7 Examples of Career Goals for College Students

Updated July 1, 2022

Setting career goals can provide a sense of direction for college students in their education and careers. Goals help define what students hope to achieve and allow them to identify the steps to reach those goals. Understanding what career goals are, why they're important and how to set them can help college students create smarter, more achievable objectives before and after graduation. In this article, we define what career goals are for college students, explain why they're important and provide seven examples of career goals for college students.

What are career goals for college students?

Career goals for college students are academic or job-related objectives students use to determine their career path and measure their progress toward that path. Goals act as tangible representations of a student's efforts. For example, setting a goal to graduate at the top of their class to pursue a job at a prestigious engineering company is a goal a student can pursue and that anyone can recognize when it's reached. Career goals are critical to understanding the education a student needs for their future job and in establishing their education and training pace.

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Why it's important for colleges students to set goals

It's important for college students to set goals for many reasons, including:

  • Creating a defined career path: A well-defined career path can help students avoid loss of time or excessive spending on education by narrowing the career path to one specific, achievable goal.

  • Establishing educational needs: Setting career goals helps a student better understand the level of education they may require and what time or financial investment might be necessary.

  • Establishing important relationships: Setting career goals may also help students establish important relationships in their career fields by inspiring them to attend industry events or meet industry professionals, which may help in their future job search.

  • Improving specific industry skills: Career goals can also help students narrow their focus to specific skills that can benefit them later in their career, such as accounting for a future banker or designing software for a future engineer.

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7 career goals for college students

Here are seven common examples of career goals for college students:

1. Master a specific industry specialization or skill

Many students seek to master a specific industry specialization or skill to help differentiate them from their competitors. Specific skills can make a student potentially more desirable to an employer, as they offer great value along with their education. For example, a student studying business management might focus on developing their financial skills to become better at financial business management. Setting a goal to improve or learn specific skills helps students focus on the exact skills they might require to earn a job after graduation, especially in highly competitive industries.

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2. Achieve top grades to attract better job offers

Many students set goals for their grades to achieve a high status with their graduating class. Some employers look more favorably at students who achieve the highest grades, determining that they might offer greater value and knowledge to the company. Earning higher grades may establish a student's skill in their field and might present more internship opportunities for prospective employees. Some of the most prestigious companies only hire students who graduate at the top of their class to maximize their talent pool and competitive advantage in the market.

3. Develop a strong professional network

Setting a goal to develop a strong professional network can help students make important connections in their industry before graduation. These connections may provide job opportunities or recommendations for future job prospects. For example, a student studying engineering might set a goal to attend at least one engineering conference each year to network with engineers in the field, learn about the best companies in the market, and learn more about industry standards and trends. Networking is an important part of a career path because relationships can help support career success.

4. Strive to achieve the salary you want

Achieving a specific salary is a common goal for many college students. They often set salary goals to determine what their services are worth or to justify the cost of their education. For example, a physician might want to earn at least $100,000 per year to pay for medical school loans and live comfortably. Salaries can often be a status symbol, too, and some students strive for higher salaries to gain notoriety or social status. Consider your ideal salary and how you might achieve it in your field because such a goal may help dictate your choice of employer.

5. Find an internship in your desired industry

Many students seek a college internship to establish a clear career path in their desired industry. An internship is an opportunity to learn about the industry by working for a company for a specific period of time. Some internships offer payment, while many are unpaid learning experiences. Setting a goal to gain an internship is a great way to establish a career path and explore local companies. For example, a law student might explore an internship with a local law firm to learn more about the daily activities of a law office and common legal procedures.

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6. Gain additional certifications or educational credentials

Depending on their chosen career path, some students set goals to obtain additional certifications or educational credentials. These credentials can create more career opportunities or help students establish credibility in a specific field. For example, a student studying biology might determine that their career path requires a master's degree, so the scientific community welcomes their expertise. Consider any additional credentials your industry or future employers might require. You can look at other experts in the field or ask prospective employers what they prefer.

7. Work for a specific company or organization

Many students create an image of the ideal company they'd like to seek employment with. Students often base these goals on specific company values, public reputation, salary offers or a general love for the company's products or services. Working for an ideal company can provide greater career satisfaction and might also help a student feel more comfortable in an entry-level position. Consider your ideal employer, including what the company's values might look like and what kind of work environment you prefer.

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