Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Logo
Office of College, Career and Technical Education

State-Approved Career Technical Education

College, Career and Technical Education e-Newsletter

The Office of College, Career and Technical Education assists all schools with helping students with both college and career readiness. Through State-approved Career Technical Education Chapter 74 (CTE) Programs, innovative and high quality CTE programs in both regional technical and traditional/comprehensive high schools, Massachusetts is closing opportunity gaps and increasing levels of achievement by preparing all students for college, career, and civic engagement.

This page is designed for school and district implementation of Career and Technical Education Programs (Chapter 74). Students and Families can find information about program options and how to access programs here.

On this page:

  • An Overview of State-approved CTE Programs: Including program signature experiences, outcomes, program areas that may be offered by schools, and types of schools that may offer state-approved CTE programs.
  • Starting and Operating a State-approved CTE Programs: Including an overview of the new program approval process and common questions about licensure, facilities and space requirements, and program advisory councils.
  • How Students Enroll in State-approved CTE Programs: Including Admissions policies and nonresident access.
  • DESE Support for Continuous Improvement of Programs: Including CCTE Liaisons, the Quality Support System, and Closing Programs.
  • Funding State-approved CTE Programs: Including state Chapter 70 Educational Aid funds and federal Perkins funding sources.

Overview of State-approved CTE Programs

Massachusetts Career and Technical Education Programs (CTE) prepare students to graduate with skills and credentials that will provide them with advanced employment opportunities if the enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. These CTE programs also provide students with high quality learning experiences that enable them to see and understand their future career paths, including continued education. Signature components of these programs include at least 900 hours of immersive learning time, co-operative education in partnership with local employers, and opportunities to earn high-value industry recognized credentials. The CTE frameworks are developed to guide instruction and support program design that ensure students graduate with the skills and learning experiences that best prepare them in their field.

State-approved CTE programs are designed to ensure that students graduating are both prepared to pursue post-secondary education and are prepared through work-based learning, industry credentials, and technical skill proficiencies to access employment other graduates are not prepared to enter. CTE receive federal Perkins funding for career technical Education. Aligned to both Perkins, and MA regulation, programs have targets related to student graduation rate, skill achievement (academic and technical), work-based learning experiences, and post-graduation placement.

There are currently 45 programs areas in MA in 11 clusters. They are:

Agriculture and Natural Resources Cluster

  • Agricultural Mechanics
  • Animal Science
  • Environmental Science and Technology
  • Horticulture

Arts and Communication Services Cluster

  • Design and Visual Communications
  • Graphic Communications
  • Radio and Television Broadcasting

Business and Consumer Services Cluster

  • Business Technology
  • Cosmetology
  • Marketing

Construction Cluster

  • Building and Property Maintenance
  • Cabinetmaking
  • Carpentry
  • Construction Craft Laborer
  • Electricity
  • Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration
  • Masonry and Tile Setting
  • Painting and Design Technologies
  • Plumbing
  • Sheet Metalworking

Education Cluster

  • Early Education and Care

Health Services Cluster

  • Dental Assisting
  • Health Assisting
  • Medical Assisting

*See Postsecondary CTE for Postsecondary specific State-approved CTE programs in Medical Laboratory Technology, Operating Room Technology, and Practical Nursing (LPN)

Hospitality and Tourism Cluster

  • Culinary Arts
  • Hospitality Management

Information Technology Services Cluster

  • Information Support Services and Networking
  • Programming and Web Development

Legal and Protective Services Cluster

  • Criminal Justice

Manufacturing, Engineering and Technological Cluster

  • Advanced Manufacturing Technology
  • Biotechnology
  • Drafting
  • Electronics
  • Engineering Technology
  • Metal Fabrication and Joining Technologies
  • Robotics and Automation Technology
  • Stationary Engineering
  • Telecommunications and Fiber Optics

Transportation Cluster

  • Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing
  • Automotive Technology
  • Diesel Technology
  • Marine Service Technology
  • Power Equipment Technology

*One program is currently being piloted as a new program area: Aviation Maintenance Technology

School Models

State-Approved CTE programs may be offered in district and regional schools that are "wall-to-wall" CTE programs, meaning every student in the school will enroll in a state-approved CTE program. Programs may also be offered in comprehensive schools where State-approved CTE programs are one of many pathway and coursework choices in which students may choose enroll.

