Elementary School Career Education – The Need, Basics, Examples, And Guidelines

According Ediger (2000), elementary school career education is important. Ediger stated that “the elementary school years are not too early to begin to achieve a vision of what one desires to do in life contributing to the world of work”. Without career education, students have unrealistic perceptions of careers due to a lack of knowledge and poor decision making. Students have limited knowledge and exposure to careers. (2,3) When students look at the different industries e.g. sports, media and entertainment, most students underestimate the skills and time required to have successful careers. (3)

The Basics for Elementary School Career Education Programs

In career awareness programs, students do not make premature career choices. Elementary school career education is not career exploration or career preparation. Elementary students remain open to new career ideas and possibilities. (7,8,13,15) Elementary students build awareness of self, personal interactions, school, and the workforce. (2,15) Elementary school counselors and teachers build self-awareness, family awareness, school awareness, community awareness, career/ work awareness, attitude development, skill development, decision making strategies, and self-worth. (2,4,11)

Career awareness programs use age appropriate materials that match the developmental levels of the students. Age appropriate activities expose students to a variety of different jobs, career information sources, and the reasons why people work. Programs also incorporate academic career pathways into classroom activities. According to CareerTec (2000), the preliminary career education skills serve as foundations for future skills. As the students progress, previous skills are reinforced, developed, and expanded. (2,4,11)

As elementary students get older, the students modify career visions and goals. After completing an elementary school career awareness program, students have higher grades, higher academic achievement, improved school involvement, as well as an increase in career awareness exploration, personal, and interpersonal skills. (1,15) In addition, the students complete more complex courses and have a higher graduation rate from high school. (9)

In summary, in career programs, students:

Learn and apply the academic material
Know and value self
Build self-esteem and confidence
Identify interests and build relationships between the school environment and the work force
Build academic, communication, problem solving, and social skills
Increase awareness of the need for future jobs skills
See the connections between learning in school, academic skills, job related skills, and careers
See career possibilities
See themselves as a future contributor to the job force
Receive empowerment
Build self-determination (2,7,9)

Examples of Elementary School Career Education Resources

Career awareness programs widely use tools are the Individual Career Plan (ICP) and the Individual Career Develop Portfolio. According to the Ohio State Department of Education (2000), Individual Career Plans (ICP) are essential for the development of self-awareness, employability skills, decision making and goal setting, community involvement, economics, and the reduction of bias. Students use the Individual Career Plans as they identify and explore initial career goals and educational plans. Elementary students use Individual Career Plan (ICP) to develop skills and to prepare to make future educational and career decisions. (12)

Another important tool is the Individual Career Develop Portfolio. Individual Career Develop Portfolios are collections of the career awareness activities and experiences that have occurred during the school year. (12) Other elementary school career awareness activities include:

Artistic displays
Career Days
Career Fairs
Career research
Career videos
Collages, murals
Community speakers
Educational games
Family group discussions
Field trips
Information interviewing
Job shadowing
Library book report
Pictured dictionary
Role playing
Story reading
Student group discussions
Word search and comprehension activities (8,9,11,12,16)

Elementary school programs help students build connections between academics and real life situations. (9) Teachers and counselors use career education principles to stress the importance of language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. Language arts have many uses in the workplace: Reading, writing, and listening skills. The uses for Mathematics include: Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills to solve problems. In Social Studies, students gain understanding about other countries, languages, cultures, and the aspects of living in a global marketplace. Students learn the importance of Science having skills to solve problems as well as understanding how science is involved in different industries, such as food, media, agricultural, and automotive industries. (8)

Guidelines for Elementary Education Career Resources – National Career Development Guidelines

The NCDG Guidelines is a career knowledge, skills, and decision-making framework. The NCDG framework has three domains, goals, and indicators. Teachers and counselors use the domains, goals, and indicators as guidelines to design and create career resources. The three domains are: Personal Social Development (PS), Educational Achievement and Lifelong Learning (ED), and Career Management (CM). Each domain represents a developmental area in a career education program. Under each domain are goals or competencies. Under each goal, indicators highlight the knowledge and skills needed to achieve the goal. The National Career Development Guidelines (NCDG) is the foundation for career education products, research development, tests and tools. (14)


Elementary school career education programs build self-awareness, family awareness, school awareness, community awareness, career/ work awareness, attitude development, skill development, decision making strategies, and self-worth. Elementary school career awareness programs use age appropriate materials that match the developmental levels of the students. As a results of career education, schools reported that students had higher grades and academic achievement, improvement in school involvement and performance, as well as an increase in career awareness exploration, personal, and interpersonal skills. Career awareness activities include Individual Career Plan (ICP), Individual Career Develop Portfolio (ICDP), Career Days, Career Fairs, Field trips, information interviewing, and library book report.


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