Career Pathways Mapping Toolkit

Career pathways maps clarify and align programs and services; they link increasing levels of certification, education, and employment; and they support students in choosing among the opportunities that interest them. Clear career pathways maps enable more students to advance through college, attain credentials with labor market value, and earn wages that sustain their families.

How this toolkit can help you build career pathways maps

This toolkit is intended for community colleges and their partners in K-12 systems and four-year institutions who wish to collaborate on creating strong, seamless career pathways for their students, although any institution looking to create a career pathway map with their community partners may find the toolkit valuable. It offers background on the mapping process and outlines five essential steps. Each step is supported with videos, presentations, and links to resources that can help move the process along. The presentations and videos are most helpful when used simultaneously.

Introduction to the CLP Career Pathways Mapping Toolkit

A pathway map is the product of a facilitated process where representatives of various institutions share their programs of study and collaborate to align them. Participants consider curricula in K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities, along with information about work-based learning, industry certifications, integrated student supports, and the local labor market. As they collaborate to align these threads, participants identify both weaknesses and opportunities to strengthen the pathway. Engaging in mapping career pathways deepens understanding and respect across individual educational institutions and among those institutions, employers, and their other partners. Maps can and should be updated over time as programs and services improve and align, and as labor markets evolve. Because career pathways maps show a progression of certificates, transfers, degrees, and career advancement, they clarify the connections among these elements and illustrate how students can move more efficiently beyond entry-level employment. They help build direct connections between institutions and employers and can be used to inform broader discussions on campuses about designing with students’ career goals in mind. As Guided Pathways work deepens across California, career pathways maps also can inform the effort to develop more granular tools to guide students in their semester-by-semester course planning.

How a career pathways map works

The information gathered in the mapping process is entered into high school and college mapping templates and then analyzed and used to create action plans. By identifying existing strengths and opportunities, the mapping process can lead to a better understanding of how programs align across institutions and can help those institutions create more seamless transitions for students. For more information on the evidence-based practices that support the mapping process, please view the presentation: What is pathway mapping and why do we do it? 

Download a PDF of the toolkit here.

Five suggested steps in career pathways mapping (click each step to see details)

Step 1 - Pre-mapping work - Project launch and leadership meeting
Step 2 - Pre-mapping work - K-12 and college planning meeting
Step 3 - Pre-mapping work - Continuing preparation for the mapping session
Step 4 - Facilitated mapping session - includes planning next steps
Step 5 - Post-mapping work


This toolkit is the product of many individuals who have contributed to the development of the career pathways mapping process with the Career Ladders Project. Great appreciation goes to Linda Collins, Luis Chavez, and Kris Palmer for their guidance and support in steering the career pathways work statewide and to Maeve Katherine Bergman for her passion and many contributions. CLP recognizes the participation and commitment of countless communities of practice that have engaged in pathways mapping to enhance their programs and inform the practice. We also thank Mina Dadgar, Sherry Shojaei, Theresa Rowland, Roy Robles, Robert Curtis, Peter Simon, Mike Williamson, and Beth Maher for their contributions, leadership, and dedication to students. And we thank the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office for its support of Career Advancement Academies, the California Department of Education for its support of the California Career Pathways Trust, and the Bay Area K-14 Regional Joint Venture for providing the impetus and resources for this toolkit. Lastly, many thanks to Sharon Turner, Janine Kaiser, Marilyn Ashlin, and the Bay Area Consortium of Community Colleges for their partnership and support. 

Toolkit authors | Amal Amanda Issa and Lindsay Anglin