For ninth-grader Jade Mc-Dowell, it came down to two choices: preschool teacher or pharmacist.
After completing a new online career test, the 14-year-old Mesa student discovered those two careers best fit her interests, skills and values.
The Kuder Assessment computer program, new this year to the Mesa Unified School District, is one of the ways Mesa educators are trying to get students thinking about their careers well before they fill out college applications.
“It’s important to start early so they can make the right choices to not drop out, and to study hard and get good grades. It’s easier when you have this as a motivation; it gets you thinking,” said Mc-Dowell, who is student body president at Shepherd Junior High School.
Instead of previous assessments she’s taken, which have given her some career ideas from left field, she said the Kuder Assessment was accurate.
“I’ve thought about pharmacy for a long time,” she said.
Many Mesa schools allow students to specialize in fields such as nursing, biotechnology or engineering as early as ninth grade — but in order to take advantage of those programs, students need to figure out their career interests before high school.
This year, the Mesa district rolled out its new computer-based career test for all eighthand 10th-graders, although students in other grades also may try it out. Next year, the testing will expand so that every child in grades seven through 12 will have taken the test.
The program, which cost the district about $30,000, allows students to go online and complete three different tests that assess their work values, skills and interests.
A question might, for example, ask a student to rank the importance of values such as ending the day with a feeling of accomplishment or earning a high salary.
Based on those answers, the system will indicate a career path the student is likely interested in, and counselors can use the information to help schedule future classes.
“It gives the kid a starting point,” said Lisa Doll, director of the district’s career and technical education. “It might say ‘health services,’ but then it lists all the different kinds of careers. Most kids think about pediatricians and nurses, but it will go into medical technicians, respiratory therapy and whatever. The kids can compare salaries (and) how many jobs there will be in the future.”
Students can choose a career path and then find out exactly which classes they should take in each year of high school to fulfill their goals. They can log back on at any point in their school careers to alter those plans.
“It lets them know, ‘What career am I looking at, what classes might prepare me better, might be able to set up electives, which diploma do I want, should I be looking at a four-year college, the military, a technical training program?’ ” said Eva Dwight, head counselor at Shepherd Junior High School. “It really can give them guidance and help them select.”
Previously, students took pencil and paper tests, which weren’t as engaging or far-reaching, Dwight said.
“The kids have really responded well to it. They seem to really enjoy it,” she said. “Do
ing it on the computer has really sparked their interest, as opposed to what we used to do.”