The Best Career and Technical Education (CTE) Classes

There is a ton of survey-collected data indicating that students who have enrolled in CTE classes have a higher employment rate as well as a higher starting salary. This is not surprising taking into consideration the whole point of the CTE education – to prepare you hands-on for what is awaiting you out there. However, you need to make sure that you enrol for a reputed CTE program with a good curriculum to ensure all the benefits.

With this in mind, we have put together a list of the best CTE classes in the country. All these CTE programs have been recognized for their excellent education quality and high graduation rates.

But before we get started, let’s quickly understand what CTE, and the different types of classes and programs that fall into this category, are.

What is Career and Technical Education (CTE)?

CTE is short for Career and Technical Education and is also known as Vocational Education. These are courses and programs that aim to equip the students with the necessary skills and technical expertise to become job-ready.

Unlike traditional classes offered by schools and colleges, CTE classes combine elements of core academics with soft skill development and hands-on training to prepare for a particular job.

Discover more about CTE in our Complete Guide on CTE[link to article no. 4 Online CTE Education].

Different CTE Career Clusters and Their Best Classes

CTE focuses on 16 distinct career clusters, also known as CTE tracks. The tracks are focused around different high-demand occupations belonging to specific industries.

Now, under each of these tracks, there are various CTE classes and programs offered. These provide technical education and training to prepare the student for a specific career under that career cluster.

Here is a look at the 16 different CTE career clusters to give you an idea of what it has to offer.

  1. Agriculture. Food, & Natural Resources
  2. Arts, Audio-Visual Technology, & Communications
  3. Business, Management, & Administration
  4. Architecture and Construction
  5. Finance & Accountancy
  6. Government and Public Administration
  7. Health Science
  8. Hospitality and Tourism
  9. Human Services
  10. Information Technology
  11. Law, Public Safety, and Security
  12. Logistics, Transportation, & Distribution
  13. Manufacturing
  14. Sales, Marketing, and Services
  15. STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics)
  16. Education and Training

For the purpose of this read, we have also included a couple of award-winning CTE programs under each of these clusters.

In 2017, the most popular career cluster out of all 16 career clusters in the nation’s high schools was Arts, Audio-Visual Technology, and Communication 12% of all CTE concentrations, followed by Business Management and Administration 11% of all CTE concentrations and Health Science 11% of all CTE concentrations. The percentages of concentrations in these career clusters varied by state.

Almost all public schools – 98% – offered CTE programs to high school students during the 2016–17 school year, but the activities offered in these CTE programs varied by district.

Each of the tracks we have equipped with two parameters:

  • Chances to hire
  • Median (or) Average wage p.a. (per year)

Each of these parameters is to describe a little more about the market opportunities related to the particular track. Chances to hire DO NOT reflect the market as a whole, but rather CTE market. Chances to hire is a relative term to other CTE tracks.

Parameter stating the salary is as it is. A gross salary.

Each of parameters will be coloured for better orientation in the following manner:

    • GREEN – High on the CTE scale
    • BLUE – Medium/High on the CTE scale
    • YELLOW – Medium on the CTE scale
    • ORANGE – Low/Medium on the CTE scale
    • RED – Low on the CTE scale

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best CTE classes in the USA.

1. Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources

Median wage p.a.: $66,360 (HIGH)

Chance to hire: Low/Medium

Agriculture is an enormous field that’s at the crux of sustaining modern life. There’s no life without food!

Under agricultural CTE programs, students are given hands-on experience to leverage modern technologies and become educated farmers. However, that isn’t the only career option available.

As we said, agriculture is a large industry, and students can find themselves doing jobs in various work environments.

For example, students who like to work indoors can join laboratories that test the soil and building emissions. Who likes to work outdoors would fit more a program of working on a vineyard as a wine producer.

Best CTE Classes on Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

  1. Plant Science Program at Mishicot High School, Wisconsin.
  2. Veterinary Science Program at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School, Texas.
  3. Culinology Program at Bergen County Technical Schools, New Jersey.

2. Arts, Audio-Visual Technology, & Communications

Median wage p.a.: Varies greatly

Chances to hire: Low/Medium

Most people think that under arts-based CTE classes, students are taught to hone their skills in painting, composing, and other artistic endeavors.

But with the coming of the digital age, arts and creative workloads have become ever so dependent on technical equipment. As such, the goal of these CTE programs is to train students to learn to operate technologies necessary for artistic work.

For example, with CTE training as an Audio-Video Technician, a student can get a job in repair and maintenance at theaters, or in concert halls. Then there are jobs like Audio Engineers that get hired by music companies for recording, balancing, and adjusting the sound sources.

