What will you be when you grow up?
It’s that age-old question, isn’t it? When we’re children, we have big dreams. We might want to be an astronaut, a prime minister or president, an actress or actor, or a professional sports star. Our dream might be about becoming an incredible parent.
When we start growing up, we start to think about what we want to do in relation to our skill set, and maybe certain subjects that we’re good at in school. Depending on where we’ve grown up, and our family, we might have expectations about what we go on to study and the careers we undertake.
As we start secondary school, we learn in more detail about the different career paths that are open to us, and a bit about what we need to enjoy, or things we need to be good at, in order to pursue that goal.
We live in an incredible time where we have more options open to us than ever before. The internet and other evolving technology is opening more doors, making it easy to access information, and the rest of the world.
Each summer, here at Oxford Scholastica Academy, we have the pleasure of working alongside around 300 incredible teenagers from all over the world at our Oxford-based Summer School.
All of these students have different dreams, and we’re privileged to be able to help them on their path to realising them.
Here is our research into different career paths, and how adults’ eventual choices differ (or not!) from their childhood dreams. We’ll also be looking at this information in the context of students today, and get some insights into the students that join our Summer School Academies, and what their dreams are!
We thought it would be interesting to survey a sample of adults in the UK, and ask them what they wanted to be when they were teenagers starting secondary school. When we compared this to what they’re doing now, some interesting trends emerged.
First we looked at how age affected whether or not our respondents went on to follow the career path they had chosen as teenagers.
What did we learn?
Adults who are now over 55 years old were more likely to pursue their exact career plan, and less than half went on to do something completely different.
Thinking back to when our parents or even grandparents were growing up, they had a lot fewer career options open to them compared to today! Particularly in the fast-moving technology sector, more and more jobs which previous generations might never have even imagined are opening up to students, and new career paths are being created every day. Maybe that’s why more of the older adults surveyed went on to follow their exact career goal, compared to younger adults, who had a lot more windows open to them as they grew up.
The final interesting discovery in the first stage of our research was about gender. We surveyed the most popular target jobs for both women and men, and discovered how they were different, as well as how likely people were to achieve these goals.
Looking at the data we gathered, women tended to be more likely to follow their career path, on a whole, compared to men.
It did make us wonder whether girls were naturally more “realistic” than boys when it comes to thinking about their career goals, or whether they were socially conditioned at the time only to consider certain career prospects.
The most popular career goals for girls were about helping people, be that as a teacher, nurse, or doctor.
For boys, the most popular goals were to be a pilot, football player, or engineer!
Only 9% of boys who wanted to be pilots when they grew up went on to do so, and none of the boys went on to become professional football players, but a whopping 77% of those that wanted to be an engineer followed through with their dream.
When we broke up our data by region we noticed that respondents from the North of England, and from Scotland, were most likely to pursue a different career path than what they thought they wanted to do when they were at school. 63% of respondents from the North of England and Scotland pursued a different career path to what they thought they wanted to do. However, these respondents were the least likely to say that they did not know what they wanted to do, with only 10% being unsure of their career path.
It’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with changing direction. As you grow up, it’s normal to discover new paths, or different skills you have that might lead you down a new route. That’s the beauty of life – it’s one big choose your own adventure story!
You can explore the map below for some insights into our students, the academies they chose, and what some of our students want to be when they grow up.
Of all the stories we found when sifting through the data, our favourite was this one from Bob:
Bob teaches us that no dream is too big or silly. Anything is possible!
Do certain types of student choose certain Academies?
When we surveyed adults about their childhood career dreams, 93% of those that wanted to be an engineer when they were younger were men! Whilst we do have some girls that come along to our engineering academy, it still is the one academy that is very male dominated. That’s okay, as long as young girls know that this is a career goal that is absolutely open to them if they want to explore it!
We asked Ashleigh Clowes from Nicoll Curtin to talk about how she thinks we can get more girls into engineering:
“GCSE choices affect A-Level choices, A-Level choices affect Higher Education choices, Higher Education choices affect career options. It is about starting young; it comes down to ensuring girls are growing up thinking of a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as a viable and appealing option.
It is vital that both young women and parents understand which qualifications and subjects are required for a career in technology. For example, few young people will understand or realise that taking science at school can lead to a career in robotics or computer gaming.”
– Ashleigh Clowes, HR Advisor (Diversity & Inclusion) at Nicoll Curtin
What excites us is seeing the diversity of goals that our students have. To show that diversity, we thought we’d create a wordcloud of the career goals of all the girls on our courses:
Medicine is one of the most popular career goals for girls on our academies, so we asked the British Medical Association for advice for students wanting to study medicine:
“When asked in your interview why you want to study medicine, be honest. You will stand out much more for being genuine, even if it sounds clichéd, than if you try to come up with a fancy reason in an attempt to stand out.” – British Medical Association
We also looked at the popular career ambitions for the boys on our courses:
The word entrepeneur comes up a lot when our students are asked what they want to be! Our business and leadership academies are popular with both boys and girls from all around the world, so we asked Lucy Baxter, entrepreneur and founder of the Culture Label for the advice she wished she had when she was younger:
“There is often no direct road to success it’s usually a bumpy road of constant self discovery and hard work. If you arm yourself with blinkered optimism, focus and ambition not only will the journey be much more enjoyable, you’ll also get there faster!” – Lucy Baxter, Culture Label
At the Oxford Scholastica Academy, we are passionate about helping students discover the career path that’s right for them, whether that means following their childhood dream, or discovering something completely new.
Students at our academies have a go at hands-on elements of the career they’re hoping to pursue, to see what they like and dislike, and learn about what they’ll need to study and practice at university or college.
No matter who you are, and no matter where you’re from – we believe you can achieve whatever you want to achieve.
If Bob can go on to become a Captain in the Merchant Navy, then the World really is your oyster!
SO, WHAT ABOUT YOU?
If you’d like to learn more about the courses we offer, you can see them here!