The 16 Career Clusters Explained: Guide, Definitions, & Benefits

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    Choosing your ideal career requires self-awareness and self-reflection, regardless of whether you are in high school or are a seasoned professional. Thankfully, there are lots of available tools and resources to help you navigate the career planning process and your other career goals. In this article, we will focus on the National Career Clusters Framework— which includes career clusters such as the health science cluster, the marketing cluster, the public administration cluster, the finance cluster, the security cluster, and the manufacturing cluster — and how they can help you reflect on career opportunities available to you. 

    What is a career cluster?

    What are career clusters and is there an official career clusters definition? Let’s take a look at the definition of a career cluster and how it relates to different career fields and career options.

    Career cluster definition

    A career cluster is a group of related careers that draw on similar skills and interests. Typically, jobs within the same career cluster share similarities regarding education requirements and typical working environments. Generally speaking, people who enjoy one job in a certain career cluster, are likely to enjoy other jobs included in the same career cluster. 

    So how many career clusters are there?

    There are 16 career clusters, each with several possible career pathways.

    How many career clusters are there? The 16 career clusters explained

    Now that we all have a better idea of what’s a career cluster, what are the 16 career clusters, specifically?

    In the following section, we will provide a complete list of career clusters, along with plenty of career cluster examples. Review the following examples of career clusters carefully to help yourself brainstorm and find the ideal job for you!

    01

    Agriculture, food, and natural resources

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on working with animals, plants, and land. While some jobs require bachelor’s degrees, many agriculture, food, and natural resources careers offer on-the-job training. People who enjoy working with their hands outside tend to gravitate towards these careers. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Farmers
    • Veterinarians
    • Environmental engineers
    • Soil and plant scientists
    • Conservationists

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    02

    Architecture and construction

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on designing, building, and maintaining homes, industrial facilities, streets, and bridges. Many skilled tradespeople pursue career and technical education (CTE), in addition to performing on-the-job training, though education requirements vary. People who are skilled at math and who are passionate about design and home improvement tend to gravitate towards these careers. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Architect
    • Carpenter
    • Plumber
    • Electrician
    • Landscaper
    03

    Arts, audio/video technology, and communication

    Jobs in this career cluster are well-suited for highly creative individuals. Education requirements vary greatly between individual jobs. People who gravitate towards these careers are often passionate about art, literature, and the performing arts, including music, dance, cinema, ​​and theater. They may even be interested in multimedia job opportunities.

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Musician
    • Photographer
    • Actor
    • Journalist
    • Radio announcer
    04

    Businesses management and administration

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on planning, organizing, and running a business. Most of these positions require bachelor’s degrees and depending on the position, additional licensure. People with strong communication, organization, and business skills tend to gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Business analyst
    • Human Resources manager
    • Secretary
    • Receptionist
    • Entrepreneur
    05

    Education and training

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on teaching — elementary school, middle school, high school, and postsecondary education. Almost all careers in this career cluster require a bachelor’s degree or higher. People who gravitate towards teaching positions tend to have a passion for learning and helping others. Ideally, workers should also have high levels of patience and empathy. They may also be interested in helping to run their school district, community service opportunities, or student organizations.

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • K-12 teacher
    • College professor
    • School counselor
    • Librarian
    • Teacher’s aid
    06

    Finance

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on working with money; this includes lending, collecting, advising, and planning. Most of these positions require a bachelor’s degree and depending on the position, additional certifications and licensure. People who gravitate towards these jobs tend to have strong math, teaching, and communication skills. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Financial management
    • Bank teller
    • Accountant
    • Treasurer
    • Insurance professional
    07

    Government and public administration

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on running and implementing governmental services, such as those within the military, courts, and political bodies. Education requirements vary between positions. People who gravitate toward these jobs tend to excel in highly-structured environments. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Legislator
    • Urban planner
    • Military
    • Flight attendant
    • Mail carrier
    08

    Health science

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on helping others through healthcare. Education requirements vary depending on the position. For example, nurses need either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree; doctors need to attend medical school, and EMTs must earn a national or state certification. People who are passionate about helping others and are scientifically-minded tend to gravitate towards these jobs.

