Explore Careers

Webster's Dictionary defines career as "an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress."

An occupation for a significant period of one's life? You read that right. That’s why it's important to start exploring your interests and options as early as possible. By no means must you have your career path figured out by the time you graduate, but it's important to know what interests you and what doesn't interest you. Knowing what you like only comes from experience, and the experiences outlined below will help you figure that out.

Video - Exploring and Choosing Your Career  Exploring and Choosing Your Career

Video - Choosing A Career  Choosing A Career

How Does One Start on This Path?

How Does One Start on This Path?
  • Reflect – Think about your likes, dislikes, and passions. Reflect on the classes you take in school and which ones you liked the most (or not at all). Think about your talents and skills. Do you like working with your hands, being outside, or writing essays on a laptop? There are many factors to consider.
  • Explore - Using the Montana Career Information System (MCIS), create a profile and take the skills and interests assessments. These are short quizzes that will align you with potential career matches based on your interests and skills.
  • Action - Take the information from MCIS and channel it into one of the paths outlined below. Job shadow, find an internship, sign up for a work-based learning program at your school. By taking action, you'll find out quickly if a potential career is the right fit or not.

Start Exploring with MCIS

Montana Career Information System is a tool available for teens and families to link skills and talents to occupations. This is a service provided through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to help students create a customized, personal learning plan.

Video - Montana Career Information System (MCIS)  Montana Career Information System (MCIS)

Video - Need a Reality Check?  Need a Reality Check?

What Kinds of Workers will be Needed in the Future?

Wouldn't it be great to have a crystal ball that could predict what workers will be doing in the future? Some predict that up to 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't been invented yet; however, the smart folks at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry have analyzed the data to provide some insight into the work we'll be doing in the future. Check it out

Get Involved – Volunteer

Volunteering and being an active member in your community will make people notice and appreciate you. As you transition from high school to being on your own, opportunities will arise for you to showcase your big heart and community spirit.

  • Scholarships
    Some scholarships require volunteer hours, and your time spent giving back to the community can provide the perfect story for a scholarship essay. Volunteering can set you apart from the competition – giving you an edge when it comes to earning free money for school.
  • College Applications
    Colleges want well-rounded students who excel in and out of the classroom. One way to enhance your college application, especially if your grades are average, is to detail your volunteer hours. Demonstrate that with your smarts, comes a big heart!
  • Resume
    Your resume comprises your education and work history. Include your volunteer experience on your resume to help demonstrate the knowledge and skills you’ve gained through your experience. The organizations you served can also be used as employment references – just make sure you ask first!

Finding volunteer opportunities. Now that you’re interested in giving back because you’ll gain so much in return, volunteer opportunities are easy to find! Check with your school counselor regarding local volunteer opportunities as well as what school-related clubs you could join. Join clubs like 4-H, National Honors Society, Business Professionals of America (BPA) - they have lots of volunteer opportunities! VolunteerMatch.org is a great way to search for local and national opportunities. Also, try a Google search for where you live or search for non-profits in your community and approach them about volunteering. You could help walk dogs at your local animal shelter or take meals to the elderly. There are tons of opportunities out there for you!

Pro Tip
Pro Tip

Track your volunteer hours - you'll be glad you did when it comes to applying for scholarships and colleges. Use our handy Tracking Sheet to log the number of hours you're given back. You'll feel really awesome when all those hours are added up!

Work-Based Learning in High School

Work-Based Learning in High School

Work-based learning combines industry skills taught in both a classroom and a professional work environment. It's a great way to inform high school students of real-world expectations while in school.

High School Internships

What is an internship? An internship is a period of work experience, usually lasting a few weeks to a few months, offered by an employer to provide students exposure to working in an office or industry setting that relates to their studies or interests. Internships are coveted opportunities because they give students opportunities to connect with mentors and test drive what it's like to work in a particular field.

High school internships - yes, they exist! Internships are a great way to gain real-world experience and businesses are realizing that building relationships with high school students can help them grow their workforce.

Some internships are paid, and some are not. The biggest advantages of internships are exposure to careers, learning new things, and listing the experience on your resume and college application.

Video - Work-Based Learning  Work-Based Learning

Video - Internships and Apprenticeships  Internships and Apprenticeships


What is an apprenticeship? An apprenticeship combines classroom learning and on-the-job training, and best of all, pays students while they learn. Apprenticeships generally have a predefined pay scale that outlines how much an apprentice earns as they achieve specific milestones. The time commitment to complete an apprenticeship varies by occupation.

Where can I find more information on how apprenticeships work? Start by visiting the Montana apprenticeship program through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

Apprenticeship Quick Facts

  • Hundreds of Montanans graduate from apprenticeship training each year, many of them earning over $40,000 annually while in training. The average wage after completion of an apprenticeship program is over $60,000 per year.
  • Employers have in-demand jobs that need to be filled, so they offer on-the-job training for workers.
  • Workers earn while they learn and experience zero to little debt.
  • Apprenticeships are a combination of classroom and workplace training. Many apprentices also obtain college degrees and certificates as part of their program. 
  • Career examples: electrician, auto mechanic, hospital coder, utility technician, construction and more! Apprenticeships are available for occupations outside of the trades, too - like accounting technicians.

Job Shadowing

Stop imagining what a job might be like and see it firsthand! Job shadowing helps students learn valuable lessons, see the responsibilities of the profession on a day-to-day basis, and compare a variety of occupations. Check with your counselor to see if they have partnerships with local individuals or organizations that offer job shadowing. If you know someone who works in the occupation you are interested in, ask if you could shadow them on the job.

Video - Military Careers & Higher Education  Military Careers & Higher Education

Video - Options After High School - Military  Options After High School - Military

Alternative Paths


For some students, the military is an option to consider. This option requires a high level of dedication as enlistments can require a four-year active duty commitment and two years of inactive duty, there are other options available and service times can vary. Explore this option and learn more about the careers the military has to offer by visiting todaysmilitary.com, a site produced by the Department of Defense that includes all the military sectors.

Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, is another option for students to consider. ROTC is a program of study taken in addition to regular college courses. The program includes leadership, management, and professional knowledge classes as well as "hands-on" experiences. Students make a commitment to the military and in return, they earn scholarships that cover the cost of college attendance. For more information about ROTC options in Montana.

Straight to Career

Sometimes, the best path for you may be to gain experience immediately after high school. In those cases, it is vitally important that you have a strategy or plan in place to get the most out of going straight into a career. 

The first step is to start planning. You want to be ready for this path you have chosen before you finish high school so that no time is wasted in reaching your goals. What career path best suits your interests? What jobs can you do to gain more experience for the career you ultimately want? How much money will you need to make to support yourself?

These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself in your quest to gain independence, life experience, and learn more about yourself. If your goal is to go to college or a career training school, learn what the costs will be to attend the school and have a plan for saving money to offset that cost of attendance.  

Lastly, keep a journal (or at least make some notes) about your experience so that you can look back on what you learned. You will find this info helpful when deciding on education options or preparing for future interviews.