.
This data story explores both access to and participation in CTE in high school, as well as the outcomes of students who concentrate their studies in CTE, using national and state-level data from the Department. Learn more about the data sources.
While definitions vary by state, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) issued non-regulatory guidance on two different measures of student participation in CTE. At the high school level, the term CTE participant refers to a student who earned at least one credit in any CTE course. The term CTE concentrator refers to a student who earned two or more credits within a single program of study, such as Health Science or Business Management and Administration. Learn more about CTE participants and CTE concentrators.
Over three-fourths of 9th-grade public school students in 2009 had participated in CTE by their senior year in 2013 (77 percent). These students had earned at least one CTE credit in high school. Percentages of students who participated varied across some demographic characteristics such as sex and race/ethnicity. These percentages included all public school students, regardless of high school graduation status. Learn more about CTE participants by select student characteristics.
Over one-third of 9th-grade public school students (37 percent) in 2009 had concentrated in CTE by 2013. These students had earned two or more credits in a at least one program of study in high school. Percentages of students who concentrated varied across some demographic characteristics such as sex and race/ethnicity. These percentages included all public school students, regardless of high school graduation status. Learn more about CTE concentrators by select student characteristics.