THE BLOG
09/17/2014 10:15 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Why High-School Students Should Consider These 5 Ridiculously Promising Careers

By Kim Oppelt

Doctor, lawyer... bull rider?

Career exploration is sometimes limited to only what students have been exposed to. Often students pursue careers based on familiarity. That means choosing careers their parents have had, those glamorized on television and social media, or others they encounter as adolescents. But there is value in thinking outside the box when it comes to career exploration. Instead of choosing a career and retrofitting it to students' skills and talents, why not take the time to explore and develop interests, then make post-secondary decisions based on these findings?

St. Aloysius in Cincinnati makes a point of allowing students to explore their own interests prior to deciding on careers and college majors. Thomas Courtney, chief people person at St. Aloysius, uses the story of a successful bull rider to communicate to students that "there are so many different opportunities outside of their own world and span of influence." By stretching the imagination of students, St. Aloysius and other schools can encourage them to explore atypical careers and demonstrate that there is a whole world of possibilities beyond the familiar.

Even with all the opportunities available, it may be difficult to get students to explore careers outside their comfort zone. Courtney recommends the following steps to encourage students to open their minds to new career ideas:

  1. Help students find their interest. Provide students with college- and career-exploration tools to help them discover what is important to them.
  2. Allow students to see what's out there. Facilitate discussions with students to empower them to think beyond the careers they've been exposed to. This will enable them to build a vision and, in turn, a road map to reach their career goals.

Here are five ridiculously promising careers, including education requirements, salary, and job outlook:

Culinary Arts

Creative students who are passionate about cooking and entrepreneurship should explore a career in culinary arts. Students can train to be chefs, pastry chefs, restaurant entrepreneurs, and even nutritionists. With the onslaught of cooking competitions and documentaries in movies and on television, this career has blossomed in the public eye.

A student going into the culinary-arts industry has a variety of training methods to choose from. Johnson & Wales University was the first to offer a four-year bachelor's degree in this area, and many others have sprouted since. However, training can also be found in community, technical, and career colleges.

The restaurant industry is the second-largest private-sector employer in the U.S., employing 13.5 million Americans. In fact, with a 2.8-percent increase in new jobs anticipated before 2015, the career outlook for culinary artists is strong and improving. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a typical head chef in the field can plan to make about $42,000 annually.

Agricultural/Biological Engineer

With a focus on farm-grown, organic food, agricultural engineering is a field that is slated for growth. Agricultural engineers have various responsibilities and career paths, including agricultural policy, inspection, biotechnology, and aquaculture development. Specifically, agricultural engineers can be on the ground running self-sustainable farms, in forestry or conservation, or working for large corporations like Exxon Mobile, pioneering new biofuel methods. This career offers another outlet to students who enjoy the sciences and the outdoors.

Agricultural engineers typically have a bachelor's degree or higher in agricultural engineering or biology. Experience in the field, such as internships or apprenticeships, is also required.

With an increased focus on this industry, employment is expected to grow by 5 percent over the next eight years. The expected salary of an agricultural engineer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $74,000.

Media and Communications

As the way we consume information is ever-evolving, so is the field of media and communications. A degree in media and communications is not just for future journalists. Today industries of all types are in need of talented communicators with a passion for writing, marketing, consulting, graphic design, and community management. Media and communications is a great fit for students who are inquisitive, technical, or social.

Bachelor's degrees are most common for those going into media and communications. Many students pursuing this career path rely on internships with media agencies, higher-education institutions, and local businesses to hone their skills and determine the areas within the field that best fit them.

Opportunities in media and communications are expected to increase over the next 10 years and will continue to evolve as new technologies and means of communication change. Salary ranges for those working in media depend on the role but typically range from $25,000 to $60,000 per year for entry-level positions.

Video-Game Design

Why not get paid to play? Video-game design is an emerging major offered at many colleges and universities, including some of the most prestigious in the country. Video-game designers create, program, and test new games to be distributed to gamers all over the world. Video-game designers may also work in designing games made for schools, workplaces, or organizations to engage and train students and employees.

Video-game design is offered as both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in many institutions. Many of the skills used by video-game designers include computer programming, graphic design, and user-experience research.

Depending on the exact job of a video-game designer, salaries average around $60,000. Part-time testing work for students is also often available.

Hospitality and Tourism

Adventure and adrenaline are a big market, and having companies to facilitate and lead customers on a trip of a lifetime is trending. The hospitality-and-tourism field has evolved from exclusively hotel or restaurant management to jobs including leading tours, market analysis, and event planning.

Both two-year and four-year degrees are offered worldwide in hospitality and tourism. For high-level positions, most companies require a bachelor's degree plus experience in the field. A unique feature of hospitality and tourism is that students can begin their experience early by taking part-time and summer jobs in the industry throughout high school and college.

Salaries in hospitality and tourism can range from $30,000 to $70,000, depending on the job duties.

Kim Oppelt is a community-relations manager at Hobsons and a licensed school counselor. She has worked in both school and educational-technology settings since 2003. Kim is currently pursuing a doctorate in education leadership from St. Mary's University of Minnesota. At Hobsons Kim has worked closely with school administrators, counselors, teachers, and college-access representatives to implement Naviance, build on current practices and integrate state standards.