Choosing a Career: Guidelines in Decision Making

Finding a Career

This article defines a Career as a field of training and work, which earns a livelihood and is a significant portion of one’s contribution to social well-being and development.


The Big Picture

A young person is often asked: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer usually given is a doctor, lawyer, computer engineer, or another field of choice.

We should direct our youths’ minds toward the answer: “I want to be happy.” A career is not the objective but an essential means to the objective of living a happy and contributive life.

The question now arises is this: what is the framework of a happy life?


Career1 1

 Factors that affect the choice of livelihood

    1. Aptitude


    3. Availability of Resources

    4. Relevance and Demand


The word aptitude is derived from the Greek word “Aptos” which is translated to mean “fitted for” or “capacity of “. The dictionary of education defines Aptitude as a “pronounced innate capacity for or ability in a given line of endeavors such as a particular art, school subject or vocation.” Warren’s dictionary of psychology defines Aptitude as” a condition or set of characteristics regarded as symptomatic of an individual’s ability to acquire with training some knowledge, skill or set of responses…”.

To maximize the probability of success and happiness, optimizing the “fit” is essential. Aptitude matches an individual’s inclination and capacity with the requirements of an endeavor or job. It is obviously very easy and requires less effort to put a round peg into a round hole versus a square peg into a round hole.

Aptitude Versus Intelligence

Most psychologists define intelligence as learning from experience, solving problems, adapting to new situations, and applying knowledge to manipulate outcomes. Intelligence is more about creativity and adaptability.

Aptitude is mostly described as a subset of intelligence. It is an affinity or predisposition towards a more specific or defined endeavor.

Finding One’s Aptitude


There is a combination of ways to discover and decide one’s Aptitude:

Aptitude assessment tests. Schools usually provide these assessment tests to students early in secondary education to enhance the student’s decision-making about post-secondary school plans. These assessment tests are also available with a simple google search and often are free of charge. A student should take these tests a couple of times, at least six months apart, preferably in ninth and tenth grades.

Parent – Teacher discussion. It is crucial to seek teachers’ opinions and assessments. Unfortunately, many parents and students need help to avail themselves of this resource.

Family discussion. It is likely that the close family members are attuned to the child’s personality and can give an intimate assessment. The danger here is parental bias: imposing parents’ wishes rather than the child’s reality.



Knowing one’s Aptitude is foremost but being aware of the time constraints and the time required by the endeavor is necessary. Each student must understand his or her circumstances and personal and family demands. This understanding also requires attention to the timeline. In other words, what investment in time is available to complete training and be in the workforce? Is the individual expected to be dependent on or to financially support themselves as well as their family in the near term, or personal and family circumstances can allow a long-term training?

Field of study and approximate timeline

STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine) are relatively long-term investments in time and resources. More importantly, they require the right Aptitude, a very high level of dedication and discipline, and four to 10 years of training, at minimum.

Arts (non-STEMM). These fields (ranging from management, finances, sociology, religious studies etc.) may require up to four years of training/study to earn a livelihood. The investments in time and resources are less than for STEMM, and the emotional demand may be comparatively less.

Vocational. This livelihood path also requires its own type of Aptitude, primarily hands-on and spatial ability. These fields (ranging from aspects of computer hardware, plumbing, electrician, project managers, automobile tech etc.) are less in their time investments and emotional demands. Training can be for two to four years.

Keep in mind:

1. Intrinsic ability and aptitude (Gift)

2. Personal and family circumstances

3. Personality type: levels of discipline and persistence

4. Resources available at present and throughout training.

Relevance and Demand

A mistake that parents often make during the decision-making process is what can be called the “emotional factor.” Parents insist on a career that is emotionally pleasing to the parents, and, in some cultures, the “bragging rights “over children’s careers. It is important to bear in mind that a career that was relevant or in demand during the parents’ time may be less relevant or in demand, not only today but also a few years from now.

The decision on a career path must take into consideration future demands and relevance. This consideration requires research, and the internet is a valuable tool for gathering data on the trends and jobs that will be in demand over the next ten to twenty years. Past and present career relevance or demand must not bias the decision-making. However, a careful analysis of future trends and the subsequent marketability of one’s skills must be the starting point in choosing a career path. The next step is knowing one’s Aptitude within the context of future demands.

Advice from the last Messenger of the Creator (Peace be upon Him)

It is reported and authenticated that the Messenger advised us to “tie your camel and put your trust in Allah, our Creator”. This advice directs us first to tie our camel before we ask for help. We must research and learn the best way to tie or secure our camel (life and livelihood) and exert our optimum effort to accomplish that outcome appropriately, effectively, and efficiently. Only then do we earn the right to call and depend on Allah for His help. We may tie the best knot we can, but the camel may still not be secured. The result is from Allah, not the knot, nor from our efforts.

This reality is humbling. It is a reminder that faith is not an empty and effortless dependency. Faith is active. The understanding of this fundamental principle that requires us to have the right intention and right effort is rewarding, and keeps us within the Islamic approach to life and livelihood. The believer is always cognizant that the results are from our Creator, but we are responsible for our intentions and efforts.

The decision process towards a career and livelihood driven by this advice from the last Messenger, Muhammed (peace be upon him).


  • Dr. Wazir Kudrath

    Dr Kudrath studied medicine at the University of Baghdad in the 80s and has been living in Texas for the past 25 years. He has been involved in training of young doctors worldwide, and is the author of two books of medicine and a visiting professor at several universities in America and the Middle East.


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