How to Become a Career and Technical Education Teacher
Career and technical training in the United States dates back hundreds of years to when youth were apprenticed to master craftsmen to learn trades such as candle making and blacksmithing. Today, the U.S. Department of Education reports there are over 8 million students in career and technical education (CTE) programs across the country. Educators facilitate the training and instruction these students need to prepare for 21st-century careers as disparate as plumbing, human resources, and fashion.
If you have substantial work experience in an occupation or vocation and want to share your expertise and passion with high school (and occasionally middle school) students, becoming a career and technical education (CTE) teacher could be a rewarding career path for you.
What Is Career and Technical Education?
Career and technical education is an educational path that provides students with specific trade skills that employers look for. CTE is geared toward addressing the disconnect between how our educational systems prepare students for vocational careers and what real-world employers actually need.
It’s a common misperception that career and technical education is just training for non-college-bound students who want to learn a trade. In fact, 78% of all graduates of career and technical programs enter some form of postsecondary school. As The Atlantic notes, there is even a rise in people who have already finished a bachelor’s degree engaging in “last-mile” career and technical training, which allows them to gain knowledge and skills too specialized for undergraduate programs. Recognizing that many CTE students will attend post-secondary programs, some training programs allow high school students to earn college credits while completing career and technical coursework.
New CTE training models, often a hybrid of high school, college, and career and technical programming, are gaining popularity. As an example, IBM has partnered with educators to create Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) spanning grades nine through 14 (that is, high school through earning an associate degree). At these schools, students graduate with an associate degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field, usually applied science, engineering, or computers, and they have the skills to go to work immediately.
There are 16 common career tracks available in career and technical education:
Within each track, students begin with broad training that becomes increasingly specific to support their career interests. Some learners apply their skills immediately by entering the workforce, others pursue further education, and many combine the two.
Career and Technical Education Teacher Job Description
Career and technical educators teach students key competencies within the skills areas listed above. CTE is experiential or work-based learning; students learn by doing. Some instruction is delivered in a traditional classroom setting, but CTE teachers spend most of their time instructing and supervising students in hands-on settings.
In a laboratory or shop setting, CTE teachers give students tasks based on their classroom learning. For example, manufacturing students might be taught how to use associated equipment or tools; nursing students might practice blood-typing.
Career and technical education teachers also supervise students in a variety of real-world learning environments. Child development students might run an on-site daycare center. Culinary arts students may operate a for-profit cafeteria.
In addition to working with students, CTE teachers often develop curricula, lesson plans, and student materials. They may help with career placement by connecting with local businesses, government agencies, or trade unions.
Career and technical education teachers teach at the middle, secondary, and postsecondary levels. They may work in traditional middle and high schools, at community colleges, or in regional career and technical schools.
Career and Technical Educator Salary and Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for career and technical education teachers was $56,750 as of May 2018. The highest 10% earned more than $92,640.
Salaries can vary based on the level you teach and where you teach. The BLS provides the following information for May 2018:
|Career and Technical Education Teacher Salaries|
|Middle school CTE teacher||$59,230|
|High school CTE teacher||$60,250|
|Postsecondary CTE teacher||$53,120|
High school and middle school positions are expected to grow between 2% and 3% between 2018 and 2028. Although those figures represent limited growth, it is important to note that states are increasingly recognizing the need for the field and beginning to approve more funding.
How to Become a Career and Technical Education Teacher
Many states do not require a four-year degree to teach certain CTE subjects, as they recognize this field is better served by instructors who have years of professional experience. For instance, a CTE teacher leading a barbering class generally does not need a bachelor’s degree in order to teach. Meanwhile, an educator focused on nursing needs to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Rather than requiring licensure, many states now offer CTE teacher certification. States that still mandate licensure often require baccalaureate credentials, regardless of subject area. Each state’s Department of Education sets CTE requirements. You can find a current list of state CTE teacher requirements at the bottom of this page. However, requirements change from time to time, and it’s important that you stay up to date on your state’s laws and regulations regarding certification or licensure.
Regardless of the path offered by your state, all CTE teachers must go through several steps to receive certification, including:
- Meeting educational requirements
- Meeting work experience requirements
- Taking any mandated examinations
- Paying any associated application fees
- Receiving certification
If your state still requires a bachelor’s degree for CTE teaching positions, some schools offer bachelor’s degrees in career and technical education. You can also prepare for a job in this field by earning a degree in the career area that you want to teach. If you did not take any teaching courses during your undergraduate degree, some states might require you to pass several teacher preparation training courses, but they frequently allow you to do this while working under a provisional license.
