Clusters of Study
South Carolina is a leader in the national movement to link education with future careers through implementing clusters of study in education. Clusters allow the organization of instruction and student experiences around broad categories that encompass virtually all careers from entry levels through professional levels. Clusters allow education to focus core courses, electives and work experience around a specific career group or cluster that offers students core academics as well as activities that match their skills and interests, abilities, and values and explore careers to facilitate their career decision-making process. Students end up with a better understanding of how their courses in high school relate to their future career.
The cluster concept helps students focus their academics on their future profession and to take courses following their own career plan. Students would always have the option of changing majors or majoring in more than one area. A critical component of the concept is the extended learning opportunity that connects students to options such as shadowing, internships, or senior projects with their major.
Students from the South Carolina Midlands who were polled liked the "college like" system of clusters and majors. With the help of parents, counselors and career aptitude tests, students will develop an Individualized Graduation Plan (IGP) for their high school years. In addition to the core courses required for graduation, students would be encouraged to choose a study cluster and declare a major. Students could earn a major by earning four elective units in a specified area. For example, students whose cluster is Information Technology and whose major is Business Information Systems would choose from courses such as Business Computer Applications, Introductions to Computers in Business, or Networking 1,2,3,4. Students going to Midlands Technical College could continue their studies to earn certificates, diplomas or associate degrees with the Business Information Systems major. Students wishing to continue to four-year colleges would have that option as well.
Two and four year colleges like the concept of clusters of study and are working with school districts for smooth transitions of students. Businesses like the idea because they can provide more substantive guidance to students who are clearly focused on their future profession. State leaders are calling for clustering within industry. Parents like the idea because "career exploration" takes place in high school, as opposed to college when parents are paying costly tuition each time students change their minds about their college major.
Coincidentally, business leaders in South Carolina are speaking the "cluster" language. In a recent publication from the Palmetto Institute, a group of South Carolina business leaders whose mission is to increase the state's per capita income, business leaders call for an education system that is connected to the economic system in the state. A recent study in South Carolina found that industry clustering must become the centerpiece of South Carolina's economic growth. "States that are growing are using the cluster concept because this synergy or common purpose tends to exponentially grow the economy," said Darla Moore, Palmetto Institute Chairwoman.
Midlands Education and Business Alliance, as well as the South Carolina Department of Education, has focused on sixteen clusters of study that are based on the clusters developed by the United States Department of Education.
For more information on any of the following sixteen clusters of study, please visit CareerClusters.org.
- Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
- Architecture and Construction
- Arts, A/V Technology & Communications
- Business, Management and Administration
- Education and Training
- Government and Public Administration
- Health Science
- Hospitality and Tourism
- Human Services
- Information Technology
- Law, Public Safety and Security
- Marketing, Sales and Service
- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
- Transportation, Distribution and Logistics