What do you want to be when you grow up?

For many high school students, this is a dreaded question. Who can answer that at only 16 or 17 years of age?

If you’re unsure on how to decide on a career path, don’t worry— you’re not alone. This is very common for many students and can be a stressful time.

However, with some time and effort, you can work out which careers might suit you best.

Read on to learn how to get started on a career path.

What Do You Like?

The first step in deciding on a career path is simple— give some thought to what you like and enjoy, and what you don’t like.

Think of your hobbies, interests, favorite movies, and TV shows, anything that might give you insight. Then, think of why you might like each activity.

For example, do you love volunteering? If so, a career helping others, such as nursing or working for a charity might be for you. Love being on the soccer team? Then maybe you value teamwork and being in groups.

This exercise can get you to start thinking about where your passions are in life, and how you might be able to find a career that includes something you really enjoy.

What Are Your Best School Subjects?

Start to think about school. What subjects do you enjoy the most? This is a natural starting point when thinking about how to pick a career path after high school.

If you lean towards math and science, maybe engineering, tech, or medicine is for you. Love PE? Maybe you’d enjoy a job where you can stay active and spend time outdoors, such as landscaping.

If you plan to continue to higher education, it makes sense to focus on subjects where you know you can excel.

Are you someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy academic life?

If so, you might be eager to start working and earning money right away. You may wish to consider an apprenticeship, where you can learn new skills on the job.

Speak To Teachers and Guidance Counselors

Selecting a future career path is a big decision, and can cause stress and worry for many students. One of the best ways to deal with this is by getting advice.

Make time to see your guidance or career counselor. They are there for you as part of their role and are always glad to discuss ideas and concerns about your future.

If you’re finding the process stressful, trying to decide your future while also balancing school and family commitments, they can also help with coping strategies.

Talk to your teachers as well. They can provide valuable insight and can also speak to their own experiences in school and decide on a career. Although you should always listen to your instinct and make decisions for yourself, there is a lot to be gained from hearing multiple viewpoints and learning from others.

Of course, you can ask others for their opinion as well, such as parents, friends, and coaches.

Take a Career Assessment Test

Have you ever taken a career assessment test? It’s another way to get you thinking about what jobs you might like, based on your interest and personality.

Although they are solely for your own benefit, it may help you learn more about career options you hadn’t considered yet. Try taking one online and seeing if you agree with the results.

Are You Interested in Further Education?

Now that you’ve given some thought to career ideas, it’s time to also think about education prospects.

For some students, they know they want to do four years of college, the traditional university. Going away to college is a fantastic way to meet new people, mature and grow, and earn a Bachelor’s, a minimum requirement for many jobs.

Many students will also go on to obtain an advanced degree or doctorate, which can also open many career doors.

However, college isn’t for everyone. It’s a massive expense and there are many lucrative and enjoyable careers that can be obtained through an apprenticeship, online study, or through on-the-job experience.

For example, have you ever dreamed of working in beauty? If so, cosmetology school might be for you. It can be an exciting and rewarding career for those who love beauty, creativity, style, and meeting new people.

What Sort of Work Environment Would You Like?

You’ve thought about education, but now think more about what sort of work environment you might enjoy, as this can narrow down options.

Many people work in offices, which can be varied and exciting, but it’s certainly not the only way to work.

If you love being outdoors, consider a job like construction, personal training, or biology and environmental science. Or, if you love travel, why not aviation, tourism, or international aid?

Also, think of where you might like to live when you’re older. Will you stay in your hometown, or move to another city? If you do plan to relocate, consider what jobs are available there and whether or not you’d be able to find work.

How to Decide on a Career Path? Make a Short List of Careers

By now, you’ve likely given your future career many months, if not years, of consideration. Take the next step and make a shortlist of careers that interest you.

Then, start researching and do a deep dive into each option. Look into the educational requirements for each job, along with future career prospects. Is the field increasing in demand, or dwindling? What are the entry-level salaries in the field?

You want to make sure you’re comfortable with the salary range as well as the educational requirements.

For example, if you’ve found a career you really like, but it requires a lot of science courses and you find science challenging, you’ll have to decide if it’s still something you want to pursue.

Try to Gain Work Experience

Now that you have a few career ideas, an even better way to see if they’re for you is to undertake work experience. If your school allows, try to see if you can get a work experience placement, which often gives you school credits along with real-life experience in your field.

Work experience can have so many benefits to students, even if you don’t go on to pursue that particular career. It can help broaden your skills and networks, help you learn what the work environment is like, and it looks great on your resume.

Or, volunteering is another good way to get experience. Even a few hours per week can help you get a feel for whether or not you would like that career.

Almost all occupations offer volunteering or work-study programs. Some include veterinarians, offices, or volunteer at a local park, town clean up, or summer camp. There are many ways to gain experience.

Or, you can even look for a part-time job. For example, if you want to work in management, maybe a job in retail could help you learn about some of the aspects of that role, such as making schedules, ordering stock, or timecards.

Start Applying

If you plan to go to university, start to work out which schools offer the best degrees in your field of interest. Generally, you’d apply to colleges in the senior year, but you can start the research process and visit schools earlier, in your sophomore or junior year.

When you visit schools, see if you can imagine yourself at home there and if it’s a place you’d enjoy living for four years. Also always ask about scholarships, especially for your chosen field for study.

With the cost of college rising each year, even a small scholarship can make a big difference across four years of tuition and board.

Or, if you plan on starting an apprentice or traineeship, or a community college, start researching companies or programs that would be a good match for your needs.

Although selecting a career and applying to schools is a huge decision, try not to let it impact you too much. Many adults change careers, successfully, later in life, so if you decide you’re not happy with your choice, it’s never too late to try something new.

So many fields of study have transferable skills that it might even be easier than you think to switch careers, should you wish to do so in the future.

Identify Your Goals

Finally, give some thought to your overall career goals. Do you want to earn as much money as you can? Help others? Give back to the community? Work with children?

We all want different things for ourselves and our careers, so try to be honest with yourself and think about what you want to achieve. This may make it easier to work out which career is best for you.

Find Your Perfect Career

Do you now have a better understanding of how to decide on a career path? Sure, it’s a big decision, but it can also be a fun process, and you can learn a lot about yourself along the journey.

Get started today thinking about your future careers and start the experience of self-discovery. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to achieving your goals.

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