Signature Learning Experiences

Competencies, Skills, and Credentials

The CTE frameworks are developed to guide instruction and support program design that ensure students graduate with the skills and learning experiences that best prepare them in their field.

There are 45 program areas in 11 Industry clusters. Each framework integrates specific Academic, Technical, Safety & Health, Essential/Employability Skills, Management & Entrepreneurship, & Digital Literacy. Additional common resources are available for all programs for Safety & Health and Management & Entrepreneurship. MyCAP is the process and tool that should be used across programs to further support Essential/Employability Skills and the MA Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework is the resource to support common Technical skills. See more information about Career-Connected Learning Instructional Resources, including the Career Technical Education Frameworks.

Work-based Learning and Cooperative Education

Cooperative education is a signature work-based learning program within career technical education where students are paid by the employer to build on skills through a cooperative arrangement between the school and employers. Students receive instruction, including required academic courses and related career technical instruction, by the alternation of study in school with a job in any occupational field. The instruction is be planned and supervised by the school and the employer so that each contributes to the student's education and employability. Work periods and school attendance may be on alternate half-days, full days, weeks or other coordinated periods of time.


Exploratory is a program designed to be offered to all ninth-grade students to ensure that they understand and engage in the educational pathway options available to them at their high schools. The Exploratory process is intended to provide students with a high-quality educational experience that exposes them to a variety of college and career pathways and other high quality local program and coursework choices. Student Exploratory experiences should include applied learning that introduces them to career opportunities and authentic experience specific to each program option. At completion of Exploratory, students will be able to:

  • Identify the pathways available to them at their school;
  • Identify potential career opportunities available to them through each pathway;
  • Understand each pathway's student outcomes i.e., career credentials, work-based learning including cooperative education, articulated college credit, transcripted college credit, Advanced Placement and how those can support their goals for post-high school;
  • Analyze and evaluate the pathways as they relate to their interest and skills; and
  • Create a reflection and course plan through their MyCAP that aligns with their interests.

Offering Exploratory ensures that all students have a full understanding of the programs and courses available to them to pursue their interests and goals for post-graduation. All schools are encouraged to develop a program that provides all students with access to explore, engage, and select a program of study that aligns to their needs and interests. This is especially critical to help students understand and differentiate schools' various program offerings. Schools must have a Chapter 74 Approved Exploratory if they have five or more Chapter 74 approved CTE programs. At this time, Chapter 74 Exploratory reporting and funding is limited to those schools which have five or more Chapter 74 approved CTE programs.

Career Technical Student Organizations

Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO) are critical partners in furthering student learning and building networks in the careers students are preparing for while in high school. Massachusetts recognizes 5 National CTSOs and 2 State CTSOs. Each organization supports specific needs of CTE programming. See the recognized Massachusetts CTSOs.

Starting and Operating a State-Approved CTE Programs

Districts applying for State-Approved CTE programs must ensure many components are in place, including:

  • Ensure program curriculum supports all students in gaining proficiencies in the standards and skills of the CTE Framework, applying math, English, and science competencies, and providing students with the opportunity to earn the essential industry recognized credentials identified in the CTE Framework
  • Provide students with work-based learning including cooperative education to support students in practicing and building upon their skills in an authentic workplace experience
  • Engage a program advisory council to support continuous improvement of the program
  • Ensure teachers are appropriately licensed to teach in the program area
  • Ensure the learning environment is safe and accessible for students while maintaining industry standard equipment and tools that reflect a modern workplace in the relevant industry

For School Districts considering applying for new state-approved CTE programs, see resources at Massachusetts Chapter 74 New Program Application page.

