What’s Required to Become a CTE Teacher?

K-12Postsecondary & Workforce

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In response to growing requests and interest in secondary career and technical education, Education Commission of the States recently released a 50-State Comparison that examines state policy on a range of secondary CTE topics from funding to teacher licensure. In a series of blog posts, we are highlighting interesting findings and state policy examples.

Career and technical education teachers play an essential role in assisting secondary students in exploring possible career interests and developing skills that will enhance their future education and career. Yet there is a shortage of CTE teachers across subject areas and fields. As states continue to enact policy that expands CTE, ensuring there are paths for trained and qualified individuals to support student learning is an important consideration.

In our recent 50-State Comparison on Secondary CTE, we looked at the certification and licensure requirements for CTE teachers. In addition to meeting a state’s general requirements to become a teacher, the comparison identifies five types of requirement areas for CTE teacher certification or licensure:

  • Education, including high school diplomas or an equivalent, postsecondary degrees and completion of postsecondary coursework.
  • Work experience, including specified hours or years of work or apprenticeship experience in the occupational area.
  • Certification, including industry-recognized licenses.
  • Assessments, including completion of testing in CTE subject matter, content area expertise or other relevant knowledge.
  • Teacher or CTE training, including completion of professional development, mentorship experience or other pedagogical training.

While our analysis revealed some consistency in requirement areas that states may use, we also observed variation across states and nuance within those key areas, often based on the applicant’s experience or the subject area they want to teach.

Variation by Applicant’s Background

In at least six states, requirements vary based on an applicant’s background. Often the requirements include a combination of education, work experience, certification, assessments, and teacher or CTE training based on the applicant’s experience. The variety of requirement options can allow for individuals with diverse degrees, work experience histories and training to get their foot in the door as CTE teachers, potentially allowing for more CTE teachers in the pipeline.

In Maryland, for example, four paths to certification are provided based on the applicant’s level of educational attainment. The paths include possession of a/an:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher in a state approved CTE program.
  • Bachelor’s degree and completion of professional education coursework.
  • Associate degree, verification of two years of occupational experience and completion of coursework.
  • Secondary school diploma or equivalent, verification of three years of occupational experience and completion of professional education coursework.

Variation by CTE Subject Area

In at least six states, requirements depend on the specific CTE subject area for which certification is being sought. This allows for both flexibility and technical area specialization across CTE certifications and licenses. In Florida, an individual can be certified in engineering and technology education by either possessing a bachelor’s degree or higher in engineering or technology education or by combining a bachelor’s degree with 30 semester hours in four of 10 specified content areas, such as energy and power technology, construction technology or biomedical technology,

Variation Between Career Cluster and Recognized Certification Requirements

In the states where certification and licensure requirements vary by subject area, requirements tend only to be provided for a handful of career clusters, rather than for all the career clusters recognized by the state. In some instances, the CTE subject areas identified for certification correspond with high-demand career fields in the state. For example, in Indiana, specific requirements are provided for agriculture, business information and technology, marketing, family and consumer sciences, health science education, and trade and industrial education. Many of the careers identified within the certification career clusters are identified as high-demand by Indiana Career Ready.

At face value, CTE teacher licensure and certification is similar across states, at least in terms of the requirement areas broadly. However, what it takes to become a CTE teacher in one state may be vastly different than what it takes in another. Some require more hours of work experience, while others focus more on educational background. Further, requirements can vary within a state depending on the CTE area that an individual seeks to work in or on their experience. As states look to get more CTE teachers into the workforce, it will be interesting to follow how they alter their licensure requirements.


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Senior Policy Analyst at Education Commission of the States | tkeily@ecs.org

As a senior policy analyst, Tom contributes to the work of the policy team on issues across the education spectrum. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Tom taught middle school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tom is dedicated to providing state policymakers with quality research that supports them in making a positive impact on students' lives.

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Senior Policy Analyst at Education Commission of the States | zperez@ecs.org

As a policy analyst, Zeke tracks legislation related to statewide longitudinal data systems, school safety and postsecondary campus safety. He has been with Education Commission of the States since 2014. Zeke has a passion for local politics and enjoys following the varied policy approaches of city and state leaders.

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