Exploring Career Choices for Teens

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Finding more information on career choices for teens can be as simple as taking a test or it can involve an extended program of study.

Exploring Career Choices for Teens

Career Aptitude Tests

Career aptitude tests can help students evaluate their skills and interests while also determining which career fields best fit these skills and interests. Your school counseling office will be your best source for career-related testing. The ASVAB Career Exploration Program is one option. Originally designed for military use, the ASVAB tests students in science, math, reading, electronics, mechanical comprehension, and auto and shop knowledge. It also includes career exploration segments focused on interests and work values. The ACT's Interest Inventory (UNIACT) is another option. UNIACT focuses on career-related tasks in helping students classify their interests. While it is not available as a standalone assessment, it is included in several standardized tests like PLAN and EXPLORE.

Job Shadowing

A job shadowing experience lets teens spend a day at a worksite related to their potential career interest. Someone who is interested in early childhood education could spend a day at a preschool, or a student who is thinking of becoming an artist could explore a local studio or gallery. Visit your guidance office to find out if your school coordinates job shadowing experiences. If your school doesn't offer a formal program, find a business you'd be interested in spending the day at and ask. It may help to have a recommendation from a parent or friend of the family. However, if you're business-like, mature, and passionate about your future career, you should be able to convince even a complete stranger to give you a chance.

A similar experience is "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day," originally known as "Take Our Daughters to Work Day." Even if you're certain you're not interested in your parent's field of work, it can be informative and eye-opening to spend a day in the workforce. You may even find out about surprising career opportunities. You say you would never want to be an engineer, but what about working in engineering's marketing department?

Be aware that some "day on the job" experiences may not be possible because of safety concerns or confidentiality issues. You won't be able to sit in on a patient consultation at a doctor's office or roam the factory floor in most industrial settings.


While job shadowing can be a good way to get a taste of a future career, volunteering gives you an even better idea of the day-to-day requirements of a job. Hospitals often have programs for high school students interested in healthcare. Future teachers can tutor other students or help with an after-school program. Community organizations need assistance with clerical tasks like filing, creative efforts like newsletters, and more hands-on labor like landscaping and repairs. In addition to helping you explore a possible career, volunteering can also fulfill community service requirements for graduation or honor society membership. It also looks great on college applications and resumes.

Career Training

Career training programs are another useful resource in exploring career choices for teens. These classes are usually offered by intermediate school districts or similar regional agencies. They provide hands-on training in topics as diverse as cosmetology, auto repair, and medical technology. As an added bonus, these courses may be eligible for both high school and college credit. The programs take place during the school day, usually taking up half the day, and you typically sign up for them while scheduling classes for the next school year. Look for informational meetings each spring, or ask your guidance counselor for more information.

Work Study

Work study is another option that takes place during the school day. Students work at a part time job, earning high school credit in addition to wages. Students should choose their work setting carefully to provide the most educational experience and the best contacts for future success in the field. Ask your guidance counselor for more information and program requirements. Work study students may be required to take upper level courses related to their job or submit reports to the school detailing their work accomplishments.

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Exploring Career Choices for Teens