When you’re exploring future careers, there are three important concerns: the likelihood of getting a job in your field, whether you’ll qualify for and enjoy the jobs you’re seeking, and the salary potential compared to your investment.
Here are four of the best resources for finding this information:
1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook
The Occupational Outlook Handbook reports job trends and salaries for hundreds of professions. It provides information on the education, training, and qualifications for positions, as well as the job outlook through 2026. It also has geographical data.
You can explore wide career categories or narrow your search to specific occupations. For example, you can browse the “Media and Communications” section, or look at salaries and trends for specific positions like editor, public relation specialist, or broadcast and sound engineering technician.
By researching this information, you’ll also have a better idea of how much to borrow in student loans. You should only borrow what you can afford to pay back, so it’s essential to research salaries before settling on a career or borrowing money to pay for college.
This handbook is a great resource for basic information when researching the average salary for a wide range of occupations, but it doesn’t include starting salary information.
2. The office of your college major
My first step for choosing a college was calling the journalism office at my top three schools. I asked them about the kind of internships available for students, where their alumni are currently working, and why I should choose their school.
Two of the schools didn’t have the answers I was looking for, but the third gave me information about their Pulitzer Prize winners, internship placements at local newspapers, graduates at major U.S. newspapers, and other career experiences available within their undergraduate program. Obviously, they were the winner.
Ask these questions when deciding between colleges—the answers can make a huge impact on your career path.
3. Your school’s career services center
Most schools have an on-campus office dedicated to helping you find and train for your career. While it’s a great resource for students looking for help creating a resume or searching for a job or internship, it most likely has resources that go beyond that scope as well.
Ask about salary data for recent grads and potential mentor contacts. Generally, the career services center can point you towards alumni in your field who are more than happy to act as mentors and share some career guidance.
4. The NACE reports
NACE is the National Association of Colleges and Employers. It’s an organization that keeps track of trends on everything from internships to post-graduation hiring. NACE is one of the better resources for recent graduates and college students because it focuses on entry-level positions.
It will also provide nifty details such as the percentage of college graduates with internship experience or the average time from an interview to a job offer. However, for more specific data for your region and profession, try this salary calculator.
You’re more than a statistic
These resources will help you understand your salary potential and trends for your future career, but there are other factors that come into play—like where you live and your personal experiences. Talk to your academic and career counselors for the most accurate information about all the factors in your career journey.