ҹѰ

College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says

The State of Career and Technical Education, in Charts

By Sarah D. Sparks — June 03, 2024 2 min read
Young girl working on an electrical panel in a classroom setting.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Email Copy URL

More than 8 in 10 high school graduates completed at least one course in a career-education field in 2019, according to new federal data. However, it’s unclear how much secondary career pathways really link to students’ work after graduation.

The U.S. Department of Education’s annual , released last week, highlighted detailed data from 2019 to give an updated snapshot of career and technical education teachers, courses, participation, and postsecondary degrees.

Career education remains somewhat skewed to male students, 87 percent of whom earned career-tech credit in 2019, 5 percentage points more than female students who earned CTE credit. Each credit, or Carnegie unit, represents 120 hours of class time in a particular subject.

More students took information technology courses than any other field. Technology and health sciences have gotten boosts in recent years, as more school districts offer “pathways,” or multi-year curriculums focused on high-need career fields.

In 2023, every state except Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York passed career-education laws, with a majority of the new laws adding accountability measures for the programs and supporting for schools. The legislative push was part of a more than decade-long state effort to make career-focused coursework more challenging and build pathways from school to work, regardless of whether students go to college after high school.

The federal data show that career-tech pathways may still funnel students into shorter-term degrees after high school. Among public school graduates in 2013 who entered a college degree program by 2021, those who had concentrated on career-education courses in high school were nearly twice as likely to earn an associate degree (14 percent versus 9 percent) than those who didn’t focus on CTE. However, 54 percent of non-CTE students earned at least a bachelor’s degree, while less than half of CTE-focused students did so.

The federal data also show school districts continue to struggle to recruit and keep high-quality career-tech-education teachers across a multitude of fields.

For example, the 42,000-student Kern High School district, in Bakersfield, Calif., offers—and must recruit teachers for—some 40 career pathways, from finance to medical research to industrial robotics.

Dean McGee, Kern’s deputy superintendent of educational services and innovative programs and a 2023 ҹѰ Leader to Learn From, launched a special teacher-induction program to move industry professionals like welders to the classroom, which McGee said has helped them keep up with demand.

Events

School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
ҹѰ in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by 

ҹѰ Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Can Mastery-Based Learning Replace Seat Time?
Developing better assessments and getting buy-in from practitioners will be key to replacing seat time as a proxy for mastery.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness From Our Research Center Are Real-World Problem-Solving Skills Essential for Students?
Ensuring students' career readiness is a top priority for districts.
2 min read
Photograph of culturally diverse students and Black female teacher discussing mathematics problem at a whiteboard
E+
College & Workforce Readiness What’s More Important to Students and Employers: Skills or Credentials?
At the Reagan Institute Summit on Education, leaders discussed the evolving value of college degrees versus career skills.
4 min read
Reagan Institute Summit on Education panelists discuss career-connected education at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Washington, D.C., on May 23, 2024.
Reagan Institute Summit on Education panelists discuss career-connected education at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Washington, D.C., on May 23, 2024.
Annie Goldman/Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion It May Be Time to Retire the Carnegie Unit. Are There Better Measures of Learning?
The Carnegie Foundation popularized seat time as a measure of learning. Now, the organization’s president lays out a new vision.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty