What Is a Career Cluster? 16 Types You Should Know

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Career clusters can help you pick a career path. Learn about sixteen of the most common clusters today.

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Career clusters are collections of jobs with shared characteristics, such as industry and objective. Job seekers use career clusters to help them find professions that match their particular interests and skills. 

In this article, you will learn about sixteen career clusters and their common professions.. To help you get started, suggested online courses accompany each cluster, offering an opportunity for you to start your career path today. 

The 16 career clusters 

The National Career Clusters Framework, a common organizing tool used by many universities and state agencies, includes sixteen clusters covering a wide range of industries and fields [1,2]. Those sixteen career clusters are as follows:

  1. Agriculture, food, and natural resources

  2. Architecture and construction

  3. Arts, audio/video technology, and communication

  4. Businesses management and administration

  5. Education and training

  6. Finance

  7. Government and public administration

  8. Health science

  9. Hospitality and tourism

  10. Human services

  11. Information technology

  12. Law, public safety, corrections, and security

  13. Manufacturing

  14. Marketing

  15. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

  16. Transportation, distribution, and logistics

Read on to find out more about each cluster, the types of personalities they are suited to, and skills they require. 

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all of the information below is taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. 

1. Agriculture, food, and natural resources

The agriculture, food, and natural resources career cluster involves jobs focused on work with animals, plants, and land. Often, this work is done outside, as is the case with horticulturists who cultivate and manage gardens. However, some of this work does involve research conducted in laboratory settings, such as natural science managers who oversee the work of chemists, physicists, and biologists.

The BLS notes that many jobs in this cluster require a high school diploma or equivalent, while some require further training or advanced degrees. 

Jobs in this cluster are well suited to individuals who enjoy working outside in natural environments.  Some common jobs in this cluster include:

  • Agriculture worker 

  • Horticulturists 

  • Conservationists

  • Natural science managers 

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2. Architecture and construction

The architecture and construction career cluster involves jobs focused on designing and building physical structures and infrastructure, such as homes, office buildings, and roads. As a result, the jobs in this cluster involve everything from working on construction sites to designing skyscrapers in architectural offices. 

According to the BLS, somewhat more than half of the jobs in this cluster require a high school or equivalent, some of which might require short on-the-job training. Additionally, some jobs, such as architect, might require a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

This cluster is best suited for individuals who enjoy building with their hands or the design process. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Construction laborers 

  • Electricians 

  • Roofers

  • Civil engineers

  • Architects

3. Arts, audio/video technology, and communication

The arts, AV technology, and communications career cluster involves jobs focused on such creative tasks as acting, writing, and working on film productions. The diverse nature of these occupations means that those employed in them work in a variety of environments, from outdoor film shoots where collaboration is key to solitary rooms where writers can gain the peace and quiet required to compose their next draft. 

According to the BLS, many of the jobs in this cluster require at least a bachelor’s degree, but some can be obtained with a high school degree or equivalent and short on-the-job training. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is well-suited to individuals who enjoy creative undertakings and turning abstract ideas into reality through concrete problem-solving. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Graphic designer

  • Reporter

  • Telecommunications repairer

  • Photographer

  • Art director

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4. Businesses management and administration

The business management and administration career cluster involves jobs focused on planning, organizing, and running a business. Typically, this job requires individuals to collaborate with others in an office setting. 

According to the BLS, a bit more than half of the jobs in the cluster require a high school degree or equivalent, often with short-term, on-the-job training. Some jobs, though, require a bachelor’s degree and many years of experience, such as chief executive officers (CEOs). 

The nature of this cluster means that it is well suited to those who enjoy working with others to solve analytical and logistical problems. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Receptionist

  • Clerk

  • Entrepreneur

  • Operations manager

  • CEO

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5. Education and training

The education and training career cluster involves jobs focused on teaching, including at schools, museums, and libraries. The jobs in this cluster usually involve working collaboratively indoors, often in roles that require a sensitive understanding of others to help them best understand concepts. 

