On average, Americans change jobs 12 times during their lifetimes and work less than five years in one job.* Since you will most likely work in more than one field throughout your career, it’s important to prepare for more than one job. When creating a career plan don’t forget to include a plan B… and plan C. If plan A (or B!) doesn’t work out, you can always turn to your backup plan. This takes the pressure off choosing one “perfect” career path and provides you with the flexibility to change careers as you learn and grow.

Assess Interests, Values, Skills Explore Careers Choose Career Options Compare & Rank Options Set Career Goals

Now that you have assessed your interests, values, and skills, explored careers, and selected three career options, the next step is to compare and rank these options. Create a table like the one shown below with a column for job title, rank, minimum education, job location, average salary, and number of jobs. In the job title column, list your top three career choices. Using your completed career research worksheets fill in the correct information under each column, leaving the rank column blank. With details of each career choice side by side, you can easily compare all three.

Job Title Rank Min. Education Job Location Average Salary # of Jobs
Engineer Bachelor’s degree Anywhere $86,640 303,500
Environmental Scientist Bachelor’s degree Anywhere $71,130 89,500
Web Developer Associate’s degree Anywhere $68,430 162,900

Beginning with the minimum education column, do all of your career choices require the same amount of education or does one differ from the others? If academic pursuits are not a passion for you and the thought of six or more years after high school gives you a headache, it may not be realistic to pursue a career that typically requires a master’s degree or higher. However, if you don’t mind school and prefer to keep your options open, a bachelor’s degree or higher is the better route.

Are any of the jobs on your list location-specific? For example, if you want to be a subway car operator you would have to live in or near a city with a subway. How would you rank a job if it requires you to relocate?

Your value of money will impact how you rank your career choices. If you desire a lifestyle in which you can live comfortably and afford anything you’d like, then salary will be a primary factor in your career choice. If you prefer a meaningful and enjoyable job over a lavish salary, then money is not your most influential motivator.

Finally, are there enough job openings to find work in your chosen profession? Are you willing to do everything it takes to prepare for a career even if you might never be offered a job in that field? Or would you rather play it safe and pursue a career that has plenty of job openings? High-demand fields offer more job opportunities and greater job security than low-demand fields.

When you have finished comparing all of these factors, realistically rank each occupation as one, two, and three (or plan A, B, and C). It’s okay if your ranking is different now than it was before comparing your top choices or if it changes over the next few years. Deciding on a career path is not easy, but, with the hard part behind you, it’s time to set career goals.

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, January 2018