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Career Planning for High School Students

a young lady looks at her phone as she dreams about her future career

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question we often ask of little kids. But when you get to high school, the question becomes more significant.

Believe it or not, high school is the perfect time to start shaping that path. Why? Because the earlier you explore your options, the smoother your journey will be, allowing you to avoid detours and dead ends. 

This article will guide you in navigating the exciting (and sometimes daunting) world of career planning in high school. We'll cover two early phases of career planning and explain why it's essential to start thinking about it now. So, buckle up, young adventurer, and let's chart your course together!

When should you start career planning?

Preparing for your future career while still in high school can help you make the most of your college years. This is especially true because the ideal age to start thinking about these things is at about 16, or when you are a sophomore. At this age, teens are typically settled into high school and feel ready to consider their future. 

This is not to say that a 16-year-old will be locked into a line of work. But it's worthwhile to start talking with parents, grandparents, friends, and other people who seem to have cool or rewarding jobs. 

Career planning: charting a course 

Career planning starts by exploring your unique traits, natural abilities, interests, values, and personality. As you work through the process, you'll see themes stand out. 

From there, you will have a better idea of what it is you want to study in college. 

Here is a basic framework for career planning in high school. 

1. Discover yourself:

  • Explore your interests, values, and skills through self-assessments, personality tests, and career exploration tools. Your high school counselor can connect you with lots of these types of resources and tools.
  • Research various fields and job options to learn about income potential, work-life balance, and whether or not a career might be a good fit for you.
  • Think about your values and what's important to you. Some careers are lucrative but require a sacrifice of long work hours and possibly travel that keeps you away from home. Other careers are less lucrative but will give you more time for hobbies and home life. 

2. Start building your skills and knowledge:

  • Write a career vision statement for yourself to help guide everything that follows. A career vision statement clearly and concisely describes your long-term professional goals. It's a personal declaration that outlines where you see yourself in the future regarding your career. 
  • Identify the skills and experience needed for your chosen career and ways to obtain them. In addition to college and selecting a specific major, you may need to job shadow, take an internship, and actively network.
  • Begin building your resume as you can. Whether it's volunteer experience or leadership positions in high school, add these valuable pieces to your resume. It's a start that will be helpful later when you apply to college and beyond.

Whether it's science, art, engineering, or social studies, you have strengths and interests. Planning helps you uncover them so you can formulate a career direction. 

Benefits of career planning while in high school

As we shared, career planning will help you find direction. Without it, there's a risk of drifting off track in college, costing you valuable time and money. So, let's talk more about this now. 

Graduating in four years 

When UCLA surveyed entering college students, 90 percent said they would graduate within four years. If only.

The fact is only 45 percent of students will graduate on time. About a third never finish. And the dropout rate for first-year freshmen is 24 percent! 

By developing a career plan, including a career vision statement, you can tailor your college coursework, extracurricular activities, and internships to align with your "best-fit" career path.

This targeted approach minimizes the likelihood of wanting to change majors one or more times, allowing you to graduate on time and enter the workforce sooner. Likewise, the sooner you enter the workforce, the sooner you can begin saving and investing for long-term goals.

Knowing your "target" career and significant area of study that aligns with it empowers you to make informed decisions, select courses that fulfill degree requirements, and contribute to your overall career readiness, saving time and reducing the financial burden of college. The adage "time is money" surely applies here.

Reducing student loan debt

The "career first" approach minimizes the risk of accumulating unnecessary credits and student loan debt. Too often, students are burdened with loans for degrees that may not directly align with their career goals. 

Career planning helps ensure that your educational investment contributes directly to the skills and knowledge needed for your desired profession. The result? A more focused and cost-effective education that leads to a quicker return on investment in the form of a purposeful and prosperous career path.

Transitioning seamlessly to the real world 

Career planning encompasses more than academics. It prompts you to engage in relevant extracurricular activities, internships, and networking opportunities. Through these, you will gain practical experience and build a network of industry connections – connections that will pay dividends throughout your career.

Furthermore, career-focused activities like these help you understand what makes you "tick" – what you're good at, what you enjoy, how you best communicate and learn, and what work environments you prefer. This self-awareness, often overlooked in traditional education, is critical for success along the career path.

Final thoughts on career planning while in high school

Career planning can help determine your financial destiny and well-being later in life. It provides focus, streamlines the path to timely college completion, reduces the financial burden of student loan debt, and ensures graduates are fully prepared for their targeted careers. 

High school students equipped with a well-thought-out career plan are not merely navigating their academic years but charting a course toward purpose and prosperity.

Want to get started career planning and researching college majors? Take Appily's college major quiz for insight into things you'll be interested in studying in college. Just click the button below to get started. It's free and easy.

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