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Pipe Dream? Most Teens Don't Have Realistic View of Their Future

Business News Daily Editor
Business News Daily Editor

Only a small percentage of teens plan to go into the 25 most common jobs in the U.S., with an even smaller percentage wanting to go into the jobs that are projected to grow the most in the coming year

  • Surveys show that teens often have lofty career goals with low potential success rates for breaking into the field.
  • The careers with the most workers are the least appealing to teens. Only a small percentage surveyed are interested in any of the top 25 careers.
  • Teens can get involved in community service or choose to shadow professionals to explore prospective careers further.

When it comes to their future careers, many teens are going to be in for a rude awakening, research suggests.

While they may dream of being a musician, athlete or fashion designer, research shows that eventually many give up on those aspirations and end up taking jobs that are much less glamorous, according to a study from a C+R Research.

Lack of realistic job goals for teens

The study shows that the jobs most teens want don't fit into the current workplace reality. For example, just 1% of the teens surveyed want an office, support administrative or sales position when they start their careers, despite those jobs making up 25% of today's workforce.

On the flip side, 20% of those surveyed want a job in the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media occupations, even though those careers represent just 2 percent of the American workforce. [See related story: 5 Job Hunt Strategies That Work]

"Getting paid to do what you love – isn't that everyone's dream?" the study's authors wrote. "Unfortunately, only 2% of jobs in the current workforce fall under this category, which means at some point, most adults have to decide to earn a living doing something more readily available and realistic."

Doctor, nurse, dentist, pharmacist and veterinarian are other jobs many teens dream of having. The study found that 15% of teens want jobs as health care practitioners despite it only making up 6% of the total workforce.

The researchers said it's not surprising that so many teens would want a career that allows them to help people and get paid well at the same time.

"However, the rigor, length, and incredible expense of additional schooling are some of the biggest deterrents to why only 6% of people who want to become a healthcare practitioner actually do," the study's authors wrote.

Lack of teenage interest in the most common jobs in the United States 

Just 7% of the teens surveyed said they wanted a career in one of the 25 most common jobs in the U.S.:

  1. Retail salespeople
  2. Office clerks
  3. Registered nurses
  4. Customer service reps
  5. Waiters and waitresses
  6. Secretaries and administrators
  7. Freight and stock laborers
  8. Janitors
  9. Operations managers
  10. Stock clerks and order fillers
  11. Truck drivers
  12. Personal care aides
  13. Bookkeepers and accounting clerks
  14. Nursing assistants
  15. Maids and housekeepers
  16. Sales reps, wholesale and manufacturing
  17. Maintenance and repair workers
  18. Elementary school teachers
  19. Accountants
  20. Child care workers
  21. Teacher assistants
  22. Landscapers and groundskeepers
  23. Construction workers
  24. Cooks
  25. Security guards

Of those positions, teens said they were interested in pursuing a career in nursing, sales, wholesale, manufacturing, elementary school teaching, accounting and construction.

The researchers said that some occupations are likely low on the "dream meter" because the jobs don't seem ambitious or glamorous enough.

"The fact is that there's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into the convenient, fast-paced lives we take for granted," the study's authors wrote. "While no teens responded that they want a job in installation, maintenance, and repair occupations, the infrastructure of our daily lives would collapse without these types of occupations."

Low interest in projected growth careers

Besides not wanting jobs that are common now, even fewer teens want jobs that will be in demand in the future. Only 3% of the teens surveyed said they wanted a career in one of the 25 jobs that are projected to grow the most over the next seven years:

  1. Wind turbine service technicians
  2. Occupational therapy assistants
  3. Physical therapist assistants
  4. Physical therapist aides
  5. Home health aides
  6. Commercial divers
  7. Nurse practitioner
  8. Physical therapists
  9. Statisticians
  10. Ambulance drivers
  11. Physician assistants
  12. Operations research analysts
  13. Personal financial advisers
  14. Cartographers
  15. Genetic counselors
  16. Interpreters and translators
  17. Audiologists
  18. Hearing aid specialists
  19. Optometrists
  20. Web developers
  21. Forensic science technicians
  22. Occupational therapists
  23. Diagnostic medical sonographers
  24. Personal care aides
  25. Phlebotomists

Of those jobs that teens said they want to pursue in the future are nurse practitioner, physical therapist, statistician, physician assistant, web developer and forensic science technician.

The study was based on surveys of 400 U.S. teens. It included data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service.

Tips for preparing teens for the future

Joan E. McLean, associate dean for academic advising at Ohio Wesleyan University interviewed for the New York Times recommends not telling teens that they should be dissuaded by their career choice. Crushing their dreams and telling them they aren't good enough to succeed in a creative or athletic career will hurt their self-esteem. Instead, parents should advise a teen to do more research on the profession. He or she may look to shadow a professional or take on an internship to see firsthand what the career is like. If the teen doesn’t have the talent, then he or she will discover it on their own.

Another option is to look for volunteer options within the community to help the teen explore different fields. He or she may uncover another passion during service hours. If the teen isn't passionate about a certain field, meet with a guidance counselor to discuss potential job futures. The counselor may provide resources like tests to evaluate the teen's strengths.

Image Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock
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