Individualized Learning Plans How-to Guide – Section I, Career Exploration

CAREER EXPLORATION-- What are My Options?

"Knowledge is power…" – Sir Francis Bacon, English author and philosopher.

In addition to self-exploration, students need to develop career exploration skills by being provided with access to activities that help them learn how to identify career and life goals that are consistent with their interests, skills and values.  Career exploration involves opportunities to learn about the skills and qualities required to be successful in various careers and the secondary and post-secondary education and training necessary to pursue each career. NCWD/Youth’s study of career planning and management patterns with over 1,600 10th and 12th grade students found that the majority of the students sampled were able to identify a career title but could not describe critical details about the occupational activities, skills, or educational requirements associated with the career.  Students who had actively engaged in career exploration activities were clear in their understanding of the nature of the career. Many noted the value of work-based learning experiences that related to their selected careers and were able to describe specific post-high school educational pathways needed to pursue the career.xiv

These findings demonstrate the fundamental importance of self-exploration and career exploration to the ILP process. Participating in these activities provides students and their families with information they need to make high school and post-school course planning relevant and meaningful. In the absence of self-exploration and career exploration, students and families are less likely to value the plans.

As a result of the career exploration phase, students should develop the skills to be able to: (a) identify how their interests, values, and skills relate to careers of interest; (b) describe the skills and activities associated with those careers; and, (c) identify the postsecondary training, two-year, four-year, or graduate degree programs needed to successfully pursue those careers.  Deciding on one or more careers of interest should also be based on an assessment of available labor market information (LMI).

Sample ILP Activities

Below are lesson plans and other activities that are ready to be used or adapted:

 State-Based Career Exploration Related ILP Resources to Consider

A number of states also have generated free-use ILP curriculum. A sample of these follow:

National Open Access, Web-Based Career Exploration, and Labor Market Information Resources

Several open-access career-exploration websites offer easy ways for students to explore different careers in a wide-range of industries.  These websites include: 

  • My Next Move is a new 2011 O*NET career exploration tool designed for easy use by students, youth, and others interested in finding out about different occupations, careers, and industries.  It also features a section ("I'm not really sure.") that is designed to help users develop and match a profile of their individual interests with different kinds of careers. 
  • is a website designed to help young adults plan their next steps in life by putting together the most recently available information about colleges, careers, and military service opportunities from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Defense, Education and Labor.  This website features career, college, and military content allowing users to explore many possibilities and gain insight into each option.  It was developed by the Department of Defense and includes detailed information on more than 900 civilian and military career fields and nearly 7,000 accredited colleges. 

A number of U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL)-supported websites and web-based tools provide students with additional ways to engage in further in-depth career exploration as well as obtain access to other national and state labor market information (LMI).

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook  (OOH) is a nationally recognized source of career information, designed to provide valuable assistance to individuals making decisions about their future work lives.  It provides details about hundreds of U.S. occupations.  The OOH is a product of the USDOL, Bureau of Labor Statistics and is revised every two years, with the 2010-11 edition the most recent. 
  • Career Guide to Industries  (CGI) provides information for dozens of different kinds of industries, such as educational services, healthcare, and transportation.  It includes information about an industry's occupations, training and advancement, earnings, expected job prospects, and more.  The CGI also provides links to job market information in each state.  A companion to the OOH, the CGI is also a product of the USDOL, Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The CGI is revised every two years, with the 2010-11 edition the most recent.  
  • Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) provides employment and wage estimates for over 800 occupations.  These are estimates of the number of people employed in certain occupations, and estimates of the wages paid to them.  Self-employed persons are not included in the estimates.  These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual States, for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, for certain industries, and more. The OES is a product of the USDOL, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • CareerOneStop provides direct links to information on a very broad-range of self-assessment, career exploration, and career planning and management topics, such as:

In addition, numerous other useful career exploration, planning, and management resources, such as Student Financial Aid Information, can be accessed from the CareerOneStop homepage.

Open Access Websites for Industry Sectors

Multiple employer supported organizations provide a wealth of information for use in schools and training programs that can be used for career and training exploration for specific industries.  See Section IV for examples of industry sector based open access websites.  These websites often provide industry endorsed curricula, information about scholarships, and industry sponsored credentials programs.  

State Open Access Resources for Career Exploration and Labor Market Information

Examples of state websites for career, education, and job search exploration useful to high school students, college students, and workforce adults include:

  • California Occupational Guides provides detailed descriptive information for over 800 occupations including what special training, licensing, or other requirements may be necessary to work in the state of California for each occupation.
  • Louisiana Workforce Commission provides occupational and overall labor market information for the state of Louisiana.
  • Minnesota ISEEK provides a comprehensive site for Minnesota residents to explore careers, search and plan for postsecondary education opportunities, and conduct job searches.
  • South Carolina Occupational Information System provides educational and career information for South Carolina and other sites.
  • WOIS - The Career Information System for Washington provides tools to explore careers, create goals for the future, make educational plans, and find the training programs and the right schools to help Washington residents achieve their goals.

As part of their web-based LMI tools, every state has online resources to help with career exploration.  A comprehensive list of state-by-state online resources is available through ACINet - State Information

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xiv Solberg, V. S., Gresham, S., Phelps, L. A. & Budge, S.  (2010, April).  

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