Career Path - Meaning, Importance, Types, Process & Example

Published by MBA Skool Team, Last Updated: July 02, 2022

What is Career Path?

Career Path is the series of various positions and job roles an employee works in as one grows in one or multiple organizations throughout the career. It mainly refers to the growth or trajectory of the employee in an organization(s) in one's overall career. The employee may move vertically most of the time but also move laterally or cross functionally to move to a different type of job role. Career path is used interchangeably with career ladder.

Most successful companies chalk out a career path/career ladder for the employees in order to provide them with a realistic picture of their position in the coming years in order to retain them. Having a clear idea about future positions and job responsibilities, the employee and the company can work to identify areas where relevant training is required for the employee to build his competencies to fulfill future job requirements.

Importance of Career Path

Career path is not only a series of positions one takes but also an opportunity to achieve overall positive career development. Career path provides various options like in example below. The decision points can determine how well your career would go farther. Right and informed decisions can help you move to better positions and vice versa. The career path is the result of the decisions and hard work put by an individual.

Company should also work towards ensuring that its employees move in career path the way they want to. Proper job analysis should be done in order to make sure the employees are satisfied and achieve higher positions in the organization itself rather than moving to other organizations in search for better path. An employee must also constantly acquire new skills like leadership, time management, communication management, team management etc. These people management skills help the employee rise in an organization as well as have positive motivation towards work.

Process of Defining Career Path

Before deciding a career path, a through process has to be done. The main steps are:

1. Finding Aspiration for one's career

The first and foremost step would be to see what is the career path one wants to take internally or externally. It can matter if a person is already in job or is looking to start a career for the first time in life e.g. fresher

2. Self evaluation of fitment

The next step is to see whether one is fit for that role or path. It can be done through self evaluation of education, experience, capabilities and skills one has or can develop over period of time.

3. Finding Gaps

Once first 2 steps are done and we know a particular career path one might be interested in, next step is to find the gaps where immediate work is needed. e.g. if you are in sales and want to move to marketing, you may need to understand some concepts of branding and ROI etc.

4. Fill the gaps through training and learning

Next step is to fill those gaps by proper learning and skill development. It may be through self training or studying or through a structured program in the company.

5. Apply for the new Role

Once you are ready for the role, next step would be that you apply for the role as it might not be available immediately or you might need to go through evaluation process.

Getting selected would be very important step in starting a new career path.

Once you start the new role, one needs to perform well in the new role to strengthen the career path. The process of career path can be repeated many times in one's career.

Types of Career Path

Career paths can be broadly classified into 2 types:

1. Internal 

In this type of career path, a person moves into different roles in the same organization across the tenure. One can move in a linear or a non-linear fashion. There are career progressions defined in an organization where one moves from junior to senior roles through different years and skills. There can be an other way also in which a person moves from one unit to another unit acquiring different skills. One example can be moving from sales to finance department which is still a step in career path but requires different skills and responsibilities.

2. External

External career path is where one moves across different organizations or even industry to move ahead in the career. One can start in a particular position in one organization but can move to a better one in another organization which may be in the same industry or even different sometimes. e.g. Moving from sales department of a manufacturing product company to sales of software company may present different challenges and roles. Also one can move into entrepreneurship and move forward from there.

Career Path Example

Career Path

The image above shows an example of career path an employee can take in an IT company. After Senior Software developer role/position in his career, an employee can chose to be either a computer architect or an engineering manager. The career path he/she takes now would determine the roles in future.

In the example above Principal Computer Architect or Senior Manager are the two positions based on the positions chosen last.

Another example can be in Sales department. A person starts as sales representative then moves into sales manager. From sales manager one can either move into a regional sales manager or may move to marketing department as well depending on aspirations. From Regional manager, one can go to sales vice president role or in marketing one can move into branding department.

Eventually both career paths may converge into VP of the company over many years of experience and then move into a president, senior president roles.

Hence, this concludes the definition of Career Path along with its overview.

This article has been researched & authored by the Business Concepts Team. It has been reviewed & published by the MBA Skool Team. The content on MBA Skool has been created for educational & academic purpose only.

Browse the definition and meaning of more similar terms. The Management Dictionary covers over 2000 business concepts from 5 categories.

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