Finding a Job

The 16 Career Clusters: Definitions and Guide

September 30, 2020

Choosing the best career path is an important decision that involves your skills, educational background and interests. Knowing the 16 career clusters can help you choose the most appropriate path, which can guide you from your education through retirement.

In this article, we’ll define the 16 career clusters and discuss how to use them to find your next job.

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What are the 16 career clusters?

The National Career Clusters Framework, which includes 16 career clusters, is an organizational tool that helps you find the role that suits your skills and interests. The 16 career clusters include 79 career pathways for you to choose from. 

The 16 clusters are as follows:

1. Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

The agriculture, food and natural resources cluster includes everything related to the creation of agricultural products. This includes farmers, ranchers, scientists, engineers and veterinarians. 

Some career pathways in Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources may require a bachelor’s degree in their specific field, while others train people through on-the-job experience.

The work environment is mostly outdoors, so most people who work in this field enjoy being outside.

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

2. Architecture and Construction

The Architecture and Construction cluster includes people who are involved in designing, building and maintaining homes, industrial facilities, streets or bridges. The roles vary from carpenter helper to safety engineers, so educational requirements vary.

Most skilled tradespeople, like carpenters and plumbers, usually complete training directly on the job.

The people who work in this field have strong skills in math and are passionate about design, home improvement and decor. The typical work environment can be an office or the homes and businesses of your customers. 

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

3. Arts, Audio/Visual Technology and Communications

The Arts, A/V Technology and Communications cluster may be the best career cluster for creative people. It includes journalists, actors, dancers, singers, radio announcers and behind-the-scenes workers.

Studying film and media arts or theater and drama could be beneficial if you’re interested in becoming an actor. Also, there are specialized certificate programs you could attend to become a sound engineer or a telecommunications technician.

The work environment can be a film, TV or recording studio or a theater. Most people who work in this cluster have an authentic passion for music, dance, cinema or fashion.

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

4. Business, Management and Administration

The Business, Management and Administration cluster includes business analysts, accountants, HR professionals and managers, and many entry-level positions, like receptionists, secretaries and typists.

Most of the roles in Business, Management and Administration require a bachelor’s degree, and some accounting positions may also require the Certified Public Accountant license. The typical work environment is an office, and many roles require working directly with customers.

People who are interested in this career cluster usually have strong communication skills and business acumen. 

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

5. Education and Training

The Education and Training career cluster includes teacher, tutor and instructor roles. This area also employs counselors, school psychologists and speech-language pathologists who offer support and guidance to students.

Elementary and secondary school teachers need both a bachelor’s degree and a license, while college teachers need an advanced degree. The typical work environment is a school or college.

This career cluster may be of interest to people who have strong leadership skills or want to act as role models for younger people. If you aspire to work in this field, it will be beneficial to have a passion for the subject you’ll teach.

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

6. Finance

The roles in the Finance cluster are auditor, financial analyst, treasurer, economist, bank worker, debt counselor or insurance professional. Many of the jobs in the Finance career cluster require a bachelor’s degree or specialized certifications. For example, getting a Certified Public Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor license may be helpful for certain roles.

The typical work environment is an office, an accounting studio or a tax collecting agency. The workers in this field usually have strong math skills and the ability to explain difficult concepts to customers who don’t work in the field. 

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

7. Hospitality and Tourism

The Hospitality and Tourism cluster includes jobs you can do in restaurants, bars, tourist attractions, resorts, hotels and travel agencies. 

Entry-level positions usually only require a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some higher roles like a tour guide or travel agent may require a bachelor’s degree and the knowledge of multiple languages. The typical work environment can range from the kitchen of a restaurant to a ticket office, hotel reception or an airport. 

The career paths related to bars and restaurants may be of interest to people who love food and don’t mind working long hours standing. Career paths related to tourist attractions are suitable for well-educated people who have a passion for culture, arts and traveling. 

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

8. Human Services

The Human Services career cluster includes not only psychologists, social workers and child advocacy professionals but also paths like hairdresser, manicurist and cosmetologist. 

The career pathways that relate to counseling and mental health require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a license. Those related to beauty and wellness require specialized training. For example, a person who wants to become a cosmetologist could attend a specific college course and then an apprenticeship at a beauty salon. 

