When I turned 18, I thought I had everything figured out. I knew what school I was going to, what major I was going to focus my studies on, and eventually what job I was going to get. In hindsight, I wish someone would’ve taught me how to choose the right career after high school.
At 18 you are faced with one of the hardest decisions of your life: deciding what you’re going to do with the rest of it after high school. This is a daunting request that can cause you to feel overwhelmed and lost trying to pick only one thing to do for the rest of your life (30 still seems old to you. How can you fathom liking something for over 40 years straight!?)
Fear not my wandering friends, I am here to help you with this dilemma. There are more options than college and not all career paths are good for all options. If you are struggling with picking a career path, I’ve also created a questionnaire to help you think critically about your future.
Here are the options placed before you after high school graduation:
1. Enter the workforce right away.
No, not everyone needs to go to college. And no, not all careers require a degree to be hired. If you are someone that doesn’t do well in school, or doesn’t have the patience for all the homework, then this may be a good choice for you. This is especially good for those wanting to go into the customer service industry, because you can use the next 4 years to move into a managerial role.
Here are some possible jobs that you can get with a high school diploma:
- Retail Sales Associate
- Factory Worker/Laborer
- Bank Teller
- Truck Driver
- Administrative Assistant
- Customer Service Representative
2. Enlist in the Military
For some people, this is a great option. People who are highly disciplined, follow directions well, and have courage are great candidates for our miliatry. You can also get your college fully paid for after you’ve completed your term or you can continue on with the military and work your way up to an officer position.
Here are the different branches to consider enlisting for:
- Army National Guard
- Air National Guard
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
3. Enroll in Community College
There are 2 possibilities for attending a community college: finishing with an Associate's degree or transferring to get a Bachelor's. I was able to complete almost 2 full years at a community college while I was still in high school (And it was almost ALL FREE!). This is a great way to save money over borrowing student loans and it helps prepare you for college classes. You can ask your adviser if they offer dual credits.
Here are some jobs you can get with only an Associate's degree:
- Retail Manager
- Registered Nurse
- Dental Hygienist
- IT Programmer
- Telecom Installer
- Police Officer
- Physical Therapist
- Web Developer
- Funeral Director
- Air Traffic Controller
I also found this article from Business Insider that lists the top paying jobs you can get with only an Associate's Degree.
4. Enroll in a Trade School or Apprenticeship
This is similar to a community college degree, as many offer classes focusing on the trades, but you can also do on the job training. If you don't want to attend more school after high school, then finding an apprenticeship is a great option for the on the job training in a specific trade. However, if you don't mind more school, then you can get a degree through a trade school for a specific trade.
Here are some career choices through a trade school or apprenticeship:
- Nail Technician
- Massage Therapist
- Construction Work
5. Enroll in University.
This is the choice that most people think of as the option right after high school. However, not everyone is cut out for this extra schooling, so don't feel like this is the only option. Universities can be the most amazing experiences of your life, but there can be a lot of pressure to choose a major and to focus on your studies over partying.
Here are some career choices for those with a bachelor's degree:
- Sales Manager
- Financial Analyst
- Information Systems Manager
- Computer Forensic Analysts
- Industrial Designer
- Web Designer
- Interior Designer
- Any career ending in Manager, Analyst, or Specialist
Depending on your career choice, you may want to consider further schooling for either a master's or doctorate degree. Common career paths that require more schooling are administrators, doctors, lawyers, college professors, etc.
Bonus: Take a year off
Maybe you're very unsure of what path you want to take and feel too overwhelmed to make a decision right away. That's ok. You can always take a year off. Some people can travel the world, others can work full-time, while others can do an internship/job shadow for possible career options. It's a great time to reflect and consider your strengths and passions.
If you're struggling with what option is best for you, then read this article that helps you think critically about your strengths and weaknesses to make a career decision that will work best for you after high school.