When and How Do High School Students Begin to Consider their Future Careers?

When do high school students start to ask, “What should I do with my life?” And what influences that decision?

Here are some answers to those questions, based on research conducted by the Student Research Foundation in partnership with the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, America’s Promise Alliance, and SkillsUSA. You will want to check out the findings of the study in depth, but here are some highlights you should know.

Students Are Thinking about their Careers More than Many Teachers Realize

  • 77% of high school students are thinking about careers, but only 58% of teachers think that they are

Students Weigh Many Factors in Making Career Decisions

The students who participated in the study cited these as the influences on their career thinking:

  • 71% cited “my interests”
  • 36% cited their mothers
  • 27% cited their fathers
  • 26% cited “other life experiences”
  • 17% cited a teacher
  • 17% cited “high school experiences”

Interest in Careers Increases through the High School Years

  • 70% of high school freshmen are considering their career path
  • 74% of high school sophomores are
  • 78% of high school juniors are
  • 81% of high school seniors are

What Outside Factors Influence Career Decisions?

  • 67% cited academic subjects
  • 63% cited health issues
  • 56% cited finance and the economy
  • 43% cited global issues
  • 42% cited local/regional issues
  • 41% cited environmental issues

What Soft Skills Do Students Think Will Help them their Careers?

  • 81% cited communication
  • 80% cited collaboration
  • 72% cited critical thinking
  • 69% cited creativity/innovation

And What Happens in College?

That, of course, is a big question, and answers to it are far from clear-cut. Some students start college and pursue a specialized major that they decided interested them when they were in high school – in fields like engineering, the performing arts, or pre-med. Some of those students stick with their majors, while some change course. And some students, often those who matriculated in liberal arts colleges, discover majors and careers they never considered when they were in high school.

Students love to explore and discover new things. And of course, that is a very good thing.

How and when are students making the decisions that shape their lives? If you have opinions and knowledge on the topic,  Participate in the National Career Pathway Study.

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  1. […] Research suggests that Gen Zers begin to explore and consider career opportunities as early as high school. However, if they aren’t aware of the career options that exist within long-term care, they’re less likely to consider a career in the industry. […]

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