16 career clustersWhen students begin narrowing down what it is they might want to spend the rest of their lives doing, they can be pretty overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities that face them. In addition to the seemingly endless options for potential careers out there, it doesn’t help matters when everyone around them, including their parents, teachers, and counselors are constantly telling them how the decisions they make now will affect the rest of their lives. Luckily, in the 1990s the U.S. Department of Education decided to lump together pretty much any career path you can think of into individual groups, or clusters, from which students could choose the professional path that they will follow.

These career clusters, of which there are 16, are the topics of our discussion today. In addition to facilitating the career-choosing process for students, the 16 career clusters also make it easier for schools and other institutions of education to group together careers and trades that require similar skills and teaching methods, thus smoothing out the education process a bit, not only for the students, but for the schools, as well. We’ll be describing each of these clusters today, and some of the career paths that fall under each. If you’re just past school-aged, but still want to change your profession, this article on changing careers at 40, and this course on redesigning your career will help you steer your life in a new direction, no matter what your age.

These 16 career clusters should be looked at as pathways to a career, and a guiding force to doing what you really want to do. Below, we will explain a little bit about each cluster, describing the overall industry or industries involved, what type of careers that may be pursued, and the career pathways found in each, which are courses and training programs that will prepare those interested in that career.

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

Especially important as the world population increases at an alarming rate, this career cluster is all about life, and is for anyone interested in the production, management, and consumption of food and the world of natural resources. The career pathways in this cluster include biotechnology, agribusiness, environmental service, animal systems, plant systems, and food products and processing, among many others. Students interested in agricultural studies may look to achieve a certification in green industry careers, an apprenticeship, or a two- or four-year college program. Careers in this cluster cover a wide range of interests, and include landscaper, veterinarian, biochemist, meat processor, farmer/rancher, etc.

Architecture and Construction

The three career pathways in this cluster are construction, design and pre-construction, and maintenance and operations. The students that may be interested in this cluster are curious about all aspects of the structures they see around them on a daily basis, from designing to maintaining, and relating to any type of building for every use imaginable. Some careers in this cluster that a student might pursue include electrician, painter, construction worker, carpenter, or engineer. If you’re considering a job in this cluster, you’ll probably want to learn AutoCAD, and this course on mastering AutoCAD will help you become familiar with this necessary program.

Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications

For the more creative students out there, the careers in this cluster run the gamut of artistic pursuits, from costume designer to graphic designer, publisher to radio broadcaster, gallery curator to home furnishings coordinator, and everything in between. Students may wish to attain a degree in these fields, or start working on the job as early as high school, then slowly move up the ranks.

Business Management and Administration

Whether a student is interested in being a team player, or captain of the ship, a carer in business management and administration will train them to do what it takes to make an operation run smoothly and successfully. Career pathways here include management, human resources, accounting, analysis, and administrative and information support. Students interested in the following professions may want to consider pursuing this career cluster: CEO, receptionist, entrepreneur, bookkeeper, salesperson, manager, and many other business-related options. One of this cluster’s most popular industries, accounting may be your career of choice. If so, then check out this course on financial statements, as well as this article on accounting ratios to learn about some of the most important aspects of accounting.

Education and Training

If it’s other students that you wish to impact and influence, then a job in the education and training cluster might be up your alley. The pathways include teaching and training, administration, and professional support services, with specific careers in counseling, teacher’s assistant, teacher/instructor, principal, coach, and social worker, among others. Because of the importance of some of these jobs, not only is a two- or four-year degree required, so is certification and an apprenticeship. If you’re considering getting into the education field, then you’ll probably need this course on stress management to help deal with the more discouraging parts of this type of work.


One of the bigger sources of employment, those wishing to pursue a career in the finance cluster must be organized, have an understanding of math, have good customer service skills, can communicate well, and can manage their time efficiently. The pathways here are banking, insurance, financial management, and investing. Some of the careers available to those interested in this field include economist, auditor, bank teller, personal finance advisor, and accountant, among many others. A career in finance requires quite a bit of math skills, and this course on fundamental financial math will help you build a solid foundation in this field.

