Vocational teachers provide in-demand workplace skills training to young adults and adults to prepare them for careers. Depending on where they plan to work, vocational teachers may need a bachelor's degree and teacher education certificate or just a high school diploma and extensive experience.
Vocational teachers, also called career and technical education teachers, teach workplace skills to children and adults. They work for public middle and high schools, 2-year colleges, adult education or corporate training programs, and they develop education programs that prepare students for careers in many fields, such as auto mechanics, cosmetology or the culinary arts. Those who teach in public secondary schools need a bachelor's degree and teacher education training in order to qualify for a state teaching license. Requirements vary for teaching at other levels, with a high school diploma sufficient for some positions. Experience in the field they teach is a must, however.
|Career||Secondary Public School Vocational Teacher||Postsecondary Vocational Teacher|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree and teacher education program||Varies, but a high school diploma or the equivalent is the minimum|
|Other Requirements||State teaching certificate and experience in the field||Experience in the field|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||0%||7%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$56,130||$49,470|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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Vocational Teacher Job Duties
Vocational teachers help students gain hands-on experience in various careers, including business, technology, consumer science, computers, healthcare and agriculture. According to the Pioneer Institute, there is now a need for vocational teachers with knowledge of environmental technology (www.pioneerinstitute.org).
The skills that are taught in the classroom depend largely on the vocational teacher's specialty. Trade and industry teachers, for example, teach skills in their area of expertise, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), auto repair, cosmetology or electronics repair. Vocational teachers must teach both hands-on skills and theory.
Vocational teachers often teach in-demand skills by assessing the needs of local companies and training students accordingly. They also provide students with employment counseling and job placement assistance. High school vocational teachers must tailor their curriculum to correspond with postsecondary programs as required by federal law.
Vocational teachers are responsible for motivating students, in part by responding to their individual learning styles and cultural backgrounds. They instruct students how to apply their knowledge to real-life situations and promote the life skills students need as they transition to adulthood, whether they're going to a postsecondary school or straight into the workforce.
Vocational education in public schools was once separated from academic instruction, and vocational students were kept apart from college-bound students. According to the Rand Corporation, vocational and traditional teachers have been collaborating in recent years to create programs that blend academic and vocational education (www.rand.org).
Vocational teachers often have work weeks exceeding 40 hours due to duties that must be fulfilled outside of the classroom. They often experience stress due to large workloads, overpopulated classrooms and a shortage of supplies or equipment due to lack of funding. Teachers may also have to deal with unruly, violent or unmotivated students.
Vocational teachers work for traditional schools, career academies and regional vocational programs, where they may teach in labs and shops. With additional training, some may move into corporate training to instruct newly hired workers and update employees' skills.
Vocational teachers are responsible for developing job education programs based on the needs of their students while also accommodating students' backgrounds and learning styles. They must have knowledge of the current job markets, as well as the specific industry or skills that they wish to teach, and should be able to provide job counseling and employment assistance.