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4 Great Ways to Start Thinking About Your Future Career

Thinking about your future career in high school is a smart strategy as you get closer to college. Consider these four things to help you explore your options!

No one can be 100% sure about what they want to do with their life. As a high school senior, I don’t have experience in a career, but I’ve found methods that have led me to choosing a pathway. Many would say to do what you’re passionate about, but in my opinion, a better statement is to do what you can find reason to wake up for that aligns with your general life goals, such as living a life of travel or raising a big family. A career is just a career on the outside, and before you choose one, you should know everything it entails. Here are a few ways you can start thinking about careers in high school.

1. Determine which degree you’ll need

Thinking about what type of career you want can help you find the answer to your educational goals. Most jobs require education in some form. It’s up to you to decide whether your highest level of education should be a high school diploma, an associate degree, a bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doctorate. If you choose to enroll in an educational institution after high school, you should consider if it would be better for you to go to a trade or technical school. If you decide college is the next best step for your goals, be careful about choosing your major(s) and/or minor(s). Even though a major doesn’t exactly translate into a career, you need to make sure that the classes and programs you enroll in will best prepare you for a future career.

Related: How to Figure Out What You Want to Do After High School 

Myths to avoid

Here are two common myths to avoid as you consider which level of education and degree you should pursue after high school:

  • Trade or technical school will not lead to a profitable career: Many people who went to trade or technical school make six-figure salaries. Less expensive alternatives to schooling like this can also prevent student loan debt.
  • Going to graduate school will guarantee a higher salary: Beyond obvious careers like doctors, lawyers, psychologists, etc., a lot of jobs don’t require that level of education. You may earn a little more with a graduate degree in other roles, but it should never be the reason for choosing to go to graduate school. Your level of education isn’t the only thing that matters to employers.

2. Start gaining work experience

Experience is a common requirement for receiving a high-paying job or earning a higher salary. Knowledge is important, but employers want to be assured that the job will be done properly. It also lets employers know that even after you’ve gained experience in the field, you’re still committed to the career. Without work experience, you may come fresh into the field, dislike the job, and quit immediately. You can gain experience by having a part-time job, job shadowing, getting an internship, volunteering—anything that will help you develop hard or soft skills.

3. Research job outlooks

Since college is an investment in your future, you need to ensure that there’s little risk and high return. Therefore, the salary of your dream career is important. But you can’t receive a salary without being hired first. Job market outlook research needs to be conducted so you can weigh your chances of receiving a certain job. As you’re researching, you might find other career options with a higher demand, so be sure to keep an open mind. 

Related: 5 Secrets to Landing Your Dream Job After College

4. Consider your interests, values, and skills

If you’re not sure where to start, it’s a good idea to think about your interests and the areas in which you excel. This interests quiz from CareerOneStop.org can help you determine specific interests and personality types that may align with your dream job. It also offers information such as education required, job outlook, wages, and more. It’s best to aim for a career that has at least two of your top three interests determined from this quiz, which include:

  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Social
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional

This work values quiz is another resource that could help you narrow down your career options. Unlike the previous quiz, this one will help you determine what’s important to you as it relates to your day-to-day work experience. Your dream job should have at least one of your top two work values, which include:

  • Achievement
  • Independence
  • Recognition
  • Relationships
  • Support

Other tests and assessments

When it comes to determining your dream job based on your skills, you may not need to take an assessment. Taking classes from elementary to high school has given you your fill of tests on a variety of subjects, so you may already know what you excel in from core classes to extracurriculars. For those who want to complete an assessment to understand their strength levels in reading, math, and science/technical skills, consider completing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. After taking the ASVAB, you’ll receive your results and resources to help you find careers suitable for you. The SAT and ACT can also work to assess your strengths and weaknesses, but these don’t cover a wide range of knowledge and skill sets that you’ll need in the workforce.

Related: What Career Path Is Right for Your Personality?

When choosing a career, keep in mind that your decision may have a long-term impact, but nothing is set in stone. The most important question to ask yourself is, “Can I wake up every day and do this job?” It doesn’t matter if it requires a minimum of 40 hours per week or not. Are you passionate enough about this path that you would devote the same amount of time as what you currently devote to school? If the answer is yes and everything we’ve discussed above leads to the same choice, you may have found your sweet spot.

As you think about your future career path, be sure to check out our Lists & Rankings based on college major to help you explore options you may have never thought of before!

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About Nicole Iwuala

Nicole Iwuala

Nicole Iwuala is a six-foot-tall high school student at Village Tech Schools in Duncanville, Texas. She’s an AP and dual-credit student who values hard work and independence. Not only is she a writer for CollegeXpress, but she also writes for her school’s yearbook and news website in addition to working as a math instructor. During her leisure time, Nicole loves to read literature, cook for her family, and study the Bible. Through her future-focused articles, she hopes to give students the knowledge and confidence to enter college like a champion.


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