Government and Public Administration 

Some of the careers in this cluster require military service, while others deal with government on a city, state, and federal level, but all serve the country in one way or another. Some of the career pathways include public management, national security, and revenue/taxation, in careers as varied as census clerk, lobbyist, elected official, border inspector, and military member.

Health Science

The largest and fastest-growing of all the clusters, health science is concerned with the physical betterment of people, and allows you to work directly with patients, or indirectly, collecting and analyzing data. With jobs located everywhere from offices, to cruise ships, to sports arenas, some of the careers found here include nurse, physician, scientist, assistant, and physical therapist, among others.

Hospitality and Tourism

If you’re the one that plans your vacations, or gives others good advice about where to visit and what to do when out of town, then hospitality and tourism may be your calling. Not just dealing with tourism, other pathways of this cluster include food and beverage, amusement, and lodging. Some of the careers found in this cluster are working for a tour company, translator, cook, or hotel manager.

Human Services

If you’re naturally a helpful person, wanting the best for individuals, and people in general, then a career in this cluster might be good for you. The career pathways include counseling, childhood development, and family services, with careers including social worker, sociologist, cosmetologist, personal finance advisor, and preschool teacher. If you think dealing with people is something you’ll want to do as a career, this course on body language training will teach you how to read non-verbal cues, and you can better understand what people are saying when not saying anything.

Information Technology

A career in IT requires that you not only are up-to-date on current technology, but are always aware of and familiar with any new advances. It goes without saying that in our tech-saturated society, there will always be jobs available here, and some include webmaster, animator, programmer, and technical writer.

Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security

Security and safety in the corporate, industrial, and public sectors are the concerns of this cluster, with pathways including law enforcement, correction services, legal services, and emergency and fire services. Students interested in studying law, public safety, or criminal justice may find interesting careers such as attorney, rescue worker, police officer, park ranger, correctional officer, or firefighter, among others.


If you were the kid who took apart all your toys to see how they worked, then maybe a career in doing just the opposite, manufacturing, may be something to look into. Not only could you build things, but also design and improve them, with career pathways including production, manufacturing, maintenance, installation, and safety, and careers as an engineer, inspector, technician, and machine operator.


Representing nearly one in every four jobs, marketing is quite prevalent these days, and a career in this cluster may be with a profit or nonprofit, or be located locally or overseas. Some of the career pathways in the marketing cluster include logistics, entrepreneurship, sales, and promotions. Some of the careers here may be as a researcher, e-marketer, wholesale or retail buyer, marketing consultant, or merchandise displayer. If marketing sounds like a career path you might be interested in, but aren’t quite sure yet, this course on marketing essentials will give you a better idea of what this cluster is all about.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

This career cluster is mostly concerned with problem solving and technological innovations, with two career pathways: science and math, and engineering and technology. As you can imagine, some of the careers in this cluster may require a bit more schooling than some of the others we’ve already mentioned, with some of them including chemist, biologist, architect, engineer, scientist, and technician, among many other highly technical vocations.

Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

Another career cluster for the detailed students out there, careers here will get you involved in the planning, management, and movement of people, material, and products, by road, rail, air, and water. Several of the logistics pathways involve warehousing, transportation, sales, health, and safety, with possible career opportunities as an electrician, airline pilot, mechanic, urban planner, engineer, and many other jobs.

So there you have the 16 career clusters. We obviously didn’t cover every single job opportunity found in each, because that would have been too long and boring, but hopefully you now have a good grasp of each cluster, and maybe even a good idea for a potential career to get started in. Earlier, we gave you tools to get your career started later in life, but if you’re a new mom who wants to get back into the work groove, this course on career re-launch for mom will help you plan your big professional comeback.

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