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The Significance of Career Exploration in High School

May 20th, 2024
Learning, teamwork and high five of students on laptop in classroom, achievement and goal. Education, computer and teenager in celebration of success, happy kids and study knowledge at high school

If you’re like most high school students, your primary goal is most likely to make it to school and finish. The reality is that finishing high school is a major milestone for many of us. It requires our time, energy, and focus, despite the many distractions that come our way.

Naturally, many students are focused on doing classes but aren’t aware of the career exploration opportunities that are available to them during high school. While some decide that the time to explore career paths is in college, it’s not possible for everyone nor does every student go to college. For those who do enroll in higher education, the cost of tuition can prohibit the full exploration of different careers. Testing out different career paths in college is unrealistic for many.

Blue and green infographic for Grad Solutions highlighting the fastest growing occupations

Get a Head-Start on Your Future

The job market is rapidly changing due to technology and changing industry trends. High schoolers who develop career skills ahead of their peers will be better equipped to adapt to these changes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, jobs requiring technical and analytical skills are on the rise, making it crucial for students to be prepared.

Lower Unemployment Rates

Without proper preparation for entering the workforce, the chances of unemployment are higher. Youth unemployment can have long-lasting negative effects on individuals and society as a whole. Career awareness development in high school can lead to lower unemployment rates by preparing students for the job market.

On the other hand, those who plan to work after high school will be ready to land a good job after high school, sometimes even getting hands-on experience during high school as well. These students can prepare themselves for various career opportunities by participating in an early career exploration program. In Arizona, there are a variety of vocational and trade exploration programs available for high school students.

Increase Chance of Earning a High School Diploma

Preparing for life after high school before graduation offers many benefits. For one, having career goals increases the likelihood of finishing high school in the first place because it adds more motivation to finish! If you have an idea of where you want to go after high school, it’s easier to keep working toward that desire. At Grad Solutions, we’ve seen firsthand how career information and exploration can bring renewed energy and desire to finish high school.

Career Development Resources

For students who are interested in career exploration, start by talking to your school counselor. They can connect you to various events and provide local resources for work-based learning and general career exploration. Explore these career exploration tools below to learn more about various industries and potential career paths:

medical professionals shaking hands

Career Discovery in Action: Student Story

Here’s a recent example of student exploration for healthcare careers from Grad Solutions Mentor Stephanie Imonje:

“Mike has been my student since May but completed only one class. When he first joined Grad Solutions he told me he wanted to be a surgeon but didn’t think he was smart enough (remember this for later). Fast forward to now:

Even though he meets me often during my HUB shifts, he has NOT started any of his new trimester classes. [One day], I texted him about the EVIT Showcase and said, “Even if now is not the right time to be working on school, it is the time to see what’s out there… (these are free programs for high school students and when you graduate, you would have a certificate and be able to work immediately in that field!)” He didn’t reply.”

The next day, Stephanie sent Mike another text but he did not respond. Later that afternoon, to Stepanie’s surprise and excitement, Mike did show up at EVIT. 

“…We take the tour through the Medical Assistant classrooms and I ask Michael if we should get to the Vet Assistant tour before the event ends. He says no because this is it. HE IS GOING TO APPLY FOR THE MEDICAL ASSISTANT PROGRAM IN NOVEMBER! My hope is that through this program he will regain his confidence and continue on to become the surgeon that he doubted he could be! 

… Well he went home from EVIT and started his History class that exact same day!!!! He worked on it for 5 hours on Saturday and 10 hours on Sunday! I can’t wait to see how much he completes today!”

The student’s mentor continued to monitor his progress and saw that over the next week, the student continued to make amazing progress. This is just one example but as you can see, discovering the right career pathway can be a tremendous driver in finishing school. 

Students who do not participate in career exploration have a 52% probability of completing high school, compared to the 72% probability of the student who does participate1. Also, career commitments made during high school lead to later career satisfaction and opportunities.

Back view of smart adult repair main board by using electronic equipment on table with laptop with engineering code displayed screen and electronic equipment at STEM technology classroom. Edification.

Build Skills in High School to Succeed in Life

In today’s competitive job market, having a solid set of career skills can make all the difference. One of the primary objectives of high school is to prepare students for life beyond the classroom. High school is the ideal time to bridge the gap between education and employment by equipping students with relevant skills.

Career interest development sometimes involves pushing yourself out of your safe zone. These skills are not only valuable in the workplace but also in daily life. High school students who participate in group projects and career exploration activities learn to define possible career aspirations when they finish high school.

Also, high school provides an excellent opportunity to develop a strong work ethic. Learning the value of:

  • Reliability
  • Accountability
  • Work Ethic
  • Professionalism
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Punctuality 

All of which can have a lasting impact on their future careers. These qualities are highly regarded by employers and contribute to long-term success.

Love studying here. Cute university girl enjoying her time while holding a pencil and making some notes during a home assignment preparation outdoors.

Career Confidence – Vital for Job Seekers

Career exploration not only enhances a student’s employability but also boosts their confidence and self-esteem. When students learn tangible problem solving skills and see their capabilities grow, they become more self-assured in their abilities. This confidence can positively impact their overall well-being and future success. Building confidence goes a long way when searching for a job.

In addition to increasing the chances of finding a job, early career explorers are more decisive about what jobs to pursue and the professionals they want to become. A study published in the American Psychological Association shows that students who prepare for a career during high school experience less career indecision during and after high school2. This is because they are more aware of what jobs they are suited for. Also, “career preparation is an important component of career identity development and is critical for late adolescents and young adults as they move into their adult occupational careers,” state Vladimir Skorikov and Fred Vondracek in their book Occupational Identity.

High school is a time for students to explore their interests and passions. Career skills development programs can expose students to a variety of fields and industries, helping them uncover what truly excites them. These valuable insights can inform career choices and lead to more fulfilling futures.

Blue, green, and grey infographic for Grad Solutions highlighting what Grad Solutions can do for early career exploration

Career Planning with Grad Solutions

If there’s one thing you take away, it should be this: Career exploration and skill development in high school are critical to life success. It prepares students for the real world, bridges the gap between education and employment, boosts confidence, and fosters independence. It also equips students with the skills necessary to meet the demands of life. Most of all, it gives students another exciting goal to work toward in high school and provides a greater vision for the future.

For high school dropouts looking to earn their diplomas, Grad Solutions has developed a robust College and Career Readiness program called Next Step. It helps students find their next step after high school. This program includes a career exploration program to help students build those skills and be guided as they transition from school to work.

Contact us to learn more about our dropout recovery program.


1 High School Career Exploration Programs: Do They Work? By Mary G. Visher, Rajika Bhandari and Elliott Medrich

 2A Longitudinal Examination of Career Preparation and Adjustment During the Transition From High School by Kate Stringer and Jennifer Kerpelman and Vladimir Skorikov

National Center for Education Statistics,

U.S. Burea of Labor Statistics Career Exploration

U.S. Burea of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook

Job Shadow

Truity Career Aptitude Test

Arizona Department of Education Career Planning Tool


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