10 Schools with the Best CTE Programs

With the naturally increasing unemployment rate, especially due to structural changes of the economy, more students looking for a job after completing their academic careers are turning towards Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

Unlike traditional schools and colleges, where the core focus is on the academic side of things, in CTE programs, students are given a hands-on practical experience to make them job-ready.

Having a CTE certificate or degree has also shown to increase the chances of getting employed, as well as starting out with a higher salary, which is not a surprise considering the nature of CTE. During 2020 there are, only in the US, 30 million jobs paying on average annually over $55,000 that require just CTE education level in the US. A study, conducted between 2001 and 2014, focused on CTE education discovered that there is an annual wage difference of nearly $4,000 for students finishing their high school only vs CTE as well.

With that being said, one better makes sure the CTE program he is signing up for is actually good. If it doesn’t have good accreditation (and therefore we can expect it lacking certain qualities the education should possess) or isn’t recognized by the industry and other organizations, then it is likely not going to help you get good jobs.

Remember, not all accreditations matter due to “Accreditation shopping”. Schools can pick organizations giving away credits not based on school’s quality, but based on school’s fees (to the organization), or other not-student related activity. Always make sure the institution you sign up for also enlists accreditation sources rather than state “…we are accredited…”

To learn more about schools and their accreditations, how to recognise good one from bad one and a list of important accreditation, read this guide by Good School Guide.

As such, here we have put together a list of the top schools with the best CTE Programs to jump-start your career.

10 Schools with the Best CTE Programs

We have made sure to include a diverse array of schools, both in terms of course fees as well as course availability. From nursing to aviation, and everything else in between, here are some of the best CTE institutions with the best courses and curriculums in the US.

Not just that, but we made sure that all the schools mentioned here offer career counselling services to help you enrol in the best CTE program suited for your needs and requirements.

But before diving in, let us introduce a rating system to help you get through our results quickly.

Every institution at the bottom has 5 parameters:

  • Avg cost per year: An average tuition fee related to a given institution per student per annum per study program.
  • Online programs: A number of unique online programs provided by a given institution.
  • Graduation Rate: A ratio of enrolled students successfully graduating from all online programs by given institution.
  • Retention Rate: A ratio of students enrolling in consecutive terms (e.g., Fall 2020 and Fall 2021). The rate is calculated by dividing the number of students enrolled in both terms by the number of students enrolled in term one, less completers who subsequently left the college.
  • How Many Receive Financial Aid: A percentage of enrolled students eligible for receiving financial aid in a form of finance, discount from tuition fees, study materials discounts and more.

Every of these parameters then has a scale sign:

  • HIGH
  • Medium/High
  • Medium
  • Low/Medium
  • Low

Please bear in mind that the rating system used in the article is only applicable to the 10 CTE course providers that we have mentioned. The rating doesn’t apply to other CTE programs available in the US. This means that when you see Online programs: 191 (HIGH) it means it is high in comparison to other CTE providers in this list, not in the US.

The best in a given category will then be rewarded by a sign TOP.

Since price has an opposing quality, therefore it has a reversed color for the scale sign. For instance, $11,605 (HIGH).

Too busy to read through the whole thing? Worry not, we have summarized the data for you!

Executive Table

Legend:          MTSAC:            MT San Antonio College

CCCUA:            Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas

PCCUA:            Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas

BTC:                 Bates Technical College

GCC:                Glendale Community College

AC:                   Amarillo College

SAUT:               Southern Arkansas University Tech

LBCC:               Long Beach City College

SRJC:               Santa Rosa Junior College

BBCC:              Big Bend Community College

 

# Abbreviation Avg Cost Per Year No. of Online Programs Graduation Rate Retention Rate How Many Receive Financial Aid
1 MTSAC $4,484 191 37% 80% 71%
2 CCCUA $5,306 69 44% 60% 92%
3 PCCUA $5,049 43 45% 54% 93%
4 BTC $4,278 129 48% 62% 59%
5 GCC $5,122 133 32% 73% 69%
6 AC $5,670 126 31% 72% 75%
7 SAUT $11,605 66 83% 69% 85%
8 LBCC $4,817 191 18% 71% 75%
9 SRJC $8,433 204 37% 77% 77%
10 BBCC $7,421 47 38% 56% 73%

1.   MT San Antonio College (MTSAC)

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Starting off our list, we have the MT San Antonio College of Walnut, California(MTSAC). It is one of the most affordable CTE colleges on our list and offers a diverse collection of over 260 programs, with nearly 200 of them being online courses.