Courses may include:
Alternative Teacher Certification
The most common option for CTE teachers, alternative teacher certification, takes into account factors such as related work experience, examination scores, and existing education to recommend whether an individual is qualified to lead a CTE classroom. Many states offer non-renewable provisional licensures for teachers in this field. Provisional licensure provides future teachers a few years to take required teacher preparation courses—such as teaching methods, managing the classroom, and lesson planning—before seeking unencumbered certification.
Work-Based CTE Teacher Certification
Work-based CTE teacher certification is a common path for teachers in career areas that do not traditionally require workers to hold a postsecondary degree (e.g., cosmetology, cabinetmaking, and auto repair). These certificates typically require a high school diploma or GED alongside substantial professional experience. Requirements can range from two to six years, depending on the specific trade.
Online Career and Technical Education Programs
If you are interested in a bachelor’s program in CTE, purely online programs are not available due to the hands-on nature of the work. However, if you currently hold a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to earn an online master’s or doctoral degree to advance your CTE teaching opportunities.
Each type of online CTE degree is different. Classes may cover topics such as organizational management, information systems management, or intercultural communication. Programs can train you for leadership positions or to teach at the postsecondary level.
Most online programs in career and technical education include a capstone project and/or internship once all other units are completed. Depending on a student’s schedule, master’s degrees may take as few as 18 months or as long as two and a half years to complete. Doctoral programs tend to take longer.
Online programs are ideal if you need flexibility and the ability to pace your studies. You might save money, too, since you will avoid commuting costs and classroom fees. Make sure the online schools you consider hold accreditation.
Useful Resources for Career and Technical Educators
If you’re wondering about the certification/licensure requirements for career and technical educators in your state, check out the table below. States change requirements from time to time, so be sure to stay up to date on your state’s laws and regulations.
|State||Name of Certification||Minimum Degree Required||Testing and Work Experience Requirements||Certification Areas||State Certification Information|
|Alabama||Career and Technical Education||Associate or bachelor’s degree depending on topic, though some program areas require only specific classes.||Occupational proficiency examination, professional experience (time requirements vary by subject area).||Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Architecture & Construction; Arts, A/V Technology & Communications; Business Management & Administration; Education & Training; Finance; Government & Public Administration; Health Science; Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; Information Technology; Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security; Manufacturing; Marketing; STEM; Transportation, Distribution & Logistics||Alabama Career and Technical Education|
|Alaska||Initial Teacher Certificate||Bachelor’s degree at minimum||Basic competency exam, content area exam||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Alaska Types of Certificates|
|Arizona||Career and Technical Education||Bachelor's for all except Business and Industry Professionals option||Tests and work experience requirements vary by subject||Agriculture; Business & Marketing; Education & Training; Family & Consumer Sciences; Industrial & Emerging Technologies||Arizona Requirements for CTE Certificates|
|Arkansas||Career and Technical Education Technical Permit||Associate degree, though extensive work experience can be used as a substitute||Between two and four years of professional experience in specialty area||Agriculture Science & Technology; Business & Marketing Technology; Family & Consumer Sciences; Jobs for Arkansas Graduates; STEM; Trade & Industry||Arkansas Division of Career & Technical Education|
|California||Preliminary Designated Subjects CTE Teaching Credential||High school diploma/GED||Minimum 3,000 clock hours of work experience directly related to teaching area||Agriculture Education; Business & Marketing; Family & Consumer Sciences Education; Health Careers; Industrial & Technology Education||California Career Technical Education Teaching Credential|
|Colorado||Initial Career and Technical Education Authorization||Individual criteria must be met for each subject area, ranging from a high school diploma/GED to bachelor’s degree||Content knowledge examination and occupational experience||Agriculture & Natural Resources; Business/Marketing & Public Administration; Health Sciences & Public Safety; Hospitality; Human Services & Education; Skilled Trades & Technical Sciences; STEM; Arts, Design, & IT||Colorado Career and Technical Education Applicant|
|Connecticut||Vocational Endorsement||Requirements vary from high school diploma/GED to bachelor’s degree, depending on subject area||Three to eight years related work experience, depending on subject||Agricultural Science & Technology; Business & Finance Technology; Family & Consumer Science; Manufacturing; Marketing; Medical Careers; Personal Finance||Becoming Certified in Connecticut|
|Delaware||Career & Technical Education Certification||CTE educators must hold both a DE teaching license and at least one certificate in their chosen subject||Skilled and Technical Science Certification holders must possess professional or trade experience in their expertise area||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Delaware Career & Technical Education Certification|