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Doctors
    • Nurse
    • Pharmacist
    • Paramedic
    • Dentist
    09

    Hospitality and tourism

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on providing exceptional customer service, within the context of hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. There are lots of entry-level positions within this career cluster. Education requirements, however, vary between positions. People who enjoy working on a team and excel at providing customer service tend to gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Travel agent
    • Hotel receptionist
    • Restaurant manager
    • Chef
    • Waitstaff
    10

    Human services

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on meeting people’s physical, social, and emotional needs, including providing mental health services and other support services. Education requirements vary depending on the position. People who are emotionally intelligent and enjoy working with others tend to gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Social worker
    • Psychologist
    • Therapist
    • Daycare provider
    • Hairstylist
    11

    Information technology

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on designing and maintaining computer networks, software, and hardware. Informational technology and A/V technology jobs tend to require a lot of continuing education — as technology is constantly evolving. Due to the nature of this industry, individuals who are quick learners and are technologically-minded tend to gravitate towards these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Software Developer
    • Web designer
    • Computer programmer
    • IT support specialist
    • Database manager
    12

    Law, public safety, corrections, and security

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on law enforcement, protective services, and upholding the legal system. Education requirements and risk factors vary depending on the position. People who have a strong desire to help and protect others often gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Lawyer
    • Police officer
    • Security guard
    • FBI agent
    • Judge
    13

    Manufacturing

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on producing physical goods. There are plenty of entry-level opportunities in this career cluster that provide on-the-job training. People who enjoy working with their hands tend to gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Equipment operators
    • Warehouse workers
    • Mechanic
    • Welder
    • Safety coordinator
    14

    Marketing, sales, and service

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on promoting products and services. Education requirements vary depending on the position. People with strong persuasion and communication skills often gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Real estate agent
    • Marketing director
    • Copywriter
    • Social media manager
    • Telemarketer
    15

    Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on developing and implementing scientific research. These jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and may require advanced programs of study or additional certificates and licensure, depending on the position. People with strong research and problem-solving who enjoy working with data tend to gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Laboratory technician
    • Research Assistant
    • Chemist
    • Biologist
    • Mechanical engineer
    16

    Transportation, distribution, and logistics

    Jobs in this career cluster focus on transporting both people and products. Education requirements vary depending on the position. People who love driving and fixing vehicles tend to gravitate toward these jobs. 

    Examples of occupations within this cluster
    • Pilot
    • Truck driver
    • Parking lot attendant
    • Civil engineer
    • Dispatcher

    16 Career Clusters Cheat Sheet

    What’s the difference between a career cluster and an industry?

    Industries refer to groups of businesses that handle related activities or products. Job clusters, however, refer to groups of careers that share similar skills, knowledge, and interests. Career clusters and pathways are a great way to help you determine what type of job you would like to pursue, based on the actual tasks you will be performing, in addition to your typical work environment. 

    Many people use career clusters to help them with their career planning process early on. It’s never too late, however, to change careers

    Benefits of looking at career clusters to choose your future career

    So what is a career cluster and why is it helpful? 

    Career clusters are career categories that are placed together due to their similarities regarding skills, knowledge, and interests. Generally speaking, workers are more likely to be attracted to other jobs within their preferred career cluster. 

    After you’ve identified the 16 career clusters and are confident you have a thorough understanding of the question “what are the career clusters?” it’s time to dive in. Let’s look at three key benefits of using career clusters during your career planning process. 

    A different perspective

    Career clusters offer a whole new perspective. Oftentimes, people don’t know what industry they are interested in joining. They tend to have a better idea, however, of what subjects interest them, what skills they have a natural inclination for, and what type of working environment they would prefer. This is why the 16 career clusters can be so helpful during the career planning process. They can also help you determine which jobs may be a good cultural fit

    Quick selection and elimination of potential occupations

    Chances are you were immediately drawn to or disinterested in several career clusters upon reviewing them. This is one of the perks of using this system! Reviewing the 16 job clusters and gaining a thorough understanding of each cluster can help you quickly eliminate certain categories, while simultaneously getting a feel for which clusters you may be most suited for. There are lots of available resources meant to help you find your ideal career and career clusters are valuable and compelling resources. 

    Possibility to base career choice on personal interests

    Within the framework of the 16 career clusters, choosing a career based on personal interests is fairly straightforward. Let’s look at a few career cluster examples: Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security; Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communication; and Health Science. 

    These names are all pretty self-explanatory. In part, this is what makes the career clusters organizational method so intuitive and user-friendly. 

    Final points on career cluster meaning & examples

    The 16 career clusters are a valuable resource for people brainstorming and planning out their prospective careers. Again, career clusters refer to groups of careers with similar skill sets, educational requirements, interests, and typical working environments. Careers located in the same career cluster typically include lots of overlapping traits and transferable job skills.  For example, if you’re interested in pursuing a job in the “education and training” job cluster, you will likely be interested in several of its corresponding careers. 

    If you are still at a loss as to what steps you should be taking to help you achieve your ideal career, you may want to consider consulting a career counselor. Regardless of where you are in your career exploration process or job search, here at Prepory, we have the resources to help you succeed: reach out to learn more about our services.

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