What are the best tools to help a high school student select a career path

I am working with several HS students looking at what to do with their lives.

Do you all know any good tools to help a HS student with this?

I’ve been out of school 40 years now. They used to have student counselors assigned, who worked on this very issue. They don’t do that now?

They should, but school districts vary greatly in their ability to serve students. In California there are resources like this: https://www.cacareerzone.org/

The OP might try to find something analogous for the area.

Experience. The US should adopt the concept of a gap year between high school and further education, and kids should get out in the real world before deciding on a career.
Of the 5 kids in my family, 0 are doing what we majored in college. There are many days I wish I had gone to trade school instead of college.

By “get out in the real world”, do you mean “live independently”? Because lots of kids would struggle to find a job that could pay for half an apartment, bills, and transportation–and that’s assuming they have no crazy medical costs and their parent continues to pay their insurance. They also need first month’s rent, various deposits, and some amount of furniture. Plus cleaning supplies and a microwave and all the other stuff it costs to move into a place.

People who don’t go to college and just start working usually can’t afford to move out for some time. So gap year kids really never would.

By “get out in the real world” I mean get a job. This does not require moving out, but it should be a job in which there are real rewards for work and real consequences for bad work or no work. I also mean talking to adults about the real world and about jobs the student might be considering as a career. If you have spent your entire life insulated from these, you are going to struggle. And if you have no experience in disappointment, what will you do if your dream job is a nightmare? And if you have massive student debt and no way to pay it back?

They kind of do that around here meaning many kids graduate high school then go 2 years at our local Juco. There they can knock out some credits and explore some possible career fields. PLUS work full or part time. Its a great an inexpensive way to bridge the gap before heading off to a university.

Heck nowadays kids can even take many courses online so lets say they want to work at a Colorado ski resort for a winter - they can still take some online college courses.

Occupational Outlook Handbook might be helpful. At least to those who are considering a technical degree (or even a bachelor’s). Gives pay, # of projected new jobs, etc. for a given area/occupation. Though further research may need to be done to see how many hours a person usually gets, with occupation that are not default 40 hrs/week. Like here is Dental Hygienists - it just multiplies the hourly by 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year, but many Dentist offices are closed on Fridays and mine closes for a week either once or twice a year.

I think it might be more useful for people going back to school, though, since it seems like they’d be the ones more likely to end up paying money for a program that gives them no value.

Sure, there’s more to choosing a career than pay and # of job openings, but those things do matter.

Good point, but what does it mean to “adopt the concept”? Being in post-secondary education doesn’t require someone to have decided on a career. And anyway, this really is already happening. A good percentage of high school graduates who go to college work while they are in college (35% of full-time students work; 70% of part-time students work).

Also, the OP didn’t say anything about further education. If these students go directly to work, they still can consider different kinds of work to go into. And if they go to trade school, it’s all the more important for them to consider what trade they want to go into, before investing time and money in that–or using up their financial aid on studying a trade that they end up not liking. That happens a lot. Private trade schools put ads on TV, promising immediate and gainful employment, telling people that it won’t cost a thing (because of financial aid), and all too often these private trade schools are essentially scams, milking federal financial aid.

Yes, the OOH is an amazing resource.

Dental hygienists, by the way, don’t work 40 hours a week because they make such good money they don’t have to.

I live in Alabama - they don’t make such good money here. And have a lower bar to entry in the field via the Alabama Dental Hygiene Program (ADHP). But then they can’t get employed in any other state, because they don’t have degrees and may not have taken the National Board Dental Hygiene exam (not required in Alabama). At least, that’s my understanding.

Waiting until someone starts work to talk about consequences is too late. Screwing off in school has real consequences also, and unlike work you see it several times a year. Learning to be self motivated in doing homework is as important as learning about cosines. More. The kid who is a self-starter in school is going to be a self-starter at work, and will get a better job thanks to better grades that will get her into a better college.
And there is the Wally syndrome at work. There are plenty of workers who do just enough to keep from getting fired, and wonder why they don’t get raises and fall behind their peers. Tell a kid that the slightest slip up will result in getting canned will make him think he pulled a fast one when he doesn’t.

I tend to disagree with that somewhat. My wife is an example. Right out of high school, she started working as a teller at a bank. Once those paychecks start rolling in, as a 19-20 year old with few responsibilities, you things are pretty good. However, momentum carries on and she has ended up with a series of jobs, rather than a fulfilling career.

There is also the pitfall of “taking a year off” and never getting back going to college or whatever your plan was. This happened to my SIL. Was accepted to several good schools, decided to wait a year and never ended up going to college. I warned them right off the bat that if she didn’t go right away she’d never go and I was right.

