High schooler that cant decide on a career path

I’m almost a junior in high school and am struggling to pick a career path. I feel like a lot of my friends know what they are doing, and I don’t. I know people can go into college as an undecided major, but I do not want to resort to that. I also want to start taking classes and extracurriculars that align with my major. I used to want to be a doctor, but now that I think about it, Its scary to be in school for like 15 years. Im not afraid of hard work, but I want to have kids possibly before 30, and that isnt as well accepted by other students and teachers. basically a negative stigma around being pregnant during school, (I also just dont want to do that hehe). and a lot of my family are doctors but they studied in different countries and I dont really want to do that. Everything else about being a doctor does sound pretty great though.

Another factor is that I do want to be paid a good amount, and be happy at the same time. 150k + is ideal. My parents are both IT managers. and I’m Asian btw so high expectations and limited options(not to be stereotypical). I just want to travel the world and go on vacations in the future, so a nice paycheck is a must. I am not that interested in computer science, but I’m willing to learn it. I love science and do really well in math. My personality is smart, hard-working, and compassionate. Basically, let me know if anyone has any career and college major recommendations. sorry this was long.

Well based on last weeks events in our house, being a veterinary neurosurgeon pays very well. They go to school 8+ years ( likely closer to 10) and they work a few days in a row then have time off.
Don’t go into CS unless you have a real interest. If you don’t know what you want to do for work take a degree in something general that can open many doors, like economics or business and combine it with something else you like. There are many fields in which you can make a good living. You will be working many years so you want to do something you enjoy.
My own kid is your age and has no idea what career path to take. I’m not worried at all. A good work ethic and a good plan will take you where you want to go.

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Become a nurse practitioner. Seriously. If you have money for college, or if you qualify for a ton of aid, go to an Ivy for nursing, like Penn. If you won’t qualify for fin aid, and don’t have the money, go to your local state college or state U for nursing. You can even do the RN at community college to BSN at state U route, to do it even more cheaply. Then go for your nurse practitioner qualification. There are many fields of medicine that you can practice in (your first job will train you on-the-job), it is a FAR shorter training course, and you start getting paid much earlier. You’re looking at maybe six years of training after high school, as opposed to a minimum of 11, plus it is FAR less stressful, and FAR less competitive, not to mention FAR less expensive. You’ll make good money. You can have kids in your late 20’s, fully trained.

The reality is that you will not understand WHY you are doing what you are doing in the practice of medicine, unless you read obsessively outside of your training, and are trained in your first job by doctors who treat you like a resident, and teach, teach, teach. But you will be able to “play doctor”, get paid well, have a lot less stress, and with only about 6 years of school after high school. And in many states, NP’s are allowed to hang out their own shingle, and practice independently, even specialty practice, like derm or cosmetic work, without ever having done any kind of derm fellowship or plastics residency. It’s the wild, wild West. I don’t agree with it, but the patients don’t know the difference, and the money is very good, and it’s not as if you wouldn’t be able to get the proper training by working with doctors in whichever specialty you choose.

Regarding nursing…

Some colleges are extremely competitive to get into direct admit nursing programs.

Some colleges have very high college GPA requirements to weed out direct admit nursing majors.

Some colleges admit only to pre-nursing, with heavy competition to get into the nursing major.

RN->BSN admissions is typically less competitive, but RN (ADN) programs at community colleges are often very oversubscribed.

Please don’t worry. In my view the rush to decide what you want to do for a career at 16/17/18 is ridiculous. Most kids who say they know what they want are basing their decision on limited experience, Many kids will start school headed in one direction only to decide on something totally different. So much of higher education is learning to know yourself, your strengths and interests. My son is a junior and very undecided on what careers he is interested in and I tell him not to worry - neither should you.


Thank you guys for ur advice :slight_smile:
My parents told me that nursing was an extremely stressful job, but ill have to look into it. I also kind of feel like its a go big or go home situation. If im doing a medical career, I would probably just go for being a doctor.

It is hugely competitive to get into a medical school, so any pre-med needs to think of alternate plans in case they do not get into any medical school (the fate of most pre-meds).

Everything you say is true. But the fact is, it is still ridiculously easy to get into nursing school compared to medical school, you save 5 yrs of education time and cost, and it is MUCH less stressful, far fewer hours than the MD path. Many of the people who are reaching for nursing would never, ever be able to get into med school, so for someone who is bright and high-achieving, it is a relatively easy path. The science classes are all science “lite” compared to the premed courses, and unless you want to become the dean of the nursing school at Penn, it really doesn’t matter whether you go to local state college, or flagship state U, or even community college RN to BSN at state college or U. You still can find an APRN program that will take you. Heck, they’re even advertised as cheap online certifications. And as long as you can finish it, you can practice. Honestly, the biggest stress is if you are a woman, you have to deal with extreme cattiness of other women in your training. The saying is, “Nurses eat their young.” But once you get past that floor training stage, into the APRN program, you don’t have to deal with that anymore, so it’s relatively brief.

Or become a physicians assistant. IMO, you have to be cut out to be a nurse. The PA route also offers flexibility, good pay and I think it’s also much shorter than an NP. It’s also in demand.

If you love math and science, I would say start by getting involved in extracurriculars in those areas. See if you can get involved in research, maybe at a local university, and explore different specializations within the fields you enjoy to start narrowing down your search.

