Vocational education, or career and technical education, is an elective program that provides middle, high school, and adult learners with training in a particular career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 11 million people are served by the vocational education system in the United States.
The careers require varying levels of education, with some students gaining enough training to enter the workforce immediately following high school, while others may require a four-year college degree. Students may elect to take only a single course or a concentration in a particular trade. The areas of concentration most frequently offered by vocational education programs focus on business, trade and industry, health, agriculture, family and consumer sciences, marketing, and technology.
Currently 15,000 secondary schools offer vocational education courses, including some programs offered through area vocational centers, which serve students from a number of local schools at one central site. Approximately 20% of all high school course work is career and technical education-related.
Each year roughly $13 billion is spent on career and technical education across the country - three-fifths at the secondary level. The federal government provides about seven percent of the funding, mainly through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, leaving states and local districts to fund the majority of programs. The amount of funding provided by states and local districts varies greatly across the country. For example, in New Hampshire all funding comes from local school districts, while in Ohio, the state provides a large portion of the funding to vocational programs.