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What Should My Child Do After High School?
< Beyond High School

What Should My Child Do after High School?

Why a Post-High School Plan?
Statistics about education and careers in the U.S. reveal why it's important to have a plan for life after high school:
  • 48 of the 50 fastest growing jobs in the U.S. require some type of education beyond high school.
  • People who don't have post-high school training are three times more likely to be unemployed than those who do.
  • People who have some training after high school make more money and have better opportunities for career advancement than those who have only a high school diploma.
  • Freshmen who don't have a career goal or academic major when they enter college are more likely to drop out.
  • If your child has a solid plan before graduating, his or her chances for success in postsecondary education increase.
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How Can I Help My Child Prepare for Life After High School?

You can help your child prepare if you:

Start in middle school

You need to start planning the courses your child will take in high school while still in middle school. The courses your child takes in high school will greatly affect his or her ability to make a smooth transition to postsecondary education and training.

Take action in high school

Help your child:
  • Identify the career or field in which he or she would like to work.
  • Discover the skills needed for his or her chosen career.
  • Get as much education and experience related to his or her career field as possible while still in high school. This can be accomplished in many ways, including elective classes, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, job shadowing, internships and part-time jobs.
  • Collect information on the post-high school training needed to fit his or her career plan.
  • Find the schools or colleges that provide the best training for your child's chosen career.
  • Look beyond just starting a training program, set a plan for how to finish the program.
Focus your child on a career goal
  • If your child does not have a particular career goal, help him or her choose a post-high school program in a general area related to his or her interests.
  • Encourage him or her to take challenging courses and continue to think about how he or she can use education to pursue a rewarding career.
  • Remember that it's okay for your child to change career goals as he or she learns more about the world of work.
  • Also keep in mind that it's better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all.
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What are the Options for Post-High School Training?

There are many ways to pursue education and training after high school, depending on your child's career goals. Here are some examples:

On-the-job-training. For some careers, your child will need formal, on-the-job training. Examples include flight attendant, bank teller or emergency dispatcher.

Apprenticeship training. In an apprenticeship, your child works with experienced employees and completes classroom training in a program that can last from one to five years and results in an industry qualification. Apprentices are paid, but at a lower rate than fully qualified workers in that field. Careers that use the apprenticeship method include dental laboratory technician, mechanic, heavy equipment operator, carpenter, welder, cabinetmaker and electrician.

Military training. The military trains people in 140 occupations, and many of the skills learned in these occupations can be used in civilian jobs. Every recruit signs a legal contract for eight years of duty. Usually, military personnel spend two to six years on active duty and the remaining years in the Reserve forces. Service members receive basic pay, allowances and benefits. They are also eligible for tuition assistance at colleges and universities.

Certificate programs. Many community colleges, technical schools and private career schools offer six-month to one-year programs that lead to certification in a specialized field. Careers that might require a certificate training program include pharmacy technician, dental assistant, paralegal, computer equipment repair, floral design and medical assistant.

Associate degree programs. Community colleges also offer two-year degree programs that result in an associate's degree. Careers that require an associate's degree include office manager, nurse, respiratory therapist, forestry technician and interior designer. A person with an associate's degree can also use those credits to transfer to a four-year college or university if they want to pursue a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor degree programs. State and private colleges and universities offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor's degree. Your child has a better chance of completing a bachelor's degree program if he or she has a study plan beforehand. A bachelor's degree will prepare your child for an array of careers such as dietician, forester, graphic designer, social worker and technical writer.

Education beyond a bachelor's degree. There are many careers in which your child may be interested - such as architect, lawyer and doctor - that require education beyond a bachelor's degree. With a post-high school plan, you and your child will be better prepared for the time and money required to reach those career goals.

For More Information
  •   U.S. Department of Labor website on high-growth, high-wage careers.
  • U.S. Department of Education's Student website
  • provides information on education, careers and more.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Did Somebody Say College? Susan Quattrociocchi, Ph.D., Josephine Cripps, MFA, 2000.
  • The Effects of College Career Courses on Learner Outputs and Outcomes: Technical Report No. 26, (Byron Folsom, Florida State University, Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development, 2000).
  • Effects of a personal and career exploration course on student retention/persistence, D. Schmidt, [Unpublished study] Long Beach, CA: College of Education, California State University, Long Beach, 1999.
  • Helping undecided students select a major or career, W. Bechtol, Journal of College Student Personnel, 19, 570-571, 1978.
  • WOIS/The Career Information System.