Pursuing Their Dreams: Career Exploration for High School Students

“At first Andrew didn’t want to take your Career Exploration class, but it turned out to be one of his favorites,” the enthusiastic mother told me. I had just completed teaching a semester long class for 8th-12th graders at our home school co-op. The 17 teenagers relished studying themselves!

My experience teaching Career Exploration several times has been rewarding for both my students and me. I shared with the students my own experiences of searching for a career that used both my talents and skills, but fit my priorities. I tried to impress on them the joy they would experience when they found a plan for their future. You, too, can guide your high school student to discover hisreal self – what he was created to be. Here are some ideas, resources, and curricula that you can use to develop a Career Exploration plan for your student.

Career Exploration is a Process, Not a Point
Learning the process is the goal in teaching a Career Exploration class. Express to your student that he or she may not know specifically what they want to be, but the class will teach them a process that allows them to search and plan better.

My hope in teaching Career Exploration was that each student would finish my class with three possible careers they could pursue, or at least have a general idea of a path to follow. My own life has had several career explorations. During high school, I decided on a college major. I considered my skills and abilities in choosing Engineering, but since I wasn’t a parent I didn’t consider priorities, like time with my family. After I became a mother, my priorities changed and I had another period of career investigation. I found accounting both to my liking and very flexible. I retrained, became a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and now work part-time as a self-employed accountant. As a result, my career choice is an excellent fit of career and family for me. So my personal experiences, mistakes and all, were helpful in teaching my class the process of career exploration.

The 4 Step Career Exploration Process:

  1. Investigate-Discover your personality, abilities, skills and priorities
  2. Match possible careers to your personality
  3. Research potential careers to see if there is a fit
  4. Prepare a plan to pursue your career choice

By way of example, my 14 year-old daughter, Emily, learned from the class that she was organized, encouraging, and detailed-oriented. Personality tests matched her traits to several careers. She researched about six careers in detail. She rejected some upon learning more about them, but settled on pharmacy, teaching, and accounting. Her plan is to take biology and chemistry classes in the next two years. If Emily likes those subjects, she may pursue pharmacy. If not, she may become an accountant. She also volunteers her time teaching a children’s Sunday school class to see if she would like being a teacher.

Helpful Resources
The most helpful tools for teaching the Career Exploration process are a collection of several on-line interest surveys and personality quizzes (see Resources). Many are free or charge only a small amount. These surveys will direct your student to several career choices to research further. We used the least expensive and quickest quizzes in class, the Jung Typology Test from Humanmetrics.com and the CareerKey.org test for $9.95. Some students took the longer tests, such as Career Direct and The Call. Each costs around $80 and is very thorough.

After picking four to six possible careers, a student should carefully research them. They should investigate the working conditions, skills needed, pay rates and future outlook for their chosen fields. For conducting research on-line, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a valuable site (see Resources). The students also had to interview someone in their chosen field. Most students were challenged by this assignment, but benefited from it greatly. The interviews either changed their minds significantly, or confirmed their career choices. One student, Heather, decided she didn’t want to be a doctor after interviewing a physician, but since she is still interested in human anatomy, she is thinking about studying nursing.

The students also had to pick one book from topics that included career exploration, high school planning, college preparation, or study habits. Two books that were very popular were Do What You Are and What Color is Your Parachute? In Do What You Are the reader takes a personality test and then researches matching career choices. Parachute is a classic career search guide that provides practical advice on looking for a job or changing careers.

Having a Goal
The last step for students in the Career Exploration process is creating an education and experience plan to meet their goals. Students need to think about what classes and part-time jobs they can pursue today to prepare them for their futures. If a student has a goal in sight, schoolwork and part-time jobs become more meaningful. Information can be found in several home schooling books on high school planning. I found that High School: A Home Designed Form + U + La by Barbara Shelton was very helpful. It covers designing a class and how to record accomplishments and experiences.

Your student should also learn the graduation requirements in your state, and also what most colleges expect. All of this information is on-line, and the College Board web site is also helpful. After undertaking these steps, your student can create a high school plan that is unique to him or her. In my class, David was a student considering engineering. His plan includes a full load of math and science classes. In contrast, Sarah is interested in acting as a career, so she was encouraged to participate in a summer drama camp.

Life is an Adventure
The Career Exploration experience may trigger something dynamic for your student. It did in my class. A metamorphosis occurred as the students began to chart a career path with manageable steps to get there. Encourage your high school student to consider carefully how they manage their time, what kind of classes they select and what kind of part-time jobs they work. Each decision in life can open doors that will lead them on the path to their goals and dreams. Life is an exciting adventure for teenagers. I was so fortunate to be a part of the process of seeing them grow up. I hope you, too, will enjoy guiding your students to investigate their personalities, match them with potential careers, research occupations to find a good fit, and then execute a plan to reach their goals.

Resources for Career Exploration


  • Do What You Are by Paul Tieger
  • What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles
  • High School: A Home Designed Form + U + La by Barbara Shelton

Web Sites:

  • www.humanmetrics.com Personality tests, some free.
  • www.careerkey.org Personality related to occupations ($9.95)
  • www.careerdirectonline.org Career Direct assessment from Crown Financial Ministries ($80)
  • www.thecallonline.com The Call Vocational and Life Purpose Guide from Focus on the Family (Approximately $79)
  • www.stats.bls.gov/oco Occupational Outlook Handbook on-line
  • www.myroad.collegeboard.com College and career planning website

carolCarol Topp (CarolToppCPA.com) has had several careers including wife, mother, Industrial Engineer and now Accountant. She is currently enjoying a season of home schooling and running a home-based accounting practice. She encourages teenagers to investigate careers though starting a micro business at MicroBusinessForTeens.com

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