Career and Technical Education (CTE) consists of eight program areas developed to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to be prepared for college and career. Each program area includes instruction and pathways related to multiple “Career Clusters.” 

Step 1.  Before making a career decision, it makes sense to start with interests and matching career clusters before choosing a career pathway.

  • If you haven’t already, take the Career Cluster Survey in The results of this assessment can help you identify Career Cluster(s) that match YOU and is a great resource for getting started with career exploration and planning your high school courses. Use your top cluster(s) to plan your high school courses!

Step 2.  Understand “career clusters” and “career pathways.” 

  • What is a Career Cluster? A grouping of careers that have a lot in common. Knowing your top cluster(s) can help you figure out careers based on your likes and dislikes.
  • How is a career pathway different from a career cluster? Career pathways are groups of careers that are paired together based on tasks and duties performed on the job. Each career cluster has two to nine pathways. It’s another way of grouping careers within a larger group, so you have less work to do!

Step 3.  Now, find a program area that includes your top cluster. You may have more than one cluster that interests you, so doing research on more than one will increase your chances of finding the perfect career!

  • The Career Clusters chart shown below will help you identify the Program Areas that align with the Career Clusters that match your interests. 

Step 4.  Next, find a career pathway under that career cluster. Look at the Career Clusters and Pathways listed under the program area that interests you. Each pathway has several unique careers, so knowing your interests will help you choose a pathway.

  • What courses are part of the career pathway?
  • Which career pathway(s) best prepare you for the occupations that match your interests?

Step 5.  Consider joining a Career & Technical Student Organization (CTSO) that aligns with the program area(s) that interests you.

  • CTSOs put students in contact with others who share their career interests and develop citizenship, technical, leadership, and teamwork skills essential for students who are preparing for the workforce and further education. The experience is fun and can lead to lifetime relationships with future professional colleagues.

Career Clusters, CTE Program Areas and Career and Technical Student Organizations

Career Cluster Survey Result 

CTE Program Areas and  Planning Your Electives


Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Architecture & Construction

Arts, A/V Technology & Communications

Business Management & Administration

Education & Training


Government & Public Administration

Health Science

Hospitality & Tourism

Human Services

Information Technology

Law, Public, Safety, Corrections & Security



Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Transportation, Distribution & Logistics


North Dakota Career and Technical Education Program Area Information and Staff

North Dakota Career and Technical Education Program Area Information and Staff