Matching Interests to Career Clusters, Career Pathways, and Majors

Career Clusters

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education adopted 16 "career clusters" in 1999 for use in organizing career and technical education programs or "pathways". OVAE reviewed state, national and state efforts to define clusters, and they found that the models were based on one of four approaches: career interests, educational, occupational, and industrial. Unfortunately, from a career counseling and guidance standpoint, they did not choose career interests. Instead, they developed them based on an industrial occupational approach: organizing them around broad industry areas or economic sectors (Ruffing, 2006.)

A career cluster is a grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities. Each career cluster is subdivided into "career pathways", programs of study. For example, the “Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security Cluster” includes these pathways: “Corrections Services”, “Emergency and Fire Management Services”, “Security & Protective Services”, “Law Enforcement Services”, and “ Legal Services”.

The challenge: People do best in those careers and instructional programs that match their interests. How do they choose a cluster or pathway when it may include occupations representing different career interests? For example, in this cluster are occupations representing five of the six Holland types – Investigative (e.g., Forensic Science Technician), Social (e.g., Family Social Worker), Realistic (e.g., Fire Inspector), Conventional (e.g., Title Examiner) and Enterprising (e.g., Lawyer).

Nevertheless, due to the growing and widespread use of clusters/pathways, a crosswalk was developed connecting the CK Holland RIASEC/Work Groups to them. Data from OVAE was analyzed to identify the Holland personality type and Work Group (more on CK classification system) associated with all O*NET occupations and the OVAE clusters/pathways. A “map” and a table were developed to show these relationships – see Career Clusters/Pathways. For more details see the complete manual.

College Majors & Instructional Programs

In a similar analysis using data from the U.S. Department of Education, college majors and instructional programs used in the U.S. Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) (also used in Canada) were linked with the CK Holland RIASEC/Work Groups. Match Up! Your Personality to College Majors and the web article "Choose a Major or Training Program" are based on this analysis.

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