Educator and Administrator Licenses for State-approved CTE Programs

Each state-approved CTE program must be taught by an educator with the appropriate career technical teacher license. In most cases, the appropriate license is aligned with the program name. The appropriate license is included in the CTE Framework. For information on obtaining career technical education teacher or administrator licensure, see the material available from the DESE Licensure Office.

Facilities and Space Requirements

After reviewing the program framework, each district must determine the equipment necessary to deliver the program safely and effectively through the curriculum they implement. After determining the equipment requirements, the positioning of the equipment in the facility should reflect the safe operation of a fully populated and fully equipped programs space.

Advisory Committees

Program Advisory Committees (PAC) for state-approved CTE programs advise, assist, and support school personnel to enhance planning and operation of programs. The Career Technical Education Advisory Committee Guide is a quality resource on forming and utilizing Advisory Committees.

Enrolling Students

Each school/district develops their own processes for enrolling students in a state-approved CTE program. These policies should ensure that students are admitted without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation and do not create barriers to enrollment.

Districts must have their admission policy approved by their school committees each year. Policies are submitted to DESE for reference. Guidance for creating admissions policies and a list of policies submitted to DESE can be found on CTE Admissions page.

Non-resident Access

Massachusetts state law and regulations allow students to attend schools out of their district of residence to participate in State-approved CTE programs under certain circumstances. Non-resident students must submit an application of admission to the receiving school no later than March 15th of the preceding school year and are subject to the admissions policy of the receiving school. The receiving school makes the admission decision based on their admission policy. Separately, the District of Residence considers each application of students wishing to attend other districts for CTE. While there is no cost to the student, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education establishes non-resident tuition rates for use for payment among districts. More information about non-resident access can be found on CTE Admissions page.

Continuous Improvement

CCTE Liaisons provide direct support and coordinate resources to support districts in developing, implementing, and continuously improving high quality systems, structures, and programs for college and career readiness in Massachusetts. CCTE Liaisons are assigned to districts with one or more state designated pathway program and all districts receiving federal Perkins funding.

Further, the Quality Support System (QSS) is designed to create strategic partnership between schools and the Department of Elementary's Office of College Career and Technical Education. The process focuses on meaningful and sustainable change through supporting schools in implementation and continuous improvement of systems and programs that foster high quality instruction and student experiences. QSS encompasses the resources, technical assistance, and support provided by the Office of College, Career and Technical Education. CCTE has implemented Enhanced Supports for Program Quality and Enhanced Supports for Equitable Access as a partnership between DESE and specific schools. More information about CCTE's Quality Support System can be found here.

Data and Reporting

State-Approved CTE Programs are required to submit data to MA DESE regarding their programs. Please see the CCTE data reporting calendar which supplements any additional reporting requirements school districts have.

Closing Programs

Districts seeking to close a program should consult with their CCTE liaison when first considering program closure. The liaison will support the district in exploring the challenges identified and determining if a closure plan is necessary. Closure plans must include a timetable for program closure, information outreach to affected students and their parents/guardians, and options for students to complete the career technical education program, and the reason for the proposed program closure. DESE encourages districts to consider labor market demand, student outcomes, and other quantitative and qualitative points of data and information before supporting a district decision to close a program. The CCTE Liaison may request a meeting to discuss the plans.

Funding State Approved CTE Programs

State Funding State Approved CTE Programs

State-Approved CTE Programs are eligible to receive differential funding in the Chapter 70 aid formula based on their reported program enrollment. More information about state education funding is available here.

Federal Funding

State-Approved CTE Programs typically also utilize Federal Perkins funding for the continuous improvement of CTE programs.

Additional Grants

MA DESE offers additional Grants and funding opportunities as funding is available to support programs. MA DESE funding opportunities are available on Grant Funding Opportunities page.

Last Updated: April 24, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.