Going into Business Tops Teen Career Poll

February 10, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - For the second year in a row, teenagers participating in a Junior Achievement (JA) survey reported having their heart set on becoming a businessperson as their choice career.

The poll of 1,000 JA students aged 13 to 18 years old found that becoming an MD was the second most popular job (6.5%), while teacher (5.4%), computer field and lawyer (tied with 4.9% each), and entertainer and professional athlete (tied at 4.7%) rounded out the top five, according to the JA survey report.

Within the businessperson category, the students identified owning a small business, managing within a company, and serving as CEO of a major corporation. In the computer field – which JA said has traditionally been a popular career choice – the respondents said they were enamored with opportunities to develop computer graphics, to design video games, and create computer animation.

According to JA, gender continues to help drive both occupational choices and earnings expectations. The survey found that female teens were much more likely to select professions in law, medicine and education than their male classmates. As a result, female students predicted that they would need more education to attain their ideal career compared to male teens. At the same time, only six of 10 (62%) of male teens believed that they needed a four-year college degree or higher to achieve their career goals compared with 74% of female students.

“The guy thing” was much more interest in the computer field and professional sports than by the young women. In general, boys anticipated higher earnings potential than girls, even within similar career fields.

In an indication that the student respondents may be getting more realistic, students were asked to choose between two career alternatives; one that would give them more time for family and fun, but less money, while an alternative career path provided more money, but less time for family and fun. Fifty-six percent of students opted for added leisure time, which represented a drop from the previous year when 65% made that choice.

Parental influence apparently doesn’t much come into play when it comes to selecting a career. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) of teens indicated that they wanted to do something different than either parent and, once again, gender helped determine the answers. Male students were eight times more likely to prefer the career path of their father than their mother’s career path, while female students were only slightly more inclined to follow their mother’s career path, according to the survey.

Survey results are available at http://www.ja.org/files/polls/kids_careers_2004.pdf .