Career Education For Middle School Students

At first glance, one might wonder, �Isn’t middle school too early to choose a career?� It’s a valid point. Young people in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade don’t need to make binding decisions about future jobs. However, they do need opportunities to explore the world of work and to consider how school-related decisions they are making now may impact their job choices later.
Most occupational information is designed for people in high school or beyond, and helps a person narrow down choices. A program appropriate for middle school students, however, does the opposite. Such programs allow students to explore many different jobs within diverse career fields.
Students not only need exposure to descriptions of jobs, but also to descriptions of the steps required to attain those jobs. An effective middle school career education program highlights concrete education and training requirements. Many young people cite “doctor” as a career goal, for example, but have no idea that aspiring doctors need to take math courses in high school as well as biology. Finally, career lessons should help challenge any gender, racial, or socioeconomic stereotypes that students may hold because such stereotypes limit the array of jobs that students believe they can pursue.
Parents as Career Advisers
Parents and guardians are a child’s first source of career information, and young people need familial support as they dream about possible futures. Common job-related questions that middle school aged children have for their parents include, �What do you do all day?�, “What parts of your job do you enjoy?�, �What parts do you dislike?� and �Do you use what you learned in school for your job?� Parents’ thoughtful and honest answers to these questions contain vital details about careers that kids need.
By middle school, young people are aware of academic, artistic, and athletic talents they possess, and they naturally use this knowledge to guide them when considering possible careers. Parents can introduce children to other important considerations related to the working world. Nurses can teach their children about the benefits and drawbacks of working night shifts, for example, while entrepreneurs can teach children about being business owners. Career insights like these give children answers to questions that they don’t yet have enough life experience to ask.
Teachers as Guides to Career Options
Teachers who are savvy about career education take time to explain how available high school course offerings relate to middle school classes and they include relevant career information in their lessons. Incorporating career education into existing curriculum teaches students about jobs and it lets them know that the concepts they are learning really do apply to the real world.
Career education can be introduced in many ways, from simply mentioning interesting jobs to assigning investigative projects. For example, teachers can have students research careers related to current classroom topics. Key details for students to discover and share with classmates include working environment (Indoors or outdoors? Individual work or collaborative?), salary levels, and education requirements. The Internet and books aren’t students’ only resources � interviewing adults about their work and reporting back can be an engaging activity.
Volunteers as Career Role Models
Adults who are neither parents nor teachers still have valuable career knowledge that can benefit kids. Volunteering in the classroom is a great way to introduce young people to occupations. Volunteers might visit classrooms as guest speakers or participate in outreach activities sponsored by professional societies.
People who are able to commit a block of volunteer time each week could consider becoming Citizen Teachers through Citizen Schools. Citizen Teachers lead fun, interactive afterschool sessions related to their areas of expertise. Alternatively, workers in industry can create or contribute to job shadowing programs at their companies. A day of job shadowing � or even just a couple of hours � is a fantastic learning opportunity for young people that can’t be found inside a classroom.

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