|Florida||Certified Teacher||CTE educators must possess a standard teaching license and certification in at least one content area||Tests and work experience requirements vary by subject||17 career clusters focused on middle school, high school, technical school, and college||Florida Career & Technical Education|
|Georgia||Career and Technical Education Certification||Requirements range from high school diploma to bachelor’s degree based on content area||Professional work experience and exams are required.||Georgia offers 24 CTE subject areas as of 2020; see website||Georgia Career and Technical Specializations|
|Hawaii||Standard Limited CTE License||Associate degree at minimum and pedagogical coursework||Minimum of three years industry experience and passage of exams||Arts & Communication; Business; Health Services; Industrial Engineering Technology; Natural Resources; Public & Human Services||Hawaii CTE License and Permit Information|
|Idaho||Career and Technical Education Teacher Qualification||High school diploma or equivalent at minimum||Six years of industry-related employment||Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Business & Marketing; Engineering & Technology; Family & Consumer Sciences; Human Services; Health Professions & Public Safety; Trades & Industry||Idaho CTE Educator Information|
|Illinois||Career and Technical Educator, Part-time Provisional Career and Technical Educator, Provisional Career and Technical Educator||Requirements vary based on type of license||Requirements vary based on type of license and content area||Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources; Arts & Communication; Finance & Business Services; Health Sciences & Technology; Human & Public Services; Information Technology; Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, & Trades||Illinois CTE Educator Licensure Requirements|
|Indiana||Career Specialist Permit||Bachelor’s degree unless other requirements are met||Minimum 4,000 hours of occupational work experience or passing CORE content licensure exam||Agriculture; Business & Information Technology; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Science; Marketing; Trade & Industrial Areas||Indiana Alternative Licensure Paths|
|Iowa||Career and Technical Educator Limited Teaching Authorization||Bachelor’s degree unless other requirements are met alongside pedagogy coursework||Between 4,000-6,000 hours of occupational experience||Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Arts, Communications, & Information Systems; Applied Sciences, Technology, Engineering, & Manufacturing; Health Sciences; Human Services; Business, Finance, Marketing, & Management||Iowa Board of Educational Examiners|
|Kansas||Career and Technical Education Specialized Certificate||Degree level appropriate to subject area||Trade competency exam, any required occupational license, and professional occupation work experience||Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Architecture & Construction; Education & Training; Government & Public Administration; Health Sciences; Information Technology; Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security||CTE Specialized Certificate Requirements|
|Kentucky||Occupation-Based Teacher Certification||Candidates must possess any education commonly required in their industry (e.g., bachelor’s for nursing). Those without teaching credentials must complete an approved 64-credit program.||Minimum four years of work experience, occupation-based exams.||Agriculture; Business & Marketing; Construction Technology; Engineering Technology; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Science; Information Technology; Manufacturing; Media Arts; Transportation||Kentucky Occupation-Based Teacher Certification|
|Louisiana||Career and Technical Certificate||Minimum high school diploma or GED||At least four years of full-time work experience. Graduates of postsecondary degrees receive work experience credits based on degree level.||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Louisiana Standards for Certification of School Personnel|
|Maine||CTE Teacher Certification/Endorsement||CTE educators can select from five different pathways||Exams plus endorsement in chosen area||Nearly 50 content areas recognized; see website||Maine CTE Teacher Certification/Endorsement|
|Maryland||Career and Technical Education License||Bachelor’s degree in teaching/content area or completion of a CTE teacher certification course||Exams; work experience may be required in some content areas||Arts, Media, & Communications; Business Management & Finance; Construction & Development; Consumer Services, Hospitality, & Tourism; Environmental, Agricultural, & Natural Resources; Health & Biosciences; Human Resource Services; Information Technology; Manufacturing, Engineering, & Technology; Transportation Technologies||Maryland Educator Certification|
|Massachusetts||Vocational Technical Education||High school diploma/GED, associate, or bachelor's depending on area||Work experience requirements vary by subject. Vocational Technical Literacy Skills Test; Communication and Literacy Skills Test||52 options; see website||Massachusetts Vocational Technical Education|
|Michigan||Standard Career and Technical Education Certificate||Bachelor’s degree, six semester credits of professional/CTE education||Minimum two years of work experience in CTE teaching area||18 career cluster areas; see website for full list of options||Michigan Standard CTE Certificate Requirements|
|Minnesota||Career and Technical Education Teacher License||Requirements depend on CTE area of teaching but options include professional certification, associate, or bachelor’s degree||Depending on type of license, approximately five years of verified, related work experience||Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources; Business, Marketing, & IT; Family & Consumer Science; Health Science; Service Occupations; Trades & Industry||Minnesota Career and Technical Education Teacher Licensing|