Want to work in the movie industries or on a TV set? Get certified as a Light Technician, and you will be in charge of the lighting on the set to make sure all the shots come out great.

Best CTE Classes on Arts, Audio-Visual Technology, & Communications

  1. Dorsey Film Program at Susan Miller Dorsey High School, L.A., California.
  2. Video Production & Broadcasting program at Nashua High School, New Hampshire.
  3. Graphic Arts program at Passaic County Technical Institute, New Jersey.

 

3.  Business, Management, & Administration

Median wage p.a.: $67,710 (HIGH)

Chances to hire: HIGH

This is, by far, one of the most popular and commonly-taught clusters under CTE, as it is versatile with tons of career choices.

That being said, these CTE programs won’t go as deep into the business and administration as you will get in Bachelor’s and Master’s degree courses. But these classes are not meant to do that either.

Instead, most business CTE classes will teach you the fundamental knowledge of starting, maintaining, and growing a business. This can help students to start their own business, or scale up their existing ones.

Besides this, business CTE classes often offer extra credits that can help you get into business schools to earn that bachelor’s or master’s degree that you have been eyeing for so long.

Best CTE Classes on Business, Management, & Administration

  1. Academy of Finance at Como Park Senior High School, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
  2. Business Education Program at Vista PEAK Preparatory, Colorado.

 

4. Architecture and Construction

Median wage p.a.: $44,730 (Medium)

Chances to hire: Medium

Architecture and Construction CTE classes focus on teaching the students the core principles of structural designs.

These courses will not make you qualified to take up projects as an architect. However, you will be knowledgeable enough to work (or at least earn an internship) at an architectural firm or construction company. The course is also suited for students looking to become construction inspectors, project estimators, and the likes.

These courses are extremely versatile, offering tons of job opportunities. After all, every day, there is someone who needs a new plan or design for their home or office.

Best CTE Classes on Architecture and Construction

  1. Architectural Design at Advanced Technologies Academy, Nevada.
  2. Building Construction Technology Program at Dauphin County Technical School, Pennsylvania.

 

5. Finance & Accountancy

Median wage p.a.: $66,530 (HIGH)

Chances to hire: Medium/High

Finance & Accountancy CTE classes help develop the students’ understanding of cash and make them better at money management tasks. There are also more advanced CTE courses that teach students the core fundamentals of large-scale bookkeeping and accounting, preparing them to take on real-world jobs.

It is recommended that anyone interested in entering the Finance & Accountancy world would take up a CTE course on the subject.

But that being said, it is worth noting that this industry is extremely competitive. So as you climb up the ladder, you will need to add a few more advanced degrees into your resume.

A CTE certificate won’t help you crack a job at Wall Street. However, it will prime your mind so that you are mentally better equipped for the world of finance, an industry that is constantly changing.

Best CTE Classes on Finance & Accountancy

  1. Academy of Finance at Hamburg High School, New York.
  2. Academy of Finance, Como Park Senior High School, Minnesota.

 

6. Government and Public Administration

Median wage p.a.: $51,340 (Medium/High)

Chances to hire: Low/Medium

CTE classes on Government and Public Administration teach students about the current government structure, the relation between the government and its citizens, and how the public can interact with the government.

Typically, these kinds of CTE programs are concerned with the local government. Students learn about local laws regarding taxes and parking, as well as legal councils, budgeting, etc.

It is one of the first steps to pave the way for a successful career in the government sector.

However, it is worth mentioning that you won’t get a government job just with your qualifications and high aspirations. Most of the government positions, even the local ones, only appoint elected candidates.

As such, if you want a government job, you will also need to participate in politics and popularity contests.

Best CTE Class on Government and Public Administration

  1. Shea Government and Public Administration Academy at Charles E. Shea High School, Rhode Island.

 

7. Health Science

Median wage p.a.: $31,060 (Low)

Chances to hire: HIGH

Health Science is by far the most popular CTE career path sheerly because of the overwhelming number of job opportunities currently available.

You might already know how hospitals are miserably understaffed in the US. This includes a lack of doctors, nurses, paramedics, medical equipment operators, health care technicians, and others.

Now, a CTE course won’t qualify you to become a doctor, but it will give you the proper training to join most of the other roles as a health care worker.

Everybody knows how becoming a doctor is expensive and requires you to go through a decade of medical training. However, suppose you are really passionate about helping others and want to start a rewarding career in health care. In that case, these CTE classes offer the perfect opportunity to get there.

