Explore ALL Your Options and Plan for A Bright Future 

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“What do you want to do with your life?” 

Those words have infinite possible answers. But, it’s okay if you don’t have a rock-solid plan in place just yet.  

Many people believe that career satisfaction and success are gained by picking one path and sticking to it. The truth is that there are many potential paths to career entry, they are not mutually exclusive, and careers rarely follow a smooth trajectory.  

Let’s explore the various ways to land your dream job! 

College & University 

While the cost of higher education has risen steadily, research shows that obtaining a bachelor’s degree is still a sound financial investment. Median lifetime earnings for a bachelor’s degree graduate are two times that of someone with just a high school diploma or GED.  

It’s not uncommon to change majors during your college career, but students who declare a major in their first year are more likely to earn a degree than those who remain undecided. If you’re college-bound, staying focused on academic and occupational outcomes will provide you with more meaningful career options after graduation. 

Community College 

Community college is often considered a second choice for students who weren’t accepted into four-year universities. However, two-year colleges are the largest, fastest-growing higher education sector, and with good reason. Compared to a traditional four-year university, these institutions are more affordable and offer a variety of programs that help students prepare for the workforce or future study.  

Community colleges also offer flexible admissions policies, smaller class sizes, and a diverse student population. Additionally, certain careers can only be pursued through a community college or vocational training program, including HVAC technicians, welders, certified nursing assistants, and cosmetology, to name a few. 

The Military 

There’s a pervasive misconception that military enlistment isn’t an option for high school graduates who wish to pursue higher education. Yet, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The U.S. Military is the single biggest funder of education benefits, and the Services offer robust job training and career placement opportunities.  

There is no field of study requirement for either the Post 9/11 GI Bill or the military’s education loan repayment and tuition assistance programs. In other words, both active duty and reserve Service members can use education benefits towards courses unrelated to specific military occupations.  

But what if college is not in your plan? Not a problem! The military offers hands-on training and certification programs so you can gain the skills required for particular careers, all while earning a paycheck. 

Work-Based Learning: Vocational Training, Certifications, Apprenticeships, & Internships  

You may be less familiar with the work-based learning option for career-field entry. Work-based learning includes any program or course of study that offers students hands-on instruction and the opportunity to apply academic and technical skills in the real world.  

The term work-based learning applies to vocational training programs, technical certifications, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training offered directly through employers. The advantage of work-based learning is the ability to put into practice what you have learned, often while earning a paycheck. In exchange, employers gain a trained and skilled workforce. It is a win-win! 

Gap Year 

College, the military, and work-based learning are traditional post-secondary routes. But the gap year is becoming a popular alternative. A gap year allows you to gain work experience, give back to the community, learn about yourself and your interests, study, travel, and more. It is worth noting that more than 90 percent of students who take a gap year return to school within one year. 

If you’re taking a gap year, stay focused on what you want to achieve during this time. Consider enrolling in a gap year program like Americorps or Global Routes, which provides structure, objectives, and purpose. You may even be able to earn college credit through formal gap year programs!  

Are you #OptionReady? 

Whichever path you choose, we encourage you to look at ALL your options. But, most importantly, don’t feel as if you have to choose only one!  

You can go to community college AND pursue a four-year degree. You can join the military AND go to college. You can take a gap year AND participate in a vocational or degree-seeking program. So the options really are unlimited. 

Regardless of where you want to go,  ASVAB Career Exploration Program’s (CEP) mission is to help you identify your interests and skills, explore the world of work, and make a plan to land your dream job.  

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