91 Percent of Teenagers Think They Know What Career They Want

teenager career choice

How did you answer questions about what you wanted to be when you grow up, when you were a kid? Is the job that you mentioned what you’re actually doing now? Or did plans, or the dream, change at some point along the way?

While there is some evidence that it’s not really great to ask kids this question in the first place, there is no doubt that teenagers should start thinking about their future careers. Having a vision of where you’d like to go is an important step in being able to get there.

Researchers from Junior Achievement and EY used a survey of 1,000 13- to 17-year-olds to draw some conclusions about how the young people of today are conceiving of their future career plans. Among the teenagers they surveyed, 91 percent said that they know what career they’d like to pursue. Researchers also noted some interesting differences between girls’ and boys’ responses. Here are a few of the key findings from the report.

1. 91 percent have a “dream job” but boys and girls are motivated by different things.

The vast majority of the teenagers surveyed, 91 percent, said they know what career they’d like to pursue after completing high school. But, researchers found that boys and girls are settling on these aspirations for different reasons.

When asked what appeals most to the them about their dream job, boys and girls responded differently. Boys’ top three answers were: think it would be fun (28 percent), I’d be good at it (21 percent), and I’d make a lot of money (17 percent).

Girls also thought they’d be good at their dream jobs — 23 percent said so, making it their No. 2 response. However, their most popular response was that they’d like to help people (25 percent). And, they also said they think it would be fun (20 percent).

2. Future career aspirations varied along gender lines, especially in STEM.

Career goals varied by gender in a pretty major way. While more than one-third of boys, 36 percent, said they’d like to work in STEM, only 11 percent of girls responded the same way.

However, girls dominated when data about interest in the medical/dental field was broken down by gender. Twenty-four percent of girls said they would like a career in this field compared with only six percent of boys.

Still, these survey results indicate that younger women are shying away from STEM work more than their male counterparts. There are many complex reasons that there are so few women in tech. And, it seems that gap could continue, according to these survey results.

“While it’s encouraging to see teens today are giving a great deal of thought to their career aspirations, it’s surprising to learn that there are still significant gaps between boys’ and girls’ interest in careers choice,” Jack E. Kosakowski, president and chief executive officer of Junior Achievement USA, said in a press release. “We hoped to learn that girls, for example, would be more attracted to STEM careers beyond medicine — related to science, engineering, computers and math — since there is virtually unlimited opportunity for talented and qualified professionals in these fields.”

3. Boys and girls are focused on learning different skills to prepare for the future.

Teenagers responded differently when they were asked about which skills they expected to be the most essential in helping them prepare for their dream jobs. When asked if they’d like to learn technology skills in preparation, 54 percent of boys and only 27 percent of girls said it was a priority. Those figures reversed when they were asked about relationship building and collaboration. Fifty percent of girls and 31 percent of boys said those skills were important to learn for their career.

The results of this survey indicate that there are still fundamental differences in the way young people conceive of their future career aspirations. It’s essential that we understand this reality in order to work on changing young people’s perceptions.

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