The work environment can be a hospital, a spa or a beauty salon. The workers in this cluster usually have strong interpersonal and listening skills and patience and empathy towards others. 

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

Related: 15 Top Psychology Degree Jobs

9. Information Technology

The Information Technology cluster is for aspiring developers, web designers, network administrators and computer support specialists. Other careers in this cluster are computer science teachers, computer forensic professionals and information security analysts. 

Degrees or industry certifications, like AWS Certified Developer or Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, are very helpful when seeking many of these jobs. The people who work in this field usually require continuous training since technology evolves at a fast pace.

The work environment is typically an office. A career in Information Technology may be of interest to people who have a passion for the Internet, including assisting web navigation and fixing security issues. 

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

10. Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security

Workers in the Law, Public Safety Corrections and Security cluster protect citizens. They’re police officers, security guards, attorneys, paralegals and FBI agents. Attorneys must earn a bachelor’s degree, complete three years of law school and then pass the final bar exam. A police officer must pass the Law Enforcement Entrance Exam and graduate from the Police Academy.

The work environment can be a jail, court, police station or public place where people need to be protected, such as pools, beaches and playgrounds.

Working in Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security may be of interest to people who are brave and have a strong desire to protect others.

Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

11. Manufacturing

The Manufacturing cluster can be great for people who enjoy working with their hands: equipment operators, millwrights, assemblers and warehouse workers. These roles usually only require on-the-job training, but there are other pathways that may require a bachelor’s degree. For example, there are workers who ensure safety in the factories, while others inspect the quality of products and services.

A typical work environment is an industrial unit. However, some workers can also work directly at their client’s home, to fix household appliances. A career in Manufacturing may be suitable for people who have strong manual skills and love DIY activities.

 Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

12. Marketing, Sales and Service

The Marketing, Sales and Service cluster includes salespeople, telemarketers, real estate agents, customer service representatives, market research analysts and marketing managers. 

A degree in Marketing, even if not required, can be beneficial. Also, people who want to work in online marketing should earn the Google Analytics Individual Qualification, the Google Ads Certification and the Facebook Blueprint Certification. 

The work environment can be an office, a retail store or the home of the customer. A career in this field may interest those with excellent communication skills.

 Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

Related: 15 Sales Jobs That Pay Well

13. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

This career cluster includes some of the most highly educated workers, like biologists, engineers, mathematicians, statisticians, chemists and geoscientists. All the roles require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field and professional engineers must also earn a state license. 

The work environment can be a laboratory, an industrial facility or a weather station. People who are interested in this career cluster are usually passionate about science, math or geography and are willing to continue training and education.

 Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

14. Government and Public Administration

The Government and Public Administration cluster includes people who help enforce the law. They’re tax collectors, municipal clerks, military workers and customs brokers. This cluster also includes postal service clerks, mail carriers and aircrew members. 

A bachelor’s degree is a requirement for some positions and both judges and magistrates must have an advanced degree. Based on the career you want to pursue, you could also achieve a Municipal Clerks Certification, a Tax Assessor Certification or a Customs Broker License.

The work environment is typically a city’s municipal office or a customs office. A career in this cluster may be of interest to people who have great communication skills or an interest in politics.

 Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

15. Health Science

The Health Science cluster includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and healthcare operators. Specialized training is required for all the roles in Health Science. Nurses must attend nursing school and earn a license while doctors have more educational requirements, like earning a medical degree.

Emergency Medical Technicians must attend EMT training and get a national or state certification. Also, opticians must obtain a state license.

The work environment can be a hospital, private clinic, pharmacy retail chain or patients’ homes. People who are interested in this cluster usually have a natural predisposition to help others. 

 Jobs to pursue in this cluster:

Learn more: 10 Highest Paid Nursing Jobs

16. Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

The Transportation, Distribution and Logistics cluster drive and fix vehicles or work behind the scenes to make sure that public transportation is efficient at all times. They are drivers, pilots, rail car repairers, parking lot attendants, civil engineers and transportation planners.

Pilots, train operators and truck drivers must be licensed, while engineering roles require an advanced degree. For rail car repairers, a specific certification is not required but can be very helpful.

The work environment can be a car repair shop, a train, a bus or an office. The careers in this cluster may be attractive for people who have a passion for driving vehicles or fixing them.

 Jobs to pursue in this cluster: