15 Career Paths

Sonji Nicholas

Choosing a Career

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain the five-step process for choosing a career

Many of you may already know what you want to do with your career; that’s why you are in college! That being said, you might already know what your personal interests are and how they connect to your interests and skills. If that’s the case, you can use the following steps to reflect on your current career goals. If you’re unsure what you want to do, that’s perfectly fine. Classes like this one can help.  Assignments such as the My Guided Pathway project will help to clarify optimal steps to take in order to reach your career goal.  Keep an open mind, and pay attention to what interests you.

Let’s start with the idea that there are five steps to choosing a career. There are potentially many steps on the path you will take to discovering your career, but let’s start with five. We’ll begin with a question, and then we’ll provide some suggestions for you to do your own research. There are no right answers, and you are welcome to change your mind. As you read, take notes about your immediate thoughts as you work through the steps and the questions.

Step 1: What interests you?

You’re the only person who can answer this question.

There are many resources on the Internet that can help you sort out what you are most interested in, so if the answer doesn’t appear to you immediately, that’s fine. FSW offers an online career assessment through Career Coach. Take note of your results and spend a minute or two reflecting on what matters to you.

The following video looks at the connection between childhood interests and career options. Several successful entrepreneurs and employees share stories about how they turned childhood interests into careers that suited them. Learn how listening to your inner child can help you find the right career.

Step 2: What kind of knowledge, skills, and abilities does your field require?

If you’re still unsure of what you would like to do after Step 1, take a minute to think about what you do not want to do for a career. Are you interested in statistics? Do you like talking about the latest technology trends? Do you like building things using tools? Do you like helping others solve problems?  Are you interested in health care?

Career Paths

There are many resources on the Internet for exploring career paths. Check out Indeed’s Potential Career Paths to learn more about the knowledge, skills, and abilities that different career paths require.

Now that you have a list of what interests you, spend a minute thinking about what you already know, what you have to learn, and what you need to do in order to get the career that you want. Spend a little time searching for the level of education your career requires. Do you need an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or a doctorate degree?

Step 3: What do you want from a career?

Now that you have spent a bit of time learning about the education that you need for your career, let’s spend some time thinking about what you want from a career. You might take a minute to write a list of deal makers and deal breakers as a way of organizing your ideas for what matters to you. For example, do you want to work for a small company in your community or a large corporation? Does it appeal to you to work for your local government or for a brand-new business? Do you want to work for a close-knit team in an office or do see yourself working independently with a remote team? Do you see yourself growing into a leadership position or do you want to work in the behind-the-scenes of an organization?

These are a lot of questions to consider, so take a minute to think about the career that would make you the most satisfied and why. Some people are most interested in financial stability, and if that’s you, that’s fine. Others want financial stability and the feeling that they are contributing to some greater good. Whatever your motivations, it’s helpful to think through what you want from your career.

Step 4: What is your ideal career choice?

Some of you will read this question, and you will hear the words immediately. You know exactly what you want! Some of you may have already had one career, and now you’ve gone back to school to pursue another. Others may still be wondering what it is you want to do, and that is a fine place to be as a college student.

Barbara Sher, a best-selling author, is famous for saying, “Find a career that you love and you will never work another day in your life.” This is a nice sentiment, but let’s face it: you are still going to be working! What does this quote really mean to you? Perhaps it’s a helpful perspective that if you’re going to spend most of your waking hours working, you might as well be doing something you enjoy.

Step 5: Who can help you with your career goals?

The last four steps have asked you to brainstorm on your own so that you have a plan. Now it’s time to think about who can help you execute this plan. A counselor or an advisor can help. To get started, visit  FSW Career Services.

Finally, one idea that might help the most is to talk to somebody who has the job or the type of career that you want. Start with your friends and family to see if there is somebody in your network who might be able to introduce you. You might also use a professional career network like LinkedIn to find somebody who might talk to you about what they do. Don’t feel pressured to complete this step. Focus on your interests and goals for now.

Finding a career isn’t necessarily an easy process, but you’ll find that your goals are much more tangible once you’ve made a preliminary career decision. Don’t forget: there is always support for you. Ask for any help you need!

Try It


Resources for Learning More about Careers

To help you navigate your pathway to career success, take advantage of all the resources available to you. Your college, your community, and the wider body of higher-education institutions and organizations have many tools to help you with career development. Be sure to take advantage of the following resources:

  • College course catalog: Course catalogs are typically rich with information that can spark ideas and inspiration for your major and your career.
  • Faculty and academic advisers at your college: Many college professors are also practitioners in their fields and can share insights with you about related professions.
  • Fellow students and graduating seniors: Many of your classmates, especially those who share your major, may have had experiences that can inform and enlighten you—for instance, an internship with an employer or a job interview with someone who could be contacted for more information.
  • Students who have graduated: Most colleges and universities have active alumni programs with networking resources that can help you make important decisions.
  • Your family and social communities: Contact friends and family members who can weigh in with their thoughts and experience.
  • A career center: Professionals in career centers have a wealth of information to share with you—they’re also very good at listening and can act as a sounding board for you to try out your ideas.

Jobs vs. Careers

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain the differences between a job and a career

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

Pursuing Your Professional Interests

Steve Jobs holding an iPhoneOne of the most widely known and successful American entrepreneurs of all time is the late Steve Jobs. He is best known as the cofounder, and former chief executive officer of Apple, Inc. He also cofounded Pixar Animation Studios, and he was a member of the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company. Four hundred eighty-four inventions bear Jobs’s name.

From early on in his life, Jobs was interested in electronics. When he was thirteen, for instance, he worked at the Hewlett Packard factory, which developed hardware and software components. Jobs later reflected on how he landed this job when he called Mr. Hewlett to ask for parts for an electronics project: “[Hewlett] didn’t know me at all, but he ended up giving me some parts and he got me a job that summer working at Hewlett-Packard on the line, assembling frequency counters . . . well, assembling may be too strong. I was putting in screws. It didn’t matter; I was in heaven.”

Jobs’s electronics and computing career quickly unfolded as he pursued his passion for creating and promoting computing products. At age nineteen, he was a technician for Atari, a leading electronics, gaming, and home-computer corporation. By twenty-one, he and his two partners had formed Apple, Inc. At thirty-four, he was named “Entrepreneur of the Decade” by Inc. magazine. And at fifty-two, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

All in all, Jobs was relentless about pursuing his interests and passions. The products he and his associates developed have transformed modern culture, including the iMac, iTunes, Apple Stores, the iPod, the iTunes Store, the iPhone, the App Store, the iPad, the Mac OS, and the Mac OS X.

Perhaps Steve Jobs never had a job he didn’t love. But he always had a career: pioneering the personal computer revolution. This story of Steve Jobs’s professional pursuits illustrates a dream, a goal, and an ambition that many college students share: to be successful in earning money and finding personal satisfaction in employment.

Jay Z, Rhianna, and Sal Khan also provide excellent examples of pursuing professional interests.



Sal Khan

In this section, we explore strategies that can help you chart your professional path and also attain ample reward. We begin by comparing and contrasting jobs and careers. We then look at how to match up your personal characteristics with a specific field or fields. We conclude by detailing a process for actually choosing your career. Throughout, you will find resources for learning more about this vast topic of planning for employment.

Job vs. Career

people at an outdoor information fair

Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.

– Oprah Winfrey

What is the difference between a job and a career? Do you plan to use college to help you seek one or the other?

There is no right or wrong answer because motivations for being in college are so varied and different for each student. But you can take maximum advantage of your time in college if you develop a clear plan for what you want to accomplish. The table below shows some differences between a job and a career.

Characteristics of a Job vs. a Career
Definitions A job refers to the work a person performs for a living. It can also refer to a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation. A person can begin a job by becoming an employee, volunteering, starting a business, or becoming a parent. A career is an occupation (or series of jobs) that you undertake for a significant period of time in your life—perhaps five or ten years, or more. A career typically provides you with  opportunities to advance your skills and positions.
Requirements A job you accept with an employer does not necessarily require special education or training. Sometimes you can get needed learning on the job. A career usually requires special learning—perhaps certification or a specific degree.
Risk-Taking A job may be considered a safe and stable means to get income. But jobs can also quickly change; security can come and go. A career can also have risk. In today’s world, employees need to continually learn new skills and to adapt to changes in order to stay employed. Starting your own business can have risks. Many people thrive on risk-taking, though, and may achieve higher gains. It all depends on your definition of success.
Duration The duration of a job may range from an hour (in the case of odd jobs, for example,) to a lifetime. Generally a job is shorter-term. A career is typically a long-term pursuit.
Income Jobs that are not career oriented may not pay as well as career-oriented positions. Jobs often pay an hourly wage. Career-oriented jobs generally offer an annual salary versus a wage. Career-oriented jobs may also offer appealing benefits, like health insurance and retirement.
Satisfaction and contributing to society Many jobs are important to society, but some may not bring high levels of personal satisfaction. Careers allow you to invest time and energy in honing your crafts and experiencing personal satisfaction. Career pursuits may include making contributions to society.

In summary, a job lets you enjoy at least a minimal level of financial security, and it requires you to show up and do what is required of you. In exchange, you get paid.

A career, on the other hand, is more of a means of achieving personal fulfillment through the jobs you hold. In a career, your jobs tend to follow a sequence that leads to increasing mastery, professional development, and personal and financial satisfaction. A career requires planning, knowledge, and skills, too. If it is to be a fulfilling career, it requires that you bring into play your full set of analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills. You will be called upon in a career to make informed decisions that will affect your life in both the short term and the long term.

Try It


The following video gives explicit, textbook-style distinctions between the terms job, work, and career. You may especially appreciate this video if English is a second language for you or if you are a first-generation college student.

You can view the transcript for “Difference between Job, Work, and Career” here (opens in new window).

The next video takes a different look at jobs and careers. The speaker discusses the more effective, emotional aspects of pursuing a career. His emphasis is on the importance of being passionate about your work.

You can view the transcript for “Job vs Career – Think about a long time career” here (opens in new window).

Whether you pursue individual jobs or an extended career or both, your time with your employers will always compose your individual journey. May your journey be as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible!


career: a consciously crafted plan for work that leads to increased mastery, professional development, and personal and financial satisfaction in a long-term sense

job: what one does in exchange for a paycheck, an arrangement that allows for a minimal level of financial security but is purely transactional



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Career Paths Copyright © 2023 by Sonji Nicholas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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