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How to Use Career Clusters to Choose Your Career

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“What’s your major?” is the college equivalent to the question we’ve been asked countless times as children — “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While some individuals enter into college knowing exactly what they want to do, many incoming college students list their major as “undecided.” Some will even change their chosen majors at least once during their college career. Thankfully, career clusters can help you determine your major.

What Are Career Clusters?

Career clusters are broad occupational categories that are grouped together beneath particular industries. These clusters were designed to identify the industry-verified knowledge and skills required to enter into and succeed in a specific field. Within these clusters are more than 79 unique career pathways. These programs of study guide students through the academic, technical and occupational courses or training needed to develop the skills to succeed within a specific industry or career.

Many state agencies and educational institutions use career clusters to help students explore their interests, discover new occupational paths and adequately prepare for a successful career in a given industry or specific occupation. It’s assumed that nearly half of all job vacancies that become available in the next few years will be replacing those that choose to leave certain clusters. Other clusters, however, will be hiring to fill newly created positions.

Career clusters are broad occupational categories that are grouped together beneath particular industries.

Aside from gaining knowledge and developing or improving a skillset, the key importance of career clusters is that it allows individuals to gain exposure to career possibilities. A major is more than a course of study — it’s a course for your career, your livelihood and your future.

16 Career Clusters and Their Pathways

Each of the 16 career clusters provides insight into the many occupational options available and identify the diverse pathways that lead individuals to specific roles. These pathways will further assist the individual in acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a chosen career field. General information about all 16 career clusters is listed below alongside their unique pathways, related college majors and occupational roles. As the world continues to evolve, some clusters may overlap or intersect, providing career opportunities that require a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach.

1. Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

The agriculture, food and natural resources cluster centers around the various forms of life that inhabit our planet. As we continue to coexist with diverse plant and animal life, support is needed to keep managing our natural resources. This career field involves working with domestic and global organizations to produce, allocate and distribute agricultural commodities and services.

Other essential positions also involve the preservation of natural resources like food, forestry, horticulture and veterinary medicine. Those working in this field may also need a socio-economical understanding of the factors that influence multinational businesses and globalization. This cluster is ideal for those interested in pursuing a career that explores concepts related to science, culture, agriculture and veterinary medicine or animal husbandry. It’s also great for those who want to get involved with business management or consultation on a regional or global scale.

Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources: The agriculture, food and natural resources cluster centers around the various forms of life that inhabit our planet.

There are seven pathways leading into these careers:

  1. Power, Structural and Technical Systems
  2. Plant Systems
  3. Natural Resource Systems
  4. Food Products and Processing Systems
  5. Environmental Service Systems
  6. Animal Systems
  7. Agribusiness Systems

Related college majors:

  • Biology and Microbiology
  • Environmental Science
  • Agriculture
  • Marine Science
  • Zoology
  • Plant Pathology

Career opportunities include:

  • Environmental Engineer
  • Food Scientist
  • Horticulturist
  • Animal Scientist
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Biochemist

2. Architecture and Construction

The architecture and construction cluster encompasses one of the largest industries in the United States. Centered around planning, designing, building, managing and maintaining structures, this cluster’s knowledge and skillset focus on the mastery of the building environment. Those working in this industry can find engaging and fulfilling careers throughout a variety of maintenance, construction and design roles.

As ground breaks on new commercial and residential developments, each diverse job site will require the expertise of countless individuals to perform general and specialized tasks before, during and after the structure is erected. There is also a need to assist in the restoration, alteration or repairs of existing structures. Those interested in hands-on work that requires skill and precision will enjoy working within the architecture and construction cluster. It’s also a fit for those who wish to assist in the development process through creative conceptualization and design.

There are three pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Maintenance and Operations
  2. Construction
  3. Design and Pre-Construction

Related college majors:

  • Architectural Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Construction Management
  • Interior Design
  • Urban Planning
  • Welding Engineering

Career opportunities include:

  • Carpenter
  • Heavy Equipment Operator
  • Plumber
  • Contractor
  • Architect
  • Electrician

3. Arts, A/V and Communications

The arts, audio/video and communications cluster encompasses a range of services related to the audio/video communications and media industry. Roles in this career field are as diverse as the needs of the clients they serve. For example, those working in the broadcast industry may find career opportunities as engineers, equipment operators and technical specialists.

