An icon of a ribbon, representing College and Career Pathway Endorsements

College and Career Pathway Endorsements

College and Career Pathway Endorsements reflect that a student has completed an individualized learning plan, engaged in a career-focused instructional sequence, participated in work-based learning, and demonstrated readiness for college-level reading and math

The PWR Act establishes a voluntary system for school districts to award College and Career Pathway Endorsements on high school diplomas. The endorsement simultaneously demonstrates students’ readiness for postsecondary programs and entry-level professional learning experiences in a selected career interest area. The endorsement also incentivizes career exploration and acceleration, particularly in high-demand career fields.

The College and Career Pathway Endorsements framework requires:

  • An individualized learning plan: Each student completing an endorsement must have an individualized plan, which includes college planning linked to early understanding of career goals, financial aid, resume, and personal statement. 
  • Professional learning: Students participate in career awareness, exploration, and preparation activities that provide opportunities to interact with adults in their workplace.
  • Career-focused instruction: Students complete two years of secondary coursework, or equivalent competencies, that articulate to a postsecondary credential with labor market value. Must include at least six hours of early college credit.
  • Academic readiness: Students are ready for non-remedial coursework in reading and math by high school graduation through criteria defined by the school district and local community college.

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Public Act 102-0917 (HB3296) into law on May 27, 2022, which requires districts1 enrolling students in any of grades 9–12 to either (i) independently, (ii) through an area career center, or (iii) through an inter-district cooperative, apply to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to offer College and Career Pathway Endorsements in at least one endorsement area beginning with the high school graduating class of 2027. The district must apply to ISBE to offer one additional endorsement by 2029 and a third by 2031, if a district has more than 350 students enrolled (the State median enrollment for high school-serving districts). By July 1, 2025, districts must either apply to ISBE for the number of endorsement areas specified in the law or the school board must adopt a timeline for implementation meeting the expectations of the law. Districts may elect to opt out by school board action as directed in the Act.

Key Resources

The College and Career Pathway Endorsements system is a voluntary system for school districts to award endorsements on high school diplomas to graduates who have demonstrated readiness for college and careers. This document outlines the framework for the endorsement.

The Illinois State Board of Education invites interested districts to complete the voluntary process for school districts to award College and Career Pathway Endorsements to high school graduates. To offer the endorsements, districts must submit an application and a report of projected student participation.

Explore ten industry-sector-based guides to support the implementation of secondary-to-postsecondary pathways that align with College and Career Pathway Endorsements. The guides are for the industry sectors of agriculture, food, and natural resources; architecture, construction, and energy; arts and communications; culinary and hospitality; education; finance and business service; health sciences and technology; human and public services; information technology; and manufacturing and engineering.

This resource includes the State of Illinois’ overarching definition for career pathways and the work-based learning components of College and Career Pathway Endorsements as agreed to by multiple state agencies, boards, committees, and other stakeholders.

The cross-cutting and sector-specific competencies set forth in this document were developed through an iterative process involving public-private steering committees established pursuant to the PWR Act in order to implement College and Career Pathway Endorsements.

Guidance and Implementation Supports

This resource page serves as an orientation for educators to the College and Career Pathway Endorsements framework and its implementation. Content is organized by role: administrators, division heads and teachers, and student advisors and counselors.

Education Systems Center at NIU developed a free project management tool and accompanying tracker to support school districts, intermediary organizations, and school leaders develop action plans for implementing college and career pathways in a deliberate and sustainable manner.

The Illinois Work-Based Learning Innovation Network (I-WIN) is designed to help employers, educators, and students leverage innovative models for scaling high-quality work-based learning opportunities in school districts and community colleges across the State. I-WIN explores ways to create equitable opportunities for students through both in-person and virtual learning.

A presentation on the components that make up a work-based learning continuum.

The CDE toolkit provides guidance regardless to any organization establishing or running a career development experience program, to ensure programs are meeting the requirements of state frameworks and providing high-quality, rigorous, work-based learning experiences.

Exemplary Practices from the Field

The Region Office of Education 47 website hosts information on regional pathways and participating schools.

On Vienna High School’s website, students and families can view videos introducing each of the Career Pathways and access pathway-specific resources.

On its website, Ridgewood High School outlines the components of earning College and Career Pathway Endorsements, current postsecondary currency available for endorsement earners, and recognition for alumni who graduated with an endorsement.

District 214 is delineating and elevating pathways in alignment with the endorsement as a part its Academic Programs and Pathways Guidebook. The Guidebook serves as a model for language and visuals to communicate about the pathway endorsement to students and their families.

Leaders from District 100 share how they are implementing competencies in curricula to develop industry-aligned pathways that lead to College and Career Pathway Endorsements.

2022 grant recipients participating in the Illinois State Board of Education’s Career Exploration and Career Development Experience Pilot presented their pilot experiences including a general overview of their experience, lessons learned and challenges overcome, best practices, and resources.