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Out of High School and Lost? A Three-Step Road Map to Your Future

Graduating from high school can be a shock. After years of being told what to do by teachers, it’s up to you to figure out what path you want to take now. With so many career options available, how do you know which path to follow? With the right roadmap, you–and your career–can head in the right direction.

Andy Jones finished high school last May. He liked his computer and math classes and pulled middle-of-the-road grades in most subjects. After graduation, he decided to take a few months off to clear his head and figure out what he wants to do next. Andy knows that he’s interested in computers and technology, but he doesn’t know where to start. His parents want him to get an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, but he wants to make sure it’s worth it before putting more time and money into school.

Building a Roadmap of Your Path to Success
If you’re a recent college graduate like Andy, this three-step program can help you figure out what you want to do and how to get there. Think of it as your own personal roadmap to success.

Step 1: Identify Your Interests
How can you know what career will eventually make you happy? A good way to start is to think about the kinds of things you like to do right now. What activities do you enjoy?�� What are you good at? Don’t limit yourself to things you think someone would hire you for–just be honest about what you really like to do. If you have trouble brainstorming on your own, talk about it with a friend or parent.

Andy’s Top 3:

Step 2: Choose a Career Goal
There may be jobs that interest you in fields that you’ve never even heard of. Go online and research occupations that might fit your skills and interests. You can also seek out and talk to people who do jobs you find interesting. Talk to them about what they do every day, what skills they needed to get the job, and what the work environment is like.

Andy’s Career Pick:
Andy looked up career profiles online and decided he might like to be a computer programmer. He called up a friend of his mom’s who works as a programmer for a big technology company. He went into the office and talked to some of her co-workers, and decided that the computer systems analysts did the most interesting work. “Andy Smith, computer systems analyst.”�� He liked the sound of it.

Step 3: Choose a Degree Program
Many careers require post-secondary education. If you plan your education and career goals carefully, a detour back to college generally pays off in the long run. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that, as people’s education levels go up their annual incomes go up as well. Workers 18+ in 2004 had the following median earnings:

Getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you a particular salary–but it’s likely to give both your career and your earnings a boost. It’s important to research the kinds of degrees required for any job that you find interesting or challenging (the Bureau of Labor Statistics generally offers this information).

Advanced Degrees 101
Certificate programs, which are intensive and skill-oriented, take anywhere from eight weeks to a year, and usually provide a “fast track” into the workplace. Associate’s degree programs provide a broad base in general education and a concentration in one specific area, and generally take two years to complete. Once you get an associate’s degree, you typically need at least another two years to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree.�� Bachelor’s degree programs typically include general education, elective courses, and one concentrated area of study.

Andy’s Degree Program Pick
After researching the requirements to be a computer systems analyst, Andy decided to pursue an associate’s degree in computer science. He plans to get a part-time job with a technology firm to get some hands-on-experience while he’s in school. He may decide to continue and get a bachelor’s degree once he’s sure he likes the subject and the program.

If you’re out of high school and lost, a little planning can take you a long way. Follow these three steps and you could be whizzing down the road to success.

Publish date: June 13, 2008