Career & Technical Education Essentials
What is CTE?
Career and technical education (CTE) promotes and supports locally-based middle and high school programs that provide 21st century, academic and technical skills for all students. Whether you plan to go to work straight out of high school or eventually earn a PhD, whether you have a clear career goal or just want to learn something practical and new, you can benefit from CTE.
CTE for Students
- Explore careers in middle and high school, especially careers in high-demand, high-growth fields such as healthcare and green technologies
- Identify a career goal
- Write a High School and Beyond Plan, with help from school career and guidance counselors, that identifies the high school and college-level academic and skills-based classes, training programs and apprenticeships that will best prepare them for their career path of choice.
- Take classes in high schools, at skills centers and at community and technical colleges that apply math, science and other academic subjects in real-life, hands-on ways
- Pursue a rigorous Programs of Study to a registered apprenticeship, industry certifications and two- and four-year college options.
- Earn tuition-free college credits as well as high school credits required for graduation
- Become leaders by participating in skills competitions and community service
CTE for Business Supporters or CTE Teachers
Are you a business owner who would like to get more involved with the workforce of tomorrow? Consider speaking to students in their schools, organizing field trips to your worksites, and establishing apprenticeship and internship opportunities. If you’re interested in learning more, contact your local school district’s Career and Technical Education Director or main administrative office.
Do you have industry experience, are enthusiastic about what you do, and would like to share your skills and knowledge with middle and high school students? CTE teaching gives you a chance to make a difference in preparing our children for meaningful, living-wage jobs in a variety of fields - to pass along your expertise and excitement to a new generation. If you are interested in CTE teaching, visit the Certification page for more information.
CTE in Washington
In our state, every school district offers some CTE career exploration services, CTE class offerings and participation in student leadership organizations. Many students have access to skills centers that teach CTE classes to students from several surrounding districts. CTE classes can often fulfill academic credits required for high school graduation and some classes are even good for tuition-free college credit. Many CTE Advanced Placement classes exist and more are being developed each year.
Washington CTE courses are currently approved by OSPI and are taught by an instructor who has a current CTE certification and whose certification matches the instructional area. CTE is partially funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006.
Career Counseling and Exploration
Career exploration and life skills planning form the foundation of CTE programs across the state. If you are in the 7th, 8th or 9th grade you will benefit from learning about the world of work and planning for your education accordingly. The most efficient way to get organized is to develop a High School and Beyond Plan.
The CTE program and its career counseling staff and tools can help you create a very strong and balanced plan. Career and academic guidance resources vary from school to school and district to district, so all 7th, 8th and 9th grade students should seek advice from:
- Their school advisor or school career or guidance counselor.
- Their school career center or district CTE office.
- Career Guidance Washington and other career exploration programs.
CTE classes are offered in many different fields, from construction, welding, firefighting, police work and cooking to environmental science, anatomy and physiology, nursing, veterinary science, computer software, graphic arts, mechanical engineering, architectural drafting, and business and marketing. These classes integrate academics with technical skill development to help prepare students for higher-level courses in college or prepare you for a paid internship. Some middle schools offer limited CTE classes and most high schools offer a wide range of CTE classes. Discover CTE pathways that align with your future career goals.
Education After High School
A broad choice of jobs - some of them very well-paid - are available to those who further their education and training after high school. You don't have to get a bachelor's degree in order to find a career that you are passionate about and allow you to financially support a family.
Washington post-high school offerings include:
- Apprenticeships leading to certification and jobs
- Internships (paid and unpaid)
- Community and Technical Colleges (two-year degrees)
- Four-year colleges and universities (bachelor's degrees)
Jobs for Washington's Graduates
Jobs for Washington's Graduates (JWG) assists young people in staying in school through graduation, as well as reconnecting those students who have prematurely exited the education system by providing them an opportunity to attend a regional high school or skill center, work toward graduation and get a job.
The Washington model fully implements the online curriculum provided by the Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) national program, to provide students with personal management skills and employability skills. It also connects students to career and technical education programs to give them technical skills leading to post-secondary education, apprenticeships and living wage careers. The beauty of the Washington model is that it provides the highest-risk students with positive mentors, a reason to stay in school resulting in increased academic achievement, and a bright and promising future with furthering their education or employment.
Successful completion of the program results in attainment of academic competencies, leading to high school graduation or GED. Additional competencies gained in the program result in students successfully finding meaningful employment and post-secondary learning.
Meeting Credit and Other Graduation Requirements Through CTE
Many CTE courses - including those taught at skill centers - offer credit that meets the academic credits required for graduation. Some CTE courses earn dual credit, meaning students earn college credit as well as high school credit, tuition free. CTE Advanced Placement courses such as environmental science and computer design are available in some schools. (Students who pass their AP exam following a CTE class also earn dual credit.)
Other high school graduation requirements that can be met through CTE include the culminating (senior project) and testing alternatives. Each school's offerings are different so ask your school career counselor or district CTE office for details.
Running Start for the Trades
Running Start for the Trades (RSTT) is expanding opportunities for 11th and 12th grade students to enter state and federal apprenticeship programs. Students take courses that prepare them for full-time apprenticeships following graduation, or for a two-year college program that leads directly to an apprenticeship. For more information, read the December 2010 report to the Legislature or visit the Apprenticeship and Training Council website.
Skill centers are high schools that serve more than one school district and offer industry-defined Career and Technical Education classes in fields ranging from firefighting and police work to audiovisual communications and healthcare. Not all school districts have easy access to a skill center but more centers are being developed.
Student Leadership Organizations
Career and Technical Education student organizations help you grow and learn how to compete. These organizations are specifically designed to increase the confidence and leadership potential of members. Depending on your school's Career and Technical Education courses, you might have some or all of Washington's student leadership organizations available to you. More information is contained on the Student Leadership Organizations.
Tech Prep classes are open to students in grades 9 through 12 and offer tuition-free college credit as well as high school credit. All Tech Prep classes are CTE classes and all have established relationships with local community and technical colleges, meaning students taking a level one or two CTE Tech Prep class in high school can enter the level three or four class in the same discipline at the local two-year college after they graduate from high school. Some Tech Prep students finish their entire first year of college while still in high school, and save a lot of tuition money in the process.
Not all dual credit CTE classes are in the Tech Prep family. For example, CTE Advanced Placement classes offer dual credit but are not Tech Prep classes.
Work Experience Opportunities
CTE students in many cases can pursue what is called a "work-based learning" opportunity or an internship involving a job outside of school. "Work-based learning" experiences are always paid and also earn high school credit. Internships are typically paid but do not earn academic credit. Individual schools and CTE teachers work with local employers to arrange these opportunities for their students, so your local CTE or career office is the best source of information for what your own school offers.