What is Career and Technical Education (CTE)?

Career and Technical Education, often abbreviated as CTE, isn’t just an educational buzzword, it’s a vital part of setting up our students for success in and out of the classroom. It’s become a super popular initiative throughout the country and the globe as people learn more about the real value behind these programs.

There are plenty of different topics, subject areas, and areas of study that could be considered Career and Technical Education classes. It’s a term that’s usually applied to specialized trades, sciences, technologies, or other forms of career preparation. In the past terms like trade school or vocational school were used to refer to CTE programs, but most educators no longer use those terms.

According to the Texas Education Agency “Career and technical education programs offer a sequence of courses that provides students with coherent and rigorous content. CTE content is aligned with challenging academic standards and relevant technical knowledge and skills needed to prepare for further education and careers in current or emerging professions.” (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018)

In Texas specifically, Career and Technical Education is program driven and separated into 14 statewide programs of study that help guide schools and districts as they develop CTE programs for their students. These programs are diverse including study areas for, agriculture, architecture, arts, communication, business, finance, and plenty more.

Here’s a complete list, according to the Texas Education Agency:

  • Agriculture, food, and natural resources
  • Architecture and construction
  • Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications
  • Business, Marketing, and Finance
  • Education and Training
  • Energy
  • Health Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law and Public Service
  • Manufacturing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
  • Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

These Career and Technical Programs of Study are focused on careers in the agricultural, food, or natural resources job fields. Students would learn about common agricultural business practices, environmental resources, food science, or even agricultural engineering!

Architecture and construction

This Program of Study prepares students for careers in the construction or architecture job fields. Your students might learn the fundamentals of architectural design, about plumbing, electrical, or carpentry work, or another similar area to prepare for their future careers.

Arts, Audio/Video Technology and Communication

Digital communications, design, and multimedia arts are a huge part of our current economy. In this Career and Technical Education area your students would explore the world of digital communication, learn design skills, and speak to multimedia artist working out in the field.

Business, marketing, and Finance

Preparing your students for careers in the business and finance world is critical. Students can explore the world of accounting and financial services, business management, how to work as entrepreneurs, or discover a passion for marketing and sales.

Education and Training

The need for high quality and engaging teachers never stops. In this area of study your students would explore the many different careers in education, getting trained in early learning, or a more general field of teaching.


A vital part of our national and statewide economy, careers in energy are some of the most sought after and lucrative. Your students would learn more about oil and gas exploration, or the refining and chemical processes involved in energy.

Health Science

There’s more to health science than just doctors and nurses. One of the biggest programs of study for career and technical education is health science. Students get trained in basic health knowledge, explore the science of exercise and wellness, train to become future nurses and doctors, and learn all about medical therapy.

Hospitality and Tourism

The hospitality industry is a vital part of our overall economy. In this area of study students explore the jobs and careers available to them in the culinary arts, lodging and resort management, or travel, tourism, and attractions industry.

Information Technology

Information Technology is more important than ever. IT professionals are on the frontlines of companies, setting up networking systems, supporting professional needs and services, developing functioning websites, and keeping infrastructure safe and secure with the help of cybersecurity experts.

Law and Public Service

Whether you’re students aspire to work in government and public administration, emergency services, or dream of one day becoming a supreme court justice, they’re going to need help. This career and technical education path is devoted to law and public service jobs where students learn the fundamental knowledge they need to explore future careers.


Preparing students to work in manufacturing technology and advanced machinery helps them succeed in our growing and ever specializing workforce. Students might learn about manufacturing processes and technology, how to fix or repair machines, or a direct in-demand skill like welding.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

STEM and career and technical education go hand-in-hand. The STEM area of study is super diverse and can include high-demand jobs like cybersecurity expert, engineer, biomedical scientist, or computer programmers and software developers.

Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

The transportation, distribution, and logistic industries are the lifeblood of our economy. Whether it’s working in the ever growing automative industry, or understanding the complex rules, regulations, and requirements for global distribution and logistics, your students will explore these crucial areas. They might learn about the maintenance of airplanes, more info on diesel and heavy equipment, or hear from experts in the field of distribution and logistics.

How is career and technical education offered?

Career and technical education programs have expanded across the country, often offered in a high school setting, though it could be implemented in earlier grade levels. Students take a class just as they would any of their other core requirements and spend a semester, or even a year, learning more about their area of interest.

CTE complements what students are learning academically, rather than replacing it. Research across the country has also found that students enrolled in CTE courses in high school were as likely to enroll in postsecondary education as their peers who never took a CTE course. This means that Career and Technical Education is best thought of as an extension of learning and a way of preparing students for the rigors of postsecondary education as well as non-academic life.

The Future of Career and Technical Education

As more schools and districts learn about the impact of CTE classes, they’re choosing to add them into their yearly slate of offerings. Some schools even partner with local industry leaders to provide their students hands-on learning opportunities. In Texas, others choose to provide Industry-Based Certifications to their students. These certifications “help ensure Texas students are prepared for in-demand, high-skill, and high-wage careers”

This increase of Career and Technical Education has even been recognized nationally, with President Joe Biden’s educational secretary stating that he’d “like to see students in middle school through high school have more opportunities to explore career and technical education (CTE) programs” (Dembicki 2021) Setting up a future of education in which Career and Technical Education classes are a crucial part of all of our students’ academic journey.

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