I Want to be a Robot: Discovering Career Choices at an Early Age
Miss Inglis’ kindergarten class at Parliament Oak elementary school had to answer a special question this week. The question: what do you want to be when you grow up?
The study of childhood occupation aspirations has been going on for decades and approached from many different angles. From the psychological transition of fantasy to realistic choices, to gendered influences on the traditional roles children choose.
In a 1952 Ginzberg study, it was noted that children go through three stages in choosing occupations: “fantasy choices (before age 11); tentative choices (ages 11 to 17); and realistic choices (ages 17 to young adulthood).”
Parliament Oak kindergartener Jack wants to be a robot. Maddie wants to be a rock star and James wants to be a spy.
These children’s choices are fantastical. But as the workforce in Canada shifts towards the service industry and technological occupations, even a mail carrier may soon be considered a fantasy career choice.
However, some career choices will stand the test of time. For example, kindergartener Ciaran wants to be an animal scientist, and Alexander wants to be a doctor. Career choices in science are likely to continue to be in high demand despite rapid changes in technology.
Gender influences noted by scientists Levy, Sadovsky, Troseth, and Stroeher determined that early in life, especially from ages four to seven, young boys and girls are likely to choose traditionally male or female careers.
This was a very common theme in Mrs. Inglis’ class; Oskar wanted to be a soccer player, Brian a policeman, Sophie a hair stylist, and Katherine a bride. However, social psychologists Garrett and Tremaine reported, “as children get older, they tend to be more flexible in choosing non-stereotyped careers”.
An interesting aspect of these studies done in the 1970s is that boys reported to have double the amount of fantastical career choices than young girls. Garrett and Tremaine’s research noted, “girls learn early on that few adult vocations are open to them.”
Today, we are living in the crossover effect of male/female college enrolment rates. According to the Population Reference Bureau organization, it officially occurred in 1993 and now leaves males seven percentage points behind females when it comes to college populations. This change improves the likelihood of female success in the workplace and increases their vocational opportunities.
Mrs. Inglis’ class did not reflect that change, with boys and girls averaging at very similar amounts of choices. The students are set to graduate this week, and it will be neat to see what they will become, and who will find success in the workforce of the future. My money is on the robot kid, but only time will tell.