Got High School Seniors?

August 15, 2017

Author: Judy McNary

Another new school year begins and with it, comes a new batch of high school seniors. For these seniors, the final year of high school will fly by and, nine months from now, they’ll be high school graduates beginning their next phase of life.  A few of these students have a clear, well-defined plan but most have yet to begin to figure out what they want to be and where they want to go.

Fortunately, Colorado has introduced a terrific tool to help students find the right career.  Launch My Career Colorado is a comprehensive, easy-to-use resource that educates students on different careers, education and training requirements, employment prospects, expected salaries, and satisfaction ratings of those currently employed in those fields.  The tool, funded by USA Funds, is the result of collaborative efforts between educators, business leaders, and government.  Every high school student should invest time using this valuable tool as part of her decision-making process for life after high school.  Parents should take a look as well.  Too many times decisions about where to attend college and how much in student loans to borrow are not made without looking at the economic impact.  I certainly do not advocate that someone choose a major based on how much money they’ll make but I do believe we need to take responsibility for making wise decisions and economics should play a factor.  With over $1 trillion in U.S. student loan debt has come too many disheartened college graduates who say, “if I’d only known.” By learning about what career and job opportunities exist, students and their parents can make informed decisions.  In some cases, students will persist with a major and career knowing it will be challenging to find employment. In many other cases, though, students will discover there are other majors and careers that can be equally personally rewarding and financially viable as well.

Launch My Career Colorado is powerful in so many different ways there isn’t space to explain them all here so we’ll touch on just a few.  The website is designed to allow students to approach their career search from many different directions.  For example, let’s say a student is interested in Art History.  At the site, he can type in this major and learn where Art History majors are offered in Colorado and which higher-ed institution will result in the best return-on-investment (ROI) if he studies Art History there.  ROI is the amount of money he will earn, on average, over a high school graduate over the next 20 years. There are four colleges/universities in Colorado that offer Art History as a major: Metropolitan State University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Denver, and Regis University.   The school with the highest ROI is Metro State, followed by CU Boulder.  Additional information includes the average time it takes to complete the degree at that school and the percentage of students who graduate within 6 years. From here, the prospective Art History major can see what types of jobs Art History majors have and how satisfied people are in those jobs.  Additionally, students can assess their desired lifestyle to see if it fits with the field.  If it doesn’t, students can compare and contrast with other majors to identify the best fit.

A student can also start with a desired career and use the site to learn what is needed to gain employment in that career.  For example, if a student wants to be a Commercial Pilot, she enters this job title in the ‘What Job I Want’ box.  The site displays how many jobs for Commercial Pilots are currently open in Colorado, the average first-year salary, and the earnings trajectory. She can see what she needs to major in to become a Commercial Pilot and which schools offer those majors. As before, she can see the ROI, lifestyle targets and other information to gain realistic expectations about what a career as a Commercial Pilot entails.

If you are the parent of a high school junior or senior, plan to include as component of your research.  It helps you learn of options you might not have known existed to guide your son or daughter to a rewarding career.  USA Funds is sponsoring Launch My Career sites in other states, too, so if you are outside Colorado, just search on Launch My Career with the desired state appended to the end to learn about opportunities there.  I would love to hear your feedback and experiences with the site.

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About Judy McNary

Judy is a founding partner of Confluence Financial Advisors. She transitioned to financial planning after a successful career in technology. She is passionate about helping families, individuals and entrepreneurs reach their financial dreams. She writes articles for University Parent and is the author of Coin: The Irreverent Yet Practical Guide to Money Management for Recent College Graduates. In her spare time, Judy enjoys skiing, swimming and scuba diving.