Now that you’ve spent some time eliminating occupations from your Roster using career interestsskills and abilities,  work values, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality, let’s talk about education and training.

Different occupations require different levels of preparation.  As you learned during Step 2, the O*NET database organizes occupations by what they call “Job Zone,” with higher Job Zones requiring more education/experience/training.

You may or may not have strong preferences and/or constraints regarding the level of preparation that you are willing and able to get in order to pursue the occupation of your choice.

Let’s talk about constraints first, as these tend to determine what preferences you are allowed to form.  When I say constraints, I’m talking about what is possible for you.  If you want to pursue an occupation that requires a certain kind of academic degree or training certification, you won’t be able to pursue that occupation unless it is possible for you to gain access to the academic/training program.

It’s only possible to gain access to such programs when you (1) have a way to pay for the program and (2) have good enough qualifications to be admitted to the program.  Thus, when considering the occupations remaining on your Roster, you will want to take a look at what the O*NET Summary Report, Occupational Outlook Handbook webpage (specifically, the “How to Become One” heading for that occupation), and other reputable websites say about required education/training for each occupation.  Then, do some internet research to determine what the typical cost and qualifications of these kind of education/training programs are.  Next, ask yourself how likely it is that you will be able to cover the costs and meet the qualifications for these program.

There are a few ways you might be able to cover the costs.  You might be able to pay the money from your personal savings, your parents/guardians may be willing and able to pay (or loan you the money), you might be able to take out a loan to pay, or you might be able to obtain funding (e.g., scholarships, fellowships) from outside organizations that can be used to pay.  Which of these options are possible or advisable completely depends on your situation.  For example, sometimes it might be possible to take out a bunch of student loans to pay for a program, but this may not always be a good idea, especially if you are likely to have trouble paying it back once you start working in your chosen occupation.

Regarding qualifications, some programs may require you to have a certain Grade Point Average (GPA), good enough grades in certain subject areas, prerequisite degrees or certifications that make you eligible for more advanced programs, or other qualifications.  For example, if you’re considering the occupation of medical physician, but your undergraduate GPA will probably never be greater than a 3.00, you may find it hard to get accepted into a legitimate medical school program.

After doing some research and thinking, you should be able to make some educated guesses about whether or not you will be able to pay for and get admitted into the kinds of programs that are required to pursue a given occupation.

Now that we’ve talked about constraints, let’s talk about preferences.  Just because you may not have constraints on the types of education/training programs that are realistically available to you, this does not mean you actually are interested in doing these programs.  Completing education/training programs takes resources.  You naturally want the end result (entering an occupation) to be worth the required investment of your resources (time, money, effort).  So, make sure to do plenty of research and thinking about the resources that would be required to complete the programs required for a given occupation.  For example, I learned early on that becoming a Counseling Psychologist would require a four-year bachelor’s degree and then a six-year doctoral degree.  After doing my research and thinking, I determined that I would enjoy being a counseling psychologist so much that the considerable investment of resources would be worth it.

You may be one of those people who knows they want an advanced degree, but is just not sure which one.  I want to share two thoughts.  First, I applaud your interest in getting additional education.  I believe that an educated public is important for improving the quality of life for all people in our country and the world.  Second, I want to emphasize that you want your education/training choices to be mostly driven by what the occupation you wish to pursue requires.  If you want to become an X, but that only requires a bachelor’s degree, there may not be a strong incentive to get a master’s degree.  Of course, sometimes advanced degrees can make you more employable, allow you to get paid more, open up additional career opportunities, allow you to be flexible if you need to go to Plan B, etc.  Those reasons aside, please do think carefully about what your motivations are for getting additional education/training… are they for the “right” reasons?  Again, I’m not telling you what to do either way.  I just want you to be intentional and thoughtful with big, oftentimes expensive, decisions like this.  Take your time to do the necessary homework and reflection before committing to additional education/training that may not really benefit you in the end.

I want to briefly mention something here about education/training, though I’ll cover this more in depth later in Step 4.  Certain occupations require a specific academic degree, training certificate, and/or professional license.  Other occupations give you flexibility about the kind of academic degree, or even if you need a formal academic degree at all.  Part of your research should be determining how much rigidity versus flexibility you would have in terms of education/training/license that is required and recommended for the occupations that most interest you.  If you have strong constraints or preferences, this may or may not be a barrier to your entry into certain occupations.

So, go ahead and use your newfound knowledge about education and training to eliminate additional occupations from your Roster.  Once you’ve done that, you can think about family and cultural expectations.