Career Ideas

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Coming up with career ideas can be exciting, but it can also be daunting when there are so many things to consider.

College Career Ideas

How do you figure out what you’re good at? What careers offer long-term job growth and top salaries? How do you balance passions and interests with stability?

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We’ve got you covered with tips on brainstorming, how to research career options, or if you’re already working, how to make a career change, and more so that you can choose the best career for you and your future.

Career Ideas Table of Contents:

How to Come Up With Career Ideas

College students looking online for career ideas

You can find plenty of “career ideas lists” on the internet, but what you need is to find the right career… for you!

Here are 4 tips to help you come up with career ideas that might suit you:

    1. Consider your passions, talents and strengths. Your career will make up a big part of your life. You should choose something you enjoy, and something you are good at. A career test, which we will discuss more below, can help you evaluate these factors and point out some career fields that may be a good fit.
    2. Ask your people. Talk to the people who know you best: your parents, friends, family members, and coworkers. They see your strengths and weaknesses, and may be able to offer you some insight or advice.
    3. Research. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) site is an excellent resource, with a variety of tools that can help you explore careers, look at projected growth and salary, and compare options. We’ll discuss that in detail in the section below.
    4. Test it out. Look for internships, job shadowing opportunities and entry-level jobs in the field. Join professional organizations or clubs where you can meet people who work in the field you are interested in.

Keep in mind that while it is a big decision, choosing a career is not a life-long sentence. Many – actually, most – people change careers several times throughout their lifetime.

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Choose the profession that seems like the best fit for your personality and skill set, and that will adapt and grow with you over the years, but also know that life does offer re-dos.

How to Research College Career Ideas

A woman doing research on college career

When researching career ideas, one of the best resources available is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. Most people know that this site offers lists of careers and salary data, but it’s so much more comprehensive than just that!

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The BLS is full of articles and tools that can help you determine which fields would best suit you, what education or training you may need and how to narrow down your options. It can often introduce new careers you may not be familiar with.

Here are a few especially helpful tools you can find on the BLS site:

  • Career Exploration – Here, you will find a long list of interests. Click on those that pique your interest to see potential career options. For example, if you enjoy helping your community, you might consider working as a childcare worker, firefighter, police officer, social worker or as a school or career counselor. This is a great tool for brainstorming!
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook – If you already have a few job ideas, this is the go-to place for data! For each occupation, you will find a job description, what education or training is needed, salary and job growth outlook, and similar professions. The handbook allows you to browse occupation groups, such as all careers under the healthcare umbrella, or the legal umbrella, for example. You can sort by education or pay, look at the fastest growing occupations or the newest occupations. If you’re not sure if you’d rather be an accountant or a financial analyst, this is a great place to compare your career options and learn about alternatives.
  • Occupation Finder – Within the Occupational Outlook Handbook is the Occupational Finder, where you can browse through a list of more than 800 occupations to see the projected growth, median salary information and education or training necessary for each. If you have a few options in mind, this tool can help you easily compare them and narrow your choices.
  • Career Planning for High Schoolers – This article discusses a number of ways you can explore your interests to help determine a good career fit and is helpful even if you’re not a high school student. It points out the value in internships, jobs, volunteer positions, involvement with professional organizations and similar opportunities that offer students exposure to their potential future careers. Finally, the article offers information about education and training during and after high school and provides a number of additional resources.

Take some time to explore the BLS and see what new career ideas it comes up with for you!

When or Why You Should Consider a Career Change

Two students thinking about career change

We all choose the path that seems best straight out of high school, but oftentimes that changes later on. In fact, the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life.

There are many different reasons people opt to change careers. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Not feeling challenged, or feeling under-utilized
  • Changes in the industry
  • Inability to advance
  • Schedule is no longer compatible with lifestyle
  • Change in circumstances
  • Need more money
  • Want to explore a passion

As you move through different phases of your life you mature and your lifestyle and priorities change, so it makes sense that your career choice may change as well.

career change at 30 is not uncommon. At this stage, you have entered true adulthood – perhaps you have a spouse and children to support – and may be starting to realize that your career field doesn’t offer the growth or salary you desire. Consider this: If you plan to retire at age 65, you still have 35 years left to work. Don’t you deserve to spend those years in a career that excites and enriches you?

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career change at 40 might make you feel like you’re throwing years of experience away, but if you can’t advance or feel satisfied in your current career then it may be worth considering a change. And your experience won’t be wasted! Those skills will transition into a new field and may even count as credit if you choose to pursue a degree!

Even a career change at 50, when you’re so close to retirement, isn’t a waste! Those remaining 15 years of employment can either fly by or drag on for an eternity. It’s time to invest in your own happiness.

The point is, no matter your age, if you’re unhappy in your career it may be time to consider something different. It’s never too late to alter the course of your life and pursue something you’re interested in! See our page on going back to school as an adult for more ideas and information.

Types of Career Options

Students deciding on their college career

There are thousands of careers to choose from, but we have compiled a list of the top 40 in the most popular fields to help get you thinking! Click the field to learn more about the necessary education, salary range and what specific occupations you could consider.

