Nearly 90 percent of certificates and half of associate degrees awarded in the U.S. are in career and technical education, the American Association of Community Colleges reports. Commonly referred to as CTE, EdWeek succinctly describes CTE classes as those designed to prepare students for work.

While many fields require or strongly prefer workers who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, others—like welding, manufacturing, HVAC, and plumbing—do not. CTE classes are an important pathway toward these careers. They are meant to prepare students to enter the workforce sooner rather than later.

What Programs are CTE?

Here in Colorado, the state bases its CTE standards on the National Career Clusters Framework, with modifications for the state’s workforce needs. Those career clusters are placed into industry sector clusters (career clusters in parenthesis):

  • Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy (Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources)
  • Business, Marketing, Government & Public Administration (Business Management & Administration; Finance; Government & Public Administration; Marketing)
  • Health Science, Criminal Justice & Public Safety (Health Science; Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security)
  • Hospitality, Human Services & Education (Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; Education & Training)
  • Skilled Trades & Technical Sciences (Architecture & Construction; Manufacturing; Transportation, Distribution & Logistics)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Arts, Design & Information Technology (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; Arts, A/V Technology & Communications; Information Technology)
  • The state also has an additional Career Cluster – Energy – based on Colorado’s workforce needs.

CTE Can Help Close the Skills Gap.

Jobs that require some postsecondary education/training but not a bachelor’s degree account for 50 percent of Colorado’s labor market. Yet, just 40 percent of workers in Colorado are qualified to fill these middle-skills jobs.

What does that mean? There are jobs in CTE fields and strong demand for qualified candidates. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Career One Stop website offers lots of data on each state’s economy. In Colorado, these occupations ranked in the top 50 of fastest-growing careers—and some college education (certificates) or an associate degree would definitely set a job candidate apart:


Occupation Projected % Change Between 2014 and 2024 Median Wage Annual Range Typical Education
Personal Care Aides 62% Less than $22,330 HS diploma or equivalent
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers 61% Greater than $56,230 Associate’s degree
Home Health Aides 58% No data HS diploma or equivalent
Computer Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic 50% $34,760 to $56,120 Postsecondary non-degree award
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians 46% $34,760 to $56,120 Associate’s degree
Physical Therapist Assistants 46% Greater than $56,230 Associate’s degree
Surgical Technologists 45% $34,760 to $56,120 Postsecondary non-degree award
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers 44% $34,760 to $56,120 Postsecondary non-degree award
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians 44% $22,610 to $34,720 Associate’s degree
Medical Equipment Repairers 42% $34,760 to $56,120 Associate’s degree
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians 42% $34,760 to $56,120 Associate’s degree


Where Can Students Find a Career/Technical Program?

At FRCC and the other community colleges, there is a wide variety of CTE programs. Colorado and many other states also offer dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment and statewide articulation agreements to help students transition from secondary to postsecondary education. There are six public high schools in Colorado that offer primarily or solely CTE courses.

Do Career/Technical Jobs Pay Well?

Many incorrectly assume that CTE programs will not prepare students for long-lasting careers, but that notion is frankly untrue. Refer to the above list for proof! There are many career choices available in fast-growing, strong fields like cybersecurity, nursing, geographic information systems, horticulture and landscape technologies, and criminal justice.

Check out FRCC’s CTE Programs.

FRCC offers a wide range of academic programs. Explore our six career and academic communities and make an appointment to talk to someone in Advising and Counseling to learn more about our CTE programs and explore career options.

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