Career Path: Definition, Examples & How to Plan a Successful One Out

What is a career path? Well, it's more than a straight up-and-to-the-right line signifying your professional life. Sometimes there are setbacks, and there may be times you decide an entirely different career path is where you want to be. In this post, we talk about career paths, so read on below!

Here at Goodwall, we’re always talking jobs, from online jobs for college students to full-on, in-office careers.

At times, we go to a higher level, talking about your 5-year professional plan, say.

Well, today, we’re going to the highest level: career paths.

From what a career path means to considering various common examples to finding out how to plan yours out, this article has you covered.


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What is a Career Path?

A career path is a sequence or series of job positions held leading to your short-term and long-term professional goals. In essence, a career path is the route you take to achieve your career goal or goals.

While most people aim for each job in their career path to follow a linear pattern and be progressively better than the last, it’s not always the case. A career path may meander, sometimes going as far as curving in on itself, before reaching your intended destination.

A sideways move, known as a lateral move, is common, and so is a backwards move (career setback). And, of course, career paths change altogether; sometimes your professional goals change, family responsibilities take priority, or life otherwise gets in the way.

Related Read: Use the STAR Method to Ace Interviews & Behavioral Interview Questions

Examples of Career Paths

There are countless types of career paths to follow or consider, just as everyone has their own career goals and career ladder. On top of the fact that the number of ultimate career outcomes is almost endless, there too are virtually limitless ways to get to each one.

But, though we can’t include that infinite list here for you, we can give you some examples of career paths to consider.

Here are sample career paths through common employment industries:

IT Career Path – Computer Science Major → Web Developer Intern → Junior Web Developer → Software Engineer → IT Manager → Head of IT

Marketing – Social Media Specialist → Content Marketing Associate → Marketing Lead → Head of Marketing → Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

Retail – Retail Sales Associate → Cashier → Consumables Team Leader → Assistant Store Manager → Store Manager → District Manager

Accounting – Finance Major → Junior Accountant → Senior Accountant → Corporate Controller → Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Physical Therapy – Biology & Physiology Major → Doctor of Physical Therapy → PT Resident → Physical Therapist → Private Practice

Engineer – Engineering Student → Engineer I → Engineer II → Senior Engineer → Principal Engineer

Education – Bachelor’s Degree in Childhood Education → Teaching Assistant → Teacher → Assistant Principal → Principal

Media – Editorial Intern → Editorial Assistant → Assistant Editor → Associate Editor → Managing Editor → Editor in Chief

Related Read: How to Get a Job With No Work Experience

What Career Path Should I Take?

Now that you know the career path definition and have seen some career path examples, you may be wondering –

Which career path is right for you?

The thing to remember is that career paths aren’t static. There are always going to be setbacks or unforeseen events which will require you to take detours, double back, or in rare, fortunate circumstances, jump ahead.

Rather than planning out your entire career path and inflexible professional goal decades in advance, get an idea of where you’d like to end up which is open to interpretation and change. And, more importantly, understand that there are numerous paths to get there, wherever there is.

Always keep learning, as well. The landscape of the job market and the resume skills needed to succeed in your niche and toward your career goals are shifting faster than ever. It seemed like just yesterday that I woke up to discover that Tik Tok and Clubhouse, two new (to me, mostly) social platforms, were now the most popular social networks on the planet!

Similar to a life of constant learning, make sure you don’t stop networking, either. One of the requirements for career path success is to connect and nurture professional relationships. Not only do these contacts put a bit of fun into the everyday stress of your work life, but one of them might just be the person to help you get in the door of your dream job!

Related Read: How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation: 10+ Tips, Advice & Examples

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Christian Eilers
Written By Christian Eilers
is a writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, career advice, travel, and culture. On the Goodwall Blog, he covers topics including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career development, climate action, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Kyiv, Ukraine after living in Warsaw, Poland for the past 4 years. At his desk, you're sure to find Pickwick, his Devon Rex cat, either attacking his fingers as he types or the monitor as the mouse pointer moves around.

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