|Mississippi||CTE Stand Alone Educator Licenses||Requirements vary based on CTE program area||At least one year of full-time experience gained in previous decade, content exams||Agricultural & Related Technology; Business & Computer Technology; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Sciences; Marketing & Cooperative Education; Technology; Trade, Technical, & Engineering-Related Technologies||Mississippi Guidelines and Clarification of Requirements for issuance of CTE Licenses|
|Missouri||Certified Career Education Teacher||Three paths available, each of which sets different education requirements||Three paths available, each of which sets different work experience requirements.||Agricultural Education; Business, Marketing & IT; Family Consumer Sciences & Human Sciences; Health Sciences; Skilled Technical Sciences; Technology & Engineering||Become Certified as a Career Education Teacher in Missouri|
|Montana||Class 4 Career and Technical Teaching License||Three paths exist, each with different sets of education requirements||10,000 hours of experience in each content area||Agriculture Education; Business Education; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Science; Industrial Technology||Requirements for Montana Class 4 Educator Licensure|
|Nebraska||Career Education Teaching Permit||Postsecondary degree or apprenticeship in chosen CTE area||Five or more years of career practice or passage of competency exam||Business, Marketing, & Management; Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources; Computer Science & Technology; Health Sciences; Human Sciences, Family & Consumer Sciences; Skilled & Technical Sciences||Nebraska Career Education Teaching Permit Requirements|
|Nevada||Secondary-High School Career and Technical Education License||Bachelor’s degree and teaching preparation coursework||One year of verifiable work experience||Agricultural & Natural Resources; Business & Marketing Education; Education, Hospitality, & Human Services; Health Science & Public Safety; Information & Media Technologies; Skilled & Technical Sciences||Nevada Qualifications for CTE License|
|New Hampshire||Alternative 4 CTE Certification||Requirements vary based on degree level attained and work experience possessed. Candidates with substantial related work experience need only a high school diploma or GED||Candidates with little to no related work experience need a higher degree; those with at least two years of full-time work experience may not, depending on content area||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||New Hampshire Pathways to Certification|
|New Jersey||Career and Technical Education Instructional Certificate||Traditional (e.g., teacher preparation, bachelor’s degree) and alternate (e.g., combination of education and employment experience) routes exist||Traditional (e.g., teacher preparation, bachelor’s degree) and alternate (e.g., combination of education and employment experience) routes exist||128 different endorsements exist; see website||New Jersey Certification and Induction|
|New Mexico||Secondary Vocational-Technical Teaching License||Route A) associate degree; Route B) bachelor’s degree including 32 credits of training related to content area; Route C) certificate; Route D) high school diploma/GED||Route A) Two years of related work experience; Route C) three years of related work experience; Route D) five years of related work experience||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||New Mexico Secondary Vocational-Technical Licensure|
|New York||Career and Technical Education Certification||Requirements vary based on subject area and type of certificate. Initial certificates require an associate degree; professional certificates require a bachelor’s degree||Depends on subject area but can include student teaching and occupational work experience. Professional certificate requires NY State Teacher Certification Exam, and three years of full-time classroom teaching experience||Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Architecture & Construction; Arts, A/V Technology & Communications; Business Management & Administration; Education & Training; Health Sciences; Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; IT; Law, Public Safety, Correction & Security; Manufacturing; STEM; Transportation, Distribution & Logistics||New York State Office of Teaching Initiatives|
|North Carolina||Career and Technical Education Licensure||Requirements range from high school diploma or GED to bachelor’s based on subject area||Varied amounts of professional experience based on subject area||Agricultural Education; Business, Finance, & Marketing; Computer Science & IT; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Science; Trade, Technology, Engineering, & Industrial Education||North Carolina Areas of Licensure|
|North Dakota||CTE Teacher License||Requirements vary by subject area but typically include some college coursework||Certification exams||Agriculture; Business; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Sciences; IT; Marketing; Technology & Engineering; Trade, Industry & Technical Education||North Dakota Teaching Licensing CTE Standards and Requirements|
|Ohio||Career Tech Teacher License||Minimum high school diploma or GED||Five years of full-time, related work experience||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Ohio Career Tech Teacher Preparation and Licenses|
|Oklahoma||Career Tech Teacher Certification||Teaching degree or completion of Oklahoma Alternative Placement Program||Three years of qualified work experience, written recommendation from employer||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Oklahoma Paths to CTE Teaching Certification|
