What To Do After High School: The 2024 Guide

A headshot of CareerFoundry tech writer Richard Greenan.

Leaving the education bubble can feel like being spit out into a world of endless choices and uncertainty. There is no single answer for the question of what to do after high school. But sometimes, having a plan is enough to set the gears in motion.

Below we have conjured up 14 clear plans of action for those wondering what to do after high school. This isn’t a list of commandments. Rather, it’s meant to act as an inspirational springboard as you take a leap into the next chapter of your life. 

You can use the clickable menu here to jump straight to individual sections:

What to do after high school: 14 options

Travel abroad

Embarking on a journey abroad after high school can be a transformative experience. Traveling exposes you to new cultures, broadens your perspective, and enhances your adaptability. 

Whether you choose to backpack, teach English, or volunteer, the lessons learned from navigating unfamiliar territories and interacting with diverse communities can provide invaluable life skills. Traveling also fosters independence, self-reliance, and the ability to navigate unknown situations—a perfect way to discover more about yourself and the world.

Working on a tight budget? Traveling with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) could be the answer. WWOOF a worldwide movement to link volunteers with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build global consciousness of ecological farming and sustainability practices.

Continue your education online

Whether you’re looking to earn a full degree or acquire specific skills through online courses, virtual learning platforms provide flexibility and convenience. 

Online certification programs are recognized by many employers, especially those in technology fields, where college degrees are less and less relevant. The ability to study at your own pace allows you to balance education with other commitments, such as work or personal projects. This option is particularly suitable for those who prefer a self-directed learning approach. 

Many programs and bootcamp offer a job guarantee or placement support.

Here at CareerFoundry, we offer highly-regarded programs in tech fields like UX, web development, product design, and digital marketing. 

Get a taste of these programs by signing up for one of our free short courses.


Volunteering is a powerful way to make a positive impact on the world while gaining valuable experiences. Whether you choose to work with local community organizations, contribute to international humanitarian efforts, or assist in environmental conservation projects, volunteering allows you to connect with like-minded individuals and create lasting relationships. 

Hands-on experience not only adds depth to your resumé, but also helps you develop a sense of social responsibility. Volunteering can clarify your interests and passions, helping you make more informed decisions about your future endeavors, be it further education or entering the workforce.

Here’s a list of the 11 best gap year volunteering programs in the US. The Peace Corps website is also worth checking out.

Start a business

For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a business straight out of high school can be a rewarding option. This path requires creativity, dedication, and a willingness to take risks. 

Whether it’s launching an online venture, a local service, or a unique product, entrepreneurship offers a chance to learn practical skills, including financial management, marketing, and problem-solving. The experience gained from managing a business can provide insights into leadership, teamwork, and the complexities of the professional world.

Check out this list of 70 great small business ideas for inspiration.

Follow your passion

Whether your passion lies in the arts, sciences, sports, or any other field, dedicating time and effort to what you love can open doors to unexpected opportunities. 

This might involve enrolling in specialized courses, joining relevant communities, or even turning your passion into a career. While it may take time to find your path, the journey of following your passion often leads to personal growth and a sense of purpose.

Need to work out what your passion is, before you can chase it? This article may help.

Go to college

Attending college provides an opportunity to delve deeper into academic subjects, meet diverse people that become your professional network, and engage in a variety of extracurricular activities. College can also serve as a stepping stone to specialized careers that require higher education. 

College isn’t the only path to success, but for many, it can offer a structured environment to cultivate knowledge, passion, and skills for future professional endeavors.

College is of course not without expense. This piece breaks down the different options for attending college for free.

Save cash

Financial responsibility is a crucial life skill, and taking a year or two to work and save money can set you on a solid foundation for the future. Whether you choose to work full-time, freelance, or start a side hustle, practicing discipline in managing your finances and building savings is invaluable. 

This financial cushion can offer you greater flexibility in making decisions about your future, whether it’s investing in further education, starting a business, or traveling. Learning to budget, save, and invest early on can pave the way for long-term financial security.

Here are Bank of America’s top tips on saving cash

Attend a trade school

Trade schools offer specialized training in practical skills, like those to become an electrician, plumber, mechanic, or chef. They make an excellent option for those who prefer hands-on learning and provide targeted education that can lead to well-paying and in-demand jobs. 

The shorter duration of these programs compared to traditional college degrees means you can enter the workforce sooner and with less debt. Trade school graduates often find themselves in professions that are essential and fulfilling, contributing directly to their communities.

Here is a helpful list of the top trade schools in America.

Learn a language

Learning a new language opens doors to diverse cultures and expands your communication skills. You can choose to learn independently through language apps, join language exchange and immersion programs, or take formal courses. 

Bilingualism or multilingualism is often an attractive quality for employers, and it can enhance your adaptability, cultural awareness, and cognitive abilities. Investing time in language acquisition can be a fulfilling and practical way to stand out in various career fields.

Duolingo offers fun, free language learning services.

Get fit

Investing time in physical fitness not only contributes to a healthier lifestyle, but can also have positive effects on your mental well-being. After high school, consider joining a gym, taking up a sport, or engaging in outdoor activities. 

Regular exercise not only improves your physical health but also enhances your focus, discipline, and stress management skills. Developing a consistent fitness routine early on sets a positive tone for lifelong well-being, providing you with the energy and resilience needed to face the challenges of adulthood.

Check out this free guide on how to build the right exercise plan.

Study or work abroad in an exchange program

Working or studying abroad is an immersive way to combine education with cultural experiences. Many universities offer exchange programs or entire degree courses in foreign countries. This opportunity allows you to gain an international perspective on your chosen field of study, experience different teaching methods, and make global connections. 

Living in a different culture also fosters personal growth, adaptability, and a broader understanding of the world. 

Check out the U.S. State department’s hub for info about exchange programs.

Join the military 

For those seeking structure, discipline, and a sense of duty, joining the military can be a fulfilling option. Military service offers training, education, and diverse career paths.

The military provides financial support for education, enabling you to pursue further studies after your service. While it’s a commitment that requires serious consideration, military service can be a stepping stone to various rewarding careers and an opportunity to serve your country.

If this floats your boat, click to read a quick guide to enlisting in the US military.

Write a novel

If you have a passion for storytelling and creativity, taking the time to write a novel can be a fulfilling and introspective journey.

Writing a novel allows you to express your thoughts, explore your imagination, and potentially contribute a unique perspective to the literary world. It’s an endeavor that not only showcases your storytelling abilities but also teaches you valuable lessons about discipline, patience, and the art of revision.

Struggling to put pen to paper? NaNoWriMo is an amazing nonprofit that helps people write their first novel. 

Get a job

When all else fails, entering the workforce right after high school is a practical option for those eager to gain real-world experience and financial independence. Securing a job allows you to develop essential professional skills, understand workplace dynamics, and start building a professional network. 

Whether it’s an entry-level position in your chosen field or a job that allows you to explore various industries, early work experience provides insights into your strengths, interests, and areas for improvement. This hands-on approach to learning can help you make more informed decisions about your long-term career goals.

Job search sites like Indeed are an invaluable tool for this – sometimes lifelong – task.

Closing thoughts

We hope this article has provided some food for thought, for those pondering the eternal quandary of what to do after high school.

Be it education, employment, or an introspective journey of discovery, there is no definitively correct answer to this question. 

Openness, enthusiasm and a willingness to collaborate and learn will get you an awful long way in many walks of life. We wish you the very best on your next steps. 

Want to explore more career options in tech, specifically?

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