College is not the right path for all, maybe even most. I believe far more individuals should go to trade schools. There are a ton of opportunities for well paying careers in the trades. But those who do have the aptitude and desire to go to college should take advantage of it. It doesn’t matter whether you end up working in the field your degree is in. It is just a tool that you can use to leverage whatever you end up discovering that you want to do.

Not many consequences when you can get a high school diploma without being able to read.

Of the 5 of us who are not doing what we majored in: 2 did not finish college but went back years later. Both of them changed majors based on what they did after leaving school. The other 3 got continuing education different from their major. If I knew then what I know now, I would have saved myself 20+ years of working in the wrong job, and I’d probably be able to find the job I do want instead of posting on a message board all day.

I disagree on the putative difficulty of kids living on their own in a gap year, and think we infantilize kids too much. I moved out when I turned 17 and was still in high school, and all of my older sibs (3 total) moved out around age 17 too.

I even supported both me and my girlfriend for the next 1.5 years until she finished HS and we went to college. The only items of furniture in the apartment were a mattress, a stereo + speakers, and a breakfast nook table I built out of scrap wood. But you don’t actually NEED furniture to survive.

It wasn’t always comfortable living, and it was very rough living compared to what I’m used to today, but it’s certainly possible to live like this, and I think a big chunk of 18 year olds would and should be able to. Indeed, a big chunk of NON middle-class-or-higher 18 olds ARE living on their own like this, with crappy furniture and rough diets and small apartments in dodgy parts of town. Yet there they are, surviving on their own!

We just have a tendency on both the parent and child end to unrealistically expect that middle class 18 year olds will have exactly the same or better standard of living upon them moving out, and anything below that is strictly unacceptable. Well, that’s ridiculous. No 18 year old should expect to live at a “big suburban house with 3 cars” standard of living right away, and their parents should certainly know better, because I’m sure they had to live through the whole arc that starts in “crappy small apartment in a dodgy area of town” and culminates in the big suburban house 20 years of hard work later.

You’re right that anything really disastrous like a disabling injury or major health expense would have been crippling to me or my siblings at age 18, but that’s true for the MAJORITY of households in the country, whether the head of household is 18 or 55.

So I disagree on the presumed extreme difficulty / impossibility of kids being able to do this, and think that it WOULD be a great life lesson and motivator towards figuring out what you like and don’t like, and an innate desire to go to college so you can get a “real” job.

And if, heaven forfend, they actually find out they’re doing well enough and like their lives as salespeople or waitstaff or any other non-college degree job? Great! They just avoided 6 figures of debt and can get on with their lives right away instead of $100k in debt four years from now! And we think that’s a BAD thing? I think that’s a good thing.

I thought gap years were used mainly by students of wealthy families. I’m not convinced you really learn a lot working a dead end job for a year before college. What did I learn? I learned that most male restaurant managers are horndogs and they’ll schedule the most attractive women for the best shifts. I learned that most restaurant managers are petty and vindictive and you’ll get a clopen (close one night, open the next) should you dare ask for a day off. I learned that when the going gets tough, the manager locks himself in the office to do ‘manager work’ or steps outside for a smoke.

And, I agree with some of the opinions above. It is easy to get sucked into enjoying having some extra money if you’re working a full time job in your late teens, especially if you’re living at home. It’s easy to spend it at bars or on clothes or dinners out. But, you’re typically not surrounded by college graduates and find yourself working a series of jobs without any real direction.

I do think that too many students go to college, and I’ve known a few that have student loan debt that was wasted on a year or two of general studies and then they take a semester off and never return.

Those are very valuable lessons for some people.
For example: a kid who’s not sure he wants to go to college and enrolls just because everybody told him that’s what he should do. He’s not likely to understand why college is important or why he should work hard at it. But the same kid, after a year of being shit on in a dead-end job, may well have grown up enough to take his college experience seriously.

A shovel.

Spending the summer operating one showed me the advantages of a good education :smiley:

I agree with this. The kind of job you can get as an eighteen-year-old with just a high school diploma often isn’t very relevant to what you can get as a 22-year-old with a college degree. And the other argument made by CelticKnot was that in his/her family none of the siblings were doing what they studied in college. But that’s often true whether or not you take a gap year to work.

If you do the conventional college after high school thing, and graduate with a bachelor’s degree at 22 years old, you might be in the workforce for the next 45 years. There are very few jobs or careers that remain unchanged over those four decades. Most people I know reinvent themselves or entirely change careers over that time. For example, someone who is retiring as a nurse or a lawyer today will find that the job changed tremendously from when they started.