Arts, A/V and Communications

Another option for those moving toward this cluster involves the manufacturing, design, installation, repair and selling of equipment to clients in settings such as corporate presentation rooms, hotel conference centers, school classrooms, convention centers, stadiums and museums. Those with a strong interest in exploring a creative future should immerse themselves in the arts, audio/video and communications cluster. It is also a unique fit for technically minded individuals who can manage, maintain and troubleshoot complicated computer software and equipment.

There are six pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Visual Arts
  2. Audio/Video Communications Technology
  3. Performing Arts
  4. Printing Technology
  5. Telecommunications
  6. Broadcasting, Film and Journalism

Related college majors:

  • Art, Art Education and Art History
  • Cinematography and Film/Video Production
  • Creative Writing
  • Digital Communications and Media/Multimedia
  • Film
  • Graphic Design

Career opportunities include:

  • Telecommunications Technologist
  • Audio Engineer
  • Journalist
  • Actor
  • Video Director or Producer
  • Graphics Specialist
  • Broadcast Engineer

4. Business, Management and Administration

The business, management and administration cluster involves the planning, organizing, managing and execution of essential functions that increase efficiency and move a business forward. Depending on the industry in which the individual finds employment, they may be required to have specialized knowledge of a certain aspect of the business realm including an understanding of concepts like finance, economics, operations management and general human resource functions.

There is also an opportunity for those within this cluster to fill consulting roles. Many businesses either employ or contract out essential services related to risk management, management information systems, forensic accounting and auditing and general operation consultation. Those hoping to find a career in the business, management and administration cluster have the opportunity to translate these skills to nearly every industry imaginable.

There are five pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. General Management
  2. Human Resources
  3. Business Information Management
  4. Operations
  5. Administrative Support

Related college majors:

  • Business Administration and Management
  • Marketing
  • International Business
  • Human Resources Management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Risk Management
  • Management Information Systems

Career opportunities include:

  • Human Resource Associate
  • Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • International Trade Manager
  • Administrative Specialist

5. Education and Training

The education and training cluster can facilitate a need in nearly every industry or business sector. As educators, these individuals can teach others at virtually any age the information and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in life. As trainers, they can enable others to grow in their careers through the instruction of specialized knowledge.

Education and Training: The education and training cluster can facilitate a need in nearly every industry or business sector.

This cluster meets the needs of a variety of clients who are outside of the classroom. The ability to not only thoroughly understand a concept but also to communicate this knowledge clearly enables a trainer or educator to find work in nearly any professional context. Those aspiring to impart knowledge and impact people on a personal level should look to the education and training cluster.

There are three pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Administration and Administrative Support
  2. Teaching and Training
  3. Professional Support Services

Related college majors:

  • Child Development
  • Speech Pathology
  • Counseling
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Special Education

Career opportunities include:

  • School Counselor
  • Teacher
  • Administrator
  • Principal
  • Coach
  • College Professor
  • Corporate Trainer

6. Finance

The finance cluster provides opportunities for individuals to work in a critical sector of every country’s economy. These individuals will need to have skillsets that showcase time management, attention to detail, organization and clear communication. Many in the finance cluster can move on to positions that manage funds such as banking and investing.

There is also a need for those in the finance cluster to move into roles that focus on the management and allocation of corporate funds, analysis of profits and expenses and projections for revenue or loss of capital valuation. Those entering the finance cluster should have an interest in the management of funds, capital or investments for an individual or corporate client.

There are four pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Insurance Services
  2. Business Financial Management
  3. Financial and Investment Planning
  4. Banking and Related Services

Related college majors:

  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Business
  • Entrepreneurship

Career opportunities include:

  • Insurance Services
  • Financial Management
  • Tax Examiner
  • Loan Officer
  • Financial Planner
  • Banker
  • Stock Broker

7. Government and Public Administration

The government and public administration career cluster serves the public of our nation. Many of these individuals facilitate the will of the people and enforce the laws of the government. Some of the roles available through this cluster include law enforcement official, lawyer, clerk of court and appointment to public office as an elected official.

Other roles involve serving the public interest on a federal or international scale such as the role of a foreign diplomat. Those with interest in serving their neighbors or nation can find opportunities within this cluster in every region, state and municipality in the country.

There are seven pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Public Management and Administration
  2. Regulation
  3. Revenue and Taxation
  4. Planning
  5. Foreign Service
  6. Governance
  7. National Security

Related college majors:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Public Administration and Affairs
  • Legal Studies
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Law Enforcement
  • Urban Planning

Career opportunities include:

  • Legislator
  • Urban Planner
  • Parks and Recreation Director
  • Law Enforcement Official
  • Federal Agent

8. Health Science

The health science cluster is a diverse field that meets the needs of the human body. By collaborating with other professionals, these individuals will diagnose, treat and manage health issues for patients of every age. Within the field of medicine alone there are countless opportunities for an individual to specialize in a particular role or learn general healthcare skills to actively help others.

Health Science: Therapeutic Services Support Services Diagnostic Services Health Informatics Biotechnology Research and Development

There are also opportunities in the health science cluster that overlap into other fields such as business operations, marketing and administration. Those with a desire to provide diagnosis and recovery to others will find fulfilling careers within this cluster. From birth until death, every developmental process and wellness need can be treated by those with an acute background in one of the many health science fields.

There are five pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Therapeutic Services
  2. Support Services
  3. Diagnostic Services
  4. Health Informatics
  5. Biotechnology Research and Development

Related college majors:

  • Nursing
  • Toxicology
  • Mortuary Sciences
  • Medical Technology
  • Health Administration

Career opportunities include:

  • Hospital Administration
  • Medical Technician
  • Therapist
  • Coroner
  • Dental Hygienist

9. Hospitality and Tourism

The hospital and tourism cluster has opportunities in communities throughout the world. A service-oriented field, this cluster contains roles in which individuals manage the various needs of diverse clientele. Some of the most popular areas of this cluster include travel services, tourism, entertainment, lodging and food services.

There is also an opportunity for those within this cluster to handle the logistics of the hospitality or tourism industry. From the corporate side, one could assist in the organization and allocation of resources like food, beverages and transportation. On the client side, these individuals can assist with travel plans or increasing the satisfaction of each guest. Those who enjoy frequent interaction with customers can find plenty of service opportunities within this industry such as bartending, catering and travel assistance.

There are four pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Travel and Tourism
  2. Lodging
  3. Recreation, Amusement and Attractions
  4. Restaurants and Food and Beverage Services

Related college majors:

  • Hospitality
  • Logistics Management
  • Culinary Arts
  • Tourism
  • Sociology

Career opportunities include:

  • Amusement Park Operations and Management
  • Restaurant or Food Service Manager
  • Caterer or Chef
  • Hotel Management
  • Travel Agent

10. Human Services

The human services career cluster focuses on providing services related to the needs of people and families. These roles involve intervening in situations which may put a person or population at risk. Many of the individuals within this field work closely with official organizations to ensure that their clients receive the support or resources they require to improve their quality of life.

Those with interest in helping others who may be facing temporary or lasting hardships can find fulfilling careers in the human services cluster. These individuals provide many services that directly impact the lifestyle of someone in need.

There are five pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Personal Care Services
  2. Consumer Services
  3. Family and Community Services
  4. Early Childhood Development and Services
  5. Counseling and Mental Health Services

Related college majors:

  • Child Care
  • Social Psychology
  • Women’s Studies
  • Criminology

Career opportunities include:

  • Psychologist or Therapist
  • Social Workers
  • Employment Specialist
  • Substance Abuse Counselors
  • Child Protective Services

11. Information Technology

The information technology career cluster centers on the technical aspects of various systems and software. These IT roles develop, implement and support hardware, software and many forms of multimedia integration systems. The IT cluster impacts virtually every industry including business, healthcare, engineering and marketing.

Those who are well-versed in science and mathematics and who wish to pursue a career in an emerging and highly technical field will enjoy work within this cluster. Organizations large and small use the services of IT professionals in broad and specific ways to help them accomplish their goals.

There are four pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Network Systems
  2. Programming and Software Development
  3. Information Support and Services
  4. Interactive Multimedia

Related college majors:

  • Technical Writing
  • Computer Science
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Information Technology

Career opportunities include:

  • Database Manager
  • Software Developer
  • Technical Writer
  • Network Administrator

12. Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security

The law, public safety, correction and security cluster protects and serves society by creating, challenging and enforcing the laws set forth by local, state and federal agencies. These individuals frequently work with the public or on behalf of the people to maintain law and order, protect civilians and prevent activities that disrupt society.

12. Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security

Those with interest in helping others and restoring justice will find fulfillment in the careers within this cluster. Many of the roles within this sector proactively work to better the lives of those in their community and to enact positive change that impacts future generations.

