Career Path Definition With Examples

Career Path
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A career path is comprised of a sequence of jobs that make up your career plan. They may sound the same, but they’re not. A career plan includes short-term or long-term goals leading to an ideal career, while a career path specifically includes the jobs that step an individual towards his or her goals and objectives. Read on to learn more about how a career path works and take a look at a list of examples.

What’s Included in a Career Path

Your career path includes the jobs you’ll need to hit your ultimate career goal. A career path doesn’t need to be a straight line up the career ladder, nor does it need to span a specific time frame.

Career paths traditionally imply vertical growth or advancement to higher level positions, but they can also entail lateral movement within or across industries. And each path can be slightly different for each person, depending on how long you need to take to get to your goals, or if you change your goals along the way.

At the heart of a career path is the fact that you’ll be changing jobs from time to time. The average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times during their career and sometimes those changes will involve different types of positions in different industries. Some career paths have a few ups and downs and, in fact, some people even plan a move down the career ladder.

For example, people who are midlife-career changers may need to go down a level or two from where they were, so they can get the training and experience they need to move back up the ladder.

Whichever way a career path takes someone, it’s designed to provide increased satisfaction of a worker's career values and needs by targeting a series of jobs designed to get them to his or her career goal. Job satisfaction is one major key to a happy and long career.

Organizational Career Paths

Career paths are sometimes part of the employee development processes within organizations. In this case, an employee and a supervisor or Human Resources representative discuss the career development of the worker within the context of their organization.

This may occur as part of the performance appraisal process and takes into account the interests, knowledge, and skills of the employee. Additional education, training or work assignments may be planned as mechanisms to qualify employees for subsequent roles within their career path.

In many cases, an individual will develop and actualize a career path without the cooperation of their employer. These workers will engage in the career exploration process independently or with the assistance of a career counselor, mentor or personal advisor.

Examples of Career Paths

Here are several examples of career paths for a variety of different career fields. Keep in mind that some career paths are direct and include specific jobs that move an individual up the career ladder and are typically followed in order. Other career paths are indirect and may involve work in different industries or types of jobs, such as when someone is working on a career change.

  • Administration: Administrative Assistant - Executive Assistant - Office Manager
  • Advertising: Advertising Account Coordinator - Assistant Account Executive - Account Executive - Major Account Executive
  • Communications: Public Relations Assistant - Public Relations Representative - Assistant Director of Public Relations - Director of Communications
  • Customer Services / Sales: Customer Service Representative - Inside Salesperson - Outside Salesperson - Major Account Salesperson - Regional Sales Manager
  • Development: Development Assistant - Annual Giving Officer - Development Associate - Major Gift Officer - Leadership Giving Officer - Associate Director of Leadership Gifts
  • Editorial: Editorial Assistant - Assistant Editor - Associate Editor - Editor - Senior Editor - Editorial Director
  • Education: Teacher - Master Teacher - Curriculum Coordinator - Assistant Principal – Principal
  • Education to Training: Teacher - Insurance Salesperson - Trainer for New Agents
  • Engineering: Junior Engineer - Senior Engineer - Project Manager - Engineering Consultant
  • Entrepreneur: Salesperson - Sales Manager - Business Owner
  • Human Resources: Human Resources Assistant - Interviewer - Benefits Assistant - Benefits Specialist - Assistant Director of Human Resources - Director of Human Resources
  • Retail: Retail Sales Clerk - Assistant Manager - Department Manager - Store Manager - Regional Manager
  • Sales to Marketing: Salesperson - MBA - Assistant Brand Manager - Brand Manager - Group Manager - Marketing Director