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Career and Technical Education - Diverse Options for Your Teen

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By Rebecca B. Evers, Ed.D.

Grade Levels at Which Programs Are Offered

Typically career exploratory classes are offered during the middle school years as training experiences designed to assist students in making career decisions. Students sample occupations by rotating though several classes, usually during seventh and/or eight grade, in order to determine their suitability or preference for a particular job. At the end of the exploratory classes, students may elect to take classes at the high school level in one of the seven major occupational areas listed below, defined by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), a professional organization of teachers in career and technical programs.

  • Agriculture (careers related to food and fiber production and agribusiness)
  • Business (accounting, business administration, management, information technology and entrepreneurship)
  • Family and Consumer Sciences (culinary arts, fashion design, interior design, home maintenance, employment and career development, child care and other life skills)
  • Health Occupations (nursing, dental, and medical technicians)
  • Marketing (management, entrepreneurship, merchandising and retail)
  • Technology (production of consumer electronic goods, communication systems, and transportation systems)
  • Trade and Industrial (skilled trades such as automotive technician, carpenter, computer technician)

When your teen who's participated in career and occupational programs makes the transition from high school, he has a number of options. He can select to enter the workforce in a variety of entry-level positions, or he may enter a two- or four-year post-secondary technical institution, or a four-year college.

In addition to the classroom experiences offered in these education programs, opportunities for learning and training also can occur in business, industrial, or labor settings. The "labor" category includes such occupations as retail sales and entry-level factory work, as well as skilled trades such as carpentry, pipe fitting, and masonry. These experiences are provided by the high school through cooperative education or work experience programs. Most programs offer students both in-school and on-the-job training for high school credits. A high school teacher who is trained to work in these programs selects and develops job sites in the community. Local businesses commit to providing on-the-job training for a student who is ready to go to work in the community while still in high school. This teacher coordinates services between the school and the community, providing site supervision and, when required, job coaching for the student worker.

Comments from readers

"Great article! The author mentioned culinary arts as one area in family and consumer sciences where students can prepare for a lifelong career. However, foodservice is just one segment within the broader field of hospitality management, which includes hotel and resort operations, special events and attractions, meetings and conventions, spas, country clubs, and casinos, as well as travel and tourism. Together, these fields account for approximately 10% of the world GDP. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information about the 'leisure and hospitality supersector' at the following URL: The California State University offers information about high-level careers and education programs hospitality management at While this site provides information about CSU degree programs only, the requirements and curricula of these programs are typical of what students can expect in any hospitality management degree program. In the interests of full disclosure I will say that I currently serve as the program coordinator for the CSU hospitality management education initiative, whose mission is to provide an uninterrupted supply of hospitality leaders in California. However, within the field there is a prevailing ethos be hospitable by helping anyone with in interest to accomplish all that they can. If the information in either of the above sites can help prospective students and their parents determine if a career in hospitality would be a good fit, I will have done my job today. "
"hi i am nadia 15 years old and i am pregnant and i would like to kno if i could continue my school or if there is a high school were i could antend and take care of my baby at the same time i would also like to kno if there is a high school made for girls like me and study for a career while trying to graduate from high school if there is so please write back i will so apreciate it i really want to continue studying thank you"