Test offers clues into possible career paths

January 13, 2011|Lisa Prejean

Each fall, 10th-graders across the country take the PLAN test, which is basically a precursor to the American College Test (ACT).

The PLAN test measures skills and abilities related to high school course work in English, mathematics, reading and science.

As I was recently reviewing my son's test scores, I was intrigued by a section on the score report titled "Your Career Possibilities."

A World-of-Work Map presented 26 career areas for students to consider. The "map" is set up as a wheel with four compass points:

  •  Working with data
  •  Working with things
  •  Working with ideas
  •  Working with people

The areas between each point blend a mix of two skill areas.

For example, police officers have a high interest in working with data, but they also have skills that enable them to work with people.

When taking the PLAN test, students complete an interest inventory and are asked to choose a career area they might like.

I was surprised, but only slightly, to see my son following in the footsteps of his father, an electrician, and his grandfather, a bricklayer.

Both of those professions are listed under construction and maintenance and have a high correlation to working with things. People in these professions also enjoy working with ideas.

When my son listed his interest as engineering, little did he know that it would fall in the same things/ideas area.

Teachers and newspaper reporters/columnists enjoy working with people and ideas. My daughter's dream is to be a pediatrician, which also falls into the people/ideas category. Perhaps she acquired some of that interest from me. We both certainly are drawn to children.

Wonder where your profession fits on the World-of-Work map? Here are a few examples of professions who enjoy working with:

People and data

  •  Human resources manager, recruiter, interviewer
  •  Agent, retail salesworker
  •  Executive, office manager, hotel/motel manager
  • Food inspector, detective

Data and things

  •  Accountant, bank teller, budget analyst
  •  Warehouse supervisor, air traffic controller
  •  Truck/bus/cab drivers, ship captain, pilot
  •  Farmer, nursery manager, forester
  •  Computer programmer, systems analyst, desktop publisher, actuary

Things and ideas

  •  Carpenter, cabinetmaker, tailor, chef/cook, jeweler
  •  Tool and die maker, machinist, welder, dry cleaner
  •  Auto mechanic, aircraft mechanic, office machine repairer
  •  Technician, architect
  •  Physicist, biologist, chemist, statistician
  •  Pharmacist, optician, dietitian, technologist

Ideas and people

  •  Physician, pathologist, dentist, veterinarian
  •  Sociologist, political scientist, economist, urban planner
  •  Artist, illustrator, photographer, interior designer
  •  Writer, musician, singer, dancer, TV/movie director
  •  Editor, librarian
  •  Recreational therapist, dental assistant, licensed practical nurse
  •  Administrator, coach, teacher
  •  Social worker, lawyer, paralegal, counselor, clergy
  •  Waiter/waitress, barber, cosmetologist, travel guide


For more information about the PLAN test, go to For helpful tips on selecting a career path, go to

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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