Career Pathway &
21st Century Skills Research

Research Consortium on

Career Pathways & 21st Century Skills

Today students must prepare for future careers in a world where some of the jobs do not yet exist and the required skills are being determined on the job. The focus of the Career Pathways research is to help determine where the jobs of the future are heading and identify the skill sets required to be successful.

This research can be used by teachers to discuss the constantly changing workforce and the importance of developing a nonstop learning mentality. Students can review the trends and determine their preferred career pathway. As partners in the career and educational process parents can use the research to initiate a dialogue about career interests and educational plans.

  • 70% of high school freshman have thought about their career paths, and that figure rises to 81% by the time they are seniors—careers are on their minds!
  • 71% of high school students say “my interests” influences their thinking about career paths, and the role of caring adults is also strong (mothers – 36%; fathers – 27%; and teachers – 17%).

Click on the research findings below to find out more!

Our Research Partners

Hispanic Heritage Foundation a Student Research Foundation Partner


Career Pathway Influences

Career pathway decisions are influenced by a number of factors. Among surveyed high school students – “My Interests” is by far the strongest influence in deciding a future career.

Not surprisingly, “Mother” (36%) and “Father” (27%) were the next motivating factors in career pathways.  This is followed by “Other life experiences” (26%), “High school experiences” (17%) and “Teacher” (17%).

This research highlights the fact that high school students are guided by their own interests, but also – and importantly – they are guided by caring adults in their future career decisions.

Career Interest Through High School

Of surveyed high school students, a majority (70%) already is considering a career upon entering high school.

By the time they are seniors, 81% are considering their career path.

High School Education & Career Pathways

Of students who said that high school education does impact career pathways – While 77% of them feel they had already started considering their career pathway, half of the students said high school education helped made their career pathway clearer.

The Importance of Knowledge to a Future Career

There a number of factors that impact career pathway decisions. An important determination is how prepared students feel in their career pathway decisions. Of surveyed high school students, they believe that Academic Subjects are the most important knowledge type to prepare for their future career.

This research highlights how integral education is to preparedness for the future of a students career path.

Developing the 4 C’s in High School

What are the Four C’s of education? According to the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, it is the four skills that have been identified by as the most important skills required for 21st century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Do students feel they are developing these skills in high school? According to our research, a majority of high school students believe that Communication and Collaboration are “always” or “often” developed in high school (75%). Critical Thinking is a close second at 73% and Creativity is least often developed at 65%.

Teachers & The Four C’s

Do teachers feel their students are developing these skills in high school? According to our research – yes. A majority of surveyed teachers believe that Communication and Collaboration are “always” or “often” developed in high school (81% and 80% respectively). Critical Thinking is second at 72% and Creativity is least often developed at 69%.

Compared with students perception of the Four C’s development throughout high school, teachers believe they are instilling these skills more often than students believe they are developing them.

Career Pathways - Teachers and Students Compared

Comparing teacher and student responses regarding career pathway consideration, teachers believe their students are considering careers far less (58%) than students actually are (77%).