|Oregon||CTE Teacher Licensure||Associate degree or higher preferred, but alternate paths available via preliminary CTE license||Minimum 2,000 hours of relevant experience||Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources Systems; Art, Information, & Communications; Business & Management; Health & Biomedical Sciences; Human Resources; Industrial & Engineering Systems||Oregon CTE Teacher Licensure Overview|
|Pennsylvania||CTE Teacher Certification||Candidates can opt for a credential review to receive certification. Must possess a teaching license or other higher education credential||Candidates can opt for a Skilled Worker test consisting of written exam and hands-on demonstration of skill in lieu of degree||43 content areas; see website||Pennsylvania CTE Teacher Certification Options|
|Rhode Island||CTE Teacher Certification||Educational requirements depend on content area but typically mirror industry expectations||Subject matter test and experience are required in some content areas||39 content areas; see website||Rhode Island CTE Teacher Certification Requirements|
|South Carolina||CTE Teacher Certification||Minimum high school diploma or GED, though some fields require an associate or bachelor’s degree||Some fields allow for work-based certification and examinations||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||South Carolina CTE Work-Based Certification Program|
|South Dakota||CTE Teacher Certification||Must complete CTE Methods Course and follow endorsement requirements based on subject area||Must participate in CTE Mentored Internship||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||South Dakota CTE Teacher Certification Application Process|
|Tennessee||CTE Teacher Licensure||Requirements vary by pathway but most require a high school diploma or GED||Five years of full-time work experience in occupational area||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Tennessee Licensure and Training Attendance Records|
|Texas||CTE Teacher Certification||Requirements depend on specific career areas||Three of the nine certificates awarded require between two and five years of full-time, paid experience. The remaining certificates do not||Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources; Architecture & Construction; Arts, Audio Visual Technology, & Communications; Business, Marketing, & Finance; Education & Training; Energy; Health Science; Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; IT; Law & Public Service; Manufacturing; STEM; Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics||Texas Career and Technical Education Certification Information|
|Utah||CTE Educator License||The Utah State Board of Education is currently revising Alternative Routes to Licensure requirements, with revisions taking effect July 1, 2020.||The Utah State Board of Education is currently revising Alternative Routes to Licensure requirements, with revisions taking effect July 1, 2020.||Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Architecture & Construction; Arts, Audio/Visual Technology & Communications; Business, Finance & Marketing; Computer Science & IT; Education & Training; Engineering & Technology; Health Science; Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security; Manufacturing; Transportation, Distribution & Logistics||Earning a Utah Educator License|
|Vermont||CTE Teacher Licensure||High School Diploma, GED, or Associate Degree||Between four and six years of experience, depending on education level||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Vermont CTE Teacher Education Program|
|Virginia||CTE Teacher Credential||Industry credential required, but initial licensees can apply to a three-year, nonrenewable license while meeting requirements||Industry-standard examinations||Agricultural Education; Business & IT: Family & Consumer Sciences; Health & Medical Sciences; Marketing; Technology; Trade & Industrial Education||Virginia Industry Credentials for CTE Teachers|
|Washington||Career and Technical Educator Certificate||CTE teachers following Plan 1 for licensure must possess a bachelor’s degree; those following Plan 2 can meet business and industry standards||Basic Skills Exam, three years of occupational experience and/or teaching experience||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Washington Initial Career and Technical Educator Certificate|
|Washington D.C.||Standard Teacher Credential||All D.C. teachers must possess at minimum a bachelor’s degree, regardless of subject area||CTE teachers must take relevant Praxis Exams||Architecture & Construction; Arts, A/V Tech & Communications; Business Management & Administration; Education & Training; Finance; Health Science; Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; IT; Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security; STEM; Transportation, Distribution & Logistics||Washington D.C. Teacher Certification|
|West Virginia||CTE Endorsement||Requirements vary based on industry standards for each content area||Requirements vary based on industry standards for each content area||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||West Virginia CTE Endorsements and Testing|
|Wisconsin||Technology Education License||Standard licensure pathway requires a bachelor’s degree, but a trade specialist permit pathway is also available||Completion of a recognized apprenticeship program and three years of paid work experience||Agriculture & Natural Resources; Business & IT; Family & Consumer Sciences; Health Science; Marketing, Management & Entrepreneurship; Technology & Engineering||Wisconsin Technology Education Pathways to Licensure|
|Wyoming||Professional, Industry, and Career Educator Permit||High School Diploma or GED||Two years of work experience, valid license in occupational specialty when required||16 career clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Education||Wyoming Professional Industry Career Permit Requirements|
|State||Name of Certification||Minimum Degree Required||Testing and Work Experience Requirements||Certification Areas||State Certification Information|
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