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Career Academies



Career Academies are schools within schools that link students with peers, teachers, and community partners in a disciplined environment, fostering academic success, mental and emotional health, and labor market success. These Academies were developed to be utilized with multiple racial and ethnic groups, and have demonstrated efficacy within schools that serve large minority populations, and thus enable youths who may have trouble fitting into the larger school environment to belong to a smaller educational community and connect what they learn in school with their career aspirations and goals. They aim to improve labor market prospects of youth beyond high school without compromising high school academic goals and preparation for postsecondary education. Because of these emphases on labor market prospects and postsecondary preparation, each Career Academy will have a specific career concentration such as in law enforcement, tourism, finance, homeland security, or health.

Career Academies have evolved into a multifaceted, integrated approach to reducing delinquent behavior and enhancing protective factors among at-risk youths. First, a Career Academy is organized as a school within a school in which 50 to 75 students stay with a group of 3 to 5 teachers over the 3 or 4 years of high school. Such arrangements are often referred to as “small learning communities.” The aim is to create a more personalized and supportive learning environment for students and teachers. Students also attend some regular classes within the high school. Efforts are made to support parental involvement. Second, a Career Academy offers students a combination of academic and vocational curricula and uses a career theme to integrate the two. Counseling is offered to support the development of postsecondary plans. Third, a Career Academy develops partnerships with local employers in an effort to build connections between school and work and to provide students with a range of career development and work-based learning opportunities. These include field trips designed to expose students to various work environments, job shadowing, and mentoring programs with adults who can provide career guidance. Students are also given the opportunity to work for employers who are connected to the school.

More than 90 percent of Academy and control students graduated from high school or obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. Almost 80 percent enrolled in some type of postsecondary education program. Young men in the Academy group earned over $10,000 (18 percent) more than those in the non-Academy control group over the 4-year follow-up period. The increased earnings averaged $212 per month, a difference that was statistically significant. This increase resulted from increased wages, hours worked, and employment stability. There was no effect on young women’s labor market outcomes. Compared with the non-Academy group, the intervention group reported more frequently living independently with children and a spouse or partner.

Risk Factors


Drug dealing

General delinquency involvement

Illegal gun ownership/carrying

Physical violence/aggression

Violent victimization


Delinquent siblings

Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices

Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)


Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school

Low academic aspirations

Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school

Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure


Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency

Association with gang-involved peers/relatives

Gang membership


University of Colorado Blueprints: Promising

OJJDP Model Programs: Effective


Ms. Erin Fender
College and Career Academy Support Network
University of California
Berkeley Graduate School of Education
Berkeley, CA
Phone: (707) 591-6375
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: http://casn.berkeley.edu/index.php


Dayton, C., Hester, C. H., & Stern, D. (2011). Profile of the California Partnership Academies 2009-2010. Career Academy Support Network, University of California Berkeley, and California Department of Education.

Kemple, J. J. (2004). Career Academies: Impacts on labor market outcomes and educational attainment. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), www.mdrc.org.

Kemple, J. J. & Snipes, J. C. (2000). Career Academies: Impacts on students' engagement and performance in high school. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), www.mdrc.org.

Kemple, J. J. & Willner, C. J. (2008). Career Academies: Long-term impacts on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), www.mdrc.org.

Kemple, J. J. & Willner, C. J. (2008). Technical resources for Career Academies: Long-term impacts on labor market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), www.mdrc.org

Date Created: April 7, 2021