The on-campus college atmosphere is also excellent, leading to an excellent student retention rate. There are over 50 student clubs as well as athletic programs in which students can participate and socialize.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

MT San Antonio College offers two types of certification programs. There are non-degree programs where students are given a “Certificate of Achievement.” And then there are the degree programs that give students a “Skills Certificate.”

One of the best things about Mt. SAC is that their courses require few credits, making them available for a large number of students.

Some of their best courses are under the Associates of Science (A.S) plan, which includes CTE programs on Fashion Merchandising, Psychology, Architectural Design, and one of Kinesiology & Wellness.

Avg Cost Per Year: $4,484 (Low)

Online Programs: 191 (HIGH)

Graduation Rate: 37% (Low/Medium)

Retention Rate: 80% (TOP)

How Many Receive Financial Aid: 71% (Low/Medium)

 

2.   Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas (CCCUA)

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Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas is an NCA-accredited institution with campuses in De Queen, Nashville, and Ashdown, Arkansas. The college offers degrees and certifications in over 20 fields as well as four online associate’s degree programs.

UA Cossatot is well-known for its online programs. In 2001 and 2002, they won the “Excellence in Distance Education Programming Award” By ARDLA (Arkansas Distance Learning Association).

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

Cossatot Community College hosts tons of excellent online as well as offline CTE programs.

Some of their most popular online CTE classes include their online certifications related to health professions and accounting. Also, students interested in forensics might want to try out their online Associates of Science (A.S.) degree in Criminal Justice.

On the other hand, students who are looking for offline on-campus classes also have tons of options, including a certification program in broadcasting, cosmetology, and even in welding technology.

Avg Cost Per Year: $5,306 (Low/Medium)

Online Programs: 69 (Low/Medium)

Graduation Rate: 44% (Medium)

Retention Rate: 60% (Low/Medium)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 92% (HIGH)

 

3.   Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA)

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The Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commissions as well as the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP).

It is a two-year college functioning to serve the communities belonging to eastern Arkansas through its multiple campuses located in Helena – West Helena, DeWitt, and Stuttgart.

One of the best things about PCCUA is that it is one of the most affordable colleges on the lists. The per year cost of attending the college for most students, average out to around $5,000. Furthermore, over 90% of the students going to college get financial aids to help them with their studies.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

The college offers CTE certification courses in technical fields like ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC or HVACR), Computer Programming, Wielding Techniques, and many more. The best part is that many of these programs can be completed in less than a year.

However, suppose you are looking for more serious degree-level education. In that case, that too is available in a diverse array of fields spanning from nursing to business management, and Information System Technologies.

Avg Cost Per Year: $5,049 (Low)

Online Programs: 43 (Low)

Graduation Rate: 45% (Medium)

Retention Rate: 54% (Low)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 93% (TOP)

 

4. Bates Technical College (BTC)

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The Bates Technical College (BTC) started back in 1940 in the basement of the Hawthorne Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington providing CTE programs. It was known as the Tacoma Vocational School.

Since then, it has come a long way and now functions with three fully-functional campuses providing Career and Technology Education to over 3,000 students that sign-up each year.

The college offers many articulation degrees in partnership with several four-year universities. This allows the two-year programs offered by the college to be easily transferable, if and when the students want to pursue higher education.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

One of the most distinguished programs at Bates Technical College is their Associates in Applied Science Degree in Early Childhood Education. Here, students are trained on the best practices and teaching techniques that will help them to make the most impact on younger students, who are just getting started with their academic careers.

Other than this, many students also opt for a degree in Practical Nursing. As the course name suggests, students are taught practically relevant information and given hands-on training to become a fully competent nurse at the end of the course.

Also, for students who don’t want to deal with people and are more interested in machinery, there is a degree in Diesel and Heavy Equipment Technology. Besides on-campus training with access to live shops, the course also offers a variety of internship and apprenticeship opportunities to encourage work-based learning.

