Career Readiness vs. Career Exploration: What's the Difference?

Career readiness and career exploration are two terms used to describe very similar ideas. But in reality, they’re very different concepts!

Career readiness is the process of teaching skills related to finding, earning, maintaining, and advancing through a job pathway. 

It includes ideas, concepts, and skills that every student needs to succeed in the working world

While administrators, students, and even teachers use these terms to describe the same ideas, it’s essential to keep them separate in today’s fast-paced classrooms.

This is a challenge because the terms sound so similar and teachers are often required to teach both topics, resulting in sometimes using “career readiness” or “career exploration” as an umbrella term for both.

Still, it’s important to clarify one from the other. That way, administrators know what standards you’ll fulfill, you know what you have to teach, and your students know what they’re going to learn. 

With that in mind, we’re going to take a deeper look at career exploration vs. career readiness, what they require, how you can teach them, and more!

What Goes into a Career Readiness Class?


As we stated above, career readiness is the process of finding, earning, maintaining, and advancing through a long-term job opportunity at one or more companies.

Most career readiness classrooms follow a structure that teaches students how to find job opportunities, succeed in an interview, and behave in a workplace.

That way, the class syllabus mirrors the real-world process of beginning a career.

But teaching career readiness doesn’t have to be formulaic. Teachers throughout the country add their own spin to different career readiness lesson plans that give them a strong direction in the classroom.

The spirit of each class may be the same — showing students how to find a job listing, get an interview, and succeed in the professional world — but you have three big ways you can shake things up in your classroom specifically.  



Good old lectures, right?

Arguably the oldest teaching strategy on the planet, a lecture is the bread-and-butter of countless classrooms.

Lectures mainly help students who are auditory learners. Students who learn through interaction or practice don’t always get value from a lecture.

Still, lectures can fit in your classroom by acting as the introduction to different concepts.

In this context, the briefer the lecture, the better it’ll be.

Short lectures on topics like career development or customer service are excellent ways to show students what they’re about to learn.

In that lecture, you can address some of the main ideas students will discover throughout the unit. You can also talk about the main ideas you want them to learn by the time the unit concludes.

Regardless of what you choose, you can use a lecture as an introductory piece for one of the next career readiness teaching strategies.


Classroom activities are always a great way to get your students up, moving, and thinking about a topic.

For career readiness, you have a whole laundry list of activities you can use to add some excitement to your classroom.


First, you can have students find job openings that interest them either online or in printed publications.

This introduces them to key job-finding skills, which gives them an excellent foundation for learning more complex career readiness topics.

Next, you can have them perform mock interviews with one another where one student plays an applicant and the other plays a company interviewer.

This scenario works great when you give the interviewer a list of commonly-used questions and ask them to evaluate the interviewed student.

Would the interviewer hire the interviewee? Why or why not?

After your students run through this scenario, you can have them switch places to do it again! This gives them some experience when it comes to interviewing and understanding what interviewers want.  

Last, you can give them conversation scripts, have them read through the scripts, and then determine if the conversations were appropriate for a workplace.

This introduces your students to the concept of professionalism and, more importantly, what workplace professionalism looks like.

After all, talking about professionalism and behaving professionally are two very different ideas. If your students can get an introduction to both in your class, then it’ll be that much easier for them to master later in life!

Independent Work


Independent work is a great way to teach students who prefer to learn by doing.

Independent work places students in the drivers’ seats of their education, empowering them to try something for themselves without the threat of judgment, public speaking, and other classroom-related anxieties.

Specifically, independent work is ideal to practice workplace tasks that students would also have to do alone in their jobs.

That could mean writing emails to communicate different ideas.

It could also mean researching concepts online to determine if they’d be useful for the company to adopt.

You could even add an entire unit on financial literacy to ensure students can read, understand, and apply the information found on a paycheck (among other skills). 

On the whole, students can do this work at their desks or stations without the need to speak to you or a classmate.

At the end of the day, they’ll have valuable practice in some of the more nuanced and independent parts of a career.

