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Career Planning

An Essential Career Planning Guide for High School Students

Students are expected to make big decisions about their futures while they are still in high school. This career planning guide for high school students can help young people and their families start preparing early for college and beyond.

High school career exploration helps set students up for success later in life. Whether you are a student yourself or a parent looking for guidance on how to help a high schooler choose a career, you will find this guide beneficial for career exploration and planning. 

a student writing down notes at a desk in front of a computer

Unity Environmental University connects students directly with employers using an innovative career exploration tool.

Goals of Career Planning for High School Students

Career planning for high school students is about exploring many different careers in the hopes of finding something they enjoy doing and that they can make money from. It’s essential to begin this process before students graduate from high school and have to choose a major in college or enter the workforce. The goals of career planning for high school students include:

  • Meaningful Career: Younger generations are consistently putting a high value on doing work that they are passionate about. This includes working for companies whose mission and actions align with their own values and seeking out jobs that can help save the world.
  • Financial Stability: College is an investment and can be an expensive one. Career planning is a way to ensure that students and their parents are making smart choices to maximize their return on investment from college.
  • Increased Opportunities: Effective career planning can increase a student’s earning potential and promotion opportunities by choosing occupations that are in high demand. 

Steps on How to Do Career Preparation for High School Students

It is never too early for high school students to begin exploring career ideas, but they may struggle with where to begin for career readiness. If you are a parent or guardian, use these steps as guidance to provide career advice for high school students. 

Exploring Interests and Hobbies

Define Your Interests and Hobbies

Finding a career that brings you joy and fulfillment will increase your quality of life. Think about the things you enjoy doing and learning about. If you aren’t sure yet, explore different types of hobbies. Don’t be afraid to try something new and step outside your comfort zone. This is a great way to learn more about yourself.

There are often more career pathways for high school students that align with their interests than they imagine. For example, if you are passionate about horses, there are equine careers where you can work directly with horses every day. For young people that like being outside but prefer learning about plants over animals, there are careers for outdoor enthusiasts

Think About Your Strengths and Needs

Part of a successful career is having a talent for the tasks required for the job. Career exploration activities for high school students should include analyzing their academic, physical, and social strengths. Taking an online aptitude test is a great way to do this. Also, students can identify where they succeed in school. If their favorite class is math or science, they may enjoy a STEM career such as environmental science

Choosing a career after high school can be a smooth journey when the young person has a strong sense of self. Here are some questions young people can ask themselves to increase their introspection around what kind of careers they would thrive in:

  • Do I prefer to work alone or with a team?
  • Do I prefer to lead or follow when working in a group?
  • Do I enjoy routine tasks, or do I get easily bored with them?
  • How well can I focus on work in noisy and distracting environments?

Look for a career that has a positive impact on the world and matches your strengths and interests.

Explore Career Options at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and on Blogs

Most young people that want to know how to choose a career after high school will turn to the Internet for answers. Parents and guardians would be helping their high school students choose a career by guiding their children to reliable websites for career exploration. Young people should also know how to assess the credibility of a website. 

Of all the career resources for high school students to explore potential career fields, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is one of the most valuable. It contains important data for career planning such as:

  • Average salaries for different occupations
  • How fast each industry is growing
  • How many job openings there may be in the future
  • Best states for employment
  • Highest-paying cities, regions, and states

BLS and many online blogs have lists of career choices for high school students. Colleges and universities also often have reliable career guides for high school students. Many of these are based on popular interests such as this guide to careers working with wildlife from Unity Environmental University.

Discover the Pay for the Job

BLS lists the median annual pay for many occupations. For example, the annual median salary for data scientists in 2021 was $100,910. The website includes information about average pay in different industries, cities, and states. This critical information can help students and their families make smart choices when it comes to paying for college versus vocational school.

Explore Job Outlooks

Experts predict job outlooks for up to ten years in the future. Job outlook shows how many more job openings are expected to become available each year. This is ideal for high school students who want to plan ahead. They do not have to guess which jobs will be most in demand when they graduate from college and enter the job market in 4-8 years. Instead, they can use BLS data on the fastest-growing jobs to make informed decisions about their future. 