Avg Cost Per Year: $4,278 (TOP)

Online Programs: 129 (Medium/High)

Graduation Rate: 48% (Medium/High)

Retention Rate: 62% (Medium)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 59% (Low)

 

5.   Glendale Community College (GCC)

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Glendale Community College provides a dynamic teaching environment for over 25,000 students. It is one of the oldest Vocational Education institutions in Los Angeles County that opened its first class back in 1928 with a batch of 139 students.

The college has a diverse collection of over 100 CTE classes, many of which are available as online programs. The courses are not the most expensive ones, allowing students from most backgrounds to get a degree/certificate in a preferred area, and jump-start their career.

GCC is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges which is an institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

One of the most popular and sought after courses at GCC is the Real Estate Brokers certification program. The course is designed to teach and train students to become a successful real-estate broker in California’s lucrative property business.

Besides this, their Associate of Arts (A.A) degree certificate in Business Administration is also really popular among students who are looking to build a career in the finance sector.

Avg Cost Per Year: $5,122 (Low)

Online Programs: 133 (Medium/High)

Graduation Rate: 32% (Low)

Retention Rate: 73% (Medium/High)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 69% (Low)

 

6. Amarillo College (AC)

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Amarillo College is a public community college and is located at the heart of downtown Amarillo, Texas. Since its humble beginning, back in 1929, the college has grown much larger and currently has a total of six campuses that sees over 10,000 enrollments each year.

The college is well known for their financial aid programs, trying to ensure that a lack of funds doesn’t prevent students from getting the proper education.

Back in 2010, Amarillo College saw a graduation rate of only 9%. After conducting surveys, it was found out that this poor metric was a result of poverty-related factors. Since then, they have implemented anti-poverty programs which boosted the graduation rate to 30%.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

Amarillo College has hundreds of interesting courses designed to prepare students to join the workforce and build a promising career. However, students interested in climbing up the academic ladder would also find tons of useful courses in their catalogue.

Their Pre-Nursing Program is excellent for students looking to gain a detailed understanding of healthcare services and join the workforce as a competition and contributing member.

Avg Cost Per Year: $5,670 (Low/Medium)

Online Programs: 126 (Medium/High)

Graduation Rate: 31% (Low)

Retention Rate: 72% (Medium/High)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 75% (Medium)

 

7. Southern Arkansas University Tech (SAUT)

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The Southern Arkansas University Tech functions under the governance of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Arkansas University System. It is located in Magnolia, Arkansas offering some of the most unique as well as expensive CTE programs on our list.

But that being said, SAU also has one of the highest graduation rates as well as students retention rates. This is thanks to their team of highly qualified and dedicated staff of teachers.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

One of the best programs under the SAU CTE curriculum is their Aviation Maintenance program. Here students are taught all the necessary skills to grab their FAA certificate so they can take up a job fixing and repairing commercial as well as private aircraft.

For students looking for a less-technical job, their Multimedia Technologies program is also worth consideration. Here, students are trained in a variety of creative multimedia fields like graphic design, game design, as well as film and video production.

Avg Cost Per Year: $11,605 (HIGH)

Online Programs: 66 (Low)

Graduation Rate: 83% (TOP)

Retention Rate: 69% (Medium)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 85% (HIGH)

 

8. Long Beach City College (LBCC)

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Long Beach City College is a public community college situated in Long Beach, California. It is the only college in the Long Beach Community College District and is divided into two campuses housing a total of six schools.

There is the Liberal Arts Campus that is located in Lakewood Village, and then there is the Pacific Coast Campus situated on the Pacific Coast Highway.

LBCC sees over 30,000 students enrolling each year to one of their 200 distinct certification and degree programs. The college functions as a two-year community college providing students with technology-rich environments, preparing them for the more advanced four-year academic institutions as well as for career advancements.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

LBCC has a long list of academic and CTE programs, offering something for everybody.

Furthermore, they are nationally recognized for their Vocational Nursing program. It is perfect for entry-level training for students looking for nursing licensure and competence practice. There are also honours programs targeted at high-performing students.

LBCC was also well known for their distinguished Commercial Music Program, but it got discontinued, back in 2013, because of budget constraints.

