How to Choose the Right Career Path

women contemplating

Some people are lucky. They've known since grade school what they wanted to be when they grew up, and they've pursued that path with single-minded determination since then.

More often, though, our dreams, aspirations, and job preferences change over time, particularly in today's rapidly evolving technological landscape and global job market. While some roles are becoming more specialized, others are diversifying or being invented to meet new business needs – which means that no matter what you love to do, there's probably a career out there that will let you do it.

If you're confused where to start looking for the perfect role, you're not alone. While sometimes it just takes good, old-fashioned self-reflection and research to break through the clouds, here are some other ways you can formulate a plan quickly and start to see the light.

Follow the Money

For some people, a big paycheck is the ultimate payoff. Unfortunately, many of the highest paying occupations are heavy on education requirements and demand additional experience or training to boot – surgeons, anesthesiologists, and orthodontists, for example.

While these qualifications can take decades to build, non-medical professionals can still see potentially high salaries with much less of a time commitment to start. Finance and business are two perennially marketable and often lucrative fields. You can even add an MBA in as little as two years, which is roundly shown to boost pay, as well.

Follow Your Passion

Other people find more satisfaction in the work than in the paycheck. Education is a traditionally low-paying field for college graduates, particularly for those who want to stay in the classroom their entire careers. So, too, is journalism. Yet both careers can provide a great deal of fulfilment for those who want to contribute to their community in a meaningful way.

Low-paying is a relative term. You'll likely earn more with any college degree than most people will with a high school diploma or even an Associate's degree.

Remember that passion and pay are not mutually exclusive, either. Perhaps you've always loved the arts, but not the prospect of struggling as a starving artist. A business degree could help you meet both goals by preparing you to manage a theatrical company or art museum. Think more about careers that support the things you love, and you're likely to find one that's both pleasurable and profitable.

Test Yourself

Career aptitude tests can be a great way to explore your options based on your own tendencies. Most of us took these in high school, but if it's been a few years or more, it might be a good time to take another. Preferences and abilities evolve over time.

There are a number of free career tests online that measure everything from your habits and temperament to your existing talents and preferences. Use them to discover careers that you may never have known about otherwise, which also suit your skills and experience.

Don't shy away from a test that takes a significant amount of time to complete or asks a ton of questions. Often, lengthier exams yield more accurate and personalized results.

Test the Waters

It's hard to tell how a car is going to handle without first taking it out on a test drive. Likewise, it can be hard to tell if a career is compatible without trying it on for size. Luckily, taking a potential new career out for a spin isn't nearly as complicated as it sounds.

Internships and volunteerism are great ways to explore career possibilities. If you don't have the time to commit to these endeavors, you can try shadowing or interviewing a professional already working in the field. Don't be scared to reach out. People often are open to providing insight on their professions – and if so, it's usually a good sign that they also enjoy what they do.

However you choose to get your foot in the door, taking steps to learn more about your potential career before you dive in will also jumpstart the professional networking that is so crucial for career success.

Reboot as Needed

In an era when career changes are becoming more common, you might find that you just don't want to keep following the career path you started out on. If so, there are several factors to consider beyond what career you want to pursue. You'll also have to consider how realistic a career change could be and how to go about finding fulfillment.

If you don't see much opportunity to advance on your current career path, going back to school for a Master's degree or a Bachelor's in a different discipline can help you change gears. Luckily, it's now more convenient to go back to school without sacrificing too much of your time or money.

Modern, online universities like Ashford offer flexible scheduling so you can support yourself in your current job even as you prepare for a new one. Before you choose any career path, however, it's important to sit down and evaluate both yourself and the job market. Decide what's most important to you, and begin your planning from there.


Written by Ashford University staff

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Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.