NC State Extension Publications

Career Exploration in Elementary School

Skip to Career Exploration in Elementary School

The world becomes much bigger to children when they enter elementary school. They are exposed to a wide range of activities in various subjects and they engage in activities that help them to develop skills and identify interests.

Here are some things to keep in mind while your child is at this stage:

  • “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Your child may be able to answer this question! This is a good thing because it shows that your child is not only thinking about careers but is also starting to identify with some of them. Still, their career interests may change and if/when they do, they can change quickly. What matters is that your child gets exposure to a wide range of careers; doing so at a young age is great as there is little pressure for your child to commit to a career.

    • Help expose your child to different careers by introducing them to people who have different kinds of jobs -- consider your child’s friends’ parents! Ask your friends to explain what they do to your child.

    • Try using naturally arising opportunities, such as family dinner time or while doing an activity such as preparing a meal together, to learn your child’s thoughts about careers. Describe your own work to your child and explain why you do it.

    • Read books that showcase various careers with your child. Doing so is a great way to increase your child’s knowledge about work.

    • Find ways to incorporate less obvious “careers” from everyday life into your conversations with your child. For example, it was someone’s job to design and build the home you live in, wire the electricity that you use, design and build the furniture and devices you use in your home, and create the electric cars you see driving down the street. It was also someone’s job to help you take care of yourself: personal trainer, dentist, counselor, doctor.

  • Doing well in school, knowing what some of their skills and abilities are, and getting along with peers are all very important for children. When children can identify the things that they can do well, they are better able to identify careers that might be good matches for them.

    • Help children feel accomplished by providing them as many opportunities as you can that will allow them to develop and enhance their skills and abilities.

      • Does your child enjoy drawing? Get some drawing books and sketch pads. Check out art classes offered for children in your community. Perhaps your child is interested in other art-related forms, such as design. Architecture, game design, and graphic design all have some aspects of design!

      • Is your child good at math? Find some math games or see if your child’s school has a math, astronomy, or STEM club!

  • While exposing your children to a variety of activities might require some forethought or creativity, it does not necessarily require a huge financial investment. Familiarize yourself with what your child’s school and your local community offer in terms of children’s activities. Even children’s museums are great places for children to explore future careers.

  • Nurture your bond with your child. One of the most important things that you can do is spend time with your child by participating in activities together. When parents and their children share activities, they support their bonds with their children and their curiosity. Some examples of activities could be taking visits to museums, going for a bike ride or walk, watching a sporting event, or touring a local facility together.

You can also provide resources to your child on specific careers. Remember that quality of resources varies. You should look over career materials to be certain it is helpful for your child. Below are some examples of websites that may be helpful:

Career-Specific Parenting in Elementary School

Content Area

Website and Sponsor

Age

Architecture, civil engineering, construction

American Society for Civil Engineers

4th grade and older

Ecology, geography

National Geographic Society for Kids

3rd and 4th grade

Science, space

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

K to 6th

Art and design

Art Careers for Kids | Pure Michigan Talent Connect

3rd to 6th

Tech, artist, gaming

NED’s Career Day for Children-Tech/Gaming Lesson

3rd to 6th

Variety

Crosby Independent School District

K to 6th

References

Skip to References
  • Bryant, B. K., Zvonkovic, A. M., & Reynolds, P. (2006). Parenting in relation to child and adolescent vocational development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69, 149-175. https://doi.org/10.1016.j.jvb.2006.02.004
  • Buzzanell, P. M., Berkelaar, B. L., & Kisselburgh, L. (2011). From the mouths of babes: Exploring families’ career socialization of young children in China, Lebanon, Belgium, and the United States. Journal of Family Communication, 11(2), 148-164. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2011.554494
  • Cinamon, R.G., Yeshayahu, M. (2021). Children’s occupational knowledge: A conceptual framework and measure. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 21, 15–31. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10775-020-09425-4
  • Porfeli, E. J., & Lee, B. (2012). Career development during childhood and adolescence. New Directions for Youth Development, 2012, 11-22. https://doi.org/10.1002/yd.20011

Authors

Assistant Professor & Human Development and Family Science Extension Specialist
Agricultural Education and Human Sciences
Regents Professor & Extension Parenting Speciliast
Human Development & Family Science -- Oklahoma State University

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Feb. 7, 2022

N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.