Postsecondary vocational education teachers instruct students in fields that may not require a 4-year degree but, nonetheless require a certain amount of specialized training. They train students for occupations such as welder, dental hygienist, x-ray technician, auto mechanic, cosmetologist, and many others. Most of the classes are taught in laboratories in which students learn using a hands-on approach. Today, more and more career and technical education programs combine their vocational curriculum with more academic curriculum so that students graduate with a more well-rounded and adaptable education.
Postsecondary vocational education teachers usually have very similar responsibilities as college and university faculty. They prepare lessons, grade papers, attend faculty meetings, and keep up with current developments in their area of expertise. Teachers who work in community colleges and career and technical schools often assist students in transitioning to work life after they graduate. They create internship programs in which students can gain valuable experience, and they give student information about potential employers.
Postsecondary vocational education teachers should enjoy working with students and be able to motivate the to succeed in their academic endeavors. They need to have the ability to communicate effectively with students, as well as relate well to them. Their minds should be inquiring and analytical, and they should have a strong desire to pursue and pass on knowledge. They often work in environments in which they have little direct supervision, requiring them to be self-directed and self-motivated.
In 2002, postsecondary teachers (the broader category of which postsecondary vocational education teachers are a part) earned a median annual salary of $49,040. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $23,080, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $69,580. The earnings for postsecondary vocational education teachers varied tremendously, depending on subject, academic credentials, experience, and region of the country.
Training and Education
Postsecondary vocational education teachers are divided into four ranks: professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor. Most are initially hired as instructors and assistant professors. 2-year colleges usually hire candidates with master’s degrees for full-time positions, and many institutions require candidates to have teaching experience or experience with distance learning. Candidates with dual master’s degrees sometimes get preference because they are able to teach more subjects.
A major step in the career of a postsecondary vocational education teacher is attaining tenure. At the end of their initial 7-year term, their record of teaching, research, and overall contribution to the institution is reviewed. If the review is positive, tenure is usually granted, meaning they cannot be fired without just cause and due process. This protects their academic freedom, enabling them to teach and conduct research without fear of losing their jobs due to unpopular ideas. It also provides a high measure of financial security to teachers.
In 2002, postsecondary vocational education teachers held about 119,000 jobs. Most were employed by 2-year community colleges, as well as by schools and institutes that specialize in training people in a specific field, such as technology centers or culinary schools. Some work for State and local governments and job training facilities.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of postsecondary vocational education teachers is expected to grow much faster than the average. Some of the best job prospects are expected to be in fields where job growth is expected to be strong of the next ten years, such as business, health specialties, nursing, and computer and biological sciences. Community colleges and other career institutions have been growing rapidly and are expected to offer some of the best job opportunities for postsecondary vocational education teachers A large portion of jobs will be part-time. Retirement of current teachers and continued increases in student enrollment will combine to create good job opportunities in many types of postsecondary institutions. The growth in college enrollment is due largely to the increase in population of 18- to 24-year-olds.
For more information on how to pursue this profession, please see our Education Degree directory.