What Should You Do after High School? 4 Career Planning Considerations

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?” You’ve probably been asked this question hundreds of times since you were a kid, right?

Now you’re in high school and almost all grown up. Whether you already know what you want to do or are still deciding, it’s a good time to explore your options.

Find helpful tips below for planning for the next steps after graduation.

Why Plan for a Career in High School?

Choosing a career can be a big decision. Did you know that the average American spends about 109,980 hours at work throughout his or her lifetime?

How do you want to spend it? Challenged and fulfilled? Or bored and unhappy?

Have You Considered a Career in the Skilled Trades?

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This is why it’s important to take the time in high school—before the onset of the financial obligations of adulthood—to discover your interests and match them up to the right career. For example, if you like building and fixing things, a career in the skilled trades could be a good fit.[1]

Once you’ve identified career paths you might like, it’s a good idea to find out what they have to offer in terms of pay and job security, as well as what type of education is necessary to enter them.

To use our skilled trades example again, looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers (HVAC/R technicians) shows that jobs will be added at a rate of 15 percent through 2026, more than twice as fast as the national average for all occupations. The BLS states that most employers would rather hire workers with formal HVAC/R training from a technical school because the equipment has become more complex.

There are many considerations for planning a career, and getting an early start in high school can give you more time to think about them. These are just a few of the steps you can take now to find a career you might enjoy and be able to support yourself with after you graduate. Read on for more details about them and additional tips.[2]

4 Career Planning Tips for High Schoolers

high school graduate

Tip 1: Match Interests and Skills to Careers

Ask yourself questions like, “What do I like to do? What am I good at? What would I like to learn more about?”

Do you wake up every morning excited about shop class? Pinpoint what you like most about it.

  • Building birdhouses? Consider a career in carpentry.
  • Fusing metal joints? Think about becoming a welder.[3]
  • Simply working with your hands? There are many fields to choose from.

Tip 2: Research Careers

After figuring out which careers fit well with your skills and interests, do some research to find out how to land them and what to expect when it comes to jobs, pay and advancement opportunities.

Try these resources to help with your exploration:

It’s also a good idea to talk with workers in the field you’re considering. Ask friends and family to see if anyone has connections to the industry. Try shadowing the worker if possible to see what a day in their life is like.2

Tip 3: Try on the Career

One of the best ways to find out if you would like a specific career is to try it out—or at least working in the field. Entry-level, part-time jobs and internships are two options for teens seeking to learn more about industries they’re considering becoming a part of.

Part-time jobs allow teens to earn money and gain confidence, a sense of responsibility and independence.[4]

Many fields offer them. Here are just a few examples:




Health services2

Internships can be paid or unpaid. They can help students network with people in the industry, gain a competitive advantage on college or trade school applications and determine whether or not they like the career they’ve been considering.[5]

Tip 4: Prepare for the Position

The majority of careers require some type of preparation after high school. Below are some of the most common forms:

Not only are these credentials required to work in many fields, but they can also lead to higher earnings and lower unemployment throughout the individual’s lifetime. BLS data from 2018 shows that employment and income increased with each level of educational attainment, starting with a high school diploma, then some college and associate degrees, all the way up to a doctoral degree.

Continuing education after high school has been linked to greater career satisfaction and better health.

Get a Head Start in High School

As you can see, a lot can go into career planning. Getting an early start in high school may help with a smoother transition into your new career path after graduation.

Already know you want to become a skilled craftsperson. Learn more about choosing a career in the trades after high school.

Additional Sources

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