Plan Your Education

CareerTech: More Than You May Think

It's not just shop class.

It's respiratory care, computer repair, marketing, drafting, food service management, self-employment and dozens of other un-shop-like specialties. CareerTech students weld with inert gas, design gear drives in animated 3-D, program metal cuts to ten-thousandths of an inch and print 3-D prototypes in plastic resin. So much for carburetors and bookends.

Cutting-Edge, Wide-Ranging, Crowd-Pleasing and (Often) Free

CareerTech, Oklahoma's system of career and technology education, is not what many people think it is. Today's CareerTech:

  • Offers cutting-edge training in nearly 100 career specialties at 56 technology center campuses across the state.
  • Is the state's most popular post-high school education program.
  • Is considered a top system and a model for other states.
  • Is free to most Oklahoma high school students.
  • Offers programs at nominal charge to other students of all ages. Financial aid and scholarships are available.
  • Works with colleges to provide students college credit and degrees for their CareerTech studies.
  • Prepares grads for the next step. Forty-five percent go to work. Another 47 percent go on to college or other educational programs.
  • Advances careers. Graduates earn starting wages 15 percent higher than high school grads and are more likely to become professionals or managers.
  • Operates, in addition to the open-enrollment tech center programs, specialized programs for business and industry, prisons, and public school classrooms.


Technology centers are probably the most recognizable part of the CareerTech system. Programs there are open to both adults and high school students. In addition, students at 562 junior and senior high schools across the state take popular CareerTech classes right at those schools.

Technology Center Programs

At CareerTech technology centers, you'll use state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and get one-on-one instruction from experienced instructors. You'll also get career counseling and job placement. And you can choose from many career majors, including culinary arts management, biotechnology, information services, surgical technology, precision machining and marketing management.

The Trade & Industrial Division claims more than half the tech center population, more than 15,000 students. Health is the fastest growing field, approaching 7,000 students. Some popular programs, such as business technology and welding, are offered at almost every CareerTech campus. Others, such as paralegal studies, are offered at only one.

Most tech center programs are open to both high school students and adults (those over 16 or out of high school), although a few programs are limited. Only high school students can take the college-prep Pre-Engineering and Biomedical Sciences programs, and only adults can take certain medical and other programs.

College Credit

You can earn college credit for many CareerTech classes through cooperative agreements, or alliances, with colleges. Participating schools include public and private colleges and universities across the state, in neighboring states and beyond. More than 3,400 high school and 7,600 adult CareerTech students earned more than 60,000 college credit hours in a year through this program.

Program Finder

To find programs at your local tech center, use this directory to find the center, click to its website, and look for full-time programs, career programs, high school classes, long-term classes, or similar titles. Many technology center districts have multiple campuses, so you might have multiple options.

And contact Student Services or Enrollment for the latest on what's available, how your tech center works, and answers to your questions.

High School Students

If you want to spend your high school days doing something special and begin to move into the wider world, consider the options at your local technology center. By spending a few class periods a day, you can do some in-depth career exploration, develop marketable skills, and even jump start your college education. And it's all free for high school students who live in a technology center district.

What options? Every tech center is different, some offering 20 or more career specialties. Sneak a peek at your local center's Web site (see Tech Center Directory) to see what's available.

At some point, you'll want to talk to a tech center counselor or other representative about what will work best for you. This can be a scary step. Remember, CareerTech doesn't mean you're giving up on college (a third of CareerTech students go on to college). It doesn't even mean you're giving up on high school (you'll still be there some of the time). And it can mean a glimpse of the world from a whole new angle. Go ahead and ask questions.

Dual Credit

You can take many classes that qualify for high school and college credit at the same time. Some students actually earn an associate degree before their high school diploma. Go for it because:

  • You'll gain an edge in your college or workforce preparation. Rigorous courses help you improve study habits. And you'll leave high school with college credit under your belt.
  • You'll stand out to college admissions officers. They'll see your maturity, your willingness to push yourself to the limit, and your commitment to excellence.
  • You'll broaden your horizons. Explore the world from new perspectives, study subjects in greater depth, and take responsibility for reasoning and analysis. 



If you think you might be interested in an engineering career, check out the Oklahoma Pre-Engineering program now offered at a growing number of technology center sites. The hands-on program, developed with Project Lead the Way, a national initiative to forge a generation of innovators, can give you a feel for what engineering is all about and ease the transition to college engineering courses.

Besides taking advanced placement math and science courses, pre-engineering students work with sheet metal and computer aided design, build robots, and plunge into other problem-solving activities. For more about robotics competitions, engineering open houses, scholarships and other information, see the Oklahoma Pre-Engineering website


Biomedical Sciences

Doctors, therapists and other medical professionals of tomorrow are helping pioneer a new Biomedical Sciences program at three Oklahoma CareerTech sites. Oklahoma is one of five states piloting this advanced program, which is now in seven states. It's offered n a growing number of Oklahoma CareerTech sites.

Future nurses, vets, researchers, technicians and others study biomedical principles, human body systems, research methods and medical interventions. Biomed, like the Pre-Engineering program, is being developed with Project Lead the Way.

