What Is a Career Plan?

When people begin their university education or start out on a new career path, they often do so without a clear sense of direction, and this can lead to a waste of valuable time and effort. Laying out a career plan can help to clarify your goals and implement the means by which you plan to achieve them.

Setting Goals

You will never accomplish your career goals if you do not know what they are. Laying out a career plan can help you by making these goals specific. Make goals about how much money you want to earn, the kinds of professional positions you want to attain by particular times, where you want to live and when you want to be able to retire. Set goals that are attainable and realistic but still make you stretch for difficult things.

Education and Training

To reach your career goals, you may need to achieve a certain level of education and training. This may mean attending a university or professional training center, which requires a significant investment of time and money. In your career plan, decide on a specific area of expertise that will propel you into a career and give you the necessary returns on what your education will cost in both tuition expenditures and opportunity costs.

Progressive Steps

A career plan must be more than just a goal for a peak career position and a specified field of study to get you there. A career plan should also include work that you plan on doing while you are pursuing your education, whether that be part-time jobs or internships. Though this type of work may not be directly related to your final goal, it can help to get you there, so try to get jobs and internships that will look good on your resume after graduation. Even after you graduate and move into your actual profession, you will probably start off in an entry-level position rather than the highest paying position possible for your profession. Investigate the nature of promotion in your selected profession, and include expected promotions in your career plan.


A detailed career plan should be concrete, having a structure similar to a business plan that an entrepreneur would make. This should include basic financials: how much everything will cost and how you will pay for it. Calculate how you will fund your education — whether through personal earnings, grants or loans — and factor in loan payments when you look at your expected earnings and expenses after graduation.