• Key Information
    about Career and Technical Education


    CTE Works for High School Students

    High school students involved in CTE are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates.
    • 81 percent of dropouts say relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in high school.
    • The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 74.9 percent.
    • More than 70 percent of secondary CTE concentrators pursued postsecondary education shortly after high school.

    CTE Works for College Students and Adults

    Postsecondary CTE fosters postsecondary completion and prepares students and adults for in-demand careers.
    • 4 out of 5 secondary CTE graduates who pursued postsecondary education after high school had earned a credential or were still enrolled two years later.
    • 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.
    • 27 percent of people with less than an associate degree, including licenses and certificates, earn more than the average bachelor degree recipient.

    CTE Works for the Economy

    Investing in CTE yields big returns for state economies.
    • In Connecticut, every public dollar invested in Connecticut community colleges returns $16.40 over the course of students' careers. That state's economy receives $5 billion annually in income from this investment.
    • In Washington, for every dollar invested in secondary CTE programs, the state earns $9 in revenues and benefits.
    • In Tennessee, CTE returns $2 for every $1 invested. At the secondary level, CTE program completers account for more than $13 million in annual tax revenues.

    CTE Works for Business

    CTE addresses the needs of high-growth industries and helps close the skills gap.
    • The skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill in the United States, with recent data citing 645,000 jobs open in the trade, transportation and utilities sector and 253,000 jobs open in manufacturing.
    • Health care occupations, many of which require an associate degree or less, make up 8 of the 20 fastest growing occupations.
    • STEM occupations such as environmental engineering and science technicians require an associate degree and will experience faster than average job growth.
    • Middle-skill jobs, jobs that require education and training beyond high school but less than a bachelor degree, are a significant part of the economy. Of the 46.8 million job openings created by 2018, 30 percent will require some college or a two-year associate degree.

    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 2010-2011 school year, according to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, there were 7,494,042 secondary CTE participants, or students who took at least 1 credit of CTE, and 3,020,163 CTE concentrators who took multiple CTE credits in one career pathway.
    • 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 2010-2011 school year, according to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, there were 4,411,875 postsecondary CTE participants and 2,378,144 CTE concentrators. The National Center for Education Statistics, which uses different criterion, puts the number of undergraduates enrolled in career education programs in 2007-2008 at 12 million.
    • 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.
    • From 1997 to 2007, there was a 58.4 percent increase in less-than-one-year certificates awarded at two-year institutions, a 28.5 percent increase in certificates that take at least one year but less than two years and an 18.7 percent increase in associate degrees.
    The above data and citations are available from our CTE Today Fact Sheet and from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, the American Association of Community Colleges, and publications from RTI International and MPR Associates.