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How to Choose a Career or Major

choosing a career tips

Choosing a career can feel overwhelming. It's an important life decision, and you've probably recognized that further education can come with a big price tag.

Finding Ideas for a Career

Here are some ways to decide on a career that you will enjoy.

  1. Look through course catalogs: Your high school counseling office probably has stacks of college catalogs for you to look through. Read program descriptions and the course list required. See if you picture yourself doing that long term.
  2. Don’t ask for too many opinions: It can be information overload, and it makes it even harder to make a good, reliable decision. Instead, ask a few people who you feel closest to what their thoughts are, and take those answers into consideration. It’s okay to discuss with only your guidance counselor and family, not bringing in your entire network’s ideas about what you should do.
  3. Focus on what you’re good at: If math is your least favorite subject, then you may not want to pick a career path absolutely full of it. However, if a field interests you, don’t rule it out based on something you may not be good at right now. Practice can make perfect.
  4. Follow your curiosities: Maybe you’re fascinated by languages, or you want to know what lies beyond our solar system, or you would like to study ants. Linguistic anthropology, astronomy, or entomology may be your calling. Take something you like, and see what careers surround it.
  5. Don’t focus on the money: While the money you’ll be making one day should be on the table, it’s not always best to choose a career based on its salary. Sure, it’s nice to bring in the big bucks, but it’s equally—if not more—important to be paid for doing something you enjoy doing.
  6. Pay attention to the job market: When you’re researching different careers, add the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to your list of references. There you will find out everything: what you do in a career, how to get there, how much you’ll get paid, and the job outlook through the next several years. You may want to avoid careers that are becoming obsolete.
  7. Work it: Maybe you have a general idea what you want to do, but you aren’t 100% positive. Think about taking an internship (even if it’s unpaid), to get a taste of what you’d be doing should you choose to pursue the career.
  8. When in doubt: Do more research. Get on the internet, take a list of potential career ideas, look up what’s involved, what others in the career are saying, what the growth potential is, and whatever else you’re interested in finding out.

Always remember that you can change your mind. And instead of asking yourself which career should you choose, ask what career is right for you. Just rewording that question can lead to a different view.

20 Questions To Ask Yourself

choosing a career questions

Once you've started gathering ideas, you need to have open internal dialogue to really dive deep into figuring it out. Whether you’re trying to choose a career path as a student, or you’re thinking of making a career change as an adult, these are some questions you can ask yourself to gain more clarity and insight into what direction may best suit you. Write down your answers to this sampling of questions:

  • Do I believe in myself—for real?
  • What are my dreams?
  • Am I confident, or do I struggle too often?
  • How do I define “work”?
  • What type of impact do I want to make on the world?
  • What type of career or job title would make me most proud?
  • What am I truly interested in and curious about?
  • How much school am I willing to commit to?
  • What kind of skills do I have, both hard and soft?
  • What would I like to get really good at doing?
  • What kind of jobs have I enjoyed so far?
  • Am I an introvert or extrovert?
  • What are my core values and beliefs, and how do I want those to carry into my career?
  • If money wasn’t a piece of the equation, what is my dream job?
  • What is my personality like? Am I someone who needs hand holding, or can I go out and get ‘em on my own?
  • Where do my passions fall, and what type of careers fit them?
  • What really motivates me?
  • What kind of lifestyle will satisfy me?
  • Where can I see myself living?
  • What are my priorities in life and career?

By being completely honest with yourself, it can help you maintain focus when deciding what your options are. It’s completely normal to change your mind and switch gears. But the more in tune you are with yourself, knowing your priorities and your goals, the closer you can get to choosing a career that’s right for you.

List of Popular Careers

This list of popular careers includes ones that are relatively quick to get training for.

  • Medical: Enter the medical field in as few as 9-10 months as medical assistant, medical biller, or medical coder.
  • HVAC: Train as an HVAC technician, and you could be career-ready to work on heating and cooling systems in as few as 6 months.
  • Welding: Bind metal to metal in industries spanning from manufacturing to space travel. Certificate programs can be completed in as few as 10 months.
  • Cosmetology: Become a barber, nail technician, or cosmetologist.
  • Dental: Work alongside dentists, helping as they preform procedures. Train in as few as 10 months.
  • CDL Trucking: Drive locally or across the U.S., hauling goods. In 3-6 weeks, you can earn your CDL-A license.
  • Electrical: Learn the skills necessary to become an electrician. Career training can be completed in as few as 10 weeks.