How to Become a CTE Teacher

Danielle Friedlieb
Danielle Friedlieb
High school associate principal; Ed.S., M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction
A teacher points at electrical gear, showing a group of students in a technical vocational training course.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the K-12 environment is becoming more prominent due to Perkins V legislation. With the increase in CTE programs available to students in grades sixth through twelfth, there is a huge need for instructors. CTE teachers come in various ways, from programs that require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in college to programs that require licensure, certificate, or possibly an associate’s degree.

But what is a CTE teacher, what education is required for it, and what skills are needed to be successful?

What is a CTE Teacher?

Do your superiors call upon you to help train and mentor new workers? Do you enjoy assisting new workers to improve their skills? Do you love what you do and want to share it with others? Becoming a CTE teacher might be right for you! Students need trained professionals to help them master the skills and intricacies of a trade profession. A CTE teacher is any teacher who provides instruction and training in any of the 16 approved career clusters.

You may have read news mentioning a teacher shortage in our country. This is especially true of CTE teachers. Students often begin taking CTE courses as early as middle school such as pre-engineering or family and consumer science courses. In grades nine through twelve, schools often have courses from varied backgrounds, such as culinary arts and automotive service. With a teacher shortage, many of these classes are sometimes taught by teachers who have a passion for the topic but not necessarily a professional background in it. This is why it is essential to increase the number of workforce skilled professionals entering the teaching field for CTE courses.

Teachers can help bring their business connections to the CTE programs, students, and keep up with industry standards through those connections. Students need opportunities to showcase both the “hard” skills (skills that help students safely and efficiently do their profession) and “soft” skills (professional responsibilities and behaviors) they are learning. This can be in the form of a site visit, job shadow, or internship or apprenticeship. The CTE teacher is critical in building the bridge between the education of the students and the workforce.

When you become a CTE teacher, you have the opportunity to share your love of learning, your passion for your career, and help create the future workforce. You will also have potential opportunities to make a difference in the life of student and the pride one feels when former students come back and talk about how you influenced them to join the workforce.

What Education is Needed?

The education you’ll need will depend on your professional area.  If you are a nurse looking for a nursing instructor position, you will have at least a bachelor’s degree and be a licensed registered nurse. If you are a chef looking for a position as a culinary instructor, you may or may not have a college degree. Although having some college experience helps obtain a teaching position, it is not the only factor.

Teacher certification requirements vary by state, but most states provide provisional teaching certifications that you can receive to teach your profession. A state such as Illinois requires 2,000 hours of full-time employment in a related field to get a CTE license. In general, the licensure will require a certain number of years or hours working full-time in your vocation and may also require proof of industry credentials and certifications. For example, someone looking for a position as a welding instructor will need the state-required number of hours or years of workplace experience in a related field (such as working as a welder or a related career that requires welding experience) and certification with the American Welding Society.

What Skills are Needed to Be Successful?

Educational institutions will help provide you with strategies and best practices for teaching. No one expects a teacher who has just come from industry to have all the same educational practices as someone who has gone through a traditional training program. However, this does not mean that a teacher without formal training isn’t able to walk into a classroom and hook their student’s interest of learning their profession. You know what you love about your profession and what hooked you; share that with the students in your classroom.

When you are hired as an instructor, take advantage of any trainings available to you. Consider taking advantage of tuition reimbursement programs to take some teacher education courses or pursue an advanced degree. There are many great resources for CTE instructors, such as the Association for Career and Technical Education and Advanced CTE. These organizations provide professional development both online and in-person.

Most states also have local CTE organizations providing networking and professional development. There are also many great CTE instructor groups on social media, such as Twitter, etc. This is a great way to network and gain invaluable information about teaching in your professional area.

K-12 education needs skilled professionals with a passion for giving students what they once received during their own educational experience. If you are interested in pursuing a teaching path, begin by reaching out to current CTE teachers and administrators at local schools who can help you investigate the process of becoming a licensed teacher. Also look at local school job listings; they will post information about the positions they are hiring for and what requirements they are looking for. You have a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer students as they investigate and plan out their career paths!

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