Teen career choices include teachers, nurses, and military

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

    NEW YORK — Shortages of teachers, nurses, and military personnel might come to an end with the next generation. All three are top-10 career choices of today's teenagers. As many 13- to 17-year-olds polled by the Gallup Youth Survey — 8 percent — want to become teachers as doctors. A career as a lawyer ranks next (7 percent), followed by the fields of sports, science and biology, architecture, business, military, engineering and nursing. "I'm always intrigued that doctor appears high on all the lists despite all the criticism we hear of the medical industry," says Frank Newport, the poll's editor in chief. "(Becoming a doctor) also is a major commitment, but people are still interested. There are financial and personal rewards, and it's a job you can feel good about doing." Gallup also asks adults what career advice they'd give youngsters, and the medical field is often at the top of their list, too, notes Newport. Adults also encourage kids to consider careers in computers. He adds: "Nobody advises young men to go into sports." Since 1977, the first year Gallup tracked career aspirations, teaching has been among the top choices for girls, but for boys, it made the list in 1977 and then not again until 2003. Newport sees the shift as a positive development considering that male teachers, particularly in low-income urban settings, are in very short supply though they are considered key role models. Meanwhile, the military, which remains short of its recruiting goals for the year, might be able to make up some of its numbers during high school graduation season. A military career consistently is named as one of the top possibilities for boys, but this is the first time it's been on the list of girls' choices. Other gender differences found in the Gallup Tuesday Briefing, a subscription service run by the polling firm, include girls considering futures in fashion design, writing, art and veterinary medicine, while 4 percent are broadly pondering the "medical field." Boys' top three choices are to work in the sports field, or be a doctor or an architect. The only career named by boys that didn't make the overall list was computers. The boys' list more closely mirrors the overall list because at least some girls mentioned architecture, sports and business, while fashion, art and the like were barely — if ever — picked by boys, Newport explains. Computers, architecture and engineering are all sectors that are highly specialized but also a strong job market, says Jennifer Sullivan, a spokeswoman for CareerBuilder.com. She says she is surprised that information technology and computers were not higher on the list of the teenagers' choices. Maybe high schoolers don't know the types of specific niche jobs that are available in the industry, she says, or maybe computers are such a part of their everyday lives that they don't think of working with them as a possible job. She notes that many of the careers that ranked high with the teens require additional schooling, so resources will be a factor as to whether or not the jobs really are viable options. Plus, some aspiring sports stars, or even those who want to be behind-the-scenes players, might find a harsh reality when they're ready to go to work: There are very few positions in the field. The opposite is true with health care. "Anything in the health care field is a wise option in terms of opportunity. It's recession-proof, and taking care of one's health isn't an option. It's an industry that's always adding jobs and already experiencing a shortage of workers," Sullivan says. Recruiting in health care is starting in high school to begin to generate buzz, which is key in getting young people interested in a field — especially a field that requires a long-term education commitment, she notes. So many people, though, end up in jobs that they couldn't have imagined just a few years earlier. Sometimes that happens out of discovery, sometimes coincidence and sometimes financial necessity. "When you're first out of college, it's hard to find your dream job, so you take stepping stones. First jobs might not match your college major or your primary interest, but you're learning skills that might relate to a future job," Sullivan says.