Best CTE Classes on Health Science

  1. Emergency Medical Technician – Paramedic at Waubonsee Community College, Illinois.
  2. Health Science at Henderson County High School, Kentucky.
  3. Nursing Transition, Indian Capital Technology Center, Oklahoma.
  4. Emergency Medical Technology at Jones County Junior College, Mississippi.

 

8. Hospitality and Tourism

Median wage p.a.: Varies greatly

Chances to hire: Low (as of writing this article during the COVID era, not taking this effect into consideration could lead us to Medium)

CTE courses on hospitality and tourism aim to educate the students about how to run/manage hotels, inns, bed & breakfast, and other tourism-related jobs.

These types of CTE courses are most valuable if you come from states like Florida or California that are major tourist attraction spots.

Students will be properly trained so that they can serve in prominent tourism establishments and start a business like a motel and inn and turn it into a long-term sustainable business.

That being said, the CTE students might not be able to run a hotel as soon as they complete the course.

However, they will develop the right mindset with hands-on experience in hospitality management.

Best CTE Classes on Hospitality and Tourism

  1. Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management at Saginaw Career Complex, Michigan.
  2. Culinary Arts and Hospitality at Jack E. Singley Academy, Texas.

 

9. Human Services

Median wage p.a.: $31,810 (Low)

Chances to hire: Low/Medium

CTE classes under Human Services train students for careers that directly tend to the need of individual people. Some of the career options for students enrolling in a Human Services CTE program include jobs at social services, drug rehabilitation centers, etc.

These careers require you to connect with people at an emotional level to understand their problems and solve them. This can defer from jobs that fall under Health Science, which is more concerned with helping people at the physical level.

Students generally follow this career path when they have a burning passion for helping others. The drive to help others is going to be a big deal because the average salary for jobs under Human Services isn’t that high. However, it can be gratifying to see how you can make a significant impact on other people’s lives.

Best CTE Class on Human Services

  1. Human Services Program at North Thurston Public School, Washington.

 

10. Information Technology

Median wage p.a.: $84,580 (TOP)

Chances to hire: TOP

Information Technology CTE classes will set you up for jobs in the IT industry. These are lucrative, high paying, and in-demand jobs that involve creating websites, mobile apps, running and maintaining servers, doing network setup, and much more.

As more and more businesses are moving their businesses to the internet and using cloud-based solutions, people who actually understand these technologies are and will be in great demand.

Getting a CTE certificate in IT can help you get an entry-level job at local businesses. However, you need to understand that newer technologies are always getting introduced, so you need to have a learners’ mentality and always be willing to update yourself with the latest technologies to keep you relevant.

As you grow your skill set, you can get better and more lucrative jobs as you progress through your career.

Best CTE Classes on IT

  1. Information Technology Program at A&M Consolidated High School, Texas.
  2. Networking Engineering Program at Summit Technology Academy, Missouri.

 

11. Law, Public Safety, and Security

Median wage p.a.: $49,500 (Medium/High)

Chances to hire: Medium

Everybody knows that law is an extremely profitable career path, and taking CTE classes can help you jump start your career in the right direction. Students will be given hands-on training to prepare them for working as paralegals or as legal bookkeepers.

Now, just having a CTE certificate won’t qualify you to become a lawyer or a law enforcement officer. Students dreaming of high-end positions in this field will need to pursue a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree at the very least.

However, even if the student doesn’t want to opt for higher education, there are still tons of jobs available that only require a CTE certificate. Furthermore, the doors are always open for them to take up that bachelor’s degree when they are mentally and financially ready.

For the most part, taking a CTE course in Law, Public Safety, and Security is highly recommended if you consider law as a career option.

Best CTE Classes on Law, Public Safety, and Security

  1. Criminal Justice I & II at Questar III BOCES Rensselaer Educational Center, New York.
  2. Law, Public Safety & Security Career Pathway at Milton Hershey School, Pennsylvania.

 

12. Logistics, Transportation, & Distribution

Median wage p.a.: $31,600 (Low)

Chances to hire: Medium/High

One of the key requirements for anyone looking for a job in Logistics is that they need to have a lot of organizational skills, as this is one of the most detail-oriented industries.

However, very few people on the market meet the level of dexterity necessary for these kinds of jobs.

As such, if you are motivated enough and have the skills, then getting a CTE certificate in Logistics opens up plenty of career opportunities in this industry.

During these CTE classes, students are given hands-on training on tracking systems and identification technologies. This can include learning back-end system management and spending time with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) equipment.