Find Where Jobs are Offered

The demand for specific jobs changes depending on the region of the country. Some jobs are more common in rural areas than urban ones or vice versa. Other careers, such as marine biologists, may be concentrated in coastal areas. Career planning tools for high school students can help students see where jobs are offered. Help your child think about where they want to live when they graduate from high school so that they can explore careers that are available in that area. 

Discover the Education Requirements of the Career

Knowing the exact education requirements for various levels of your desired career can help you calculate how much your education will cost. Pairing this with knowledge about the average salary for the job, students can calculate how quickly they can pay off any student loan debt. Furthermore, when a student and their family starts planning for college early, they can avoid student loan debt altogether. 

For young people who are not interested in pursuing higher education, there are several high-paying jobs that do not require a degree. Honest career talk for high school students means being realistic about whether a college degree is a good option for your child.

Touring a College Campus

Find the Right College

For students who desire a career that requires higher education, the next step is to choose the right school. Students may be tempted to choose a school based on the social experience they want to have in college. Parents should help their children focus on how well a school will prepare them to meet their career goals. Many colleges only offer certain majors or specialize in specific fields. 

There are also many different types of colleges including:

  • Community colleges
  • Liberal arts colleges
  • Specialized schools like HBCUs and women-only colleges
  • Professional schools
  • Environmental Colleges

Associate Degree

An associate degree takes less time and is often more affordable than a bachelor’s degree. It takes most students two years to earn an associate degree at a community college. Many in-demand careers only require an associate degree such as veterinary technology and dental hygiene. A complete career guide for high school students also should not discount technical and vocational schools. These institutions have programs that train young people to work many different hands-on and office jobs from medical assistants to mechanics. 

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of full-time study at a college or university. Earning a bachelor’s degree may open up more career possibilities, but students in college will be asked to choose a major, so they need to do career planning before college. Otherwise, they may end up wasting money on an unnecessary education. 

Some schools require students to choose their major when they apply for college in their junior year of high school. Others allow students to wait until their freshman or sophomore year of college before committing to choosing a career path.

Advanced Degree

An advanced degree such as a master’s or doctoral degree usually means more access to higher-paying jobs. For example, becoming a veterinarian requires a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, which generally takes four more years of school after you earn a bachelor’s degree. The median salary for veterinary doctors in 2021 was $100,370. Compare this to becoming a veterinarian technician, which only requires an associate degree but has a median salary of $36,850. With these numbers, it’s easy to see the value that the right advanced degree holds.

For animal lovers, there are high-paying careers working with animals at all education levels. 

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Apply for Internships

Once a student has an idea of the career choices for high school students, they should start thinking about gaining relevant experience. There are many internships available for high school students, whether paid or unpaid. Internships have multiple benefits including:

  • Work experience
  • Networking opportunities
  • Higher likelihood of employment

To prepare for their first internship, a young person should practice their job interview skills, acquire professional clothing and understand appropriate professional behavior. This aspect of career preparation for high school students is often not taught in schools, so parents may want to take the lead in preparing their child for an internship. Information interviews can also help students prepare for an interview at a specific place.

Volunteering Can Also Provide Experience

Volunteering is an excellent method of career exploration for high school students, especially for those that are too young to get a job. There are often more career ideas for high school students than they are even aware exist. Volunteering and community service give young people a glimpse into different occupations and what their daily lives would entail in those jobs. It also provides chances to network and could potentially lead to a job. 

Starting A Career

Achieve Your Career At Unity Environmental University

Turning a unique passion such as bird watching into a career takes some personal exploration, research, and advanced planning. However, the effort is certain to pay off with a rewarding and lucrative career. A vital part for career counselors and parents to help prepare students to pick a career is helping them choose the right college that offers programs that fulfill their career interests. The school they choose should offer a quality degree program to meet the education requirements of their desired future career and support them in their career development. 

Unity Environmental University understands the importance of hands-on experience, internships, and networking in a student’s career success. We provide personalized career planning for students using an innovative career exploration tool called Handshake. Handshake is more than a job board. They guide students in discovering careers that match their passions and needs, and they offer chances for students to ask for advice from peers, alumni, and potential employers.