Career Ambitions Changing for Today's Youth

New research reveals boys' interest in STEM careers declining, girls' interest remains unchanged

A new study indicates that this graduation season fewer teens plan to pursue careers in STEM and the arts, instead choosing public service, medical and dental fields as ideal dream jobs according to the second annual Junior Achievement and EY survey of 13-17 year olds that explores teens, careers and financial literacy.

Key findings include:

  • In a significant drop, 24% of boys want a STEM career, down from 36% in 2017; girls’ interest remains unchanged at 11%, year-over-year.
  • Among girls and boys, desires for careers in the arts dropped from 18% to 13%.
  • The percentage of teens expecting to take out a student loan increased from 33% to 45%.

Career choices that have risen in popularity include the medical and dental fields, as well as public service, illustrating that what kids find most appealing about their dream job is that they are “good at it” and can help people.

  • Careers in medical and dental fields increased from 15% to 19%, with girls far more likely to choose this path.
  • Interest in careers in public service increased from 7% to 10% overall.
  • Starting one’s own business (8%) and careers in business (7%) remained the same.

According to kids, their parents still hold the top spot in terms of who or what influences their choice of dream job. Parents’ influence, in fact, increased from 19% to 28% since last year. Societal influences such as social media declined from 15% to 8%.

Other sources of inspiration include teachers, courses, volunteering and extra-curricular activities.

“Teens today report they are leaning toward jobs that highlight their capabilities, as well as careers that offer altruistic outcomes,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and chief executive officer of Junior Achievement USA. “As parents, educators, mentors and counselors, we need to continue to give students the skills to become more proficient in the areas in which they need to advance and grow, as well as show them how all types of careers provide opportunities to benefit society. JA volunteers, who come from all fields, help students make these types of connections about what they are learning in school and what they need and want to succeed at work and life.”

The survey data implies that teens today are viewing the economy as improving. One year ago when this same Junior Achievement-EY survey was conducted, the percentage of teens who were changing career plans based on the economy was 52%. Today, that number has decreased to just 40%. Fewer teens also plan to get a job and go to school at the same time – 22% this year vs. 30% in 2017. However, some data contradicts teens’ awareness of economic conditions.

  • The number of teens who have taken a financial readiness class decreased from 33% to 28%.
  • The percentage of teens that have a bank account decreased to 52% from 59%.
  • 43% of teens expect their parents to pay for college, up from 32% in 2017.

“With teens beginning to join the workforce and looking ahead to future careers, the timing is right to work with them to build and strengthen financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness skills,” said Gary Kozlowski, Partner, Ernst & Young LLP, who leads a network of EY leaders serving on more than 40 local JA boards across the US, Canada and the Caribbean. “I was surprised to see a reduced interest in STEM careers, which are taking on larger and more important roles in the transformative age in which we are living. Together, EY member firms and JA can team to help strengthen these critical skills for the workforce of tomorrow.”

Other Data Points

  • 88% of 13-17-year-olds know what kind of job they want after graduation.
  • While 52% of teens have a bank account, 43% do not, up from 32% in 2017.
  • 81% of teens would take a work/financial readiness class if it was offered to them.
  • The two skills kids would like to learn most to prepare for their dream jobs include technology and relationship building.

Visit www.ja.org for more information.

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