Career and Technical Education Teachers

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What Career and Technical Education Teachers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Career and technical education teachers instruct students in various technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, healthcare, and culinary arts. They teach academic and technical content to provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.

Duties of Career and Technical Education Teachers

Career and technical education teachers typically do the following:

  • Create lesson plans and assignments
  • Instruct students on how to develop certain skills
  • Show how to apply classroom knowledge through hands-on activities
  • Demonstrate and supervise the safe and proper use of tools and equipment
  • Monitor students’ progress, assign tasks, and grade assignments
  • Discuss students’ progress with parents, students, and counselors
  • Develop and enforce classroom rules and safety procedures

Career and technical education teachers help students explore and prepare to enter a specific occupation, in fields such as healthcare or information technology. They use a variety of teaching techniques to help students learn and develop skills related to a specific career or field of study. They demonstrate tasks, techniques, and tools used in an occupation. They may assign hands-on tasks, such as replacing brakes on cars, taking blood pressure, or recording vital signs. Teachers typically oversee these tasks in workshops and laboratories in the school.

Some teachers establish relationships with local businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide practical work experience for students. They also serve as advisers to students participating in career and technical student organizations.

The specific duties of career and technical education teachers vary by the grade and subject they teach. In middle schools and high schools, they teach general concepts in a classroom and through practical exercises in workshops and laboratories.

In postsecondary schools, they teach specific career skills that help students earn a certificate, diploma, or an associate’s degree, and prepare them for a specific job. For example, welding instructors teach students various welding techniques and essential safety practices. They also monitor the use of tools and equipment, and have students practice procedures until they meet the specific standards required by the trade.

In most states, teachers in middle and high schools instruct one subject within the 16 major career fields, also known as Career Clusters. For example, the career cluster known as architecture and construction includes instruction in designing, planning, managing, building, and maintaining structures.

Teachers instructing courses in agricultural, food, and natural resources teach topics such as agricultural production; agriculture-related business; veterinary science; and plant, animal, and food systems. For example, they may have students plant and care for crops and tend to animals so that students can apply what they have learned in the classroom.

Career and technical education teachers in hospitality and tourism teach students in subjects such as nutrition, culinary arts, or hotel lodging. For example, teachers may instruct and supervise students in creating menus and preparing food.

Some teach the skills necessary to work as technicians and assistants, such as nursing and dental assistants in health-science occupations.

For information on all 16 major Career Clusters and programs in all other states, visit National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium.

Work Environment for Career and Technical Education Teachers[About this section] [To Top]

Career and technical education teachers hold about 231,800 jobs. Most work in public schools, including middle, high, and postsecondary schools, such as 2-year colleges. Others work in technical, trade, and business schools.

Career and Technical Education Teacher Work Schedules

Career and technical education teachers in middle and high schools generally work during school hours. They may meet with parents, students, and school staff before and after classes.

Some career and technical education teachers, especially those in postsecondary schools, instruct courses and develop lesson plans during evening hours and on weekends.

Teachers usually work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers work for summer programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row then have a break for 1 week. They also have a 5-week midwinter break.

How to Become a Career or Technical Education Teacher[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Career and Technical Education Teachers near you!

Career and technical education teachers must have a bachelor’s degree. They also need work experience in the subject they teach. Some teachers, particularly those in public schools, also may be required to have a state-issued certification or license. Requirements for certification vary by state.

Career and Technical Education Teacher Education

Career and technical education teachers in public schools generally need a bachelor’s degree in the field they teach, such as agriculture, engineering, or computer science.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many career and technical education teachers need work experience in the field they teach. For example, automotive mechanics, chefs, and nurses typically spend years in their career before moving into teaching.

Career and Technical Education Teacher Training

Some states require prospective career and technical education teachers to complete a period of fieldwork, commonly referred to as student teaching. In some states, this program is a prerequisite for a license to teach in public schools. During student teaching, prospective teachers gain experience in preparing lessons and teaching students under the supervision and guidance of a mentor teacher. The amount of time required for these programs varies by state, but may last from 1 to 2 years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

States may require career and technical education teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified. Requirements for certification vary by state. Most states require teachers to pass a background check.

Certification typically requires completing a student teaching program and a bachelor’s degree. States usually require candidates to pass a general teaching certification test.

Teachers may be required to complete annual professional development courses to maintain their license. For certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.

Some states offer an alternative route to certification for prospective teachers who have a bachelor’s degree or work experience in their field, but lack the education courses required for certification. Alternative programs typically cover teaching methods, development of lesson plans, and classroom management.

In addition to teaching certification, career and technical education teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license or certification may need to have and maintain the same credential. For example, career and technical education teachers who instruct welding may need to have certification in welding.

Advancement for Career and Technical Education Teachers

Experienced teachers can advance to become mentors and lead teachers, helping less experienced teachers to improve their teaching skills.

Teachers may become school counselors, instructional coordinators, or principals. These positions generally require additional education, an advanced degree, or certification. An advanced degree in education administration or leadership may be helpful.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Career and technical education teachers must be able to explain technical concepts in terms that students can understand.

Organizational skills. Career and technical education teachers have many students in different classes throughout the day. They must be able to organize their time and teaching materials.

Patience. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult. Teachers must be patient with each student in their classroom and develop a positive learning environment.

Resourcefulness. Teachers need to be able to develop different ways of presenting information and demonstrating tasks so that students can learn.

Career and Technical Education Teacher Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for career and technical education teachers is $52,800. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,610.

Median annual wages for career and technical education teachers are as follows:

Career/technical education teachers, secondary school $56,130
Career/technical education teachers, middle school 55,190
Vocational education teachers, postsecondary 49,470

Career and technical education teachers in middle and high schools generally work during school hours. They may meet with parents, students, and school staff before and after classes.

Some career and technical education teachers, especially those in postsecondary schools, instruct courses and develop lesson plans during evening hours and on weekends.

Teachers usually work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Some teachers work for summer programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row then have a break for 1 week. They also have a 5-week midwinter break.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, career and technical education teachers have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union.

Job Outlook for Career and Technical Education Teachers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of career and technical education teachers is projected to grow 4 percent through 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by type. (See table below.)

Overall demand for career and technical education teachers will be driven by a continued need for programs that prepare students for technical careers.

As middle and high school students continue to be required to take more academic and fewer career and technical classes, employment growth of career and education teachers in middle and high schools may be impacted.

In addition, employment growth of teachers, particularly those in public schools, will depend on government funding for career and technical programs.

Postsecondary career and technical education programs have experienced an increase in the number of career and technical institutions and an increase in the number of graduates who have received certificates or diplomas. This will have a positive impact on the demand for career and technical teachers.

Employment growth of career and technical education teachers at the postsecondary level, such as technical, trade, and business schools, often depends on the economy. As jobs become more limited, people seek additional technical skills to help them get a job. Also, changes in technology will drive the demand for people with technical skills. This will result in an increased demand for career and technical teachers at the postsecondary level.

Career and Technical Education Teachers Job Prospects

Most job opportunities will come from the need to replace teachers who leave the occupation. As a result, teachers with work experience in the subject they teach and certifications should have the best job prospects.

Job opportunities also may be better in certain specialties, particularly at the postsecondary level. For example, those with experience in healthcare support occupations, who can teach skills necessary to work as medical or dental assistants, may have better job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Career and Technical Education Teachers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Career/technical education teachers 231,800 242,000 4 10,200
  Vocational education teachers, postsecondary 138,500 147,600 7 9,100
  Career/technical education teachers, middle school 13,700 14,600 6 800
  Career/technical education teachers, secondary school 79,600 79,900 0 300


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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