But, Do I Need a College Degree?: Understanding Perceptions of College and Career Readiness among Students Enrolled in a Career and Technical High School


Career and technical education (CTE) and college preparation curriculum in high school are often treated as mutually exclusive options rather than integrated, symbiotic tracks. However, increasingly career fields require some postsecondary education, and access to four-year college degrees are important for long-term earnings and mobility. In this two-year case study, we examined how 16 juniors enrolled in a CTE high school described and perceived their college and career aspirations. Our findings revealed that participants saw vocational and academic goals as mutually beneficial but experienced them through distinctive pathways, a disconnect amplified by a lack of resources in our sample site. While mechanisms to promote college-going existed, they were often only available to subsets of students and of limited utility. From this research, we suggest that the education system should expand dual enrollment opportunities, provide mentorship of diverse career possibilities, and begin integration between college and career planning earlier in students’ schooling. Moreover, we examine the possibilities demonstrated by this case study for K-16 pathways and how postsecondary institutions can meaningfully engage with CTE schools to support this integration.

Publication Title

Innovative Higher Education