5 Careers Young People Want (and 5 They Definitely Don’t)

high school career fair
High school students attend a college and career fair in Los Angeles. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The world needs janitors, salespeople, and accountants, but few young people are interested in those jobs, according to the results of a survey by C+R Research. When 400 teens were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, they were far more likely to say they dreamed of being an actor than an administrative assistant.
Those starry-eyed young people could be in for a pretty rude awakening. The most popular jobs among teens are also among the hardest to get, setting up the next generation of American workers for career disappointment. Although a fair share of high schoolers said they wanted to be teachers or police officers, by and large, teens surveyed wanted to work in either glamorous or high-paying occupations and shunned those they probably saw as less prestigious. The problem, of course, is more people are working as administrative assistants and servers than as doctors or actors.
Only a few of the occupations the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will grow the fastest in the next few years are on teens’ radar screens, the survey found. While a few mentioned wanting to be nurse practitioners or web developers, most didn’t seem aware the economy was going to be in need of a lot more wind turbine technicians, occupational therapists, and personal financial advisers in the coming decade.
What jobs do young people really want? And what are the chances of their career dreams coming true? Read on to find out.

5. Teacher

teacher helps boy use tablet
A teacher works with a student. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Not every teen’s career goals were unrealistic. Six percent of those surveyed said they wanted to work as a teacher, librarian, or in another education-related job. Seven percent of Americans work in those fields. Most teachers earn between $40,000 and $50,000 a year, according to Payscale. The number of jobs in this field is expected to grow by about 6% between 2014 and 2024, according to the statistics bureau.
Next: A career path where the average pay is $76,100 per year.

4. Architect or engineer

Architects review blueprints. | Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Seven percent of teens surveyed dreamed of becoming an architect or engineer, but only 2% of the U.S. workforce is employed in those occupations. Architects earn an average of $76,100 per year, according to the statistics bureau, while civil engineers earn $82,220 annually. Other engineering occupations, such as aerospace engineers and petroleum engineers, have six-figure average salaries.
One reason why there’s a big difference between the number of people expressing an interest in engineering and architecture careers and the number of people actually working in these fields? Young people considering one of these high-pay, high-skill occupations might not realize what it takes to get a job. To become a licensed architect, you’ll need to earn a degree, complete a multi-year apprenticeship, and pass an exam. Meanwhile, many college students who intend to study in engineering eventually switch majors, perhaps because they can’t keep up with rigorous program requirements.
Next: Science for the win!

3. Scientist

laboratory technician working
A scientist works in a lab. | iStock.com/diamant24

Seven percent of teens said they wanted to work as biologists, chemists, physicists, or in other science or social science occupations, yet just 1% of the American workforce actually have jobs in these fields. Overall, only half of people who graduate with STEM degrees eventually go on to work in other fields, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics research. Why do so few people actually pursue careers in science? The reasons are numerous, but challenging courses of study, limited job opportunities (for people with certain degrees), and relatively low wages could all play a role.
Next: People helping people is a beautiful thing.

2. Doctor

a doctor holding a tablet
Fifteen percent of young people want to become doctors. | iStock.com

Fifteen percent of young people surveyed wanted to eventually work as a doctor, nurse, dentist, veterinarian, or in a similar health-related occupation. But only 6% of the workforce has one of those jobs. Another 3% of people work in health support occupations, such as nursing aides and home health care aides, but survey respondents’ interest in those jobs was nonexistent.
High school students who dream of becoming an M.D. might change their minds once they realize how long it will take to achieve their goal and how hard the journey is. Sixty percent of pre-med undergrads eventually switch to another course of study, according to the New York Times.
Next: Rich and famous sounds good, right?

1. Actor, athlete, or entertainer

A high school student auditions for a part on a CMT Network show. | Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT

A full 20% of high school students wanted to land jobs in the media, sports, or entertainment industries. Four percent of those wanted to be a professional athlete, 3% wanted to be a musician, and 3% dreamed of designing video games. Smaller shares wanted jobs, such as author, fashion designer, animator, and filmmaker.
Teens might be dreaming of a creative career, but the competition for these jobs is stiff. Just 2% of the workforce works in art, entertainment, design, or media. Jobs in these fields are among the most competitive out there, and because lots of people are clamoring for work, salaries can be low.
Now, on to the five jobs young people don’t think are worth their time …

5. Production and factory worker

tesla factory
Employees work at a Tesla factory. | Tesla

Half a century ago, blue-collar factory and production jobs pushed millions of Americans into the middle class. But as anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past couple of decades knows, those jobs are disappearing due to offshoring and automation. Young people have gotten the message that heading off to the assembly line the day after high school graduation is no longer a solid career path, and careers in production-related occupations were among the least appealing to teens.
Although manufacturing jobs are on the wane, 6% of all workers in the U.S. are still employed in these jobs — and companies are still hiring manufacturing workers, though maybe not as many as they once did. But the nature of factory jobs has changed in recent years, and today you’ll probably need some additional post-high school training or a college degree to land one of them, the The New York Times reported.

4. Installation and repair technicians

HVAC technician
An HVAC technician is hard at work. | Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

Young people have little interest in becoming installation and repair technicians. Yet these jobs, which 4% of American workers hold, can pay quite well. The average wage for installation and maintenance technicians of all types was $42,790 a year. But with specialized training in the right field, you can earn more. Wind turbine technicians earn $51,050 a year, and the number of jobs is expected to double between 2014 and 2024. Jobs for diesel service technicians, HVAC installers, and industrial machinery mechanics are also expected to grow much faster than average.
The next least-wanted job among today’s teens involves cleaning up other people’s messes …

3. Janitor

custodian at work
A janitor works at Ronald Reagan National Airport. | Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

None of the teens surveyed expressed an interest in a career as a janitor, maid, or in grounds maintenance. That’s hardly surprising. These jobs typically pay just $11 or $12 an hour and require no formal training. The exception is pest-control workers, who usually need to have at least a high school diploma and earn $15 on hour on average. High school students who turn their noses up at these “dirty jobs” might need to come around, though. Four percent of Americans work in building and ground cleaning occupations.

2. Nursing aide

home health care aide
A home health aide helps a patient. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Although 15% of teens said they wanted to become doctors or nurses, they weren’t interested in health care support careers, such as nursing aide or medical assistant. These jobs pay less than other health care jobs ($14.65 an hour, on average), but they also require far less training. The number of health care support jobs is growing, too. The amount of positions for home health care aides will increase by nearly 350,000 between 2014 and 2024, a 38% increase. And the number of medical assistant jobs will grow by 138,900, a 23% increase.

1. Office support staff

scene from office space
Most teens don’t want to spend their lives working in an office. | 20th Century Fox

A life of filing paperwork and answering phones didn’t sound too appealing to the teenagers C+R Research surveyed. Careers in office and administrative support appealed to none of respondents. (Jobs as customer service reps, bank tellers, bill collectors, and postal clerks all fall into this category.) But some of those people are going to end up behind a desk whether they like it or not. Fifteen percent of the workforce work in one of these occupations, and they earn $33,200 on average.