According to the BLS, almost every job in this cluster requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. In some cases, you may be required to have an advanced professional or terminal degree. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is likely best suited to those who enjoy learning and have the patience and empathy to teach others. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Librarian

  • K-12 school teacher

  • Archivist

  • Counselor

  • College professor

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6.  Finance

The finance career cluster is focused on jobs that work with money, including lending, collecting, and financial planning. The jobs in the finance cluster require a willingness to work in an indoor office environment and a capacity for dealing with facts and figures. 

According to the BLS, most of the jobs in this career cluster require a bachelor’s degree. A few, such as financial clerks, may only require a high school diploma or equivalent with short-term, on-the-job training. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is well-suited to those who enjoy working with numbers and spreadsheets in an office environment. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Bill collector

  • Teller

  • Loan officer

  • Accountant

  • Financial advisor

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7. Government and public administration

The government and public administration career cluster is focused on jobs that have to do with the running and implementation of services within governmental structures, such as within the military, courts, and political bodies. Although this cluster includes jobs that vary considerably among workplaces and tasks, each of them is united by their connection to larger organizational structures focused on the public.  

According to the BLS, most jobs in the cluster require a bachelor’s degree. While some might allow for a high school diploma or equivalent accompanied by short-term on-the-job training, others may require a master’s degree or higher. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is well-suited to those that enjoy working in highly structured environments that are focused on public services and projects. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Court clerk

  • Soldier

  • Tax examiner

  • Urban planner

  • Legislator

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8. Health science

The health science career cluster includes jobs focused on health care for both people and animals, including nurses, physicians, and veterinarians. The careers in the cluster are in numerous medical environments, ranging from relatively quiet home care environments to fast-paced emergency rooms. 

According to the BLS, the education level for jobs in the health science cluster varies considerably depending on the role. While in some cases job seekers only need a high school diploma or equivalent, in others they will be required to have an advanced degree and many years of medical training. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is best suited to those who enjoy helping others, studying health, and problem solving. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Home health aide

  • Registered nurse

  • Physical therapist

  • Veterinarian 

  • Surgeon

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9. Hospitality and tourism

The hospitality and tourism career cluster includes jobs focused on providing lodgings, food, and travel services to customers, such as through restaurants and hotels. There is a range of work environments in this career cluster – from friendly reception desks that require face-to-face interaction with customers to hectic kitchens where cooks work diligently to get food out on time.

According to the BLS, most of the careers in this cluster require a high school diploma or less. Some jobs, though, may benefit from additional training or professional training, such as culinary school or a hospitality management program.  

The nature of this career cluster makes it well suited for individuals who enjoy working in a team environment and occupying customer-facing positions. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Waiter 

  • Maid

  • Janitor

  • Chef

  • Hotel manager

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10. Human services

The human services career cluster includes jobs focused on meeting people’s physical, psychological, social, and emotional needs. Centered on helping other people, careers in this cluster occupy a range of environments from assisting elderly individuals at their own homes to overseeing children in daycares or meeting with patients in a professional therapist’s office. 

According to the BLS, the occupations in this career cluster require a range of education levels and training. While some might require less than a high school diploma, others might require an advanced professional degree and many years of training. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is well-suited to empathic individuals who enjoy working with people. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Daycare provider

  • Hairstylist

  • Drycleaner

  • Social worker

  • Therapist

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11. Information technology 

The information technology career cluster includes jobs focused on designing, repairing, and maintaining computer hardware, software, and networks. Typically based in an office work environment, individuals working in this cluster must solve a range of computer-based issues, from helping users troubleshoot problems to developing systems software. 

According to the BLS, most of the entry-level jobs in the information technology career cluster require a bachelor’s degree. Some jobs, though, such as IT support specialist only require a high school diploma or equivalent alongside relevant training. 

