Career Clusters, Career Pathways, Programs of Study

There are 16 Career Clusters found in the National Career Clusters Framework which were developed in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), the National School-to-Work Office (NSTWO) and the National Skill Standards Board (NSSB). These clusters provide standardization and consistency across an ever-evolving labor market.

Career Clusters assist secondary and postsecondary institutions with:

  • developing programs of study bridging secondary and postsecondary curricula;
  • creating individual student plans of study for a complete range of career options; and
  • empowering students to choose the Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway that can lead to success in their academic and career endeavors.

Secondary and postsecondary institutions in Connecticut (CT) may offer courses and programs in any of the 16 clusters. However, Perkins V funds must be utilized on programs aligned with priorities in CT that are informed by labor market data and projections. Each of the clusters has merit, yet when placed against the workforce data including CT’s long-term industry and occupational projections for 2016–2026, the following 12 Connecticut Perkins V Career Clusters best fit the workforce needs of CT:


These 12 Clusters will drive the pathways and programs or programs of study to be supported, developed, or improved at the State and local levels under Perkins V. Previously, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) called these clusters “approved program areas.”



What do these Connecticut Career Clusters mean in regards to Perkins V funds?

Eligible secondary and postsecondary recipients shall only utilize their Perkins V funds for programs and activities that support the approved Connecticut Career Clusters.

What is a Career Pathway?

In Perkins V the term “career pathways” has the meaning given the term in Section 3 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (29 U.S.C. 3102). Career pathway is defined as a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and other services that:

A. aligns with the skill needs of industries in the economy of the State or regional economy involved;

B. prepares an individual to be successful in any of a full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships registered under the Act of August 16, 1937 (commonly known as the "National Apprenticeship Act"; 50 Stat. 664, chapter 663; 29 U.S.C. 50 et seq.) (referred to individually in this Act as an "apprenticeship", except in section 3226 of this title);

C. includes counseling to support an individual in achieving the individual's education and career goals;

D. includes, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster;

E. organizes education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practicable;

F. enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and at least 1 recognized postsecondary credential; and

G. helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster.

Thus, a career pathway is a coordinated program of rigorous, high-quality education and work-related training that aligns to industry needs and advances students in their career of choice. A career pathway is seamless and includes multiple possibilities leading to an industry-recognized credential, certificate or licensure, and/or an associate or baccalaureate degree and beyond.

To assist students in navigating various career choices aligned to Connecticut workforce needs, there are pathways organized by Connecticut Career Cluster. Eligible secondary and postsecondary recipients shall only utilize their Perkins V funds for programs and activities that support the approved Connecticut Career Clusters.

What is a Program of Study (POS)?

The CSDE believes all students must have access to career pathways that lead to success in college, career, and civic life. A POS is part of a student’s career pathway and consists of a non-duplicative sequence of academic and technical content at the secondary and postsecondary level. The POS progresses in specificity (beginning with all aspects of an industry or career cluster and leading to more occupation-specific instruction) and has multiple entry/exit points culminating in the attainment of a recognized postsecondary credential. A POS includes a minimum of a two (2)-course sequence in a single CTE content area.