What Is a Career Development Path?

A career development path should progressively move a worker up in a field.
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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2014
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A career development path is a general term used to describe the progression of jobs that one has or would like to have over the course of his life. In many cases, it involves a plan of attaining a higher rank within one's profession or at a certain business. In some cases, career development begins in high school or earlier when students are asked to make decisions about their future educational or work plans. In other cases, businesses might have formalized career development paths that demonstrate what employees need to achieve and what education they must have in order to advance. The ability to advance one's career generally depends on experience, seniority, education, and a variety of other factors.

Plotting out one's career development path depends on a variety of different factors. One must, first of all, have a very good idea of his own interests, goals, and lifestyle choices. One must also have deep knowledge of the expectations associated with potential career choices. Ideally, an individual will be able to match these two factors relatively well at some point during his career development path. Compromises may be necessary, but detailed knowledge of one's goals and of available options, combined with the will to succeed, can generally lead one along a satisfactory career development path.


A career development path may be designed by many different people within a company, but an individual typically is responsible for keeping track of his own career development goals and desires. Managers, though, are often responsible for recognizing the skills and particular contributions of their employees in order to judge how each individual would perform in more advanced roles. They are also responsible for connecting the needs of the company to the experience and skills of the employees. Some companies have human resources departments that advise employees on how best to achieve their career objectives and to advance their career development paths.

There are many different sociological and psychological theories concerning an individual's chosen career development path. The importance of career development in such fields is rooted in the fact that, for many people in modern society, one's identity is defined by one's career. A career identity path, then, is just as much a planned progression of identity as it is a planned progression of work. Different theories of career development tend to explore social, emotional, financial, and other factors that influence one's career development path.


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