Tips for Choosing a Career

Deciding on your career is the first step in career planning. Get to know the difference between a career and a job and strategies for choosing the best career for you.

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Strategies for choosing a career include personal assessment and formal career aptitude testing. After they have a basic idea of the criteria that they are looking for, aspiring professionals can use online resources to start exploring the possibilities.

First Step in Choosing a Career

Remember imagining as a kid what you would grow up to be? Some kids say veterinarian, while other kids say firefighter. Those are careers. A career is completely independent of any company or corporation. A job is a specific position at a company, such as a Level II Engineer at (fill in the blank) company.

Decide on a career before deciding on a job will give you a sense of direction, allowing you to focus your job search and work toward an end goal. Once you've found a career that suits you, you can begin searching for the training, schools or jobs that go along with that line of work.

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Choosing a Career

So how do you choose a career? There are several strategies to start with:


Take out a piece of paper and a pen and ask yourself some questions. Here are a few of the most important:

  • What are my strengths and interests? Which careers make use of those?
  • What would I like to actually be doing everyday?
  • What necessary training/schooling would I have to go through for those careers?
  • Are there many jobs available in that career? Is it a growing field?
  • How much income would I like to make?

By writing your answers down, you commit yourself to considering these questions. You can refer to the answers later, especially when you're feeling lost. You can always make up other questions that are more applicable to your personal situation.

Formal Career Assessment

Career assessments consider your personality and skills to then match you with recommended careers. These assessments are available at on-campus career centers as well as the College Board website for members who join the MyRoad program. It may be a good idea to take a test at an on-campus career center, so you can discuss your results with a career counselor. Remember, these tests should be taken as a suggestion and not the deciding factor in your career decision process.

Exploring Career Options

Once you have a better idea of what kind of career you might be interested in, you can start exploring careers. Once great resource for answering questions about careers is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. Through this online resource, students can find lots of information about careers that they might consider, including:

  • Job duties
  • Work environment information
  • Educational requirements
  • Previous work requirements
  • Licensure and certification requirements and options
  • Job outlook
  • Salary statistics

For each career profile, the BLS also provides a list of similar careers, which can be extremely helpful for students who are looking to compare careers in related areas.

When choosing a career, students need to evaluate their own strengths and goals, which they can do through personal reflection and formal assessment. From there, they can use the BLS website to explore some of the options.

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