How To Research Career Paths in 8 Steps (With Benefits) from Indeed

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Researching a career path is an important step in determining what you want to do as a profession. Effective career research allows you to get a more complete understanding of different opportunities and judge which one is most ideal. Learning how to research different career paths is a valuable skill for a professional entering the job market or considering a career change. In this article, we discuss what career path research is, why it’s important, how to research careers and the benefits it provides, along with key tips to get the most out of your research.

What is career path research?

Career path research is the act of investigating potential career opportunities in order to determine which field is the best fit for you. Research allows you to get a more complete understanding of a potential career path, including what the requirements are to work in the field, what to expect once you are working in the field and common career progressions for a specific path. By thoroughly researching career paths that interest you, you can compare their strengths and weaknesses in order to compare the relative appeal of each.

Related: 11 Steps To Take if You’re Unsure of Your Career Path

Why is it important to conduct career research?

When deciding on which career path to follow, it’s beneficial to conduct research first. Which career to pursue is a major life decision, and performing career research provides you with key information to help you choose the right path. The time and resources you invest in your career research now can pay off as improved career prospects for many years to come.

Related: Q&A: Which Career Should I Choose?

How to research career paths

If you’re in the process of determining which career to pursue, then researching different career paths can help you decide. Here is how to research career path options so that you can compare them:

1. Determine your wants and needs

Before you can identify the career paths that align well with your professional goals, you need to establish what those goals and preferences are. Although your specific wants and needs from a job are personal, some areas to consider include expected compensation, common working hours and conditions, where you would live for the career and the type of work you are likely to complete when working in that career.

When creating your list, it can be beneficial to prioritize the distinct elements you include. When considering two or more career path opportunities, you may find that one option offers a superior fit for one desire while another is better for a second desire. Prioritizing your different interests between those that are mandatory and those you would simply like to have can help you assess your options.

Related: What To Look For in a Job

2. Assess your skills and capabilities

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a potential employee can also be beneficial when identifying the best fit for your career path. Although you can work on and develop skills as needed to fit a chosen field that does not presently align with your strengths, choosing a career option that you can enter more naturally can increase your chances for success. Should you still prefer a career that is less suited to your current capabilities, this assessment provides a guide for which areas to work on in order to be more prepared professionally.

3. List potential career paths

When researching potential careers, it can be beneficial to assess several careers at the same time. This allows you to use the career options as points of comparison when determining how appealing you find them. Creating a list of fields that interest you to research allows you to examine all the potential career paths you think might suit you well and then determine which options are best.

4. Research career requirements

In order to determine whether a career is ideal for you, it’s important to understand what expectations are for those working in the field. Researching career requirements for the professions you consider helps to provide a more thorough understanding of what you need to do in order to enter the field, and what work entails once you begin your career. Online research provides an excellent way to learn more about the requirements of working within a chosen career path, including both education and experience requirements as well as the most common work responsibilities.

Related: How To Choose a College for Your Future Career

5. Consider career outlooks

When searching for a career path to follow, it is common to be looking for a field you can work in for many years. When this is the case, it’s important to consider not just current career prospects within a chosen career path, but also what experts expect the field to look like in the future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career projections that use economic data to estimate the growth or decline of professions over a 10-year period and explains how that compares to the national average projections. Understanding the career projections for a career path can help you make a more informed decision on if it’s the right career option for you.

6. Learn from existing professionals

One effective way to learn about working in a career is to speak with professionals who have already entered the field. If you know or have contact information for anyone who works in a career path that you’re considering, reaching out to ask them about their experiences may allow you to get first-hand impressions of what it’s like to work in the field.

You can also search online, as the popularity of social media and blogging sites means you can find information and posts from individuals working in a field. Reading personal accounts from those working in a career path that you are considering helps you to get a fuller understanding of what it’s like working a job in that path.

7. Visit a workplace in person

Visiting a work site directly can be an excellent way to learn more about working in a field. This can include seeking out a low commitment role within the field, such as an entry-level job or internship, which allows you to experience working in that field firsthand for yourself and determine if you wish to seek higher positions. You may also inquire about shadowing a professional working within the field, following them throughout one or more days of work in order to see what their working life is like within the career path you are considering.

8. Create and assess a projected path

When considering a career choice, plotting out a projected career progression can help you assess your expectations for the field. This career path can include not just jobs you would seek and a likely promotion strategy through the years, but also any work and education required prior to entering the field. Creating a projected path allows you to gather all the information you learned from the prior steps in order to make your best estimation, which you can then compare with other potential career paths to find your preferred option.

Benefits of effectively conducting career research

There are many reasons to perform career research prior to choosing your career path. Some of the top benefits that researching your career options provides include:

Career happiness

By carefully considering your options for a career, you increase your chances of finding a path that makes you happy. Because your research includes an assessment of your wants and needs, it allows you to prioritize looking for career opportunities that align well with the goals and work conditions you enjoy. Besides happiness with your job making your overall life happiness higher, it can also lead to improved morale at the office, which often results in improved performance.

Financial rewards

The information you learn during your career research can be beneficial to maximizing your income. Career path research is helpful when choosing which careers to follow, as it can give you a better sign of your expected income within different fields. Researching career paths can also help you identify the best career progression opportunities within a chosen career path if your goal is to maximize your compensation.

Effective planning

Although any career progression includes uncertainty, by performing research prior to starting your career or changing careers, you can improve the accuracy of your career plans. Effective career planning helps you prepare for opportunities and measure your progress against your expectations. This might allow you to identify areas where you need to put in additional work in order to meet your career plan. You can also identify areas where you are ahead of schedule in order to assess what has worked that allowed you to move at a faster pace.

Informed career moves

Performing research on a career isn’t only beneficial when choosing which career to enter into. When you decide on the career path to follow, the research you performed may be beneficial as you work within your chosen field as well. Having more information on expectations within your industry can help you more accurately assess your value during contract negotiations and provide you with a stronger understanding of which skills to work on to set yourself up for professional success.

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Tips for researching career options

When researching your career options, keep these tips in mind to make the process as effective as possible:

Choose reliable resources

It’s important to consider the source of any information you use when assessing your potential career path options. For example, a current or former employee may have a bias when discussing their company. While this doesn’t mean you should ignore what they say, it’s important to understand the context of their statement. This lets you make a more fair assessment of how accurate it is likely to be.

Start your search early

When researching career plans, starting your search earlier provides you with more time not only to complete your research but also to implement your plans. When you research potential careers in high school, for example, you can adapt your higher education plans to match your chosen career path. This can also be beneficial when assessing your career options as an adult, such as starting your career research for a career change while still working in your current job so that you can begin preparations while still receiving a paycheck.

Consider both short- and long-term needs

Your expectations for a career path can vary significantly between what it provides in the short term and what it provides in the long term. When researching your career options, it’s important to understand the full scope of expectations when following that career path. Choosing a career option that calls for a short-term sacrifice may be worth it if it also provides significant benefits in the long term, providing you with an overall preferable experience.

Create pros and cons lists

When comparing two or more career options, it can be beneficial to assess the strength and the weaknesses of each. By creating a pros and cons list for each of your potential choices, you provide a balanced assessment of each. You can then compare the relative strength of each in order to determine which career path provides you with the best options.

By Stephanie Sperow
Stephanie Sperow Data & Operations Specialist