What is a career pathway?


If you’re nearing the end of high school or if you’re a recent school leaver, chances are you’ve heard the term ‘career pathway’.

You may have already mapped out your career pathway, or you may have no idea where to start.

Some people know from a very early age what they want to be and they know what they need to do to get there. But for most, the pathway to an occupation of choice won’t be straightforward – it’s likely that there will be many twists and turns along the way to realising your chosen career.

Personal pathways

All career pathways are personal. When planning your career pathway, consider:

  • what you like
  • what’s important to you
  • what you’re good at
  • the people you know who may be able to help you.

Think about your past decisions and experiences, your existing skills, your ambitions for the future and any information or advice you’ve discovered about the career you have chosen.

Education and training

Your career will probably involve a combination of formal and non-formal learning. Non-formal learning is particularly important as it depends on you and your own need to improve your skills.

Formal learning programs provided by the three sectors of the Australian education and training system are:

  • schools: preschools, primary schools, secondary and senior secondary schools
  • vocational education and training (VET): TAFE, private colleges, community facilities, schools and workplaces, many of which are Registered Training Organisations
  • higher education: universities and accredited higher education institutions.

Non-formal learning includes workshops, seminars, adult community education courses, conferences, professional development activities, and self-directed learning. Non-formal education lets you show that you are genuinely interested in a particular subject and keeps you up to date on the latest ideas and practices in your chosen career.

In Australia, the qualifications you gain at schools, from vocational education and training (VET) providers and universities can be linked up in different ways. This means you can reach your career goals by many different pathways.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) gives you credit for your existing knowledge and skills, such as your:

  • life experience (for example, voluntary work, hobbies, sport)
  • work experience (including unpaid work)
  • previous study (for example, courses at school or college, adult education classes, training at work).

Community involvement

Community organisations can let you know about services and programs that can help you take your next career step.

Urban, rural and remote communities can do a lot to support non-formal learning. Some of the best learning happens when people think and act together:

  • across age groups
  • in groups of both men and women
  • using existing networks
  • with employers
  • with local learning leaders
  • with community-owned and managed organisations.

Navigate with care

Following your career pathway means making some choices. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What have I learnt from my life experiences that I want to use in my career?
  • What career fields am I interested in?
  • What pathways could I take to get to those career fields?
  • Do I need to take a course at a tertiary institution?
  • What are the entry requirements for those courses?
  • When I finish the course, what jobs will I be qualified for?
  • Who do I know who can help me?
  • What resources and networks does my community have to offer?
  • How can I use my personal networks of family, friends and associates to build my career?

Base your career and educational choices on who you are today. You can always change the direction of your pathway in the future if your interests and goals change.

So there you have it. Your career pathway is the journey you take to reach your goals throughout your life. It’s the combination of your experiences in life, your education and training, unpaid work and your interests.