However, students interested in building a career teaching music can still take part in their Associates in Arts (A.A.) bachelor’s degree in Music. It is designed to help students who are interested in building a career performing music.

Avg Cost Per Year: $4,817 (Low)

Online Programs: 191 (HIGH)

Graduation Rate: 18% (Low)

Retention Rate: 71% (Medium)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 75% (Medium)

 

9. Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC)

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Over at Santa Rosa Junior College, students can expect a one of a kind educational experience. It offers one of the best CTE training for students interested in taking up a career in agricultural and natural resources.

SRJC maintains two full-service campuses as well as two instructional centres. This is topped with a 365-acre learning lab that’s based outside for providing students with hands-on experience in agriculture-related courses.

The outdoor lab is located in the Russian River Valley and is known as the Shone Farm. It features a 90-acre winery. Students interested in making wine can take advantage of what the college has to offer.

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

Santa Rosa Junior College offers a fairly large library of over 200 online courses. However, most of the students coming to SRJC come for their distinguished associate degrees and certificate programs in Viticulture. Here, students are taught how to grow wine grapes and manage vineyards.

Other than this, one of their most popular non-degree courses is the Emergency Medical Technology (EMT) program. This is also a path students can take if they are interested in getting into the medical field and help people who need immediate emergency care.

Avg Cost Per Year: $8,433 (HIGH)

Online Programs: 204 (TOP)

Graduation Rate: 37% (Medium)

Retention Rate: 77% (Medium/High)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 77% (Medium)

 

10. Big Bend Community College (BBCC)

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Big Bend Community College is situated in Moses Lake, Washington and has a large campus housing 25 buildings dedicated to providing nearly 50 academic programs to its students.

The Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities. All programs come with transferable credits that are accepted by other colleges accredited under the same body (NCCU).

Notable CTE Programs Offered:

All the CTE Programs offered by Big Bend Community College falls under one of the six major focus areas. This includes Aviation, Business, Healthcare, STEM, Industries & Manufacturing, and Arts & Human Services.

Out of these, their aviation programs are really interesting and worth looking into.

For starters, the college offers an Associates Degree in Aviation: Commercial Pilot program which allows qualifying students to obtain an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. This can help get their dream job of becoming a pilot of a reputed private airline.

Other than this, there is also the Aviation Maintenance Technology program. Completing this certificate program will prepare students for the FAA airframe and powerplant maintenance certificate. This can help students to start their career in aviation maintenance.

Avg Cost Per Year: $7,421 (HIGH)

Online Programs: 47 (Low)

Graduation Rate: 38% (Medium)

Retention Rate: 56% (Low)

How Many Students Receive Financial Aid: 73% (Medium)

 

So Which One?

CTE programs also known as Vocational Education are programs focused on teaching students hands-on skills needed for their future careers. As CTE stands for Career and Technical Education it stays true to its name to equip students with what they (and employers!) will need in the actual work environment. This leads to, on average, to an  increment in annual wage by nearly $4,000 for CTE attendees vs highschool attendees only.

In our list we have taken a look at 10 best CTE providers in the USA: MTSAC; CCCUA; PCCUA; BTC; GCC; AC; SAUT; LBCC; SRJC; BBCC.

And we have learnt that average cost per year varies in a range $4,278 (at BTC) to $11,605 (at SAUT). Schools programs vary widely in variety and focus. The least number of programs we could find at PCCUA (43) and the most at SRJC (204).

Your pick will also determine your potential graduation rate. The highest chance to graduate you are going to have at SAUT with 83%, and the lowest at AC with 31%. With this, there is another important metric connected: Retention Rate of given schools, where an absolute champion is MTSAC with a ratio of 80%. The category “loser” is then PCCUA with “only” 54%.

Lastly, but definitely one of most important things to look at is how many students receive financial aid? In this category differences aren’t large, yet by the hair-width won with 93% PCCUA. The least pleasant place belongs to BTC with 59% only (yes, we said differences aren’t large, but BTC is an outlier. Second from the bottom, is GCC with 69%).

So here we go. Now you know what are the best CTE-providing institutions in the US. Did you find what you were looking for? Pick carefully!

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