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What did your children do when unsure of a career choice?

Hunter's Moon

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I am really unsure of what I want to do with my life. I am leaning towards an Elementary Special Needs teacher, but I am not 100% and that scares me to death.


I have never, in my life, known 100% what I wanted to do. My mind keeps changing and I know it is supposed to as I grow and mature but my time is coming to an end.


Taking a gap year and thinking about it isn't an option. I need scholarships. No scholarships=no college for me and I know I would lose a lot of scholarships with a gap year.


Things I am interested in wouldn't give me a career.


I love reading. I hate writing, though.

I love knitting. Not very good. Not very good at all.

I love researching. But, there are so many areas where research would need to be done, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

My list of interests could go on and on and why they couldn't be a career for me.


What did your children do when their time ran out and they were heading off to college?

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My children aren't college-aged yet, but I hang out at this board because I work at a college and sometimes have insight into questions raised here.


Not knowing exactly what you want to do when you enter college isn't a bad thing. Many students begin with one major and then change to something else. Focusing on your general education or core curriculum your first semester or two is not a bad idea. Sometimes taking those classes can give you an idea of what you enjoy doing or what you don't like. One possibility to consider is to start at a community college to begin. Another possibility, if you are a person of faith, is to begin at a faith-based institution where many of your classes would be Bible or religion based your first year.


If you are considering working with special needs children I would encourage you to find opportunities to volunteer and get experience. Perhaps you local church has a special needs Sunday School class or has an individual child who could use an aide during class. Perhaps you can volunteer (or get paid) to be a mother's helper in a family with a special needs child. There are many opportunities if you keep your eye out.

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If you are interested in special ed you may want to consider becoming an occupational therapist or certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA). I'm an OT and we get paid much better and have better work conditions than a special ed teacher. I work with special needs kids one on one for one hour at a time, which I think is much easier than managing a classroom. Plus, there is a shortage of OT and COTAS, which helps with pay and job security.


The COTA is a two year program, usually at community colleges, and the OT is a master's after college. COTAs do everything OTs do except write eval and discharge notes. You have your own pt. caseload and make most if not all of your own treatment decisions. You are doing the therapy, not assisting an OT doing it. I don't know specifics as I am an OT, but COTAs seem to make enough to support a small family on, better than most two year degrees. If you love research, there is plenty to research in understanding special needs kids and the best therapies for them. Or you may want to be an OT not a COTA - not trying to push you either way.


Also, I if I get hit, spit at and bitten by a kid, I can refuse to see them again. I don't think teachers have that right.


If you have any questions about OT please ask me.

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I didn't know what to do with myself, so I joined the military.


I know people who chose one career at the traditional college age who have since gone back to get a degree in something else (one friend who went from teaching to nursing comes to mind). My husband decided he'd rather work out of high school, since he was already making good money for a single guy. Then at 20 he joined the Navy, though that didn't last him long for medical reasons. Now at 36 he's a freshman in college because he's had it with the restaurant industry.


My point is, you don't have to decide this year what you're going to do for the rest of your life. Shoot for having a clue about the next 10 years or so, and you'll be ahead of the game. It's also OK to change your mind after you've started college--the first year or two are mostly general ed requirements anyway, unless you opt for an associate's with a specialization like a PP mentioned.

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You might look to see if your library has a book called "What Color is My Parachute? for Teens" by Richard Bolles. It's a guide that helps you identify your interests and skills and match those with potential career paths.


If you are hoping to hs your own children some day, I'd suggest that you think about jobs/careers that you would be able to do part-time. I have several friends that are nurses, and they have been able to find one or two day/week jobs that allow them to keep their hand in their fields while still spending most of their time raising their children. They also know that they have the skills/experience needed to work full-time to support their families if the need for that ever arises.


I also have a relative that teaches special needs kids at a public school. She does the extra help sessions that these kids get when they are pulled out of their normal classrooms. After much negotiating, she was able to get a 4 days/wk schedule, but they are always threatening to let her go when budgets get tight unless she goes to a full time schedule.


Just a few more things to consider -- and kudos to you for thinking about these things while you're still young!


Best wishes,


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