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Career and College Readiness Glossary

Knowing what words and abbreviations mean makes it easier for students, job seekers, and the professionals helping them to find accurate and useful information.

Some terms used by employers, educators, and workforce professionals are not always understood by each other, or the general public. Knowing what these words and abbreviations mean can make education and career exploration easier.

These are common terms used in regional, state and national workforce, and career and college readiness settings.

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2+2 Program
A program offering a two-year associate's degree that will transfer directly toward a bachelor's degree in the same field of study. These programs may be within the same college, between two colleges, or between a college and university. (See Field of Study.)

Certification that a college, university or specific program meets a set of criteria established by their accrediting agency. Colleges usually must be accredited for students to receive federal financial aid. The type of accreditation can impact the transfer of credits. (See Transfer Credit.)

Placement assessment used by some colleges, including most Minnesota State Colleges & Universities schools to assess reading, writing, and math skills. Results are used to place students in appropriate level of college courses. (See Placement Test.)

Achievement Gap
Disparity in academic performance between members of demographic groups as reported in grades, standardized test scores, dropout rates, and postsecondary enrollment, and other success measures.

Adult Basic Education
Public education programs serving students ages 16 and over who are not enrolled in school and who want to improve their basic skills, including math, reading, language, and work-readiness skills. MyMnCareers is for ABE students and others who want to explore careers, set goals, get training, or learn more to advance their careers.

An employer's formal training program combining on-the-job learning with technical instruction for a specific trade. Registered apprenticeship for all Minnesotans age 16 or older and administers from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Youth apprenticeship for high school students are administered by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Articulation Agreement
Formal agreements between two or more colleges and universities to accept credits in transfer toward a specific academic program. Can include agreements between high schools and colleges.

See Career Assessment.

Associate Degree
A degree granted by technical, community, and some private career colleges that typically requires at least two years of study (60+ hours) beyond high school.

The Advancement Via Individual Determination program is an elementary through postsecondary college readiness system that is designed to increase school-wide learning and performance.


Bachelor's Degree
An academic award that usually requires four years (120 hours) beyond high school at an accredited college or university.

Blue Collar
Reference to a type of job that requires workers to wear work clothes or protective clothing, usually manual labor positions that earn an hourly wage. (See White Collar.)

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
A division of the U.S. Department of Labor that is the main fact-finding agency for the federal government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. State information is gathered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.


A person's consecutive, often progressive achievement or experience in professional or business life that expresses commitment to a career cluster or pathway. It includes education, training, past jobs, community involvement, and hobbies that demonstrate self-development.

Career Assessment
Tests or decision-making tools used to identify skills, abilities, and interests in order to make education or career decisions. Employers can use assessments for pre-employment testing to maximize chances for getting the right fit between jobs and employees. Educators use different types of assessments to analyze students' knowledge or progression in a program.

Career Clusters
Groupings of occupations needing the same knowledge and skills. Each of the 16 career clusters can include hundreds of different careers.

Career Development
Broad term referring to the ongoing process of exploring, choosing, and acting on educational, occupational, and other options related to one's work life.

Career Fields
Six broad groupings of occupations that can be subdivided into 16 career clusters and numerous career pathways.

Career Ladder or Career Lattice
A series of related jobs with progressively more responsibility and prestige. Career ladders display only vertical movement between jobs. Career lattices contain both vertical and lateral movement between jobs, more closely reflecting today's career paths. Employers can create career ladders/lattices to show job progression within a specific company or industry. However, workers sometimes move up their career ladder/lattices by obtaining a higher position at a different company.

Career Management
Decisions and actions taken to maintain or increase one's employability or job satisfaction. Can include proactive choices to seek employment, promotions, special projects, or training to increase one's salary or prestige, or changing one's career goals. Also includes decisions and reactions to unforeseen transitions, such as a layoff, company restructuring, or an unsolicited job offer. Implies an individual, not one's employer, is aware and has control of one's career development.

Career Pathways
Small groups of occupations within a career cluster. Occupations within a pathway share common skills, knowledge, and interests.

Career Technical Education
High school and college programs that teach industry-specific skills, including math, writing, reading, science, and foundational knowledge and skills used in a career. CTE programs are directed and funded by the Perkins IV Law. (See Perkins.)

No-fee, open access suite of national websites sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor with career, education, and business resources for job seekers, students, employers, and career professionals.

Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006
See Perkins.

See Occupational Certification.

A postsecondary educational institution that offers undergraduate programs, but usually no graduate degree programs. Undergraduate programs awards include certificates, associates' and bachelor's degrees.

