Workforce Wednesday: Plan your future by exploring career pathways

Pensive smiling professional thinking outside

By Jamie Jelly Murtha 

Where do you want to be in your career next year? What job experience, education, or training do you need to reach your goals? How will the job you have now help you earn higher wages in the future?

Exploring career pathways will make answering some of these questions easier.

A career pathway is a job roadmap that helps you plan for career advancement and increase your hourly wages or salary over time. Career pathways offer guidance on the education, training, and job experience that workers need to get ahead in their fields and make significant pay gains at important steps along the way.

Equally important, career pathways focus on in-demand jobs in industries that have a substantial presence in Philadelphia or are growing. They point workers to positions for which many employers are hiring, with more job availability than other positions.

Research on jobseekers conducted over the past 30 years has found that:

  • Workers with a high school diploma or GED—who also completed training or earned a credential after high school—experienced more consistent pay increases throughout their careers.
  • Workers with only a high school education or less were more likely to experience low wages and high unemployment.
  • Adults who tried short-term solutions to increasing their earnings, such as quick job placement or enrolling in stand-alone basic skills courses, did not experience an increase in employment or higher earnings over time.

These findings illustrate the importance of career pathways. They help jobseekers explore careers, understand the education, credentials, and experience that provide the best opportunities for long-term success, and make smart choices.

How do you get on a career pathway? Philadelphia Works, a nonprofit workforce development organization, has created a free interactive career pathway tool ( that allows users to explore top career pathways in the City of Philadelphia.

Each career pathway includes:

  • Transitional or entry-level roles, for workers looking to move into a career pathway;
  • The jobs within each pathway that lead to higher earnings over time;
  • Detailed information about salaries, required credentials, and desirable skill sets.

What types of jobs are included in career pathways? Career pathways include a wide range of positions within the healthcare, information technology (IT), and manufacturing industries, among others.

The IT career pathway, for example, provide some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying job opportunities in the region. Since 2010, occupations along the IT career pathway in Philadelphia have grown by more than 50%, with about 7,000 new jobs created. Hourly wages in this pathway have also grown by about $9 per hour—twice as fast as the average pay increase for all jobs across the city during the period.

Need help deciding which career pathway to is best for you? Email Philadelphia Works at [email protected]. We’ll connect you to a workforce advisor who can help you determine which pathways offer the right opportunities for you. Get started on a rewarding career pathway today to take control of your future.

Jamie Jelly Murtha is the Senior Manager, Data Performance and Labor Market Information at Philadelphia Works. 



Workforce Wednesday is in partnership with Metro Newspaper.