Introduction to Career Clusters

What are career clusters?

A career cluster is a group of occupations with related features. In our economy, there are hundreds of occupations and numerous ways of grouping them. The classification system most commonly used in schools and state agencies is the National Career Clusters Framework. This framework groups occupations into sixteen different clusters based on similarities in foundational knowledge and skills needed to achieve career success. The core academic and technical competencies that define each cluster provide the foundation on which students develop more advanced, industry-specific skills.

The benefit of using the National Career Clusters Framework is that occupations are grouped on the basis of shared educational and training requirements. This allows for a more direct link to be established between educational practices and careers. Curriculum and programs of study can be developed that incorporate foundational skills that are essential to success in specific fields. Furthermore, clear pathways can be established that can guide students in selecting programs of study that will support their employment goals.

What are career pathways?

Within each cluster, pathways have been identified that focus on smaller subsets of related occupations. Career pathways have their own knowledge and skill requirements that support success in occupations aligned with the pathway. Courses and training programs are typically outlined in career pathways that can guide students as they develop and maintain progress toward career goals. While clusters provide a broad picture of foundational skills, pathways can help students focus on specific occupations and develop clear, more informed educational plans.

The sixteen career clusters are these:

  • Agriculture, food and natural resources
  • Architecture and construction
  • Arts, audio/video 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, sales and service
  • Science technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Transportation, distribution and logistics

When learning about each career cluster and figuring out what students are interested in, you have to first look at essential knowledge and skills.

The second step is to go to CTE areas that are secondary.

The third step when the student understands what CTE area they are interested in, they can go to the career cluster. At this level, students gain knowledge about the career cluster. Here, they could learn about the skills that they would have to have for the career cluster and what kind of schooling that they would need.

The fourth step is to look at the different career pathways that the student can go into in that particular career cluster. Here they have the ability to learn more into the knowledge and credentials that they would need in that field.

The final step for the student is the programs of study. Here they can see the different classes or certificates that they would need to take to be able to become who they want to be.

When students learn about the sixteen career clusters, they become introduced to many different careers that they might not have known about before. They will be able to find a career that they are happy with and are interested in.