The Effects of Professional Career Experiences on Children's Career Goals

Open Access
Manalo, Taylor Drew
Area of Honors:
Childhood and Early Adolescent Education
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Carla Zembal Saul, Thesis Supervisor
  • Carla Zembal Saul, Honors Advisor
  • Andrea Vujan Mccloskey, Faculty Reader
  • Achievement gap
  • Low SES
  • Elementary students
  • Education
  • Career goals
  • Career conversations
  • Role models
The achievement gap between low and high socioeconomic status (SES) individuals begins in childhood, continues throughout schooling, and persists into adulthood. Low SES children are exposed to fewer professional careers in their homes and communities, and they are thus less likely to pursue higher levels of education that lead to professional careers. This research study introduces low-income, minority fourth grade students to career explorations with guest speakers for the purpose of exposing students to individuals and activities related to professional careers. The present study ultimately seeks to answer the question how do experiences with career professionals in elementary school influence minority individuals’ pursuit of professional careers in adulthood, if at all? Using qualitative and quantitative data about students’ career goals before and after intervention, I was able to note the effects of my career-based interventions on students, including increased knowledge about, interest in, and efficacy beliefs about professional careers. I then used qualitative data from successful adult professionals to uncover influential factors for professional adults, including an emphasis on education growing up, and support of familial and other role models. In response to my overarching research question, I found that career conversations are an effective outlet for exposing students to professional careers, emphasizing education, providing students with professional role models, and increasing students’ perceived abilities in pursuing professional careers, all factors that have been shown to be motivating forces in successful professional adults’ life paths. The current study aligns with existing research in supporting the following: the use of hands-on activities to activate career interests, the value of explicitly expressing career goals, the importance of encouraging education, and the significance of providing believing role models. While further research is needed in this field, the present study provides a framework for career conversations, as well as supporting evidence to encourage future implementation of career experience programs with elementary school students in order to close the socioeconomic status and minority career achievement gaps.