April 24, 2024


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How the ASVAB Career Exploration Program prepares students for any career

6 min read
How the ASVAB Career Exploration Program prepares students for any career

As the US works to expand its standing among the world’s industry and technology leaders, schools and other education institutions recognize that college is only one of several post-secondary options. The many pathways available make it tricky for students to determine the best career path for them, especially if they don’t know what types of work they’re best suited for. Students also need to know how to achieve their goals.

Enter the ASVAB Career Exploration Program, or CEP, which is a free career readiness and planning tool available starting in 10th grade. Participation allows students to learn about their skills and interests and showcases all career field entry options, including college, technical training, government jobs and the military. 

Despite its vast use among high schools, post-secondary academic institutions and job-training programs nationwide, the ASVAB CEP is not one-size-fits-all career planning. Participation can be tailored to a district’s, school’s or institution’s needs, and it offers options for every kid in the class. This eases the load for educators and counselors and empowers students to map out their future, whichever direction they choose.

We spoke to the ASVAB CEP National Program Director Irina Rader, Ed.D., to understand more about the program. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

“The ASVAB aptitude test “widened [my son’s] idea of what he was capable of doing.” 

— Alabama mother

Question: Some career programs just offer students interest assessments and suggestions on careers that match. The ASVAB CEP goes much further, helping students discover their work-related interests and values, plus has a suite of career planning tools. What can students expect to do and learn that they may not with other programs?

headshot of Irina Rader, ASVAB CEP

Answer: The ASVAB CEP is the only career exploration program offering comprehensive career readiness and planning with all career pathway options. Because it’s federally funded, it is offered as a free public service to help the next generation reach their highest potential. Many career exploration programs rely on students’ self-assessment of their abilities, which isn’t always accurate. 

The ASVAB CEP’s well-researched and validated aptitude test reveals participants’ innate strengths and skills and provides access to a career database tailored specifically to ages 15 to 24. The ASVAB’s additional assessments are based on the work of well-respected researchers like John Holland, so participants learn what they’re naturally good at, what motivates them and how they like to work. 

Plus, they get a hands-on score interpretation session where an education services professional guides them through what everything means and how to use it. 

“Participants learn what they’re naturally good at, what motivates them and how they like to work.” 

—  Irina Rader, Ed.D., national program director, ASVAB CEP

Q: The personalized nature of ASVAB CEP is especially compelling. Tell us a little about the program’s OCCU-Find feature and the ability to balance a student’s career passions with their aptitude and interests. 

A: The OCCU-Find is where it all comes together. The ASVAB confirms or reveals vocational strengths, and the Find Your Interests inventory gives participants a good idea of their skills and vocational strengths. The OCCU-Find database consolidates information from various authoritative resources. Participants use their unique skill-interest profile to identify careers that match. Each career includes a How To Get There section detailing various paths to career field entry, usually with multiple pathway options for each occupation.

College-bound participants can search post-secondary institutions and review programs of study related to each career. They can weigh in-state and out-of-state tuition against their earning potential to evaluate the likely return on their investment. 

Those interested in careers with the federal government can explore the requirements for obtaining those positions. Participants interested in skilled trades can view certification, licensure and apprenticeship program options. Similarly, participants interested in the military option have access to their service-specific line scores, which they can share with a recruiter if they choose to.

“Participants interested in skilled trades can view certification, licensure and apprenticeship program options.” 

—  Irina Rader, ASVAB CEP

Q: Some students haven’t thought about careers yet. If they start in 10th grade, will it evolve with them through 12th grade? Do students have access to ASVAB CEP after they graduate from high school?

A: The test itself can be completed in an afternoon. Then, students receive an access code on their score sheet to log in at ASVABprogram.com. They have access to their scores, assessment results and planning tools for two years after taking the test.

Students who take the ASVAB their senior year can still utilize the career planning tools for the first two years they’re out of high school. That is a huge benefit since so much self-discovery happens during that time in a young adult’s life.

“I think that the fact that 60% of US high schools already use the program really speaks to its effectiveness. In the last five years, over 3 million students have participated.”

—  Irina Rader, ASVAB CEP

Q: School districts always need to save money, but can a no-cost career program really give students the breadth and depth of information they need? Why should a district feel confident choosing ASVAB’s career program?

A: Well, the fact that 60% of US high schools already use the program really speaks to its effectiveness. In the last five years, over 3 million students have participated. Anecdotally, we hear from many educators and students who tell us how valuable the ASVAB CEP has been in helping them prepare for life after high school. I speak to them at conferences frequently.

Also, many states have passed legislation allowing the ASVAB CEP to be used to meet graduation requirements. The ASVAB CEP also supports career literacy initiatives enacted by the Every Student Succeeds Act and aligns with the American School Counselor Association Mindsets and Behaviors standards.

Most importantly, program participation is offered at no cost because our program sponsor, the US Department of Defense, recognizes that it has a valuable tool that can help young people reach their highest potential — regardless of which path they choose. It’s no commitments, only options.

Q: Despite its name, the ASVAB CEP is well-rounded and covers college, technical training, federal government and military career preparation options. Tell us a little more about all the career pathways the ASVAB CEP offers participants and why career programs that don’t include the military limit a student’s possibilities. 

A: We like to say that the ASVAB CEP is much more than just a military test. It uses the same highly validated, well-researched, predictive aptitude assessment — the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery — that was originally developed to determine eligibility and classification in military careers. Over time, research has suggested the ASVAB has broader applicability and helps facilitate career exploration and predict future occupational success. 

The ASVAB CEP leverages the same predictive aptitude assessment but enables students, parents and educators to use the data to showcase all career pathways and options best suited for students, including civilian occupations, government jobs, work-based learning opportunities, skilled trade careers, and the military. ASVAB CEP participation does not require an interest in joining the military or any recruiter contact.

Research, educational experts and legislative requirements tell us that the college-for-all mindset is too narrow for every student to achieve post-secondary success. The idea that skilled trade careers or military enlistment are for academic underachievers is outdated. Today’s young people should know that these are viable career options for them if they choose. 

Learn more about the ASVAB CEP’s participant benefits. 

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 



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