How to become a Career & Technical Education Teacher

By Marie Bartlett, Staff Writer, May 22, 2017


It’s been said that the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. For that reason alone, teaching is one of the most critical yet undervalued professions in the world. A great teacher – one who leads and inspires - can impact a student throughout his or her entire life. 


In today’s cutting-edge, technology-driven society, one teaching specialty stands out: that of Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers, who prepare youth and adults for high-wage, high-demand jobs that require specialized skills for existing and emerging positions. While many CTE teachers work in public schools, from middle grades to two-year community and junior colleges, others work in technical, trade and business schools.


Career & Technical Education Teachers Provide a Roadmap to the Future


The value of CTE teachers today cannot be overstated. That’s because many experts maintain that when CTE educators prepare youth and adults for high-tech, futuristic careers, they help close the current skills gap in industries, improve state economies through higher returns on investment in education, and save students and families thousands of dollars in tuition by providing practical skills designed for the real world. 


Yet, as in all career fields, challenges exist.


According to a recent nationwide survey of CTE teachers conducted by, there is a greater need for student exposure to technology, more resources to better prepare students for an increasingly high-tech workplace, and more time to allow students a chance to explore special interests in technical careers they may not fully understand or appreciate. 


Today’s rapidly changing work environments provide opportunity while raising the bar for CTE teachers and administrators. “Hands-on experience with the latest technology is our biggest challenge,” says April Moon, a CTE administrator in Texas, “because of how quickly technology is changing.”


“Finding statistics on the prevalence of certain careers as they change over time is an obstacle for us,” says Casey Heiser, a California CTE teacher. 


Yet both agree that serving as a Career and Technical Education teacher can be fun and rewarding, especially for those who like designing, making and exploring new things. 


Outlook for CTE Teachers


Though employment for CTE teachers is not as fast-rising as other occupations (four percent growth rate between 2014 and 2024), there is a continued need for programs and instructors to better prepare students for 21st century jobs. 

For example, high-growth industries from healthcare to renewable energy are included in the sector of fastest growing occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students exploring or pursing those career fields will need qualified CTE instructors to help prepare and lead them into tomorrow’s workforce.



Required Education


Typical entry-level education for CTE teachers is a Bachelor’s degree, but work experience in a related occupation also helps. CTE certificates are required in public schools, authorizing the holder to teach a specific subject. Emphasis is on occupational experience by teachers who can then help prepare students for a vocational trade or technical profession. Some teachers hold regular classroom teaching certificates in addition to CTE certificates.


There are also different levels of CTE certificates, from Initial (entry-level) to Transitional and Professional. Human resource representatives at local schools and districts offering CTE positions can clarify exactly what’s required for their particular learning institution.


What is the Earning Potential of a CTE Teacher?


The Occupational Outlook Handbook issued by the U.S. Department of Labor reports the median annual pay for Career and Technical Education teachers were $54,020 as of December, 2016.


Interesting Facts about Career Technology and Education


Did you know?


• CTE impacts about 94 percent of high school students. More than eight million individuals are pursuing postsecondary degrees and certificates in CTE fields.

• CTE students are more likely than non-CTE students to develop good problem-solving and critical thinking skills throughout high school. Many of these same skills are sought after by employers.

• According to the Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE), the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93 percent compared to an 80 percent national average for all freshman graduation rates. In other words, students involved in CTE complete high school at higher rates and typically continue on to postsecondary education.  

• In some states, graduates with technical or applied science associate degrees earn up to $11,000 more than those holding a bachelor’s degree.


What are the Steps Needed to Become a CTE Teacher?



To become a Career and Technical Education teacher, you’ll need to start with a Bachelor’s degree, especially if you want to work in a public school system.


Other steps to consider:

• Become a mentor or private tutor in the field you are interested in teaching. Take professional development courses and talk to other CTE teachers about their experiences. Volunteer a few hours a week in the classroom. 

• Find out what state-issued or certification requirements and training are needed within your region.

• Gain experience in the field in which you plan to teach. For instance, you may be a trained nurse, a chef, a computer programmer, or an engineer. Most schools look for individuals who spent real-time on the job before teaching CTE.

• Start networking early with businesses, trades and local industries within your chosen specialty in order to gain a sense of job growth, projection, new developments and trends. This will serve both you and your students well throughout your teaching career.



What are the Job Duties of a CTE Teacher?


In most respects, CTE teachers perform the same duties as other teachers: develop lesson plans and make assignments, instruct and supervise, monitor student progress and share information with students, parents and other teachers.


In addition, because CTE teachers specialize in technical and vocational subjects, they must maintain awareness of rules, regulations and safety standards regarding equipment and tools in the classroom. Their goal is to safely and effectively provide students with the skills they need to enter technical and vocational courses that range from auto repair to healthcare. 


For middle and high school students, CTE teachers demonstrate how to apply knowledge and practical skills on a particular subject, generally through workshops and labs.


For post-secondary students, CTE teachers help students earn a certificate, a diploma, or an associate degree in a vocational trade or specialized job that may or may not require a college degree. 


Important Qualities Needed

All teaching positions require good communication skills. In addition, CTE teachers need:


• Good organizational skills to be effective in planning for classroom demonstrations and use of materials and specialized equipment.

• Flexibility and resourcefulness – understanding that different styles of teaching may be needed for different students. 

• Patience – diverse students will present with different levels of background and learning ability. 

• A positive attitude – which fosters a positive learning environment. 

• Ability to keep up with changes in technological advancements – or as one CTE teacher says, “Don’t forget that technology never stops.”


Finding Your Path through


Among the CTE participants surveyed by a common question was how to identify engaging, creative ways that would expose students to well-paying, interesting jobs within the sector of technical and other careers. provides career exploration for K-12, post-secondary institutions and workforce development programs nationwide. Users find it is the perfect tool for career exploration by providing real-life examples easily and effectively in the classroom. Check out the website for day-in-the-life interactive interviews on hundreds of career fields including education, with career descriptions, required degrees, earnings, outlook, college searches, and more by visiting us at 


Sources:, Office of Teaching Initiatives, CTE;, Career & Technical Education Teachers Job Description (Career Profiles); U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, Career and Technical Education Teachers, 12/17/15; 2016 survey on challenges facing CTE teachers and administrators; CTE Today! And CTE Works! published by Association for Career & Technical Education, March, 2016. 

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