So far in this blog, we’ve discussed ideas for career readiness. But what about career exploration? What does career exploration look like in a classroom, and how is it different from career readiness? 

What Goes into a Career Exploration Class?


Career exploration is the process of students researching job opportunities related to their interests.

Career exploration challenges students to consider what they find enjoyable, fulfilling, and satisfying in their lives while also considering what they want to accomplish. 

This segues naturally into students discovering what kind of careers can offer them that fulfillment and sense of accomplishment.

The bulk of career exploration is spent with students learning more about career opportunities, researching how to start those careers, and determining if they’re good options.

That process itself could include directed activities, assessments, shadowing, internships, co-ops, and much, much more.

So where do you start when you want to have your students explore careers?

Guided Self-Reflection

Before students can embark on the big, wide world of career opportunities, they need to know what opportunities are available to someone with their interests.

After all, there’s not enough time in a day (or a lifetime) to know everything about every career that exists today.

And in the unlikely event that a student can’t find a career that fits them, they can always start thinking about the parts of different careers that appeal to them.

Then, they can think of creative ways to combine them that might lead to students creating a career path of their own.

Regardless, this whole process starts with students thinking about themselves, what they like, and what they might like to do with their lives.


They don’t need definitive answers, and they can usually figure all of this out by listing out the things they enjoy in life.

This could be a challenge for some students, though. Whenever you have classroom activities that involve self-reflection, you’ll always have students who want to excuse themselves for one reason or another — including “I don’t like anything.”

To avoid that, you can always prompt students with questions like “What makes you happy?” or “What makes you feel proud?”

These questions spur a student’s internal feelings and help them follow those feelings to events, tasks, or projects that made them feel good about themselves.

In that respect, you can start your career exploration lessons by helping students follow their bliss (for lack of a better phrase).

The first step is for them to know themselves.

The next step is to start learning about careers.

Finding Specific Careers

You’ve laid the foundation of career exploration by guiding your students to the parts of their lives that they enjoy.

Now, it’s time to get into the bulk of career exploration, which is locating and researching different jobs.


This is where you can get really creative with students’ work.

If you have classroom resources ready to go, you can always give your students booklets or handbooks that address some of the more popular careers for different skills and aspirations.

If you don’t have those resources, you can have students take a more pragmatic and tech-oriented approach to career exploration.

To do this, they can start with a simple Google search for careers about their interests.

They could also get more specific by looking up careers on job listing websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster.

If you have the technology available in your classroom, you can do this easily with laptops or tablets.

If you don’t have the tech, then you can always assign this as homework.

You can expand on the idea of homework by assigning longer-term projects for career exploration as well.

One of those options could be a report where students discuss what they like in a career, its requirements, its salary, and more.

Then, they can work backwards and consider what kind of education they’d need to start that career. That can all trickle down to what a student is doing right now.

So if a student really likes Fornite and wants to become a video game developer, what does that actually entail?

That research can help them decide if they want to pursue that career. More importantly, it can help them realize what they need to do tomorrow to get started.

And speaking of Fortnite — that’s just one of the many digital distractions that you have to combat as a teacher in the 21st Century.

If you’re having a hard time getting through to students who are constantly plugged into the Internet, there’s a solution.

Like the old adage says, fight fire with fire.

Start Teaching Career Readiness & Career Exploration — Digitally

AES digital curriculum connects students to the Internet to work through activities, lessons, and scenarios to help them learn about career skills.

That means you don’t have to worry about students playing around on their phones when you’re trying to teach at the front of the room.

Instead, you can have them use AES's career readiness curriculum from a computer, tablet, or smartphone to work through lessons directly related to your class.

Best of all, you’ll know when students aren’t doing their work. You’ll get student data reports, automatic grading, and a whole bunch of other handy features that take the stressful edge off of teaching.

Are you ready to revolutionize the way you teach?

Check out AES career readiness curriculum today!

Check Out AES Career Readiness >