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Difference Between Career Field and Occupation

This article contains information on the difference between career and occupation.

Difference Between Career Field  and Occupation
Explore the differences between career and occupation.

Oftentimes, career is misplaced for occupation. Infact, these two words are commonly used interchangeably, this is because they are synonymous. In this article we will be looking at the difference between a career field and occupation, but before we proceed, it is important to understand the meaning of both concepts.

What is Occupation?

Merriam Webster [1] dictionary defines occupation as the principal business of one’s life. In other words, occupation refers to one’s job or profession which serves as a means of earning a living.

Example of occupation includes teaching, Web development, etc

What is a Career?

According to Indeed.com [4], a career is a long-term path or plan you have that includes your education, experiences, jobs, occupations and hobbies that encompass you as a professional. Careers usually bring us a sense of achievement as it is a journey built on your skills, knowledge and experience.

In other words, a career is a job that can progress to an increasingly elevated level, status, responsibility, authority and pay, over a long period of time. 

Career is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of one’s life and with opportunities for progress.

A career is a broader concept than occupation. It is possible for a person to have more than one occupation during his career.

For instance, a typical example of a career is when you start your teaching journey by first becoming a teaching assistant. This would mean going from a teaching assistant to a full time classroom teacher, a head teacher, lecturer and possibly a professor.

Difference Between Career Field and Occupation

To understand the difference between occupation and career field, we need to understand what a career field is.

Career field is a term that houses a list of related careers. In other words, a career field is a grouping of careers that are closely related. 

All occupations fall into the category of six major career fields [3]:

  1. Agriculture, food, and natural resources
  2. Business, management, and administration
  3. Communications and information systems
  4. Engineering, manufacturing and technology
  5. Health science technology
  6. Human services.

Different careers may exist under the same career field. For example, a career in the entertainment field may include careers such as:

  • Comedian
  • Television Presenter
  • Musician
  • Events Manager, etc.

Some career fields include:

1. Architecture, Planning & Environmental Design

Architecture, Landscape Architecture,Interior Design Urban & Regional Planning.

2. Arts & Entertainment

Broadcasting, Arts Management, Cultural Resources/ Museums, Design, Film, Performing Arts, Visual Arts.

3. Communications

Advertising, Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Publishing.         

4. Education

Teaching, Education Technology, Counseling, School Social Work, Speech Pathology, Library/Information Services.

5. Engineering & Computer Science

Aerospace, Civil and Environmental, Data Science, EECS, Mechanical, Nuclear, Statistics.

6. Health & Medicine

Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Optometry, Pharmacy, Public Health, etc.

7. Agriculture, Astronomy, Bioinformatics

 Biostatistics, Biotechnology, Botany, Forensic Science, Genetics, Marine Science, Physics, Animal science, etc.

Having understood the meaning of the various concepts, there are a few differences between an occupation and a career field. They include;


According to Chron.com [1], advancement can mean different things. Sometimes, advancement can mean promotion. Although promotion is a form of advancement, career advancement is not promotion. There is a significant difference between a career field and occupation in terms of advancement.   

An occupation may involve learning specific skills in order to perform better in that particular job. These skills may not be needed in the next job especially if it’s a totally different field . On the other hand, advancement in a career field often means learning skills you use throughout the rest of your professional life in a related field.

Advancements in occupation usually happen faster than in career fields because occupations are short-term while that of career happens gradually due to transition from one level in the same job or another related job to another .


Occupation is ever changing over a short period of time and might not require strategic planning as you might just be interested in working towards getting a pay raise or switching to another occupation with more benefits . With career, the case is different. You need conscious efforts and strategic planning to advance in a given career field. 

For instance, as one who intends to build a career in the tech field, you may start off from graphics to UI/UX designing and finally advance to Website development. While on this, you are consciously putting into consideration how your career advancement will affect your life over time and ways to have a work-life balance. 


Another significant difference between occupation and career field lies in expected benefits. Since occupation may last over a short period of time, the benefits are mostly short-term. This may include monthly allowance, training, etc.

For instance, as a classroom assistant you might receive training on how to manage a classroom, monthly allowance, etc as a benefit for the job, but the benefits due to another person who takes time to build a career in the teaching field, advancing from being a classroom assistant to become a full time teacher and advancing to become a principal or a lecturer, is quite different. The person who has built a career in the teaching field is entitled to long-term benefits like pension and other retirement benefits, due to the years of experience.


[1] “Advancement vs. A Promotion.” Small Business – Chron.com, Chron.com, 5 Nov. 2011, https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advancement-vs-promotion-33323.html.

[2] “Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Merriam-webster.com, https://www.merriam-webster.com/. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

[3] “No Title.” Bestaccreditedcolleges.org, https://bestaccreditedcolleges.org/articles/careers-and-education/what-is-a-career-field.html. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

[4] Indeed.com, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/occupation-vs-career. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

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