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How to Choose a Career or Major

choosing a career tips

As one of the most important life decisions you can make, choosing a career can feel overwhelming. From the cost of college and student loan payments, to the amount of time job hunting can take, a finding the right job can be stressful; and deciding the career path you'd like to pursue can be too.

Finding Ideas for a Career

Some ways to decide on a career that you will enjoy are listed below.

  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. If the courses appear to be something that you could see yourself doing long term, you may want to consider heading in that direction.
  2. Don’t ask too many people for their opinion: It can lead to an information overload that makes the decision that is right for you more difficult to come by. Instead, ask a few of those closest to you for their thoughts. You can also consult a guidance counselor for advice.
  3. Focus on what you’re good at, but don't get discouraged easily: 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 insects. Linguistic anthropology, astronomy, or entomology may be your calling. Take something you like, and see what careers surround it.
  5. Money is not worth a job you dislike: While future finances are important to take into consideration, you shouldn't choose a career based on salary alone. If it is not something you enjoy doing (or are proficient at), it is likely to lead to dissatisfaction down the road.
  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. You can learn many things about the industry: what you do in the 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 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 field 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, focus on figuring out which career is right for you, your interests, and goals.

20 Questions to Ask Yourself

choosing a career questions

Once you've started gathering ideas, it can help to have an internal dialogue with yourself to continue gaining clarity. Ask yourself the questions that matter most to you. We have listed some below.

  • Do I believe in myself—for real— and if I'm struggling to do so, what are steps I can take?
  • 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 more guidance, or do I feel confident with little direction?
  • 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 how will my future career relate to these?

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 best 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 in as few as 6 months, working on heating and cooling systems.
  • 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 as a dental assistant, 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.