Career Pathway Terminology and Definitions

District 214 uses the following nationally recognized terms to help guide students through the selection of coursework and to support their decision making in preparation for their post-secondary goals.


Careers are occupations which usually require special training or formal education.

Career Cluster

Group of occupations and industries that have a set of foundational knowledge and skills in common. There are 16 nationally recognized career clusters which each contain multiple career pathways.

Career Pathway

Multi-year program of academic and technical study that prepares students for a full range of post-secondary options within each career cluster. Career pathways provide a context for exploring career options at all levels of education. Career pathways link student  learning to the knowledge and skills needed for future education and employment.

Career Related Activities

Opportunities for student career exploration and/or career skill  development which may include the involvement of industry partners. These opportunities are  generally less formal and/or intensive than Workplace Learning Experiences in the areas of career exploration and/or career skill development.


Credentials awarded to students by an independent third party verifying qualifications or competencies in a career skill area. Industry-recognized certifications are sought or accepted by employers as a recognized, preferred or required credentials for recruitment, screening, hiring, retention or advancement purposes of their employees.

College Majors

College majors are concentrations of educational study focused on a career area. College majors can lead to an associate, bachelor, master, or doctorate degree.

Pathway Courses

Recommended sequence of courses which provide students opportunities to explore and develop skills within a specified career area.

Program of Study

Sequence of courses and experiences which include core academic, career and technical education content. Programs of study include opportunities to earn college credit  and industry-recognized credentials or certificates and gain external career experiences while in high school. Programs of study also may lead to a student earning a college degree.

Within each District 214 Program of Study the following terms are used to describe coursework and opportunities which align with that career area.

Related Electives

Courses which provide students additional opportunities within the specified career area or opportunities to develop skills and knowledge in a closely related career area.

Workplace Learning Experiences

Extended educational opportunities in which students engage in authentic and relevant work aligned with a career pathway. These experiences allow students  to participate in a professional work environment and assist with career skill development and decision making. These opportunities may provide varied levels of support, depending upon students’ individual needs.