In the United States, career technical education (CTE) is found in every state and most school districts.
On the national level, CTE is made up of 16 career pathways that each state uses as a foundation for its own CTE programs. From that foundation, each state tweaks those pathways to fit the needs of their workforce -- sometimes adding, changing, or removing certain pathways.
In California, CTE is made up of 15 career pathways:
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Arts, Media, & Entertainment
Building & Construction Trades
Business & Finance
Education, Child Development, & Family Services
Energy, Environment, & Utilities
Engineering & Architecture
Fashion & Interior Design
Health Science & Medical Technology
Hospitality, Tourism, & Recreation
Information & Communication Technologies
Manufacturing & Product Design
Marketing, Sales, & Services
On this page, we’ll discuss the details of each career pathway to see how California approaches CTE compared to the rest of the country.
We’ll also give some insight into the next big thing for CTE in California.
The California Department of Education (CDE) has a large focus on CTE programs. The ultimate goal of CTE programs in California is to have a strong, capable workforce that continues to build upon itself.
“We seek the day when every enterprise in California -- public and private -- has access to a pool of talent that both attracts the world’s leading business and hastens the development and success of new ones, creating opportunities for all.”
Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
To meet this goal, each pathway in California has dedicated CTE model curriculum standards that ensure students across the state all learn the same information, no matter where they go to school.
The California ANR pathways has the same number of subsections as the national version. However, they have slightly different focuses:
Forestry & Natural Resources
Plant & Soil Science
California has a large focus on agricultural education and requires all programs to consist of three components: classroom instruction, leadership activities, and supervised agricultural experience projects.
The CTSO connected with the ANR pathways is the California FFA Association, which is a state-specific version of the National FFA Organization.
2. Arts, Media, & Entertainment
The Arts, Media, & Entertainment (AME) pathway is similar to the national Arts, A/V Technology, & Communications cluster. However, the California pathway only has four subsections:
Design, Visual, & Media Arts
Production & Managerial Arts
Game Design & Integration
Each subsection has a number of courses that are put into three buckets: introduction, concentration, and capstone.
In addition, depending on the occupation a student desires within the AME pathway, they will need to go on and earn a certification or degree.
Unlike the ANR pathway, there is no CTSO for students interested in arts, media, and entertainment.
3. Building & Construction Trades
The Building & Construction Trades (BCT) pathway in California is vastly different when compared to the national career cluster. California splits building and construction into four career areas:
Like the Engineering & Architecture pathway, Manufacturing & Product Design is part of the ITE program and there are no relevant CTSOs.
13. Marketing, Sales, & Services
The California Marketing, Sales, & Services pathway is very similar to the national Marketing career cluster. However, the California pathway is more focused on three specific areas:
Entrepreneurship / Self-Employment
In addition, this pathway is part of the overarching Business & Marketing Education program in California.
The most relevant CTSO for students in the Marketing, Sales, & Services pathway is California DECA.
14. Public Services
The Public Services pathway is California’s version of the national Law, Public Safety, Corrections, & Security career cluster. However, in California there are only three subsections:
The CDE recommends students in the Public Services pathway join the SkillsUSA California CTSO.
California’s Transportation pathway is a more focused version of the national Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics career cluster. At the national level, the cluster is made up of seven subsections. In California, it’s focused on three areas:
Structural Repair & Refinishing
Systems Diagnostics, Service, & Repair
Like a number of other pathways, Transportation is part of the larger ITE program and there are no relevant CTSOs.
Need to Keep Your CTE Students Engaged?
No matter which of these CTE pathways you teach, keeping your students engaged is key to ensuring they learn the skills they need to succeed in their careers. However, many California CTE teachers feel they have to sacrifice hours and hours of personal time creating exciting course material that grabs their students’ attention.
This guide provides an in-depth exploration of why student engagement matters, what hurts it, and how factors like technology can actually be used to help students better pay attention. Along the way, you’ll gain valuable insight from educators, students, and instructional designers: