16 Career Clusters

Mary Gormandy White
Group of career professionals

If you're trying to find your dream job, understanding the 16 career clusters can be helpful. Career clusters are an organizational tool that can be used to help group different types of occupations based on their similar characteristics.

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

This area refers to jobs that involve being outdoors and working with your hands. Examples of occupations within this area include animal trainer, groundskeeper, greenhouse manager, park ranger, dairy farmer, and positions in fields like horticulture and agriscience.

Some jobs in this field don't require formal education or specific credentials, while field-related degrees can be helpful or necessary for some occupations. Examples of relevant degree programs include Dairy Science, Wildlife Science, or Horticulture.

Architecture and Construction

Architects discussing plans

This area encompasses all the jobs that are involved in the design, building, maintenance, and operation of businesses and residential properties. Occupations within this area include architect, drafter, computer aided drafting (CAD) operator, electrician, and construction worker.

Architects must have a degree in the field and be licensed. Education in drafting and design is important for drafters and CAD operators. For most other occupations in this cluster, formal education can be helpful but is not required. Apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training are common for many construction occupations.

Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications

Creative people who love using their talents to entertain and inform others are drawn to jobs in this career cluster. Examples of jobs within this area include journalist, commercial artist, radio announcer, sound technician, animation professional, and actor.

Formal education is often required and always beneficial for jobs in this field. Examples of appropriate degree programs include Film and Media Arts, Theatre and Drama, or Communication. Specialized certificate programs that provide training to work as a sound technician or animator can also be beneficial.

Business, Management, and Administration

People who are highly organized and enjoy working with others often find business to be a suitable career area. Examples of jobs in this career cluster include manager, accountant, administrative assistant, public relations director, account executive, or human resources manager.

A degree in Business Administration is helpful for most jobs in this career cluster, though not always required. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree may be helpful or required for high-level positions. While there are some accounting jobs that don't require a degree, many do. Some even require a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.

Education and Training

Female science teacher in classroom

If you're patient and enjoy helping others, working in the education field can be a rewarding experience. Potential job opportunities in this field include elementary school teacher, high school instructor, college professor or instructor, community college instructor, English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, tutor, and corporate trainer.

K-12 teachers must hold at least a Bachelor's degree in the field and a teaching license. A doctoral degree is required for college professor positions, though a Master's degree is sufficient for instructor level roles. Certificates programs are available for those wishing to work as ESL instructors.

Finance

As you might expect, being successful in finance related careers requires strong mathematical ability and a solid attention to detail. Examples of careers in this cluster include loan officer, mortgage originator, stockbroker, credit analyst, financial advisor, or retirement plan administrator.

If you want to work in the finance field, it's a good idea to get a Bachelor's or Master's degree in Business Administration, ideally a program with a specialty in finance. Some jobs in this cluster also require specialized certifications. Mortgage professionals must be licensed, and securities professionals need a Series 6 and/or Series 7 credential.

Government and Public Administration

Careers in government and public administration are varied, but all offer the satisfaction of knowing you're making a contribution to your community. Jobs in this area include elected official, legislator, city planner, program administrator, foreign service officer, and association professional.

Seeking a degree in Public Administration can be a good option for anyone who has a keen interest in entering this field. If you'd prefer a less specific field of study, consider seeking a degree in Business Administration or Political Science.

Health Science

Group of health science professionals

Health science careers encompass all aspects of the medical field. Examples of career opportunities in this area include nurse, doctor, pharmacist, paramedic, optometrist, medical assistant, ultrasound technician, and many other medical occupations.

Educational requirements vary greatly based on the exact type of job. For example, doctors complete many steps, including graduating from medical school and becoming licensed. Nurses must attend nursing school and become licensed; many also earn nursing certifications. Specialized training and licenses are required for most medical professionals.

Hospitality and Tourism

Hospitality and tourism is a rapidly growing industry with a great deal of room for advancement. Examples of careers within this cluster include chef, lodging manager, food service manager, events planner, travel agent, and tour guide.

While formal education is not always required to enter this field, it can be beneficial to earn a degree or certificate in Hospitality or Restaurant Management or Travel and Tourism.

Human Services

The human services career cluster refers to jobs with the primary purpose of helping families meet basic human needs. Jobs in this area include social worker, psychologist, counselor, case manager, child advocacy professional, and substance abuse specialist.

This is a field where both a degree and a license will be required. A doctoral degree in Psychology (and a state license) is required to be a psychologist, while it is possible to work in other human services occupations with a field-specific undergraduate or graduate degree an an appropriate license.

Information Technology

Jobs in information technology (IT) deal with computer hardware, software, and systems integration services. Potential job opportunities in this career cluster include positions such as web designer, network administrator, database administrator, computer support specialist, software developer, computer forensics professional, and other IT job categories.

Degrees can be beneficial and are required for some jobs, but it is very important to be able to demonstrate a high level of technical expertise in this career cluster. For this reason, industry certifications are very important for information technology professionals.

Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security

Protecting the well being of the public at large is the goal of occupations in this area. Examples of jobs in this cluster include attorney, paralegal, firefighter, police officer, FBI agent, border patrol agent, security guard, Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) officer, and other related occupations.

Credentials vary greatly based on the type of position you select. Attorneys must graduate from law school and pass the Bar exam for their state, but the path to becoming a paralegal is very different. Some law enforcement agencies seek candidates with degrees while others focus more hiring based on their performance in job-specific training programs and screening.

Manufacturing

Metal workers being shown welding

People who work in manufacturing jobs use their strong mechanical abilities to create many different kinds of products. Examples of occupations in this area include sheet metal worker, equipment operator, millwright, and quality control technician.

Skill-based trade training is the best path of entry for many manufacturing jobs. Some employers offer on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs. Community colleges and trade schools also often offer training programs designed to meet the needs of manufacturing employers in the regions where they are based.

Marketing, Sales, and Service

This career cluster allows people to use their creativity and communications skills to meet a variety of business objectives. Some of the many job opportunities in this field include marketing director, customer service representative, account executive, lead generator, and sales associate.

While a degree isn't an absolute necessity to work in this career cluster, a Bachelor's degree with a concentration in Marketing can be a good way to prepare for occupations in this cluster. It's also important to make sure you have very strong communication skills, so joining a Toastmasters International chapter can be beneficial.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Group of scientists in lab

Careers in this area often involve cutting-edge research into new technological developments. Jobs available include engineer, oceanographer, statistician, environmental scientist and biotechnologist.

Working in these occupations will require a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in an appropriate concentration. A Master's degree or higher will be required for some fields. In addition to holding a degree, engineers must also have a state license.

Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

Jobs in this cluster involve moving people, materials, and products by road, air, rail, and water. Examples of career opportunities include truck driver, pilot, train operator, ship captain, dispatcher, and supply chain professional.

Training and licensure requirements vary significantly. For example, truck drivers must have a commercial driver's license (CDL), though there aren't specific requirements to be a dispatcher. There are also licensure requirements for pilots and train operators. To become a supply chain professional, earning a degree in Supply Chain Management can be beneficial.

Charting Your Career Path

Considering the various career clusters can be a good way to narrow your search for the perfect area of work. Think about this information in light of your interests and abilities and use it to help guide you on your path to selecting your next occupation.

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16 Career Clusters