Career Exploration in Middle School: Setting Students on the Path to Success

Middle school is a natural time for students to learn about careers and develop skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork through career exploration activities. This report from the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) examines different approaches to supporting career exploration in middle school and highlights examples from states. Although pressure to improve test scores and limited school counselor capacity make middle school career exploration challenging, the report examines three common strategies to help students learn about and gain experience in certain career pathways: 

  • Exploratory and introductory CTE courses
  • Career and academic planning
  • Extended learning: CTSOs and work-based learning

In short, the report concludes that middle school is a critical time for students to explore different career pathways, and provides six recommendations for practitioners: 

  1. Incorporate career-related project-based learning in the classroom
  2. Design projects and activities to develop employability skills
  3. Be flexible when offering exploratory and introductory CTE courses
  4. Facilitate academic and career planning with scalable online tools
  5. Enable short-term interactions with business and community leaders
  6. Provide opportunities for CTSO participation, including financial support when needed

This publication was developed in partnership with Career Cruising, a web-based career exploration service. 

Resource type(s): 
May 2017