Explore the Top 40 Career Ideas & Salaries in the Most Popular Career Fields below:

Things to Consider When Choosing a Career to Pursue

Student researching on requirements for pursuing his chosen career

Whether you are fresh out of high school or have been working in your current field for decades, you will have many important factors to consider when choosing a career.

Here are three of the most important questions you will need to ask yourself:

1. What kind of education or training will I need in this career?

With any career, the opportunity to reach higher pay-grades tends to coincide with the level of education you attain.

Be sure to research which level of education you will need in order to gain employment in your field, and whether you will need to earn additional degrees to advance further. This information can be found on the BLS.

  • Associate’s degree – Generally, an associate’s degree is a stepping stone on your way to a Bachelor’s degree. However, it is possible to land an entry-level position with an associate’s degree, and with time and dedication, you should have opportunities to work your way up the ladder.
  • Bachelor’s degree –This four-year degree is the most common degree program to begin your professional career. With the specialized skills learned through the course of this degree, the doors to a wide-range of entry to mid-level professions will be opened for you.
  • Graduate Degrees – Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree, attending graduate school to work towards a master’s degree or doctorate degree becomes an option. The job market today is highly competitive and earning a graduate degree may help you stand out from the crowd, not to mention boost your salary. This advanced degree can also be helpful if you wish to transition into a field that’s new to you.

In some trades, apprenticeships and certificates may also be required stepping stones to enter the workforce. Online colleges offer great opportunities to get your new degree or certificate.

2. Will the job be in-demand and pay well once I graduate? / Will it be worth it?

Woman applying for jobs after graduation

If you’re going to invest time and money into changing career paths, you want to know that it will be worth it. You want to be sure that there will be a demand for your new skills, and that you will be paid well once you complete your training or education.

There are a number of ways to research this, and one of the best is by utilizing the information provided by the BLS. The BLS monitors labor market activity, working conditions, and economic factors that affect occupations. The Occupational Outlook Handbook on the BLS website is a great resource for students looking to gather information on various careers.

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You can find the following topics listed in this section of the website to help you gain a broader understanding of the specific occupation:

  • Job description
  • Educational requirements
  • Work environment
  • Salary information
  • Job outlook
  • State and area data

As an independent statistical agency, the BLS is committed to providing timely, accurate, and objective information on the rate of career growth and current average salaries for various occupations.

3. How do I find the best career for my strengths, interests and skills?

Friends looking at options for their college career

When choosing a career, it’s important to do some self-reflection, and career tests can help you with that. Career tests ask questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your interests, your goals and so on, and then assess your answers and provide suggestions of careers that may be a good fit for you. Here are five highly reputable sites with assessments that can help you determine the best career options for you:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – Arguably the most well-known personality assessment, this test is designed to help you understand and improve your decision-making abilities, stress management style and communication effectiveness. It can also identify your learning style and ideal work environments in order to help you focus your career plans. The test takes about 45 minutes and costs $50.
  • The MAPP (Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential) Career Assessment Test – This site can help pinpoint your strengths and passions, and then offer appropriate career suggestions. The free MAPP Match will offer 5 career matches, but paid packages offer as much as 30 page assessments and a unique ranking of more than 1000 career options according to your results.
  • John Holland’s Self-Directed Search – The idea here is that people and work environments fall into six categories: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. The assessment will consider your aspirations, activities, competencies, interests and more to determine which category you fit into, and then suggest a list of careers most likely to align with your results. The test costs about $10.
  • MyPlan.com – Test your career personality, interest, skills and values, each of which can help you learn more about how you handle certain work-related experiences or environments. Combine all the tests with the $20 CareerMatch™ option, which compiles data from all the tests to help rank 739 career possibilities
  • Career Explorer by Sokanu – This career matching platform assesses interests, personality and preferences relating to 140 traits, and uses the data to match you to more than 800 professions. The assessment digs deeper than the obvious questions so it can match who you really are.

Remember, though, these tests only assess the data you provide based on the questions that are asked. They can’t take into consideration your history or other circumstances, so they are not truly comprehensive evaluations.

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The career matches you receive are just suggestions, to give you a starting point as you start to consider all of your options.

Most In-Demand Career Ideas

Woman getting hired right after graduation

As we have mentioned, when choosing a career, it’s a good idea to look for a field that is showing significant growth and is expected to continue in that direction. Today, the most recession-proof jobs tend to be in health care, information technology (IT), trade and hospitality.

According to Indeed.com, the following are currently the 15 most in-demand careers right now:

  • Home health aide
  • Nursing assistant
  • Construction worker
  • Physical therapy aide
  • Truck driver
  • Medical technologist
  • Operations research analyst
  • Financial advisor
  • Registered nurse
  • Web developer
  • Health services administrator
  • Physical therapist
  • Information security analyst
  • Statistician
  • Software developer

Though certain fields are especially promising, that does not mean it’s not worthwhile to pursue a degree in something else! The BLS predicts that employment will rise in finance, education, law, media, social sciences and so many other fields.

Be sure to do your research on whatever field interests you, so that you know what the demand is like before you make a chance.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.