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When you are picking a career, people say you should pick a career cluster rather than a specific path. For example, rather than saying, “I am going to be a doctor.” You say, “I am going into healthcare.” It is no different to people saying what type of industry they are going into, be it the sales industry, manufacturing industry, and so forth. Here is a quick explanation of career clusters from career blogger James Miller from SimplicityResume, along with a few reasons why the idea of career clusters is probably a good thing.

What is a Career Cluster?

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Certain jobs require certain qualifications, and certain qualifications help you get certain jobs. A career cluster is a path whereby you pick qualifications, and it opens up a series of jobs in a certain industry.

Picking right one also influences your future qualifications decisions. After all, you are unlikely to pick qualifications for it in home design, only to take a qualification years later in car repair.

Isn’t This Just Like Picking An Industry?

When somebody says they are picking an industry to work in, then you can almost half-guess what sort of jobs they will be doing and the types of qualifications they will have. If they are going into the software development industry, then you can guess the types of math and programming qualifications they will have, and you can guess the sorts of jobs they will have, like game developer, app developer, troubleshooter, etc.

However, some people find that describing a career path in “Industry” terms is a little limiting. It is not always the case, but sometimes, mentioning which industry you wish to join is a little too vague or misleading. For example, petro-chemists may be involved in everything from plastics manufacture to green-energy development. For example, a person involved in the defense industry may be involved in everything from logistics to the manufacture of body armor. That is why some people prefer to state their chosen career cluster rather than saying what industry they are going into.

However, there is no wrong answer. For example, say you are taking up a “Career Cluster” in transportation, and saying you are joining the transportation “Industry” will be pretty-much understood by whomever you tell.

How Many Career Clusters Are There?

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Just how many career clusters there are depends on whom you talk to. There are probably between ten and twenty, but the key is that people understand what you are referencing. Ergo, you can make up your own career cluster if you feel it correctly represents the types of jobs you wish to get. Here are a few examples of labels that pretty-much speak for themselves (aka, they require little added information to understand what types of jobs and qualifications are involved).

  • Transportation
  • Logistics and distribution
  • Information Technology
  • Machinery sales and services
  • Manufacturing
  • Security
  • Health science
  • Human services
  • Government and administration
  • Finance
  • Education and training
  • Communications and A/V
  • Agriculture and farming

Are There Any Other Elements to Career Clusters?

As mentioned above, part of the reason career clusters exist is to help explain the sorts of jobs a person wishes to pursue. However, as you can see by the sample list above, some of the labels are still a little vague. Luckily, there is another part of a career cluster.

It has similar educational, experience and skill requirements. For example, if you are pursuing an agricultural one, then the sorts of qualifications, skills and experience you need will transfer easily from one job to another.

This type of cross-job qualification, skill or experience is key to a career cluster. It means you could operate within a certain industry and transfer jobs without needing extensive retraining or re-education.

Career Clusters Are Far Less Limiting Than Most People Think

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You may assume that if you take a certain qualification path that you are then confined to a certain career path. This is only partially true in that people who highly specialize will often limit themselves, but the upside of specialization is that the money is better and your skills are in far greater demand.

For example, somebody who spends years in medical school to become a surgeon is not likely to transition very far out on of the health service without taking a severe downgrade, such as going from surgeon to pharmacy worker. Said surgeon would find it difficult transitioning into heavy metal working, a lawyer’s job, or salesperson job.

By all means, specialization is a good thing if you want a fulfilling career. However, the people who do not specialize so heavily are hardly cut off from a broad and wide-ranging career. For example, you may take plenty of qualifications to work in the teaching sector. Your qualifications work towards a teaching career cluster. However, many teachers also transition very well (using their skills and experience) into management.

Many people working in the law cluster are able to transition well into sales. Mathematicians work well in logistics, and people in law and public safety career clusters often transition well into human services. In short, just because you pick a certain one and get all the qualifications, it doesn’t mean you cannot transition very well into another career cluster later in life.

Some Qualifications Help You Get Jobs Across the Board

If you read between the lines in the previous few paragraphs, you probably picked up that choosing a career cluster is not as limiting as it first seems for more than one reason. As stated, there are times when people easily transition from one cluster to another. However, there are also times when picking a certain type of qualification will open the doors to many different ones.

For example, a math qualification can help get your foot in the door of a wide range of jobs. Plus, there are many private businesses that will hire you for certain tasks simply because you have a degree. For example, there are some famous supermarket chains that enable employees to fast-track their way to management if they have a degree. This means you may pick a career cluster like doctor or engineer, and veer away from your cluster later in life to become a store manager.

Making Career Paths More Open

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As a final point, perhaps telling students to pick a career cluster or an industry is better than telling them to pick a job or career. At least if somebody picks a one, then they are more open to the variety of jobs on the job market. On the other hand, telling students to pick a job title career, like doctors, may limit their view of the many jobs that are actually available in said industry or sector. So, perhaps telling students to pick a career cluster rather than a career path, is a good thing.