By the end, you will be fully trained and ready to join as a logistics planner, distribution manager, or transport analyst.

Best CTE Classes on Logistics, Transportation, & Distribution

  1. Aviation program at Irving High School, Texas.
  2. Automotive Technology at Anderson 1 and 2 Career and Technology Centers, South Carolina.
  3. Automotive Technology at Warren County Area Technical Center, Kentucky.

 

13. Manufacturing

Median wage p.a.: $33,990 (Low/Medium)

Chances to hire: Varies greatly by location

Manufacturing CTE courses focus on providing necessary information and training regarding manufacturing processes and the various protocols followed in mass production.

These CTE tracks aren’t particularly as popular as the others, especially because there are very few job openings.

Manufacturing doesn’t have as large an impact on the US economy. However, there are still states like Pennsylvania, where there are still plenty of manufacturing factories that boast their products with a Made in the US tag.

That being said, there are still jobs available for exemplary candidates. So if you are interested in making a career in manufacturing, taking a CTE class on the subject will surely give you a leg up.

Best CTE Classes on Manufacturing

  1. Manufacturing Technology Academy at Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center, Michigan.
  2. Manufacturing at Kaukauna High School, Wisconsin.

 

14. Sales, Marketing, and Services

Median wage p.a.: $48,910 (Medium/High)

Chances to hire: Medium

CTE classes on Sales, Marketing, and Services teach students the core fundamentals of customer acquisition and customer retention. This is a hot career option with a number of opportunities, as almost every business requires a sales and marketing team to grow and manage their customer base.

Under marketing, students are given hands-on training on how to turn a prospective party into a sales lead.

Then under sales, students are trained in different practices that help turn these leads into paying customers.

And finally, under services, the students are taught the necessary skill set to ensure customer satisfaction to provide an ongoing relationship.

Taking a CTE course in this track will prepare you with the basics of all three specialities and show you how to combine them to ensure a successful customer experience.

Best CTE Class on Sales, Marketing, and Services

  1. The Everfi Financial Literacy Program at Rapid City Area Schools.

 

15. STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics)

Median wage p.a.: $77,900 (HIGH)

Chances to hire: HIGH

STEM is among the most popular CTE tracks, right up there with Health Science. This is also because of the high demand for STEM trained professionals in the market.

Tons of job opportunities are waiting for people with the right set of skills to fill these positions. And because of the relatively low number of applicants compared to the available demand in the industry, you can rest assured that you will get a job and that too, with a lucrative salary.

Now, in a STEM class, students will be given theory classes as well as hands-on training on how to run/operate different types of machinery, computer applications, and much more.

Furthermore, after completing a STEM CTE class, you can go for further education to guarantee a high-level engineering job under a reputable firm or agency.

Best CTE Classes on STEM

  1. Academy of Engineering at Harmony Magnet Academy, California.
  2. Digital design and Engineering Academy at William J. Pete Knight High School, California.
  3. Biotechnology at Nashua High School, New Hampshire.

 

16. Education and Training

Median wage p.a.: $48,740 (Medium/High)

Chances to hire: Low/Medium

CTE classes on Education and Training provide students with the right set of skills and knowledge to make them an apprentice in teaching, and starting a successful career as a teacher.

However, just having a CTE certificate won’t qualify you to become a teacher in most states. Still, it does give you an edge over your competition as you already have the necessary hands-on training required for teaching.

That being said, going through the CTE program opens up a diverse array of opportunities. Of course, you can work as a teacher at a school, but you can also join as a consultant and start working for small businesses to multinational corporations, after gaining necessary experience for doing so. And getting this certificate is the first step of the journey.

As such, the career options under the CTE track are vast but extremely vague.

At the end of the day, you need to enjoy teaching others and make subjects/topics easily digestible.

Best CTE Classes on Education and Training

  1. Teacher Academy at Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center, Michigan.
  2. Education Career Academy at Millard Public School, Nebraska.

 

Summary

Taking up CTE courses is a great way to give you a competitive edge over your peers and make yourself job-ready.

As you can see, the CTE curriculum provides dedicated programs that can be categorized into 16 different Career Clusters. By enrolling in these programs, you will be given hands-on training to build your skill set to become ready for jobs in that particular industry.

However, to ensure quality learning and maximize the chances of getting a job, you will need to make sure that you enroll in a reputable CTE program that offers the necessary infrastructure to maximize learning.

So, which course path are you taking? Let us know in a comment below.

Like our article? Then check more in our educational CTE Series as RedComet.com today.

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