The following is a 2024 report by J. Lindsay, K. Hughes, S. M. Dougherty, K. Reese, and M. Joshi for the American Institutes for Research, Career and Technical Education Research Network. The full report and a two-page abstract version can be downloaded at

What We Know About the Impact of Career and Technical Education: A Systematic Review of the Research

Despite decades of research on career and technical education (CTE), until recently little has been known about the causal effects of CTE on student outcomes. Does CTE benefit students? If so, which students does it benefit, and in which settings? These questions are at the heart of the CTE Research Network’s mission. To address them, the Network conducted a systematic review of the research literature spanning the past 20 years. This evidence review was designed to address the following research questions:

Which types of CTE programs have been the focus of studies that make causal claims?
What is the impact of CTE program participation on student outcomes? Specifically, does CTE have impacts on students’ secondary-level outcomes, their postsecondary educational outcomes, and their employment outcomes?
When examining the combination of CTE program types and relevant outcomes, for which combinations are there gaps in the causal research?

Meta-analytic findings indicate that CTE has statistically significant positive impacts on several high school outcomes, such as students’ academic achievement, high school completion, employability skills, and college readiness. There is no impact on student discipline or attendance. Compared to similar students who do not take CTE, those who do are more likely to enroll in 2-year colleges but are equally likely to enroll in 4-year college or progress in college. The studies did not provide evidence regarding CTE and college degree completion.

Those who take CTE courses in high school are also more likely than those who did not take CTE courses to be employed after high school. CTE course-takers had similar earnings to those who did not take CTE.