High school Career and Technical Education (CTE) can equip students aged 14–18 with the vocational skills needed for a successful working life. It encourages the development of hard and soft skills that can fast-track young learners into the workplace. But what kind of jobs can CTE lead to? In this article, we look at 12 jobs that high school graduates might consider after completing their high school CTE curriculum.
Preparing high schoolers for the workplace
Career and Technical Education courses provide the knowledge and skills for high school students to pursue a career or post-secondary education. Although CTE courses equip students with core academic knowledge, they do so in a way that relates to the real world while also preparing students for the real-life scenarios they will encounter in the workplace.
CTE programs focus on particular occupations, covering many different career paths spread across 16 career clusters. These clusters include IT, health science, manufacturing, and STEM. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the most popular CTE courses in public high schools are found in the business, finance, and marketing clusters.
While CTE is not just a form of vocational education—it equips students with academic skills that they can take into further education if they choose—some high school students use their CTE skills to go straight into work. “CTE curriculums that work towards certifications can get students in these programs the credentials they need in high school to join the workforce right away,” explains Adrienne Emerson, Education Content Manager at Sphero.
How CTE affects the job market
High schools offering Career and Technical Education curriculums typically offer students a diverse array of topics to support a range of potential career paths. By covering industries that are seeing declining workforce numbers like infrastructure and healthcare, CTE can also help students find work where it is most needed and where employment prospects are high.
“CTE education helps reduce talent shortages in careers where the workforce numbers are falling, such as in manufacturing, where there is a big need for young welders, electricians, and plumbers,” Emerson says. “It also creates a workforce that isn’t already tens of thousands of dollars in debt after paying for post-secondary education.”
CTE Jobs By Cluster
Taking Career and Technical Education courses at high school can help students get into post-secondary education, but it can also help them find work right after graduating. Here we look at seven roles that don’t typically require post-secondary qualifications, instead using apprenticeships or on-the-job training courses to develop the skills of new recruits.
One of the 16 CTE career clusters is manufacturing, which is a suitable industry for students who excel at subjects like science or formerly popular staples like shop class—now almost exclusively found in CTE curriculums. Gaining valuable manufacturing skills via a CTE curriculum can help students prepare for jobs like environmental engineering, pattern and model making, and safety engineering. One profession seeing falling workforce numbers is welding, and many welders will hire apprentices straight out of high school.
Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics
CTE curriculums may contain courses related to transportation, distribution & logistics, which is another of the 16 career clusters. High schoolers with strong mathematics and information technology skills may excel in this area, which offers career paths to a variety of roles. Post-secondary qualifications can open routes to jobs like locomotive engineering or airplane pilot, but other jobs can be sought directly after high school graduation. One such job is a postal worker.
One of the most popular CTE subjects is finance, which diverges into career paths like accounting, business finance, insurance, and banking services. Of these pathways, banking services may be a suitable route for students with good mathematics and organizational skills who do not plan on continuing with post-secondary education. Possible jobs include bank teller and banking customer services representative.
CTE curriculums can offer a range of STEM courses, including automotive shop, which is a suitable subject for hands-on students with a good grasp of the sciences. Although the automotive service industry is highly competitive, many businesses will hire high school graduates that have taken relevant CTE credits as an automotive technician. Often times these positions will begin with making them apprenticeships for on-the-job training. Other potential jobs for STEM students include CAD technician or zoologist.
The United States has a desperate need for healthcare workers. In 2022, an American Ambulance Association study of employee turnover found that nearly a third of EMTs nationwide had quit their jobs. A similar shortage exists for paramedics. One key area of CTE education is health science, which covers fields like biotechnology and diagnostic services, which can propel a high school graduate into a job as an emergency medical technician (EMT). Other roles in this area that do not typically require post-secondary education include medical sonographer, mammographer, and phlebotomist.
The human services CTE career cluster covers a broad range of professions, from funeral director to social worker to personal fitness trainer. A popular route for high school graduates is cosmetology or beauty treatment, which covers jobs like hair stylist, manicurist, and cosmetician, none of which requires a post-secondary education.
Education and Training
CTE curriculums can help students find work in education & training. While high school and middle school teaching jobs require post-secondary education, there are other roles available for high school graduates with educational or training related CTE credits. School administration is one pathway that provides employment for high school graduates. Becoming a teaching aide, group worker, or nanny is another option.
STEM Jobs to Target After High School CTE
Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in high schools can provide vital preparation for students looking for careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) space. These programs provide a solid foundation in subjects like computer science, engineering, and mathematics. Through internships, mentorships, and industry partnerships, CTE also offers students valuable exposure to real-world STEM environments, helping them explore career options, build networks, and gain relevant experience. Here are five examples of STEM careers students can explore after high school CTE.
A digital designer creates visually appealing and functional designs for websites, applications, and digital media. It would be a good career choice for someone with CTE in high school because it combines creativity and technical skills, offers job opportunities in various industries, and allows for continuous growth.
This career represents the variety of options that CTE STEM education can give you. On one end, a designer can create digital products, while on the other, a pre-construction designer will be hands-on with the designing of new buildings and infrastructure. Integrating skills like project management, architecture, and engineering, pre-construction designers will constantly be put in front of new projects.
An environmental technician supports environmental scientists and engineers in conducting research, monitoring, and analysis of various environmental factors. Involving fieldwork, data collection, and laboratory analysis, this career allows individuals to contribute to environmental sustainability efforts and promote conservation. With the increasing focus on environmental issues, there are ample opportunities for growth and to make a positive impact on the planet.
As we previously mentioned, EMT is one of the most popular careers that CTE graduates elect to pursue. With that said, it is not the only career in the health sciences cluster that pairs CTE education with real-life STEM principles. Besides EMT, those interested in health sciences can also look into roles as dental assistants, nursing aides, clinical assistants, and pharmacy techs.
Robotics and Automated Systems Engineer
We might be a bit biased with this choice! A robotics and automated systems engineer designs, develops, and implements robotic systems and automation technologies. It would be a good career choice for someone with CTE in high school because it combines skills in mechanical engineering, programming, and problem-solving. This field offers exciting opportunities to be at the forefront of innovation in robotics and automation. The demand for skilled professionals in this field is steadily growing, making it a promising and potentially lucrative career path.
From CTE to employment
CTE courses can support students who wish to continue with higher education and those who would prefer to start work immediately after high school. According to Emerson, “CTE can get you ready for a career that allows you to cut years off your schooling.” Most importantly, CTE courses can push students toward a huge variety of careers, not just the trades that are traditionally associated with vocational education.
Read Sphero’s Steps to Starting High School Computer Science Programs and Why Study Engineering? to learn how computer science and engineering can help high schoolers pursue a STEM career through high school CTE.