Vocational Instructor Career Information and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a vocational instructor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Vocational instructors teach subject matter that is immediately applicable to a specific field or job. They typically provide guidance and placement assistance in addition to classroom teaching. A mix of subject matter knowledge, cultural awareness, planning and patience are important skills for teacher success.

Essential Information

Found in secondary schools, technical schools, colleges and other types of training facilities, vocational instructors, also called career and technical education teachers, prepare students to work in a specific trade or occupation. Instructors can specialize in such fields as auto mechanics, dental hygiene, culinary arts, cosmetology, computer repair or electrical wiring.

They usually need to complete a teacher preparation program at the bachelor's degree level and major in the field they want to teach. State licensure is another common requirement for vocational instructors working in secondary schools, and alternative paths to licensure exist for experienced professionals without a college degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree or completion of an alternative teacher licensure program
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth 4% for all career and technical education teachers from 2014-2024*
Average Salary (2015) $58,480 for middle school career and technical education teachers,
$58,170 for secondary school career and technical education teachers,
$54,260 for postsecondary vocational education teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for a Vocational Instructor

In addition to helping students prepare for careers, vocational instructors may also assist students with career guidance and job placement. Employment opportunities for vocational instructors are often guided by their area of expertise and by which professions are currently in high demand by local employers. Specialized career fields for vocational instructors include family and consumer sciences, trades and industry, business and marketing, agricultural science, technology and health occupations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for postsecondary career and technical education teachers were expected to increase 7% between 2014 and 2024 ( Those teachers working at secondary schools and middle schools were expected to see job growth of 0% and 6% respectively in the 10-year period. As of May 2015, vocational instructors working in postsecondary schools earned a mean annual salary of $54,260, and those working in middle schools earned an average of $58,480 annually. Those teaching at secondary schools averaged $58,170.

Job Requirements

Careers in vocational instruction at a middle or high school generally require applicants to have a bachelor's degree from a teacher education program, along with a major in the subject the instructor plans to teach. Upon completion of an undergraduate program, graduates must obtain state licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state, and many states offer alternative ways to obtain licensure for individuals who have work experience but don't have a college degree; however, a high school diploma is required.

In addition to education requirements, vocational instructors should be able to respond to students in a culturally competent way. In addition, they should be able to motivate students and individualize their teaching methods. Additional requirements may include being dependable, organized, professional, patient and creative.

Vocational instructors need to have an educational background related to the subject they plan on teaching. A bachelor's degree is preferred, yet there are other avenues for those with experience. Practitioners can expect average job growth at almost every level and modest salaries.

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