Today’s high school students are seriously reevaluating the traditional 4-year college route and looking at careers that require industry certification or an associate’s degree. This new perspective emerges from seeing older siblings or family members burdened with college debt. The average college debt is now close to 30,000[1]. Another factor in this new mindset is time. Some students are eager to jump into careers that will help them transition smoothly into adulthood. It’s not surprising, then, that an increasing number of students enroll in Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs offered at their local high schools.

What is Career and Technology Education (CTE)?

Career and Technology Education (CTE) prepares students for college and a career by combining a relevant curriculum that aligns with the student’s college or career interests. CTE offers high school students the opportunity to learn about their career interests while also receiving the required academic courses for graduation. It is a state-of-the-art, 21st-century education that is skills-based and prepares high school students for a wide range of high-wage and in-demand careers.

Career Clusters

Students can discover and explore their career interests by taking an assessment that will correlate their responses within 16 career clusters:

  • Health science
  • Business
  • Sales
  • Finance
  • Information technology
  • Science, technology, engineering, and math
  • Manufacturing
  • Logistics
  • Hospitality
  • Government
  • Law
  • Agriculture
  • Human services
  • Construction
  • Training
  • Arts, audio/visual technology, and communications

The assessment will reveal jobs related to each cluster, giving students an idea of the possible careers they can explore.

CTE Programs and Academies

Once students have a clear vision of career possibilities, they meet with their guidance counselor to review CTE courses at their career academy of choice and apply. Some academies offer industry certifications (i.e., Microsoft HTML or Web Dev, AUTOCAD, etc.) that can lead to employment after graduation or earn credits for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The return on investment is significant!

Student Gain Skills

Students interested in design, for example, can gain Adobe Photoshop Illustrator, InDesign, and Premiere Pro skills. They create images and graphics used in magazines or online advertisements and create commercial-style videos and video production. If they’re interested in healthcare, they learn the basics from the medical field used in nursing or emergency medical responders. Students in culinary learn how to prepare food safely for consumption.

All of the skills learned in CTE can help students in their future careers or help them experience elements of a job they don’t want to pursue.

Explore the Options!

Parents and students should reach out to their high school guidance counselors and see what their school district offers. Research your state’s department of education online resources for CTE information and career assessment tools. Have discussions with your child to learn more about their passions and interests. Observe what they enjoy and what comes easily to them. As a parent, you’ll be able to guide them on the career path they choose.


Career Cruiser: a Career and Planning Guide by the Florida Department of Education “provides self-assessment activities to assist students in thinking about the relationship between personal interests and career goals.”

Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has online tools to search projected growth of occupations and median salaries, along with education requirements.

Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) provides detailed information about CTE for secondary and post-secondary students.

[1] Kerr, E., Wood, S. (2021, September 14). See 10 Years of Average Total Student Loan Debt. U.S. News & World Report.

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