Choose a Career Cluster, Career Field, or Career Pathway

Man working on a circuit board

What is a career cluster? What is a career pathway or career field? If you are a student in one, does it fit you best? We can help you answer those questions and make a good choice.

This is an important decision. It is no exaggeration to say, “Your choice will affect the rest of your life.”

You should consider several things in making your decision. One of the most important is “Which one matches my interests?”
A good match affects,

  • The grades you get,
  • How much you enjoy school,
  • The college major or program of study you choose later on,
  • Whether you can find a job, and
  • How satisfied and successful you are in a career.

Common sense tells you this, and scientific studies demonstrate it.

Five Steps to a Good Match

First Step: Understand the meaning of “career clusters” and “career pathways”:

  • Career Clusters are broad groups of occupations and industries.

    “Health Sciences” is an example. The U.S. Department of Education created 16 of these Career Clusters. You want to ask yourself,  “Which cluster includes the occupations that match my interests?”

    Career clusters are subdivided into “career pathways”. For example, the Health Science Cluster includes five career pathways.
  • Career Pathways are a series of courses that prepare you for an occupational field.

    For example, courses in the “Therapeutic Services” Pathway lead to jobs like radiologist, physician, or physical therapist. 
  • Career clusters and pathways are NOT organized according to career interests (They are organized around broad industry or economic areas).

    This means some jobs are in more than one cluster! For example, the job “accountant” is found in two clusters: a) Business, Management and Administration and b) Government and Administration.

Second Step: Take a valid career interest test like the Career Key. It is one of the few valid tests of career interests. Unfortunately, you may get directed to or be given an invalid test like the O*Net Interest Profiler or Career Clusters Interest Surveypseudo-measures like these can mislead you. Make sure your teacher or counselor knows you want to take a valid test.

With the Career Key you measure your strength in six interest areas, called the Holland “personality types” or “Holland Codes”: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.

Third Step: Identify the Career Clusters and Pathways that match your strongest personality type(s). Begin by clicking here to see the Career Key Map of Career Clusters and Pathways.

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