Sign in Sign up
career clusters guide Polywork

What are career clusters? A quick guide

A significant part of your career journey is understanding where the endless opportunities exist — enter the concept of career clusters.

Below, we discuss how the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) defines career clusters. We’ll also provide a brief overview of each cluster and the paths you can take in the event you begin evaluating a new career trajectory.

Career clusters, defined

A career cluster combines occupations into groups based on their similar knowledge and abilities. These clusters are designed to help people make more sense of the multiple pathways their careers can take. More importantly, it can inform the way we design our current or future careers based on our plethora of skills and interests that don’t fit neatly into a one-page resume.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career clusters have a substantial impact on the way we define our work — clusters are often used in career and technical education (CTE) programs for students looking to specialize in certain fields. Career counselors and job placement professionals, not to mention many of the career quizzes you’ve taken, also use the career cluster framework to guide people into their next best job.

What are the different career clusters?

There are 16 career clusters identified by BLS:

Here, we’ll take you through the potential career paths you can take via each cluster, and what roles are projected to have the most openings in the market.

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

This cluster includes production, processing, and distribution of agricultural products. Careers in this cluster involve working with plants, animals, and the environment. Nearly all of the farming, fishing, and forestry occupations and many of the life, physical, and social science occupations are assigned to this cluster, according to the Bureau’s Career Outlook website.

Architecture and Construction

Careers related to designing, building, and maintaining structures fall into this cluster. Construction-related occupations, such as laborers, carpenters, and electricians, are projected to outgrow architecture, according to BLS.

Arts, Audio Video Technology, and Communications

Categories of careers here include creating, producing, and distributing media content. Visual artists, such as graphic designers, followed by musicians and actors, currently make up a bulk of the open job market, according to BLS.

Musicians like Marquis Lacy fall into this cluster. Above, his Polywork profile.

Business, Management, and Administration

Planning, organizing, directing, and evaluating business functions fall into this career cluster. Believe it or not, BLS data shows that these sectors account for the most jobs of any cluster, led by customer service representatives, office clerks, and office managers.

Education and Training

Educational services of all kinds fall into this wide-ranging cluster. These include all levels of teachers and teacher trainers, from elementary through higher education. Lower level educators are projected to have the highest level of demand of the teaching cohorts.


Investment planning, banking, insurance, and real estate all fall under the finance career cluster. Knowledge of accounting could pay off, according to BLS, with the most openings projected. Other job areas within this cluster include bank tellers and insurance adjusters.

Government and Public Administration

Local and federal organizations fall into this cluster and include compliance officers, building inspectors, and tax examiners, with the former projected to offer the greatest level of opportunities going forward.

Health Science

The delivery of healthcare services, including diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases all fall into this career cluster. BLS projects most of the job openings to be in therapeutic services, with nurses and home health aides following in line.

Hospitality and Tourism

Customer service and travel-related services, such as agencies and transportation, fall into this career cluster. Restaurants and food/beverage systems are projected to have the highest level of demand within the cluster, followed by custodians and cooks.

Human Services

Organizations that offer social and community aid, most commonly in the personal and child care areas, fall into the human services cluster. That said, hair dressers and social workers also fall into this category.

Information Technology

Calling all that design, develop, and maintain computer systems and networks! This is your career cluster. Programming and software development are projected to be in the highest demand within the cluster, followed by systems analysts and support specialists.

Engineers like Maia Grotepass would fit into this cluster. Source: Polywork

Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security

Police, legal services, and emergency management all fall under this career cluster umbrella. Security services make up the greatest demand for this cluster, followed by patrol officers and lawyers.


Designing, producing, and distributing goods makes up a bulk of the manufacturing career cluster. Production will make up a great deal of this cluster’s growth, according to BLS, with maintenance and machinery not far behind.

Marketing, Sales, and Service

The promotion and sale of products and services, ranging from software to consumer goods, comprises this career cluster. Occupations also include retail, wholesale and manufacturing distribution.

Source: Giphy

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

As the acronym implies, scientific research, engineering, and mathematics all make up the STEM career cluster. Mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, and architectural engineering managers are projected to make up the greatest levels of demand, according to BLS.

Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

Planes, trains, and automobiles are just a few of the vehicles that make up this career cluster. Career paths include tractor trailer drivers and automotive service professionals.

Career clusters: Further resources

Now that you have an overview of the many career clusters, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions:

1. What career cluster(s) do I fall into today?

2. Is my resume reflective of those multiple clusters?

3. What career clusters offer the most opportunities if I considered changing careers?

The good news is that difficult decisions can be informed by data, even more of which is available on the BLS website to help guide your career path. It’s also worth checking out the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which goes into even more detail on the different career options within each cluster.