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What is a Career Cluster

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Planning Your Job Change Based on Career Clusters

You’re ready for a career change, but where do you start? With the seemingly endless number of career options, you may find it impossible to narrow it down to just one. Unless you already know exactly what you want to do, you probably want to explore different paths. Career clusters are one way to do that.

What Are Career Clusters?

Career clusters are general groups of career choices that share similar training and education requirements. Think of it as a way to sort out the hundreds of possible careers into easy-to-digest categories. The careers and educational programs that fit under each cluster go together because they share similar features loosely based on industry, skills and knowledge. The specific classes for each may differ, but much of the curriculum is similar or related.

Advance CTE manages the Career Cluster Framework, which originally came to be under the States’ Career Clusters Initiative. The framework includes 16 clusters. Pathways listed under each cluster break down the group into career areas with a more specific focus. Many postsecondary institutions use career clusters to group their programs.

Exploring Career Clusters

The idea behind career clusters is that once you find a general category that appeals to you, you can use the pathways that fall under it to narrow down your career options. The pathways also outline the general coursework you need to take to find work in that field, which can help you plan your academic future. Each cluster is relatively broad.

The 16 recognized career clusters are:

  • Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, A/V Technology and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training
  • Finance
  • Government and Public Administration
  • Health Science
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

You’ve likely seen these or similar categories while browsing program options at colleges or when answering demographic questions on surveys. Simply scanning the list of clusters lets you easily see how the pathways under each one relate.

For example, the pathways for the Business Management and Administration cluster are General Management, Business Information Management, Human Resources Management, Operations Management and Administrative Support. Each pathway has a course of study required to work in that field.

Using Career Clusters to Plan Your Future

How can career clusters help a parent who is returning to school? Study the list of categories if you’re not sure what you want to study, and choose the career cluster that most appeals to you. Since the clusters are relatively broad, you should be able to find at least one that sparks your interest.

Explore the pathways under your selected cluster to narrow down your future plans. Check out the coursework associated with each pathway, so you know what to expect if you pursue that option.

Each pathway can prepare you for multiple jobs. The Professional Support Services pathway, which falls under the Education and Training cluster, allows you to find a career as a parent educator, clinical psychologist, counselor, social worker, speech-language pathologist or another related career option.

Career clusters give you a starting point when you’re ready to head back to school. Explore the general categories that match your interests to find paths to potential careers that match your skills and preferences.