The National Career Clusters Framework

The National Career Clusters Framework

The National Career Clusters® Framework provides a vital structure for organizing and delivering quality CTE through learning and comprehensive programs of study.


The National Career Clusters® Framework serves as an organizing tool for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, curriculum design and instruction. 

In 1999 in the aftermath of the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins III), the then United States Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) released the 16 career clusters as a new means to organize CTE programs. In 2001, OVAE released a national request for proposal for support in the development of a curriculum framework and administration for the career clusters. Advance CTE in collaboration with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education were awarded a grant to develop a uniform framework for the Career Clusters. Through this grant, Advance CTE worked with a variety of stakeholders to pilot and scale Career Cluster implementation structures and establish knowledge and skills statements. 

In 2012, Advance CTE held a kickoff event to unveil the current National Career Clusters® Framework, including Common Career Technical Core standards with performance elements, knowledge and skills statements, plans of study and  a curriculum frame for each Career Cluster. 

Currently, there are 16 Career Clusters in the National Career Clusters Framework, representing 79 Career Pathways to help learners navigate their way to greater success in college and career. The framework also functions as a useful guide in developing programs of study bridging secondary and postsecondary systems and for creating individual student plans of study for a complete range of career options. As such, it helps learners discover their interests and their passions, and empowers them to choose the educational pathway that can lead to success in high school, college and career.


The Framework organized academic and technical knowledge and skills into a coherent sequence, identified pathways from secondary to postsecondary education, and created a new “level” of standards (knowledge and skills statements) for CTE that balanced employability skills and job-specific skills. Importantly, these knowledge and skills statements were informed by industry needs. 

The Framework is used in some form by all 50 states and territories to organize CTE programs at the state and local levels.

What's Ahead

In December 2022, Advance CTE announced the relaunch of an initiative to modernize the National Career Clusters Framework. This work is led by two national partners and supported by a National Advisory Committee, Industry Advisory Groups and other avenues to receive input from all stakeholders involved in delivering and experiencing the Framework. Visit the Advancing the Framework page for additional information.