There are five pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Corrections Services
  2. Legal Services
  3. Law Enforcement Services
  4. Security and Proactive Services
  5. Emergency and Fire Management Services

Related college majors:

  • Criminology
  • Criminal Science
  • Legal Studies
  • Government

Career opportunities include:

  • Corrections Officer
  • Lawyer
  • Police Officer
  • Fire Chief
  • Arson Investigator

13. Manufacturing

Those in the manufacturing cluster must possess mechanical, communication and computation skills. These individuals will collaborate with their teams to solve problems which often have acutely specific solutions. For instance, engineers and quality assurance testers may need to identify a production flaw while a logistics manager and machinist may need to enhance production workflow by discovering ways to decrease material waste.

The manufacturing cluster is an ideal fit for those who are heavily invested in the mathematical side of engineering and who wish to use their skillset to produce quality goods. It is also a great career option for those who enjoy working with others to solve operational problems.

There are eight pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Safety and Environmental Assurance
  2. Health
  3. Logistics and Inventory Control
  4. Quality Assurance
  5. Installation and Repair
  6. Maintenance
  7. Production
  8. Manufacturing Production Process Development

Related college majors:

  • Welding Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Logistics Management
  • Automotive Engineering

Career opportunities include:

  • Machinist
  • Welding Technician
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Quality Assurance Technician

14. Marketing, Sales and Service

The marketing, sales and service cluster prepares individuals for careers revolving around the marketing of a company, product or service. Individuals in this sector may work behind the scenes in a corporate environment planning and designing marketing initiatives, or they may engage with the desired clientele directly to execute and manage these initiatives.

Marketing, Sales and Service

Those who have an interest in sales, brand management and managing logistics will discover rewarding roles within this cluster. These roles can also be applied to nearly any business that uses marketing platforms, engages in sales or interacts directly with customers.

There are five pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Merchandising
  2. Marketing Management
  3. Professional Sales
  4. Marketing Communications
  5. Market Research

Related college majors:

  • Marketing
  • Logistics Management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Communications

Career opportunities include:

  • Merchandise Buyer
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Marketing Director
  • Research Analyst
  • Brand Manager

15. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

The roles associated with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics cluster are ever-changing. Those involved in these disciplines will face exciting yet challenging issues which will require them to use their high-level knowledge and problem-solving skills to arrive at their desired solution. They will also need a thorough understanding of their discipline and must be able to communicate these concepts accurately to those who do not share such acute knowledge.

Those who are ideal fits for careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics cluster are individuals who enjoy solving complex problems for the betterment of society. These roles will be used to not only address and mitigate existing problems but to proactively prevent future issues that put the ecology of the world at risk.

There are two pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Science and Math
  2. Engineering and Technology

Related college majors:

  • Biotechnology
  • Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics

Career opportunities include:

  • Mathematician
  • Biologist
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Chemical Engineer

16. Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

The transportation, distribution and logistics career cluster helps businesses accomplish their goals locally, regionally and around the globe. Personnel working within these industries help plan, execute and manage the transportation of people, products or resources by land, sea and air. These individuals include pilots and truck drivers, logistics planners and warehouse and distribution managers.

Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

Other roles available within this cluster include those who assist with infrastructure planning, third-party logistics services and transportation assistants. For instance, customs brokerage firms can manage the logistics of international imports and exports while flight attendants can provide services to those who are in transit. Individuals with interest in simplifying processes, enhancing workflows and getting resources from their point of origin to their destinations will find roles within this cluster.

There are eight pathways leading into this cluster:

  1. Facility and Mobile Equipment Maintenance
  2. Warehousing and Distribution Center Operations
  3. Health, Safety and Environmental Management
  4. Planning, Management and Regulation
  5. Logistics Management and Planning Services
  6. Transportation Systems and Infrastructure
  7. Sales and Service
  8. Transportation Operations

Related college majors:

  • Logistics
  • Automotive Engineer
  • Management
  • Business Administration
  • Risk Management

Career opportunities include:

  • Logistics Manager
  • Truck Driver
  • Warehouse Manager
  • Pilot
  • Automotive Technician

Find the Pathways to Your Next Career with Training at Vista College

Find the Pathways to Your Next Career with Training at Vista College

The 16 unique career clusters enable students to discover pathways that will lead them to the training and exposure they need to succeed in a specific industry. By investigating these clusters while enrolled in college, a student can gain a thorough understanding of the discipline and what potential jobs entail before committing to a career field.

It’s time to discover a career that speaks to your interests and passions. Explore the many training possibilities within these 16 career clusters at Vista College. Speak with an academic advisor today to learn more about our programs.

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