Career Pathways Research Portfolio

Career pathways programs connect education, training, and related supports in a pathway that is intended to lead to employment in a specific sector or occupation or to further training. The approach is gaining attention as a promising strategy to improve post-secondary education and training outcomes for low-income and low-skilled adults.

Career pathways are designed to allow entries, exits, and re-entries at each step—depending on skill levels and prior training, employment, and changing personal situations. Each step is designed to incorporate four core program strategies:

  • Assessments of skills and needs;
  • Promising and innovative approaches to basic skills instruction and occupational training;
  • Academic and non-academic supports to promote success; and
  • Approaches for connecting students with career-track employment opportunities.

Although there is some research evidence on selected components of career pathways programs, OPRE’s portfolio of research on career pathways represents the first rigorous research on the overall effectiveness of this approach. Beginning in 2007, with the launch of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) project, and continuing with the evaluations of the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program administered by ACF’s Office of Family Assistance, ACF has developed a robust portfolio of research on the career pathways approach. In addition, OPRE led an Employment Sectors Analysis project to identify promising occupations that can be attained with without a four-year college degree.


Data collected during the PACE project, HPOG Impact Study, and HPOG National Implementation Evaluation are archived through the Child and Family Data Archive. See each project page or OPRE’s Archived Data  page for more information.

Visit Visit disclaimer page  for more information on OPRE’s Career Pathways Research Portfolio.

Point(s) of contact: Nicole Constance, Hilary BruckAmelia PophamLauren Deutsch, Lisa Zingman, and Nicol Valdez.

Related Resources

This brief summarizes findings from interviews conducted with leadership and staff from eight programs that participated in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) Evaluation, a rigorous, multi-site evaluation of “career pathways” programs.

This report summarizes implementation and early impact findings for nine programs employing “career pathways” strategies for low-income and low-skilled adults. These programs were evaluated as part of the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) Evaluation. The paper describes...

The HPOG Impact Study will answer questions about the HPOG program’s overall effectiveness and explore how variations in program services affect program impacts. This analysis plan provides detailed information on...

This paper discusses the experiences of and lessons learned from scaling up the Year Up program, a one-year program for low-income 18-25 year olds with a high school diploma.

This analysis of data from 3,719 students in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) evaluation highlights risk factors that disadvantaged students face in college success. The data indicates a strong relationship between college success and past educational experience; economic status; expected work hours...

This report presents findings from the Systems Change Analysis of the 27 non-tribal HPOG grantees funded in 2010, which operated 49 programs. This study addresses the major research question: What changes to the service delivery system are associated with program implementation?

This report presents key findings from the evaluation of the first round of the Tribal Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program. These findings show that all five of the Tribal HPOG grantees established programs that led to healthcare training completion and employment.

The report includes findings on programs’ structures, processes...

This report presents findings from two components of the National Implementation Evaluation of the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG)...

This collection of state-level analyses details promising occupations expected to experience growth through 2022 that someone can enter after completing a relatively short-term training...

Written specifically for TANF administrators, this guide is an introduction to labor market information, including what it is, who produces the data, uses for the data, and key distinctions among types of data. The goal of the guide is to help TANF administrators identify opportunities for this information to support their work and be useful to TANF clients...