Skip to main content

What are career clusters?

Published June 12, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    If you're exploring career pathways or looking to make a career move and wondering which jobs will allow you to use your existing skills or that fit into your interests, you may consider using career clusters as an avenue to research options. What are career clusters, you might ask? They're a grouping of jobs and industries based on commonalities.

    For instance, the job of college professor and curriculum designer are very different jobs, but they still belong to the same career cluster of education and training. Another example is the job of architect and carpenter. They belong to the same career cluster as both roles play a part in building homes, buildings, and other structures, but are very different roles.

    So, why is it useful to understand career clusters? This system for organizing career pathways was developed by the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, the National School-to-Work Office, and the National Skill Standards Board, to help people both discover and hone in on career opportunities.

    Researching career clusters may be helpful for students as they start to figure out the career path they want to pursue and the education and skills that may be needed to pursue that career. They may also be helpful to those who are more advanced in their careers and are looking to make a career shift, as they can use career clusters to start to identify career opportunities that fit their skills and interests.

    How many career clusters are there?

    The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, the National School-to-Work Office, and National Skill Standards Board, developed 16 career clusters. Each cluster includes various career pathways, which are more specific groups of jobs within the cluster that may require similar skills and education.

    What are the 16 career clusters?

    The 16 career clusters include:

    • Agriculture, food, and natural resources
    • Architecture and construction
    • Arts, audio/visual technology, and communications
    • Business management and administration
    • Education and training
    • Finance
    • Government and public administration
    • Health sciences
    • Hospitality and tourism
    • Human services
    • Information technology
    • Law, public, safety, corrections, and security
    • Manufacturing
    • Marketing
    • Science, technology, engineering, and math
    • Transportation, distribution, and logistics

    1. Agriculture, food, and natural resources

    If you're someone who enjoys studying the environment, playing a role in helping care for animals, or working in industries related to the food supply, you may consider one of the many roles in agriculture, food, and natural resources. Some of the roles in this cluster to consider include:

    • Animal scientist
    • Veterinarian
    • Farmer
    • Biochemist
    • Food scientist

    2. Architecture and construction

    For those who love seeing homes and buildings come to life (in various forms), consider exploring roles in the architecture and construction career cluster. Some of those roles include:

    • Construction manager
    • Interior designer
    • Electrician
    • Carpenter
    • Civil Engineer

    3. Arts, audio/visual technology, and communications

    Do you enjoy spending hours working on creative tasks? Whether it's writing or acting, there are many roles to consider in the arts, audio/visual technology, and communications cluster.

    • Actor/Actress
    • Playwright
    • Executive producer
    • Illustrator
    • Journalist

    4. Business management and administration

    Some people enjoy being the backbone that makes a business run, whether working in a human resources function at a company or working to ensure a company's finances are in order. These jobs exist in the business management and administration career cluster, which includes jobs like:

    • Bookkeeper
    • Labor relations specialist
    • Human resources specialist
    • Supply chain manager
    • Investment fund manager

    5. Education and training

    If you enjoy teaching or immersing yourself in academia, consider looking at the careers in the education and training career cluster. They include:

    • Adult education and literacy teacher
    • Kindergarten special education teacher
    • Tutor
    • Teaching assistant
    • Interpreters and translator

    6. Finance

    Do you have a knack for data analysis and number crunching? You may wish to explore different careers within the finance sector. This career cluster may be broader than you think and includes roles such as:

    • Auto damage insurance appraiser
    • Actuary
    • Brokerage clerk
    • Financial and investment analyst
    • Treasurer and controller

    7. Government and public administration

    If you're interested in working in the public sector or for a nonprofit, you may want to consider the many roles that exist in this career cluster, including:

    • Agricultural inspector
    • Construction and building inspector
    • Urban and regional planner
    • Transportation inspector
    • Statistical assistant

    8. Health sciences

    While physicians are often associated with the health sciences, there are many different roles in this career cluster to explore, including:

    • Art therapist
    • Anesthesiologist
    • Critical care nurse
    • Epidemiologist
    • Hearing aid specialist

    9. Hospitality and tourism

    Do you enjoy creating experiences for people to enjoy, be it in travel or restaurants? If so, consider careers ranging from chef to lodging manager in the hospitality and tourism sector. This career cluster includes jobs like:

    • Chef
    • Travel agent
    • Lodging manager
    • Motion picture projectionists
    • Travel guide

    10. Human services

    If improving individuals' lives brings you joy, you may want to consider careers in the human services cluster. There are many options in this cluster, some of which may not be on your radar, including:

    • Child, family, and school social worker
    • Funeral attendant
    • Marriage and family therapist
    • Supervisors of entertainment and recreation worker
    • Nanny

    11. Information technology

    If you enjoy technology, consider looking at roles within information technology. There are many more roles in this cluster than computer programming to consider. Here are some example roles in this cluster:

    • Business intelligence analyst
    • Blockchain engineer
    • Digital forensics analyst
    • Database architect
    • Web developer

    12. Law, public, safety, corrections, and security

    If you enjoy enforcing laws that protect citizens and playing a helping hand in bringing justice to communities, consider many of the different careers in the law, public, safety, corrections, and security career cluster. Some of them include:

    • Police officer and sheriff
    • Detective and criminal investigator
    • Firefighter
    • Lawyer
    • Paramedic

    13. Manufacturing

    A technical skillset isn't only needed for careers in information technology. Many manufacturing roles require technical abilities. Some of the roles in this cluster include:

    • Automotive engineering technician
    • Electrical and electronics engineering technician
    • Metal and plastic model maker
    • Nuclear power reactor operator
    • Semiconductor processor

    14. Marketing

    If you have a creative bent and want to develop solutions that increase a company's brand exposure and bottom line, the marketing career cluster may be worth exploring. These are just a sample of the many careers available in the marketing career cluster:

    • Advertising sales agent
    • Advertising and promotions manager
    • Demonstrator and product promoter
    • Financial sales agent
    • Public relations specialist

    15. Science, technology, engineering, and math

    If science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers feel like a good fit, there are many careers to consider in this cluster, including:

    • Aerospace engineer
    • Anthropologists and archeologist
    • Biologist
    • Biostatistician
    • Chemical engineering

    16. Transportation, distribution, and logistics

    Transportation, distribution, and logistics is yet another career cluster to research. Some of the potential careers in this cluster include:

    • Air traffic controller
    • Bicycle repairer
    • Taxi driver
    • Transportation and storage manager
    • Logistics engineer

    Final thoughts

    As you explore specific jobs within career clusters, it's important to remember that the education requirements and the skills needed for each may differ and sometimes dramatically. Consider career clusters a unique starting point to discover career opportunities that interest you, but then take your research a step further to make sure you know what would be expected of you in specific roles.