College Admission Tests
A type of standardized exam used by most four-year colleges and universities to determine a prospective student's readiness for college-level study. A good test score can help a student enter their school of choice, obtain scholarships, and receive advanced placement or college credit.

College Certificate
A type of academic or training award given to students by a college, university, or professional school upon satisfactory completion of an organized program of study.

Common Core State Standards
Criteria for consistent, clear understanding of what secondary students are expected to learn. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers.

Community College
A type of college that offers one- or two-year degree programs. Full-time students can graduate in two years or less with a certificate, diploma, or degree in a career area. Or students can earn an associate degree and then transfer to a four-year college or university to finish a bachelor's degree. This state's community colleges are all part of the Minnesota State Colleges and University system.

Community Education
A program that provides educational, recreational, cultural, health, or community courses and events. Most courses are taken for personal development and do not offer credit that can be applied to a degree or certifying program.

Core Competencies
Areas of personal capability that enable an individual to successfully perform standard tasks or prove understanding of a subject area. Competencies can be knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, or personal characteristics deemed necessary in that subject matter or career cluster.

Corporate Culture
The official and unofficial beliefs, expectations, and values that affect the work environment and the way a company conducts its business. Behaviors and attitudes accepted and expected of most employees within a department or whole organization.

One of a series of lessons or class meetings as that may be part of an education program.

Evidence of one's education, training or knowledge, including degrees, licensing, occupational certification, and accreditation information.

Curricula Vitae (CV)
A detailed statement of professional qualifications that is used instead of a resume when seeking employment in higher education, science, or medical arenas in the United States, or when job seeking in foreign countries. A longer, more detailed document than a resume that can include earned degrees, teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, and other activities related to a career pathway.

Customized Employment
A process that allows a job seeker and potential employer to individualize a job description so that the job seeker's strengths would be utilized while the employer's needs would be met.


See Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Dislocated Worker
A worker who has recently been or is about to be laid off from a job. (See layoff.)

See Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

See U.S. Department of Labor.


The skills, attitudes, and personality traits needed to increase a job seeker's chances of being positively perceived by employers. Includes basic skills, such as reading comprehension and basic math skills; soft skills; technical skills; and workplace competencies needed to relate to and communicate with customers and coworkers.

Essential Functions
Essential functions are the fundamental job duties that you must be able to perform on your own or with the help of a reasonable accommodation.

See U.S Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration.

Experiential Learning
See Work-Based Learning.


FastTRAC (See Pathways to Prosperity)

Field of Study
A major or academic discipline. Examples include Biology or Automotive Repair. It is a more general term than "program," since a program is a specific offering at a specific institution. (See Program of Study.)

Financial Aid Package
An estimate from a school of the total amount of financial aid a student is to receive. It can include grants, scholarships, work study, and loans from a various sources.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
This application is the first step in the financial aid process. Most schools use the FAFSA to determine students' financial aid. The FAFSA determines the amount of money a student and/or family is expected to contribute toward the price of attending a postsecondary institution.


General Education Development (GED)
A diploma awarded to individuals who pass a test based on the Common Core State Standards. It is an alternative to a high school diploma for those who did not complete the standard high school curriculum. Passing all parts of the GED test is seen as equal to a high school diploma by most colleges and employers. (See Adult Basic Education.)

Get Ready!
An early intervention and college awareness program that helps prepare 5th-12th grade students and their families with college planning information, academic tutoring and information on career and higher education options. Administered by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.


Recruiters, employment agencies, or executive search firms that companies pay to find qualified job candidates for specific positions. Often specialize in an industry or geographic region.

High-Demand Occupations, Industries, or Skills
Occupations, industries, or skills sets identified by employers and economists as being more employable than others. Criteria can be based on a combination of growth rate, total job openings, pay, local and global economic trends, and workplace trends. State data is derived from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's occupations in demand.

Higher Education
Postsecondary education at colleges, universities, junior or community colleges, professional schools, technical institutes, and teacher-training schools.

High-Growth Occupations or Industries
Occupations or industries projected to have more total openings than the average occupation, and represent at least 0.1% of total employment in the base year. Minnesota growing careers and Minnesota growing industries data is derived from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's employment projections.


See High-demand Occupations, Industries or Skills.

Individual Service Strategies (ISS)
An individual plan for a participant in a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) youth program which includes an employment goal, appropriate achievement objectives and the appropriate combination of services for the participant based on the objective assessment. The ISS is used as the basic instrument for the local area to document appropriateness of decisions made about the mix and combination of services, including referrals to other programs for specified activities.

