Post Secondary Options for High School Seniors
(Or  “I’ve graduated from High School.  Now What?”)

David Christensen

There are many options for graduating high school seniors; everything from college to McDonald’s.  And the path you initially chose (or stumble into) is not “final.”   Your choice isn’t cast in stone.  This is particularly true nowadays.  It’s relatively easy to change your path tomorrow, next year or when you’re 50.  That’s all possible.

The major options for high school graduates are college, vocational or trade schools, certificate programs, internships, The Job Corp, AmeriCorp and the US Military.  In each of these option you will find many choices for your focus.  They are all “good” options and there is no “best” choice, just your best choice.

West Sound Tech, located in Bremerton offers high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to sample many of the trades through industry-based, technically rigorous programs. The list is long.  Check at:
It’s free and  includes transportation from the Port Townsend, Chimicum and other participating schools to the West Sound Tech campus.

When you do go looking for a job, there is help!   In Jefferson County,  WorkSource is part of WorkSource Washington State and offers advanced job-search tools to find career opportunities more easily.  Goto:

You may want to take a gap year – a year to do something different or to do nothing.  Do a Google on Gap Year.  You may find that after a year off, you begin to have a realistic idea of where you want to go from here.

But consider your options carefully.   Making a considered decision at this point is really important.

College:  College offers an avenue into many fields.  There are so many things you can study in college.  Majors can be anything the college or university offer and they vary from school to school.  Some Potential College Majors:

Business Administration
Criminal Justice
Engineering – many choices
Information Systems – IT
Legal/Paralegal Professions
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Library Science
Music and Musical Education
Other Languages
Philosophy and/or Religious Studies
Social Sciences
Human Services
Visual and Performing Arts
And many others!

In the selection process you need to take into account what going to happen after graduation.  Namely:

  • What your degree will allow you to do – what are the job possibilities
  • Will a degree in your chosen field require continuing to graduate school? For example medicine, dental and masters and PhD programs.
  • The amount, if any, of a student loan you’ll graduate with and how you will pay it back.

Of course you have to be accepted by the college or university you chose.  Acceptance can be based on many things including high school grades, school and community achievements, athletic abilities and the ability to pay the tuition.  Scholarships are available based on the above and on need.  And of course there are student loans.

Some college programs are responding to the need for “new blood” in the building arts.

Peninsula College with their main campus in Port Angeles and smaller campuses in Forks and Port Townsend have, in addition to their academic programs, classes in Professional Technical programs including Construction, Plumbing, Automotive technology, Welding, Business Administration, Addiction Studies and more.

The American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, South Carolina is totally focused on the trades. They offer both AA (Associated Arts) and AAA (Applied Associate Arts) which are both two year degrees and BA (Bachelor of Arts) four year degrees in all aspects of the building arts.  Cost for a full time student is about $1,000.00/semester plus shop fees of $350. 00/semester.  That’s pretty cheap for a college!

Vocational Schools and Trade Schools:
There are many vocational schools, also popularly known as trade schools.  Students usually enroll after graduating from high school or obtaining their GED.  These schools teach the skills necessary to help students acquire jobs in specific industries. They are usually 2 year programs and some include “general education” course requirements such as English and Math. Some of the courses can transfer to a 4 year college.
Vocational/Trade schools (and certificate programs below) are job oriented majors which include:

Business including bookkeeping and some accountingDesign and media arts
Mechanical skills including auto mechanics
Specialized skills such as construction, electrician (as in house and commercial
wiring) plumbing, cabinet making boat repair
All aspects of woodworking including cabinet making
All aspects of agricultural
Medical Assistants
And most of the subjects in the Job Corp section later in this  paper.

Certificate Programs:
Certificate programs are geared towards adult students and students looking for short-term training leading to immediate employment. These non-degree programs are offered in a wide variety of subjects, from trade occupations, like plumbing and air conditioning repair, to academic subjects, like accounting, pharmacy, media production and communication.
They can last any length, but usually up to one year and do not include general education courses.

Certificate programs can be found through many schools and community colleges.  There are examples of the programs at

Union provided trainingMany of the trade unions are now offering the High School graduates and those with GED opportunities to go directly into construction, plumbing, welding and many other fields.  These are good jobs with benefits to boot.  An example of these programs can be found at  While in High School, you can sample many of these potential jobs through West Sound Tech.

You can find internships in virtually any field.  Internships can be independent of post secondary education or part of the program at vocational schools or college.  They can be “part time” or “full time” and are generally not paid positions.  Internships don’t offer degrees or certificates but do make really good entries on one’s résumé.  A common comment from professional panels on post graduation employment is “We hire from interns.”

Usually you have to find your own internships.  That isn’t necessarily easy and can be pretty intimidating.  But through the process you will develop excellent networking skills which can serve you well for the rest of your life.  Seek assistance in finding internships from former teachers, friends and professionals you know.

Unfortunately some internships offered take advantage of the interns.  If you feel this is happening to you, discuss it with a friend or former teacher.  It’s totally OK to terminate such an internship and find another that is more suitable.

Job Corp:
Job Corp is offered by the United States Government and offer career technical training in many career areas. Students receive housing, meals, basic health care, a living allowance, training, and preparation for a career, all at no cost.  Program length varies and students may remain enrolled for up to 2 years.  And for 21 months after graduation, a Job Corp a career transition counselor will help you make the transition from Job Corps into the real world.

Nationally, Job Corps offers over 100 different careers to choose from.
They include:

Building Construction Technology
Cement Masonry
Certified Nurse Assistant
Clinical Medical Assistant
Collision Repair and Refinishing
Computer Technician
Construction Craft Laborer
Culinary Arts
Dental Assistant
Forestry Conservation and Firefighting
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
Heavy Construction Operations Mechanic
Heavy Truck Driving
Hotel and Lodging
Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse
Heavy Truck Driving
Medical Administrative Assistant
Office Administration
Pharmacy Technician
Retail Sales
Security and Protective Services
Urban Forestry
Water/Wastewater  Operations

AmeriCorps, National Civilian Community Corps  (NCCC) is a full-time, residential, team-based program for young adults, age 18-24.   Members develop leadership skills and strengthen communities by completing service projects and gaining life experience.

Check out
to look for opportunities Washington State.

Focus Areas are:

Disaster Services
Economic Opportuniy
Enviromental Stewardship
Health Futures
Veterans and Military Families

Careers in the Military
There are seven branches of the US military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and the Air National Guard.  All of the branches of the US military offer a wide variety of options to a new recruit, too many to list here.  To review the many options in each of the branches of the service, goto