College Career Ideas and How to Choose a Career
Coming up with career ideas can be exciting, but it can also be daunting when there are so many things to consider.
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?
We’ve got you covered with tips on brainstorming, how to research career options, 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
How to Research College Career Ideas
When or Why You Should Consider a Career Change
Types of Career Options
Explore the Top 40 Careers & Salaries
Things to Consider When Choosing Careers to Pursue
Most In-Demand Career Ideas
How to Come Up With 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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!
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
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.
A 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?
A 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
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:
For those students with a knack for mathematics, organization, and leadership, an Accounting degree can be an excellent starting point to pursue a lucrative business career! By helping companies manage their financial obligations, accounting professionals play a vital role in an organization’s success in the business world.
For those with a detail-oriented mind and knack for creative design, an Architecture degree is an excellent way to pursue a fast-paced, lucrative career! Whether you go on to become a licensed architect or translate your skills into a related industry, there is a number of exciting career opportunities for those who have a strong architectural skillset!
Some people just have a knack for creativity and design, and luckily there are many ways that you can turn that passion for art into a fulfilling and exciting career! From fine art to graphic design, there are many different directions that you can take to achieve your goals.
If you are someone with a scientific mind that enjoys exploring the wonders of the natural world, then a degree in Biology can open the door to a number of lucrative, professional careers! Whether you are researching in a laboratory setting, teaching at a university, or working out in the field, a Biology degree gives you the opportunity to make a direct impact on the world around you.
If you can picture yourself at the top of the corporate world or would like to have the potential of earning a six figure salary, then Business Administration is the perfect choice to begin your career journey.
Are you interested in film and TV production or do you enjoy being in the spotlight with public relations and journalism? In the field of communications, career options are endless for turning your innate talents into a lucrative job opportunity!
If you are looking for a way to combine your technological skills with a passion for science, then a degree in Computer Science is the perfect path to a rewarding career! With constantly changing technology and an increasingly competitive business environment, the sky is the limit for turning your Computer Science degree into a lucrative job opportunity!
If you have a passion for working directly with people and a knack for compassion and understanding, then a degree in Counseling could be the perfect fit for you! With a wide range of disciplines and positive job outlook, those interested in counseling have a number of opportunities available for turning their degree into a rewarding, exciting career!
Are you passionate about justice and have a knack for leadership? Then pursuing a career in criminal justice can set you up for a variety of rewarding job opportunities that give you the power to help others and make a difference in your community.
If you love food and have an artistic flair, than earning a degree in the culinary arts may be the perfect fit! By honing your culinary talent and developing an expert skillset, you can get a jumpstart into becoming a top chef within the field!
For those that enjoy the challenges of working with data and numbers, a degree in Economics opens the door to a number of fast-paced business careers! Whether you want to translate your skills into research, management, sales, or finances, the knowledge gained through this degree program is an excellent starting point to reach your long-term goals.
Educators are the unsung heroes of our society and they play an essential role in developing the minds of the next generation. To make a difference in your community, consider choosing from one of the many rewarding career paths in education and teaching!
If you are interested in a fast-paced, challenging career field that comes with a hefty salary, then working towards a degree in engineering is the perfect chance to show off your skills and put your innovative talents to use!
Are you a master of words with a passion for communication and literature? Then an English degree could be your ticket to a fulfilling and diverse career in a number of industries that include teaching, journalism, and public relations!
Would you like a fast-paced career with the potential of earning more than six-figures a year? Than a degree in Finance is the perfect way to get a jumpstart in the corporate world! With a number of choices for lucrative careers, Finance is an excellent choice to make an impact in the business world.
Are you a trailblazer with a diverse set of interests? Then consider the flexibility of a degree in General Studies! By custom designing your education, you can set yourself up to pursue fulfilling careers in business, communications, science, and more!
If you have an interest in a fast-paced professional career that allows you to put your creative skills to the test, then the field of graphic design may be the perfect fit for you! Whether you work within a graphic design firm or branch out into marketing or web design, there are a number of exciting career opportunities available with a Graphic Design degree!
Skilled healthcare workers are always in high demand, and with a degree in healthcare you can take the first step in joining this rewarding field! From skilled administrators to doctors and surgical professionals, healthcare is an excellent choice for a fulfilling career.
If you are interested in learning about the past to create a better future for our world, then consider the versatile History degree program! With a History degree, you will have the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills to a number of careers, including business, law, and government work.
Information Technology is a booming industry, and now is the perfect time to jump into an exciting, lucrative IT career! If you have strong computer skills and a head for business and management, the constantly expanding IT world may be your ticket to the job of your dreams!
For those who want to build a career revolving around the written word, a degree in Journalism is an excellent way to share your skills with the world! Whether you work within traditional publication settings or lead an organization’s public relations or marketing efforts, the skills that you learn throughout the course of your Journalism degree program open the door to a number of exciting, lucrative careers!.
For those interested in a fast-paced career with a lucrative annual salary, a Law degree can open the door to a number of highly-respected jobs! Whether you want to work as an attorney or preside over court cases as a judge, a Law degree is an essential component for entering this competitive and prestigious industry.
If you enjoy working with people and helping others reach their potential, then pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts can be a great start to a lasting career! From English and literature to sales and corporate business, there is a world of opportunity available within the field of Liberal Arts!
If you are looking for a way to turn your leadership and creative skills into a rewarding corporate career, then marketing may be the perfect field to showcase your talents! From creating advertising campaigns to project management or sales, there are countless options to utilize your Marketing degree in the fast-paced business world!
For those with an analytical mind and a knack for working with numbers, a degree in Mathematics can open the door to exciting jobs across a variety of industries. Through a Mathematics degree program you will develop a professional skillset that is an excellent starting point for embarking on a lucrative, challenging career path!
If you have a passion for helping others and are excellent at staying cool under pressure, you can pursue a rewarding career in the popular field of nursing after completing one of the many flexible degree program options.
For those with a passion for healthy living and a desire to help others modify their diets to enjoy the benefits of good health, a degree in Nutrition can be the perfect start to a rewarding career! From the food industry to education and public health, there are a number of job paths available to those with nutritional knowledge.
Political Science is an expansive degree program that exposes students to in-depth knowledge concerning the government, politics, and world culture. While many Political Science graduates go on to work within the political sector, there is also ample opportunity for building a rewarding, lucrative career within the fields of law, business, research, and education!
From clinical psychiatrists to scientific researchers, the field of psychology offers ample opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others while enjoying the potential of earning a six-figure salary!
If you enjoy studying complex systems and want to make an impact by improving the world in which we live, then pursing a degree in science gives you a multitude of options to create a career out of your passions!
Do you have a passion for helping others and want to make a difference in the world around you? Then consider earning a degree in Social Work! From social services to community outreach, there are a number of ways you can turn your degree into a rewarding career!
For those with a passion for helping others and a calling to work within ministry or teaching, a degree in Theology is an excellent way to begin your journey to spreading your spiritual message and embarking on a fulfilling career!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Career to Pursue
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 opportunties 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?
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. 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?
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. 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
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
- 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.
Get matched in seconds
Review online degree programs matched specifically to your goals and interests.