Career exploration starts the moment you buy your child a career-specific toy such as a toy stethoscope. Then, it continues as your child progresses through middle school and high school through classes, experiences, and testing to hone in on career paths and major selection.
One of the tools used by many high schools is a career cluster interest survey. Here’s what your student needs to know about them.
What is a Career Cluster Interest Survey?
A career cluster interest survey asks your student questions about both talents and likes and dislikes. Then, sample career fields are given that match those qualities.
In high school, I took a career cluster interest survey that told me I should be a caregiver. It made sense as I was working at a senior center part time for three years.
The other option I was given was law. I wanted to be a lawyer, so I purposely answered some of the questions the way I thought a lawyer would.
The answers are never supposed to be an end point. It’s a starting point before selecting courses and further career exploration activity.
Where you can you take them
Career interest cluster surveys are offered by high school counselors and college career centers. You can also find career search tools on The College Board website, or from the government's Federal Student Aid or O*NET.
Some surveys are more intensive than others. Make sure you know the name of the career interest cluster survey your student took in high school before they talk to career coaches. You don’t want them to pay to take one if it’s similar to one they already took.
What career fields are possible
Career interest cluster surveys generally don’t have every career in the world available. Pay attention to why you were given that career option rather than taking it literally.
For instance, Minnesota State’s career interest cluster survey includes 60 career clusters such as Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. Careers in this cluster could vary quite a bit from farming to becoming a solar engineer. However, learning about this career cluster can be valuable for your student who wants to work in a field to improve the environment.
Then they need to look at both hobbies and courses to back it up.
How accurate are they?
Career interest surveys are accurate in getting students started thinking about careers, but they really don’t predict their future with 100 percent accuracy.
My biggest influence was playing in our garden as a child. My mom didn’t buy us a lot of toys and encouraged us to play outside. My sister and I played with rocks and trees. We’d paint potatoes from the garden and eggs from the supermarket. This was the beginning of my interest in storytelling. I had to create stories to make playing with rocks, trees, and eggs interesting. Even rocks and tree bark had names and became characters in my friends and I’s plays. Later, my interest in photojournalism began when I volunteered in Ghana. I called a volunteer organization and volunteered for a month to work with children. Photos helped overcome language barriers.
- Career cluster interest surveys are not predictive, but they are a great tool for getting started with career exploration.
- The actual career cluster is not as important as why you were matched to it. For example, I was given caregiver because I wanted to make a difference in the world - I am doing that now with a career in journalism where I also get to help people.
- Career cluster interest surveys are available from a variety of sources for free, or through a career coach.
- Don’t forget the next step. After filling out the career cluster interest survey, students should look for career-related activities and courses. High school counselors and private coaches can help with more thorough planning.