Individual Work Plan (IWP)
A formal agreement between an individual in the Ticket to Work program and an employment service provider that describes how services will help the person to achieve an employment goal.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
Educational plan for elementary and secondary students receiving special education services. Includes information on the student's current performance, goals and evaluation, and on what specific services and accommodations the student need.

Individualized Learning Plan (ILP)
A framework that contains a person's, usually a middle or high school student, plans to align school work with out-of-classroom activities, post-secondary plans, work experiences, and career aspirations. ILPs are consistently updated with relevant career development activities at various stages of a person's life. Because an ILP is a tangible document or portfolio, and a series of activities, it is both a document and a process. Also known as Individualized Plans or Personal Career Plans.

A specific type of business, or branch of a particular field, that employs personnel and uses and generates capital. Often named after its principal product or service.

A short-term experience where an individual works under supervision in a workplace to gain practical skills and experience in a career pathway and to increase work-readiness skills. A common type of work-based learning for high school 11th and 12th grade students and college students. Can be either paid or unpaid. Might offer school credit.

See Minnesota Career Information System (MCIS)


A paid position with specific duties and responsibilities at a particular organization.

Job Shadowing
A type of experiential or work-based learning where a student or job seeker observes the daily routine of an employee at a worksite. The observer is expected to gain information about the employee's education, job training, and experience as well as information about the industry and similar occupations. Can last a few hours or several days.


Knowledge and Foundation Skills
Basic or a core set of skills needed to be ready for work and college referred to in the Minnesota Career Fields, Clusters and Pathways framework.


Temporary or permanent termination of one or more employees, usually part of a company's efforts to reduce costs, production, or end operations. Employees are sometimes called dislocated workers and are often eligible for unemployment and other benefits.

Regulations and permission granted by a competent authority to engage in a business or specific types of occupations, many dealing with public health and safety. The most restrictive form of professional and occupational regulation, overseen by the states or federal government. Licensure requirements vary by state. If a license to participate in a certain occupation is required by the state, unlicensed practice of an occupation is a criminal offense.


A person with professional or personal experience who counsels and guides a younger or less-experienced person. Can be an informal relationship or part of a formal mentoring program administered by a company, school program, or community group. Mentoring relationship can focus on specific topic or goals, such as personal growth, career development, lifestyle changes, spiritual fulfillment, or other areas mutually agreed-upon areas.

Minnesota Career Information System (MCIS)
A Minnesota Department of Education online career exploration resource requiring a paid license for access. MCIS resources include interest and skill assessments, information on colleges, program requirements for various occupations, and ACT practice tests. Also known by its URL: https://mncis.intocareers.org.

Minnesota College Access Network
A statewide network of programs and practitioners working to achieve racial equity in higher education by supporting college participation and graduation of students of color, low income, and first-generation students. MCAN is sponsored by the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP).

Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)
The state agency that oversees all K-12 schools in Minnesota and other educational programs, including early learning programs, Adult Basic Education, community education, and citizenship programs. Responsible for curriculum standards and performance measures. Administers Minnesota's 339 school districts and oversees all licensed teachers in the state.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
The state's main economic development agency, with programs promoting business recruitment, expansion, and retention; workforce development; international trade; and community development. The agency supports the economic success of individuals, businesses, and communities by improving opportunities for growth. Also serves as the state agent of the U.S. Department of Labor, and administers the Minnesota WorkForce Centers, Workforce Investment Act (WIA) certifications, unemployment insurance, and other services.

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI)
The state agency that oversees safety, compensation, and other workplace and employment laws, including worker's compensation, child labor regulations, and apprenticeship registration.

Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MOHE)
A cabinet-level state agency providing financial aid programs and information to allow for greater access to postsecondary education. Serves as the state's clearinghouse for data, research, and analysis on postsecondary enrollment, financial aid, finance, and trends. The agency oversees the Minnesota State Grant program, tuition reciprocity programs, a student loan program, Minnesota's college savings program, licensing, and an early awareness outreach initiative for youth.

Minnesota State 
The administrative body for the state's community colleges, technical colleges, and state universities, comprised of 26 colleges and seven state universities. Minnesota State is the largest single provider of higher education in the state of Minnesota. All of the system's two-year community and technical colleges have an open admissions policy, allowing anyone with a high school diploma or GED to enroll. The University of Minnesota is not part of Minnesota State.