For a list of Pre-Engineering, Bioscience and other CareerTech academy program locations, see Reality-Based Learning.

Adult Students and Services

Most tech center students are adults. As an adult, you have additional options to take practical nursing and other adults-only medical specialties not open to high school students. You can use CareerTech to:

  • Take that next step after high school.
  • Upgrade your skills.
  • Develop new and emerging job skills.
  • Transition to new career.
  • Earn certification in health, computer and information technology, and other fields.
  • Meet continuing education requirements in real estate, insurance, electrical, and other fields. 

If you can't get out to classes, see if your tech center has online course offerings. Another option is short-term classes to help your career – or for personal enrichment. Topics include investing, computer skills and photography.

Adults pay a nominal fee for CareerTech classes. If you've been laid off or dislocated from a job, you might qualify for free or reduced-cost training.

Help with Your Business

If you own your own business or think you might want to, CareerTech's Small Business Development Services (SBDS) is there to help you succeed. This economic development team provides one-on-one counseling and specialized classes, seminars, and conferences across the state.

Self-Employment Training - If you've dreamed of starting your own business but need help with the next step, Self-Employment Training can help you with structuring your business, accounting, market research, taxes, business plans and other issues. Included are classes, seminars with business leaders, and one-on-one consultation. For more information, contact your district Business Specialist.

For business owners, CareerTech's Small Business Management team can help you reinvigorate your enterprise and fix trouble spots. And the Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network can help you win government and corporate bid contracts.

Comprehensive School Programs

As a junior high or high school student, you can take CareerTech classes without leaving your regular public school. The classes are designed to prepare you for life and work, and most students take at least one. To get the most out of these classes, join one of the CareerTech student organizations that add leadership opportunities, competitions and other activities to the mix.

Courses are offered in the following areas;

  • Family and Consumer Sciences – Preparation for careers in human services, hospitality and tourism, and education and training. Also preparation for life in areas like consumer education, nutrition, parenting, relationships, housing and wardrobe.
  • Technology – Preparation for a technologically advanced world, including career exploration and planning. A second tier, called TechConnect, offers in-depth career experiences in alignment with technology centers.
  • Agriiculture – Builds career leadership skills and foundations in global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources.
  • Business and Information Technology – Programs in business and computer technology, e-commerce, customer service, network administration, web services, video and graphic production, telecommunications and information technology.
  • Health Careers – Preparation for careers such as practical nursing, emergency medical services, dental assisting, surgical technician, vision care and radiologic technology.
  • Marketing – Employment areas including professional sales, buying and merchandising, research and e-marketing.
  • Trade and Industrial – High-demand, high-wage careers in more than 54 technical and trade-related areas.

To learn more, see your school program and course listings or talk to your school counselor or advisor.

Career Clusters

CareerTech has been reorganizing, big time. Since fall 2008, classes at many tech centers have been grouped into a uniform framework of Career Clusters designed to better align coursework and careers.

All courses are being classified into one of 16 Career Clusters. Each Career Cluster is subdivided into broad Career Pathways, and then divided again into Career Majors that correspond with a specific job title. You can get certified in a Career Major by completing a specified series of courses.

So... instead of taking "welding," you'll take specific courses like "Fundamentals of Welding," "Oxyfuel Cutting," and "FCAW Plate," all leading up to certification in the "FCAW Structural Welder" major. That's part of the Welding and Metal Fabrication Pathway in the Manufacturing Cluster.

Instead of studying Infant and Child Care, you might take "Introduction to Human Services," "Entry Level Child Care Training," "Early Care & Education Master Teacher," and other courses leading to certification in "Early Care and Education Infant and Toddler Care." You'll be in the Early Childhood Development & Services Pathway in the Human Services Cluster.

It's part of a national Career Clusters Initiative to help students work from a broad interest in, say, science, to an eventual career choice in, say, environmental biotechnology.

CareerTech Champions

CareerTech students and alums do amazing things, some of which are documented in the CareerTech Champions series. You'll see a Champion, someone who has traveled CareerTech on the road to success, highlighted on the CareerTech homepage with links to the fuller story. Among the Champions are a Miss Oklahoma, a Miss America, a former assistant Indian chief, a gubernatorial candidate, a governor, and many others with less familiar names. Meet three of them right here:

2006 Sperry High School graduate Tiffany Grant provides Oklahoma teens their prom night wishes and earns college scholarships by combining her ideas with skills learned at Tulsa Technology Center to grow her company, Prom Wishes Inc.=

A bored high school troublemaker who was kicked out of most other classes, Harvey Dean spent much of his time in various "shop" classes. But his teacher told him he would be successful, and today Dr. Dean is founder and CEO of a company with 200 employees that provides fun and engaging educational materials for millions of students.

An 11-year abusive relationship and four children to support convinced Rosie Ashley to make some changes, and she plunged into work on a GED, then a CareerTech electronics program, and then a CareerTech avionics program. That led to a position as technician at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center and a chance to do things for her grandkids that she couldn't do when her own children were young.