Step 3: Experience

Student and drone

Would you buy a car without taking it for a test drive? 

Probably not, so let's explore how to take your career or academic path for a test drive to see if it is a good fit. The resources below represent valuable ways you can "try out" academic and career pathways as well as get experience in the real world and prepare for life after high school or after a career change:

  • Talk to professionals in your fields of interest (informational interviews)
  • Find job shadowing opportunities, internships and volunteer opportunities
  • Get an entry level job in your career field
  • Attend career and college fairs
  • Complete a pre-apprenticeship class
  • Take college classes in high school

High School Career Exploration Events & Opportunities

Explore our region's career and college fairs as well as the many events and opportunities designed to help students learn about specific career fields of interest.

Career Connected Learning High School Events


Volunteering is an excellent way to try out career fields, network with professionals, develop employability skills, and build your resume (for jobs, college applications, and scholarships). There are so many opportunities in Central Oregon to give back to your community while gaining essential career experience. Volunteer opportunities may range from a one-day event to a weekly scheduled commitment to a year long program (such as a gap year).



  • Volunteer Central Oregon
    Volunteer Central Oregon is an online tool that connects people with hundreds of community service organizations and volunteer opportunities in their community. Explore opportunities by interest area, length of service, and location. 
  • Americorps
    AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects over 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs in education, the environment, disaster response, community health, and social service agencies. AmeriCorps’ members serve with more than 2,000 non-profits, public agencies, and community organizations. Americorps volunteers can choose to serve in their home community or across the country.  Members serve in full or part-time positions over a term of service (summer term or up to a year). Members receive a modest living allowance as well as an educational scholarship.

    Americorps members receive extensive training, gain employability skills, network with professionals, and have the opportunity to make a real world difference on the front lines of our nation's most pressing issues.


Internships provide students with an opportunity to gain-real world experience in professional settings and meet professionals who can provide mentorship. Benefits of an internship include:

  • Career exploration experience
  • Skill building and networking
  • Valuable experience for job resumes college applications, scholarships and recommendations
  • High school students may earn elective credit

Student interns

  • Youth Career Connect
    Youth Career Connect (YCC) serves Central Oregon high school and college students by connecting them to relevant career opportunities through Internships with local employers in many different career areas. An internship is a structured work experience related to a student’s major and/or career goal and is supervised by a professional in the field. The experience is designed to enhance a student’s academic, career and personal development. Students can search for internships on the YCC website as well as connect with the YCC internship coordinator at their local high school (Bend La Pine, Jefferson, and Redmond school districts).

Informational Interviews and Job Shadows

Informational interviews are an excellent way to learn more about an occupation or career field. They provide an opportunity to talk to someone already working in the field so you can learn about their experience and gain information about the occupation, education requirements, related careers, and so much more.

Job shadows are an unpaid opportunity to observe a professional in their place of work. They are usually a couple of hours to a full day.

Informational Interview & Job Shadow Guide

Take College Classes While in High School

High school students can jump start their college education by taking college classes while still in high school. At COCC, high school students can earn college credit through two options: College Now and Concurrent Enrollment (including Expanded Options):

  • College Now (Take college classes at your high school)
    College Now: COCC works with area high schools to offer college level courses taught by high school instructors, exclusively for high school students. 

    Click here to see the College Now classes offered at your high school.

    Talk to your high school counselor if you are interested in taking College Now classes.
  • Concurrent Enrollment (Take college classes through COCC)
    Concurrent Enrollment: Take online or on-campus college classes at COCC while enrolled in high school.

    Expanded Options: Available to some Central Oregon high school students. The high school pays for associated tuition, fees and books. High school counselors approve Expanded Options classes for students.  Talk to your high school counselor if you are interested in taking Expanded Options classes.

    Check out the Concurrent Enrollment website for more information
  • Are you ready to take college classes? What you need to know!
    It is important to make an informed decision before taking college classes as a high school student:

    There can be future financial aid implications for unsatisfactory academic progress (grade of D or F) in a college class. Unsatisfactory academic progress includes a cumulative college GPA below 2.0 and a completion rate below 66.67% of credits at the end of each term. Withdrawing from a class after the drop deadline can impact completion rate.

    When you apply for financial aid, the Financial Aid office at the college you plan on attending evaluates all prior grades and credits on your transcript. This includes grades and credits you earned or attempted for college credit while you were in high school. Unsatisfactory academic progress on your transcript may impact your future financial aid eligibility.

    In addition, students are limited to financial aid eligibility for 150% of the published credit length of a selected academic program. All credits listed on your transcript, including college credits attempted in high school, count toward the 150% limit for your selected program. Additionally Oregon Promise only covers up to 90 credits.  So high students don't want to load up on unnecessary credits that may impact future funding.

    The bottom line is that it is important for high school students to work with their school counselors and a COCC Academic Advisor to make sure they are taking "credits with a purpose" towards an academic program. Additionally, high school students need to make informed choices about the academic load they can manage to ensure that they are creating success in their concurrent enrollment classes.
  • Suggested COCC classes for high school students
    Coming soon!

COCC Community Education

COCC Community Education

Community Education at COCC offers personal enrichment opportunities to nurture and grow your interests — no matter your age, background, or experience level.  These classes are open to the public, non-credit, and provide opportunities to explore your interests.  Scholarships may be available. With campuses in Bend, Redmond, Madras, Prineville, and online, it’s easier than ever to engage in lifelong learning at COCC.


The COCC Pre-Apprenticeship Program prepares students for a career in the trades including construction, electrician, sheetmetal, plumber, carpentry, and so much more. The program is designed to help students build the necessary skills to meet the entry qualification needed to enter into an apprenticeship program and the workforce.

What Students Learn

  • Introduction to careers in the skilled trades
  • Basic safety
  • Introduction to construction math
  • Introduction to hand tools
  • Construction drawings
  • Basic rigging
  • Professional communication skills
  • Employability skills

Where to find a program:

  • Check with your high school counselor for a program at your high school
  • COCC is developing a program for students and links to program information will be available soon

Benefits of Completing a Pre-Apprenticeship Program

  • Explore the many careers in the skilled trades to find a path that is a good fit
  • Develop entry-level skills in a hands-on learning environment
  • Build employability skills to boost your success and confidence in the workplace
  • Learn from experts in the field
  • Build your resume and gain a competitive edge when applying for an apprenticeship position
  • Opportunity to earn college credit
  • Earn Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate of Completion


Entry Level Jobs

Getting an entry level job (part-time or summer) in a career field you are interested in is an excellent way to "try out" an occupation as well as network with professionals in that field. 

Explore Other Opportunities


  • Job Corps
    Job Corps is a free residential education and training program for low-income  adults ages 16–24. Many training programs to choose from in health care, manufacturing, automotive, construction, business & finance, hospitality, homeland security, information technology, renewable resources, and transportation.

    Locations in Oregon include Astoria, Estacada, Glide, Portland, Troutdale and Yachats.
  • Heart of Oregon Corps
    Heart of Oregon Corps programs are designed for young people, ages 16-24, who are ready to make positive changes in their lives through a job, education, and community service.

    Youth in the programs WORK on hands-on, outdoor projects that improve the community such as maintaining a trail, reducing wildfire fuels, or even building an entire house. Youth EARN a weekly stipend or minimum wage for full-time work and can also earn college scholarships. Finally, young people LEARN everything from math and writing skills to career planning and resume writing, all while gaining high school credits, preparing for the GED, or taking their first college class.


Go to Step 4: Plan