The nature of this cluster makes it well suited to individuals who enjoy working with computers and solving unique technical problems. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • IT support specialist

  • Computer systems analyst

  • Database manager

  • Computer engineer

  • Computer programmer

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12. Law, public safety, corrections, and security 

The law, public safety, corrections, and security career cluster includes jobs focused on supporting the legal system and enforcing the law. This cluster includes a variety of work environments with a range of risk levels, such as relatively safe courtrooms to potentially dangerous active crime scenes. 

According to the BLS, many of the jobs in this career cluster require a high school diploma or equivalent alongside short-term on-the-job training. But, some jobs might require more advanced graduate degrees, such as a J.D. or PhD.

This career cluster is well-suited to individuals who strive to understand the legal system and have the temperament to stay level-headed in high-stakes situations. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Security officer

  • Police officer

  • Emergency dispatcher

  • Lawyer

  • Judge

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13. Manufacturing 

The manufacturing career cluster involves jobs focused on producing physical goods, such as cars, food, and other products. Typically, the work in this cluster is undertaken inside factories, where products are created by both machinery and hand.

According to the BLS, most of the jobs in the manufacturing career cluster require a high school diploma or less along with short-term on-the-job training. A few jobs, such as camera equipment repairer,  may require an associate degree along with long-term, on-the-job training. 

The nature of this cluster means that it’s well suited to individuals who enjoy working with their hands in industrial environments that require teamwork and coordination. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Mechanic

  • Assembler

  • Safety coordinator

  • First-line supervisor

  • Welder

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14. Marketing

The marketing career cluster includes jobs focused on promoting products and services to help businesses reach their marketing goals. Typically, jobs in this cluster are performed in either office environments or stores, where marketers can meet customers directly.

According to the BLS, many of the jobs in the marketing career cluster require a high school diploma or equivalent. Some jobs, though, may require a bachelor’s degree and significant work experience, such as is the case with marketing managers. 

The nature of this cluster means that it is well suited to individuals who enjoy the art of persuasion and helping businesses get the word out about their products. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Salesperson

  • Public relations liaison

  • Copywriter

  • Digital marketer

  • Marketing manager

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15. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)

The STEM career cluster includes jobs focused on developing, planning, implementing, and supporting research in the natural and applied sciences. Most of the jobs in this cluster are conducted in research facilities, such as laboratories and academic institutions.  

According to the BLS, almost all of the jobs in the STEM career cluster require a bachelor’s degree or higher for entry. In some cases, a position may require that job seekers hold a terminal degree, such as a PhD or D.Eng. 

The nature of this cluster makes it well suited to individuals who enjoy learning, researching, and working with data to uncover novel solutions to complex problems. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Data scientist

  • Environmental scientist

  • Biologist

  • Aerospace engineer

  • Mechanical engineer

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16. Transportation, distribution, and logistics

The transportation, distribution, and logistics career cluster includes jobs focused on moving both people and products between different locations, such as by truck, train, or airplane. The work environment for this cluster varies by position, requiring some to be constantly on the move in vehicles and others to coordinate deliveries from an office. 

According to the BLS, most of the jobs in the transportation and logistics cluster require a high school diploma or equivalent and some short-term on-the-job training. Some positions, though, may require job seekers to have a bachelor’s degree, licensure, and several years of experience, such as is the case for airplane pilots. 

This career cluster is well-suited to individuals who enjoy traveling, operating vehicles, and dealing with logistics. Some jobs commonly found in this cluster include:

  • Truck driver

  • Dispatcher

  • Train conductor

  • Delivery driver

  • Pilot

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Choose your path. 

The first step to a new career is finding out what interests you and learning all you can to succeed. Whether you are just exploring fields or looking to get started in one, you might consider taking an online, flexible course. Offering over 7,000 courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready certificate programs, Coursera likely has something for you. 

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Article sources

1. BLS. “Clusters, pathways, and BLS: Connecting career information, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/career-clusters.htm.” Accessed March 10, 2022. 

2. Career Tech. “Career Clusters, https://careertech.org/career-clusters/.” Accessed March 10, 2022. 

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