Have you thought about your future career and what you need to major in after high school to accomplish your career goal? Planning for your future career starts in high school. High schools offer career and technology education courses to help students plan and prepare for post-secondary education and career endeavors. Having a clear understanding of what interests you will help guide your course selection each spring for the following school year.

Note to Parents:

  • Attend course planning meetings with your student and his/her guidance counselor to help choose the best courses.
  • Communicate with your student about his/her future and what they plan to do.

Note to Students:

  • Don’t be scared to challenge yourself by taking rigorous courses in high school. Your future is worth it!
  • Don’t take “slack off” electives with your friends to get the easy A.
  • Take courses that will benefit you in your future career.
  • You may find what you think you will like is actually something you don’t enjoy. Learning in high school is much better than wasting money on college courses or time in a career you don’t enjoy.

Career & Technical Education

Career & Technical Education (CTE) coursework offers college preparation as well as workforce skills and knowledge so students can utilize high school as a time to explore and prepare for a future career.

Federal support is provided for CTE programs throughout the United States through the Carl Perkins Career & Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Perkins strengthens the connections and accountability between high schools and colleges/university education by concentrating on the academic and technical accomplishments of CTE students.

Bonus Tip: Each state has CTE resources for high school students and their parents. Check out your state’s resources here.

Career Clusters

Career clusters are groups of occupations and industries based on required knowledge and skills. Following the coursework sequence gives students the opportunity to gain career credentials and certifications. The sixteen career clusters include:

  1. Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
  2. Architecture & Construction
  3. Arts, Audio/Video Technology, & Communication
  4. Business Management & Administration
  5. Education & Training
  6. Finance
  7. Government & Public Administration
  8. Health Science
  9. Hospitality & Tourism
  10. Human Services
  11. Information Technology
  12. Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
  13. Manufacturing
  14. Marketing
  15. Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math
  16. Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics

The Minnesota Careerwise Education provides a resource allowing students to research the cluster, pathway, and possible hobbies, activities and academic clubs to join. Click on the cluster of your choice to learn about careers, industries, pathways, majors, and hobbies/activities for the cluster.

For example, if you want to be a financial analyst, you click on Finance, majors in this cluster, then Finance and Financial Management Services. The site offers sample degrees, careers, schools offering this major, related majors and college preparation advice.

Interest Assessments

There are a multitude of interest assessments you can take to help narrow down your list of career options and courses to take. Utilize high school to take courses to determine your true interests. This will save you time and money by avoiding getting a degree in something you won’t enjoy.

Even though that may seem so far away, thinking about this now will allow you to begin exploring your options. Explore careers that might interest you. Each year, take one or more assessments to see if your interests have changed:

If you enjoy art, but are also interested in criminal justice because of the law shows on tv, think about becoming a forensic artist. There are so many careers people don’t consider because they are new or because their interest doesn’t seem to fit a career… you never know! Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

Next Steps

Once you’ve picked a career, what can you do in high school to prepare?

  1. Choose courses that will benefit you in college and in your career. Take courses beyond the obvious. For example, if you want to be an architect, your courses should be useful for your future.
    • Learn to visualize and conceptualize in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and other art courses.
    • Art history provides you with knowledge in movements in architecture.
    • Getting involved in band, choir, or team sports will help you learn to work well with others to produce a product; architecture is a collaborative process with many people working toward one goal. So, having these types of experiences will be invaluable.
  2. Get field experience to determine if this is truly something you enjoy.
    • Volunteer or find an internship to gain hands-on experience. For example:
      • If you want to be a coach, volunteer to coach a peewee league team. You will learn how to prepare for practices, how to motivate athletes, a rotation so everyone plays in the games, and more!
      • If you want to work in advertising, look for an internship at your local newspaper or radio to learn common terminology at the worksite, apply marketing concepts to problems within the industry, to produce high quality documents, demonstrate multi-channel communication skills, and much more!

Using your high school courses to prepare for your future career allows for trial and error. Talk to you guidance counselor about which classes are offered at your high school and get on the right career path today!

FREE Resource for families: How to Prepare Your High School Students for a Career