Exploring Careers: Tips and Resources to Get High School Students Started

career planning for students

Ready to start exploring potential careers, but not sure where to start? Today, I’d like to recap some tips and resources from one of our recent counseling sessions on “hot” jobs and career interest planning for high school students.

  1. Relax. Be flexible. If you feel “clueless” about what you’d like to do for a living, don’t worry. High school and college is a time to explore your career options and interests. Besides, the career landscape is changing so rapidly that it’s more important for you to be open and flexible. For a little perspective, consider this:
    • The average person will change his or her job 10 to 15 times in a lifetime.
    • Some of today’s top careers didn’t even exist 20 years ago. (Cybersecurity, anyone?)
    • New careers will emerge—and your interests will evolve—in the future.

So, don’t panic if you don’t have a career plan yet. Just take a few of these steps to get started.

    1. Identify your interests and the careers that match. As the saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” So, start your career exploration by asking what really interests you. (We’ll talk about identifying career aptitudes in a later post.)Using the O*Net Interest Profiler and questionnaire, you can quickly identify your interests, select the level of training/education you’re planning/willing to pursue, and get a list of careers that match your interests and background. For example, if your interests point to engineering, you’ll see different careers depending on whether you go for an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree—or higher. You’ll even get a detailed list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for each career, plus a link to apprenticeship information (where available, by industry).
    2. Find out if your ideal career offers good employment prospects. While choosing a career that you’ll love is important, your earnings need to support your lifestyle. So, once you’ve identified one or more careers you’re interested in, you’ll want to evaluate the average salary and determine whether those careers will be in demand when you graduate. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, you can explore occupation profiles by median annual salary, education requirements, current job availability, and future job outlook (usually for the next 10 years).Keeping an open mind about other potential high-demand careers, you should also check out general lists like The Top 12 Jobs for 2014.
    3. Explore careers based on required training and education level. If you’re not yet sure of your educational goals, it can be very helpful to explore careers by education and training requirements. To get you started, we’ve compiled job openings outlooks for several occupations in the tables below to show you the most in-demand jobs by education and training. Just follow the links for requirements, salaries, expected job growth, and more.

Occupations with the Most Job Openings:

Graduate Degree

Occupation Projected Job Openings 2008-2018
Postsecondary teachers 553,000
Doctors and surgeons 261,000
Lawyers 240,000
Clergy 218,000
Pharmacists 106,000
Educational, vocational, and school counselors 94,000
Physcial therapists 79,000
Medical scientists, except epidemiologists 66,000
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 61,000
Instructional Coordinators 66,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics & bigfuture.collegeboard.org

Occupations with the Most Job Openings:

Bachelor's Degree

Occupation Projected Job Openings
2008-2018
Elementary school teachers, except special education 597,000
Accountants and auditors 498,000
Secondary school teachers, except special and
vocational education
412,000
Middle school teachers, except special and vocational education 251,000
Computer systems analysts 223,000
Computer software engineers, applications 218,000
Network systems and data communications analysts 208,000
Computer software engineers, systems software 153,000
Construction managers 138,000
Market research analysts 137,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics & bigfuture.collegeboard.org

Occupations with the Most Job Openings:
Associates Degree
or Postsecondary Vocational Certification and/or Licensure

Occupation Projected Job Openings 2008-2018
Registered nurses 1,039,000
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants 422,000
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses 391,000
Computer support specialists 235,000
Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists 220,000
Automotive service technicians and mechanics 182,000
Preschool teacher, exception special education 178,000
Insurance sales agents 153,000
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians 136,000
Real estate sales agents 128,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics & bigfuture.collegeboard.org

Talk to your school counselor. While we’ve covered a few tips and resources to get you started, your school counselor can offer you individualized help in finding your ideal career and the path to take you there. Get started and contact your counselor today!

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