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Career and Technical Student Organizations

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A Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) is an organization that engages in career and technical education activities as an integral part of the instructional program. CTSOs provide opportunities to develop and refine the skills students need in their chosen occupational area. Conferences, competitions, workshops, community service, and other activities encourage leadership development and career exploration.

Statement of Support

The Iowa Department of Education supports CTSOs by providing limited financial support through Perkins funding and technical assistance to the various CTSOs established within the state.  The Department of Education holds the state charter for each CTSO.

Iowa Department of Education CTSO Contacts:

Kent Seuferer Lisa Stange Zoë Thornton Andrew Wermes Pat Thieben (temp)


CTSOs have proven their ability to connect education and careers, motivate students, build education and business partnerships, participate in career guidance and counseling, encourage higher level academics, and build interpersonal and employability skills of students.

CTSOs are considered "co-curricular" organizations and are directly linked to career education coursework through a comprehensive high school, career academy, or college with an organized chapter of the related CTSO.

CTSOs support the career and technical curricula to:

  • enable students to achieve high academic and occupational standards
  • develop meaningful business partnerships
  • link work-based and school-based learning to the real world of work and family
  • motivate youth to become better students and productive citizens
  • develop school and community leaders
  • enhance students’ self-esteem and self-confidence
  • develop leadership skills and provide opportunities for success
  • keep students motivated and concentrated


CTSOs in Iowa currently serve over 20,000 students at the secondary and postsecondary levels. These organizations not only have local, district and state events, but offer national and international networking options and experiences. Organizations active in Iowa include:

Business Professionals of America - Secondary and Post Secondary. The mission of Business Professionals of America is to contribute to the preparation of a world-class workforce through the advancement of leadership, academic, citizenship, and technological skills; prepares students to be effective associates and committed business leaders by educating, validating, and motivating on an individual basis; to develop the business, communication, technical, and leadership skills need to contribute and compete in the workplace today and tomorrow.

DECA - Secondary and Postsecondary. The mission of this organization is to enhance the co-curricular education of students who have an interest in marketing, management, and entrepreneurship. DECA seeks to help students develop skills and competence for marketing, finance, hospitality, management, and entrepreneurial careers, build self-esteem, experience leadership, and practice community service. DECA is committed to the advocacy and growth of business and education partnerships.

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) - Secondary. FCCLA’s mission is to promote personal growth and leadership development through Family and Consumer Sciences education.  Focusing on the multiple roles of family member, wage earner, and community leader, members develop skills for live through character development, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, practical knowledge, and career preparation.

Future Business Leaders of America/Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA/PBL) - Our mission is to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs.

FFA - The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.    

HOSA - Future Health Professionals - Secondary and Post Secondary. The purpose of the HOSA organization is to develop leadership and technical HOSA skill competencies through a program of motivation, awareness and recognition, which is an integral part of the Health Science Education instructional program.  

Post Secondary Agricultural Students (PAS) - Postsecondary. The National Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization provides opportunities for individual growth, leadership, and career preparation.

Skills USA - Secondary and Postsecondary. Skills USA is an applied method of instruction for preparing America’s high performance workers in public career and technical programs. It provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship, and character development.  It builds and reinforces self-confidence, work attitudes, and communications skills. It emphasizes total quality at work:  high ethical standards, superior work skills, life-long education, and pride in the dignity of work. Skills USA also promotes understanding of the free-enterprise system and involvement in community service.

Technology Students Association (TSA) - Secondary. The Technology Student Association fosters personal growth, leadership, and opportunities in technology, innovation, design, and engineering. Members apply and integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts through co-curricular activities, competitive events, and related programs.

Financial Guidance

Financial guidelines for CTSOs that have received Federal Perkins Grant Program funds have been established. These guidelines call for oversight by the Iowa Department of Education. The Department shall monitor for fiscal compliance and verify that requirements are met in order for the CTSO to receive Federal Perkins Grant Program (Perkins) funds.

CTSO Financial Guidelines

Student Outcomes

Students participating in career and technical student organizations have the opportunity to develop and enhance their leadership and citizenship skills within the context of career and program interests which also enhances their occupational skills and future employability. These organizations provide students opportunities in a caring, secure environment to participate in leadership initiatives, and to enhance their awareness of the role of community service and responsibility to governmental affairs.

Activities are designed to provide opportunities for student achievement in sound decision-making, positive professional appearances, and skill attainment. These experiences are enhanced through involvement of business, industry, and labor in a climate of positive interaction and cooperation. For many students, this is the only leadership opportunity they will experience during their educational careers. Communities, states, and the nation benefit, as well as the individual and their families.

Community Support

Producing viable, active citizens who are concerned about their professions and the welfare of their communities, states, and nation is the positive product. Career and technical student organizations have an excellent reputation and years of success in Iowa.

Communities and businesses can provide support by serving as evaluators at state and national conferences, serving as guest speakers, providing opportunities for job shadowing or internships, and assisting in any way they and the organization agree upon.

Source: CTSO: Guide to Accessing Federal Perkins Funds For the Support of Career and Technical Student Organizations, 2008, Editor/Project Manager: Lyn Fiscus, Leadership Logistics, Contributing Editor/Writer: Alisha Dixon Hyslop, Assistant Director of Public Policy, Association for Career and Technical Education.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on March 21, 2018 at 5:13pm.