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How do I know what high school classes I should take so I can get the career I want?

Explore Careers

You may find it a bit overwhelming that the world expects you to know what you want to do with the rest of your life. If you’re just not sure what’s next for you, you’ll eventually figure it out. And, there will always be opportunities to change your path, even if it means transferring programs or upgrading credits.

That said, if you’re fairly sure what you want to do, knowing what high school courses you need to select now for the occupation or post-secondary program you want could save you time and money later.

For example, if you want to be an engineer but you don’t take math in your senior year of high school, you will likely need to upgrade to meet the admission requirements for a post-secondary engineering program.

If You Know What You Want to Do …

… you’re one of the lucky ones. You can figure out what high school classes to take by looking at the post-secondary program you’re interested in and reading about the admission requirements. For example, if you want to study graphic design at a particular college, look at the college’s website or explore their educational programs at OCCinfo.

If You’re Not Sure What You Want to Do …

… you can do things in high school to help yourself figure it out:

  • Recognize your top strengths and interests. Identify occupations that match them, and look up post-secondary programs that relate to them.
  • Volunteer with organizations you’re interested in.
  • Try job shadowing.
  • Attend career fairs.
  • Ask adults about their jobs. Your parents or teachers may be able to put you in touch with people who do jobs that interest you.
  • Talk to a guidance or career counsellor at your high school.

Keep Your Options Open

You might have heard this age-old advice: if you’re good at science and math, keep taking them until you finish high school. You might be tired of hearing it, but there’s a reason your teachers and parents keep saying it: those subjects build upon prior knowledge. If you stop taking science after grade 10, it will be hard to change your mind in grade 12 and enter a science-based post-secondary program.

Keep Researching

Once you have at least a hint about a potential direction, you can start researching relevant post-secondary programs. Most colleges and universities have well-designed websites that make it easy to find admission requirements and prerequisites for various programs. Check regularly, though, since requirements can change.

ALIS has handy post-secondary planning checklists for grades 10–12. You can also browse the OCCinfo occupational profiles and filter them by high school subjects.