I think that a lot of (if not most) people who go into college with a major in mind change it during their time there, so I would honestly recommend that you focus less on finding a specific major, and more on finding interests and career paths you like, regardless of your major.

Well OP might be like me and the idea of being a nurse just doesn’t appeal. I couldn’t do it for any amount of $$. It’s a great career for the right person. And there is nothing better when you are in the hospital than a good nurse.

But there are sooo many other jobs in the medical field and many pay quite well. No need to decide now. In fact, nursing is one thing that you can use in many fields but is more limited in that you are then a nurse as opposed to a general STEM degree with a masters (once you know what you want). For kids who don’t know what they want might start with a general approach then narrow as they develop interests.
One of my kids wants to go into medicine. I often talk about the sacrifices. But I think there are lots of other venues.

Medicine is a very different place than it was 15 years ago and will continue to change in the next 10-15 years. If it is what you love and want go for it. Many fields are predominantly women and pregnancy and having children is no longer an obstacle for anything other than the most old fashioned male dominated fields. I would not suggest going into nursing as a bridge to being a doctor-lite, only do it if that is what you really love and want to be a nurse. Same for being a PA, it is not the same as an MD or DO. There is nothing you have to do now as a junior in high school to make this decision other than do well in school and do what you enjoy outside of school. Medicine is a rewarding field.


The problem with becoming a PA is that you have to do 4 yrs of undergrad, and nowadays it’s so competitive that you have to have nearly as good grades in your premeds as if you were going to med school. So it’s six years or so of training after high school, but if you fall off the track at any point, you’re not equipped really to earn a living. Also, PA’s are not permitted to practice independently - they need to be supervised by an MD or DO.

The fact is, if you want to be prepared and equipped to practice medicine, you should go to medical school. But the reality is that APRNs and PA’s are nowadays allowed to do most of what a doctor does, with about 1/10th the training. So if you don’t want the hard road of medical school and residency, there are easier paths.

You can major in anything and still go to medical school, or train as a nurse or physician’s assistant. There is nothing wrong with being undecided. In fact it can be a plus if you are at a school where you can explore. Some universities do want you to have a major in mind, but at many or most you have until the end of sophomore year, and you can change even after that.

There are postbaccalaureate programs to cover the prerequisites for med school, if you don’t cover them during undergrad.

This need for certainty is understandable given the cost of college, and may be your family culture or personality. Both of which need to be respected… However, many enter college undecided and many change their majors and end up doing fine.

Certainly look into CS, which may or may not be what you expected. If you like math, you may like CS. But only if you like it.

Also being realistic that most new grads don’t make high salaries so think of a career with growth potential.

I don’t earn anywhere near that salary and I still go on vacations.

Well guess what? You don’t have to decide now. Many schools number one undergrad major for freshman is… Undecided… Do that. It will give you time to discover yourself. Many of your friends will NOT end up in the careers they thought they would in high school as a junior. Many college students change their majors… Twice!

Do things and take classes that interest you. Take classes with lots of rigor (if your able to). Get the best grades you can. It’s silly for anyone telling you what to do for your livelihood at this point. But definitely start to look at your options.

BTW - many people make less then your goal amount and still travel a lot and have kids before 30…


Yes, agreed. I think PA is like nursing in the sense that if you change your mind you don’t really have something that is usable. We know a recent PA grad but she did it from day one and knew what she wanted.
Honestly, while I think medicine is a great field, I don’t want my kid to go into it. There is too much risk (med school acceptance, high insurance and biggest is the likelihood it will become nationalized and salaries will plummet). My friends who are doctors don’t like it. The hours are super long. One is still paying back loans and has kids heading into college. They work 12 plus hour days and frankly the income isn’t that high when you consider all the factors. Our male friends who are doctors like it more than the women. The women weren’t able to take time off/reduce hours and a couple were upset about that when their kids were young.
Yet, there are still tons of kids applying to medical school. So there must be a lot of kids like mine who just want to be in that field. Shrug.
I think kids who don’t know what they want need to think about what they do know about themselves. What do they like to do? How hard do they want to work? What excites them etc. There are lots of clues even if a field isn’t apparent.

A sophomore or junior in high school in the US is not at the decision point for deciding career directions. The important decision points in the future:

  • 12th grade, when applying to colleges: some majors at some colleges require applying to the major, rather than just to the college, since changing into the major after enrolling may be difficult. Common examples are nursing, engineering, and computer science at some colleges.
  • First year in college: some majors require starting the curriculum immediately to avoid delaying graduation. Many pre-professional majors like nursing, engineering, and architecture (BArch) are examples, but that can also apply to some liberal arts majors like physics and chemistry.
  • Second year in college: other majors generally must be declared by the end of the second year (or credit equivalent) in college. Some pre-professional paths that do not require specific majors (e.g. pre-med) may require course work that (at the latest) needs to be started at this time.

New bachelor’s degree graduates generally do not earn pay levels anywhere near that high.

$150,000 per year is 92nd percentile individual income and 81st percentile household income in the US. You may want to reset your financial expectations and financial plans so that you do not feel “poor” on income that is still substantially above the median in the US.

Thanks for your input everyone, I appreciate it