Minnesota CareerForce Locations
Comprehensive one-stop centers, providing a variety of free and low-cost employment and benefit services to job seekers and local businesses. Services can include career counseling, job training and education information, job search assistance, job matching, youth employment services, and employer recruiting events. Administered statewide by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; in other states the centers are known as American Job Centers or One-Stop Career Centers.

Minnesota Youth Program (MYP)
State funded program that provides work readiness skills to low income and/or at risk youth in each workforce service area.


A college and career readiness platform requiring a paid license for access that helps high school students and counselors connect academic achievement to postsecondary goals.

The exchange of information or resources to cultivate productive relationships for employment or business activities.

Non-Traditional Career
An occupation or pathway that is not commonly pursued by a specific gender or cultural group. Often refers to occupations in which less than 25 percent of the workforce is of one group.


A set of pre-determined work activities, skills, knowledge, and other criteria that is performed for pay or profit on an ongoing basis, as classified by the Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC). Similar occupations are grouped in career pathways.

Occupational Certification
A pre-determined standard that verifies a worker's expertise within an occupation and allows the worker to perform job duties using a specific occupation title ("right to title"). Non-certified individuals may perform the same duties, but may not use the title.

Occupational Information Network (O*NET)
A U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored no-fee web-based resource for comprehensive information on job requirements and worker competencies. The nation's primary source of occupational information. It replaced the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

Older Worker
Job seeker whose "advanced" age is seen as a challenge to finding employment. Exact age group varies by the program or initiative geared toward assisting the group with job searching and encouraging employers to hire them.

Online Learning
An education method where teacher and students who are physically separated use the Internet and related technologies to communicate rather than all being located in a traditional in-person classroom. Various public and private educational institutions, including K-12 (Kindergarten through 12th grade), colleges and universities, and adult continuing education can administer courses. K-12 online learning requires parental permission for students age 17 and younger.

On-the-Job Training
Hands-on-instruction given to new employees to learn the basic duties of an occupation. Implies that little or no formal technical training is required of applicants.

Open Enrollment
Educational programs or courses that allow students to register or start classes at any time throughout the year instead of all students starting a new term on the same date.


Pathways to Prosperity
Training program to help educationally underprepared adults succeed in well-paying careers by integrating basic skills education and career-specific training in fields where new skills are in high demand. These adult career pathway programs are usually administered in partnership with Adult Basic Education, a Minnesota State campus, DEED, and community and industry partners.

Performance Measure
A description of how attainment of a learning objective will be measured. Examples include standardized tests, surveys, and assessments.

Performance Standards
The minimum acceptable level of achievement for each learning objective.

Perkins or Perkins IV is short for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. The Perkins IV Law provides the direction and the funding for high school and postsecondary Career Technical Education programs, and adult career exploration and job training initiatives.

Placement Test
An exam used to test a student's academic ability so that he or she may be placed in the appropriate courses in that field. In some cases, a student may be given academic credit based on the results of a placement test. (See Accuplacer).

Portfolio or Career Portfolio
A selection of a person' work compiled over a period of time. Used to demonstrate overall performance or progress in a particular area. Can be a display of professional or student work showcasing creative, education, career, and personal achievements. Can be online or a hard copy.

Postsecondary Education
A formal instructional program which curriculum is designed primarily for students who have earned a high school diploma or the equivalent. Includes two-year colleges and four-year colleges and universities as well as academic, vocational, and continuing professional education programs. Also called higher education.

Private Career School
Higher education schools that provide short-term programs (three years or less) to prepare for specific careers. Owned, administrated, and primarily supported by a non-governmental agency or company. Can be for-profit or non-profit.

Private College or University
Higher education schools owned, administrated, and primarily supported by a non-governmental agency or company. Can be for-profit or non-profit. Some are religiously affiliated.

A person who chooses to be employed in a particular profession on a long-term or ongoing basis, or possesses the skills, knowledge and ethical standards of a particular career pathway. Often refers individuals in career pathways that require formal education, implying a higher status than other pathways. Also refers to an attitude of courteous, conscientious and generally businesslike behavior for any individual.

Professional Degree
An academic award, also known as First Professional Degree, requiring two or more years beyond a bachelor's degree at an accredited university that is the minimum requirement for certain occupations. Examples include lawyer and pharmacist.

Programs of Study
High school and postsecondary educational programs developed around a career pathway that helps learners prepare for a career. Curriculum is sequential and based on regional industry expectations and skill standards. (See Field of Study.)

Public or State College or University
A higher education school that receives funding mainly from the state government.



Ramp Up to Readiness
A school-wide guidance program designed to increase the number and diversity of students who graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills, and habits necessary for success in a high-quality college program. Administered by the University of Minnesota.

