Minnesota Programs of Study

mn programs of study logo

A Program of Study is a set of aligned programs and curricula that begin at the high school level and continue through college and university certificate, diploma and degree programs. Essentially, a Program of Study is an academic and career plan. 

Career Fields: the organizing structure for the 16 career clusters and 81 pathways. The six career fields represent the broadest aggregation of careers. Students are normally exposed to career field exploration in middle school and early high school.

Career Clusters: group of occupations and broad industries into a national classification of 16 clusters which are based upon common knowledge and skills. Career clusters include hundreds of occupations which are grouped into pathways around which educational programs of study can be built.

Career Pathways: represent an organization of related occupational areas within a specific career cluster. Each of these pathways has identified essential industry validated knowledge and skills which provide foundational information for development and revision of programs and programs of study. Once programs of study are developed, learners at various levels (high school, college, or at the workforce training level) will then be able to choose from several individual programs within a program of study in order to attain the specific knowledge, skills and abilities and pursue a career of their choice. 

Rigorous Programs of Study

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV) calls for states to offer “career and technical programs of study,” which may be adopted by local educational agencies and postsecondary institutions, as an option to students (and their parents as appropriate) when planning for and completing future coursework. These programs, at a minimum, must:

  • Incorporate and align secondary and postsecondary education elements,
  • Include academic and CTE content in a coordinated, non-duplicative progression of courses,
  • Offer the opportunity, where appropriate, for secondary students to acquire postsecondary credits, and
  • Lead to an industry-recognized credential or certificate at the postsecondary level, or an associate or baccalaureate degree. Each local recipient of Perkins funds must offer at least one career and technical program of study.

Each local recipient of Perkins funds must offer at least one career and technical program of study.

To help states and local recipients meet these requirements, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), in collaboration with major national associations, organizations, and states, have formulated a “career and technical programs of study design framework (framework).” The framework identifies a system of 10 components that, taken together, support the development and implementation of effective programs of study. Although all 10 components are important, they are neither independent nor of equal priority: State and local program developers must identify the most pressing components for state or local adoption, taking into consideration their relative need within their educational context.

A program of study is a comprehensive, structured approach for delivering academic and career and technical education to prepare students for postsecondary education and career success.

Download the Rigorous Programs of Study Handbook
Planning, implementing and reporting on rigorous Programs of Study in Minnesota.

RPOS Guide

Common Career Technical Core

The Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) is a state-led initiative CCTClogoto establish a set of rigorous, high-quality standards for Career Technical Education (CTE) that states can adopt voluntarily. The standards have been informed by state and industry standards and developed by a diverse group of teachers, business and industry experts, administrators and researchers.

In October 2013, NASDCTEc released a report – The State of Career Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards – providing a national view on how states adopt, organize and implement CTE standards at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. More information can be found on their website at www.careertech.org.


Minnesota State CCTC Report
CCTC talking points
CCTC alignment study FAQs
Career Ready Practices and Common Core
Using CCTC Alignment Results
CCTC Setting a New Standard

Resources for Administrators

MN Programs of Study: a career guidance tool