What Is CTE?

There are literally hundreds of definitions of CTE. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) has taken all these definitions and condensed them into  quick facts that will help define CTE.

  • CTE prepares both youths and adults for a wide range of careers and further educational opportunities. These careers may require varying levels of education—including industry-recognized certifications, post-secondary certificates, and two- and four-year degrees.
  • Almost 12 million students participated in secondary and post-secondary CTE programs during the 2011-12 school year, as reported by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost all high school students earn credit in CTE, and more than half earn three or more credits.
  • The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is substantially higher than the average national freshman graduation rate. A person with a CTE-related associate degree or credential will earn on average between $4,000 and $19,000 more a year than a person with a humanities associate degree. CTE is at the forefront of preparing students to be college- and career-ready.

CTE equips students with:

  • Core academic skills and the ability to apply those skills to concrete situations in order to function in the workplace and in routine daily activities.
  • Employability skills (such as critical thinking and responsibility) that are essential in any career area.
  • Job-specific technical skills related to a specific career pathway.


In the past several years, students have lacked interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), yet the job opportunities are in high demand.

The issue brief CTE’s Role in STEM addresses such concerns as the dearth of professionals, lack of basic science and math skills, and demographics. CTE provides students with opportunities by offering programs that strengthen their STEM understanding and introduce career pathways. Through programs of study at the secondary level, students can explore their options and then decide on a career pathway that best suits their STEM interest. CTE students can then take the knowledge and skills they have learned to post-secondary education and into a high-skill, high-paying job opportunity.

The CTE classroom is the best STEM laboratory available because it provides real-world, hands-on learning, as well as enhances student engagement and learning.


  • 50 percent of all STEM jobs are open to workers with less than a bachelor’s degree.
  • 30 percent of today’s STEM-intensive jobs are in blue-collar fields.

CTE Is Science—61 percent of CTE students interested in a science career report that their CTE courses equip them with skills for the workforce.

CTE Is Technology—50 percent of STEM jobs are in manufacturing, health care and construction, while

another 12 percent of STEM jobs are in installation, maintenance and repair.

CTE Is Engineering—18 percent job growth is projected for environmental engineering technicians by 2022. These jobs typically require an associate degree and pay more than $45,000 per year.

For more information visit www.acteonline.org