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Career Exploration 101: Researching Your Way to a High-Paying Job

Businesswoman smiling

Being able to afford college is one of the main concerns facing high school seniors. This is particularly true of first-generation college students who tend to come from families with lower income and less wealth. Uprooted Academy encourages you to maximize the financial aid available to you, such as grants, scholarships, and loans, to help support you as you pursue your education. If you take out loans, it’s important to consider how you will repay them once you enter the workforce. Some career paths offer higher salaries, making it easier to repay the loans, while others have lower salaries, which may make it more difficult to repay the loans. In this article, we'll introduce you to a few tools to help you learn about your skills and interests, investigate and choose a career path, and the impact it can have on earning potential. Let's get started!

Obtaining a college degree leads to higher income and more job security

College graduates on average earn more than those without one. So YES, getting a degree is a sound investment. According to the US Bureau of Labor, workers with a college education make more money than those with just a high school diploma. In addition, workers with a college education have a lower unemployment rate and thus are more likely to have a job.

Charts with labor statistics

Reflect on your interests and skills

The first step to get started to finding a career is to learn more about yourself. What are your interests, skills and work values? What career paths align with those interests, skills and work values?

CareerOne Stop offers a five-step guide to help you identify a career that fits your interests, skills, and strengths. Other useful free career tools include the O*NET Interest Profiler, the Career Quiz by The Princeton Review, and the MAPP Career Test.

Keep in mind that while career tests and assessments are useful tools that can provide insight into your interests, skills, and personality traits and suggest potential career paths, they cannot definitively tell you the specific career you should pursue. Ultimately, the decision of which career to pursue is up to you.

Research possible career paths

Once you’ve identified possible career paths that may align with your interests, skills and goals, you’ll want to learn more about them. Resources from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics such as Career Outlook and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) can help you get started. The OOH provides information on the key characteristics of occupations, such as job duties, work environment, wages, number of jobs, job outlook, and the education and training required. You can also find this information on the CareerInfo app available on Google Play and the App Store.

Career Outlook supplements the Occupational Outlook Handbook with articles on a range of career topics, interviews with workers in unusual careers and more.

The highest-paying majors

While the major you choose in college does not always determine the exact type of career you will end up in, it can certainly be helpful in setting you up for certain fields. Having an associate’s or bachelor's degree in a specific major is a common requirement for certain occupations. For example, engineers typically need a degree in engineering. For other occupations, employers may be willing to hire candidates from a variety of college majors.

Even within a given field, there can be a wide range of different roles and positions that may be a better match for your interests and skills. For example, if you study computer science, you may find that you are more interested in teaching or operations than in development. Similarly, someone who studies journalism may find that they are more interested in editing or production than in writing.

While your major doesn't necessarily guarantee a certain salary, the average salary by major can be a useful indicator in understanding the earning potential of various careers.

Among graduates with a bachelor’s degree, salary varies widely depending on what you study. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Computer Science majors are projected to be the highest paid group of majors ($75,900), followed by Engineering majors. Humanities majors earn the lowest average starting salary.

Projected Average Starting Salaries for the Class of 2022 College Graduates, by Major



Computer Science




Math & Sciences


Social Sciences




Agriculture & Natural Resources






Work-life balance or better pay?

While money is an important fact to consider when choosing a major or career path, especially if you have student loans to pay off, it is not the only factor, and not necessarily the most important one. Job satisfaction and work-life balance, such as potential work schedules, flexibility and stress, are also important. If you’ve spent time identifying your skills and interests and matching them to career options, you’ve taken the right steps to finding a career that is an excellent fit for you, both financially and personally.

We hope that this article will encourage you to start researching potential career paths, as well as the skills and educational requirements for high-earning careers. With hard work, dedication, and the right educational and professional opportunities, you can achieve your goal of a successful and fulfilling career, regardless of your background.

If you would love more support figuring out what to study or major in, Uprooted Academy is here to help with additional resources. Check out our YouTube channel which includes testimonials of majors. Be inspired to pursue your own interests with these insider tips from college graduates on their experience with their major. Lesson 3 from our signature program, College APPs, can also help you explore academic options to find the major you love. Get started with our FREE Step-by-Step College Advising Video Course, and let's figure this out together!



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