Ready Set Go
A no-fee, open access website for educators, families, and students to support all youth as they prepare for postsecondary opportunities by providing resources about college and career readiness and accelerated course options in Minnesota. Produced by the Minnesota Department of Education with funding from the U. S. Department of Education.

Reasonable Accommodation
An adjustment or modification to a job or workplace that enables an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of the job. In education, a reasonable accommodation is a modification that allows a student with a disability to successfully participate in an activity, class, test, or other aspect of school.

An agreement that allows students to attend participating public universities and colleges in a neighboring state at reduced tuition prices.

See Headhunter.

Replacement Openings
An estimate of the need for new workforce entrants to replace workers who will die, retire, or otherwise permanently leave the occupation. State data is derived from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's labor market information.


Skills Gap
Differences between the skills job applicants have and the skills deemed necessary for the job.

Soft Skills
Personality traits, aptitudes, and attitudes that direct how a person interacts and works with others on the job. Can include interpersonal communications, cultural awareness, appearance and ability to dress appropriately, and manners. Does not refer to the technical skills (or hard skills) which are unique to each career pathway. Also known as employability skills. See Employability.

Stackable Credential
Part of a sequence of postsecondary or industry-recognized degrees and training that can be accumulated over time to increase an individual's qualifications and help them to move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to potentially higher-paying jobs.

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System
The U.S. government's system of classifying all occupations, allowing government agencies and private industry to produce comparable data. (See O*NET.)

State College or University
See Public or State Colleges and Universities.

Reference to the career cluster or skills of Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.


Technical College
A higher education school that offers employment courses and programs that teach specific knowledge and skills leading to specific jobs. Programs are usually 10-23 months, and eligible for credit transfer to a four-year program.

Technical or Vocational Education
Programs and courses that teach skills which are directly related to a specific job or profession, as opposed to academic education which looks at a subject in a more abstract way. (See Career and Technical Education.)

Ticket to Work Program
Initiative for people with disabilities to achieve greater independence by providing choices in employment services and access to meaningful work. Administered by the Social Security Administration.

Transfer Credit
Course credit that is accepted by another high school, college or university and applied to meet program requirements.

Transferable Skills
Abilities, technical skills, and personal qualities a worker can use in more than one occupation. Can be acquired from past jobs, education, work-based learning, volunteering, hobbies, participating in sports, or other activities.

A federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide college services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Offered to eligible students in high schools, and in colleges and universities.


U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
A federal government agency that fosters and promotes the welfare of U.S. job seekers, wage earners, and retirees. The agency is responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics. Most states have comparable labor departments that work with and report to the federal agency, including the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Undergraduate Program
Higher education program that leads to an associate or bachelor's degree, but not to a graduate or professional degree. Students who are freshman, sophomores, juniors, or seniors at a college or university are called undergraduates.

A higher education school that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

University of Minnesota
A public research institution and the state's largest university. The system has five campuses: Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris, Crookston, and Rochester. The University of Minnesota is not a part of the Minnesota State Colleges and University system.


Veterans Employment Services
Federal and state programs providing veterans and transitioning service members with local and national resources and services related to job searching, employment and reemployment rights, and meeting labor-market demands.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS)
Minnesota State agency which helps people with disabilities prepare for work, find and keep a job, and live as independently as possible.


White Collar
Reference to a type of job with salaried, professional workers in office settings who typically wear business attire as opposed to the protective clothing of blue collar jobs.

Work Readiness
Refers to the skills, aptitudes, and attitudes employers expect job seekers to have in preparation for the culture and demands of the workplace. Can be obtained through education or job training programs, employer-sponsored events, work-based learning, and other activities that increase transferable skills. (See Employability.)

Work Study
On- or off-campus job offered as part of a student's financial aid package. Student is employed by the school. The position is funded by the federal or state government.

Work-Based Learning
Educational opportunities that allow students to gain career skills and knowledge through real-life work activities, and connect what they learn in school to workplace expectations and competencies. Examples include internships, job shadowing, work-site visits, and informational interviews.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
A federally funded program that gives workers the chance to learn the skills and information needed to compete in the new economy. The WIOA certification process ensures that Minnesotans and customers in WIOA programs (i.e., Adult, Dislocated Worker or Youth) can find quality training programs that provide credentials upon completion. 

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Youth Program
Federally funded program that provides work-readiness skills to low-income and at-risk youth in each workforce service area.





This list of terms and organizations was compiled with help from members of the Minnesota Career & College Readiness Collaborative.


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