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Career Choices


A century ago, many of today's common careers were unimaginable. This unit encourages students to think critically about career choices and job satisfaction, and understand that the factors affecting different occupations may change over time. The Visual Ranking Tool helps students evaluate criteria that shape career choices, focus their research, and develop a framework for investigating careers of interest.


Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How do people make important choices in their lives?

  • Unit Questions
    How have technology advancements changed my job outlook?
    How do I choose the right career for me?

  • Sample Content Questions
    What resources are available to help me make an informed decision about my future career options?
    How do I read data charts to gather information?



This project idea makes use of the Visual Ranking Tool. Examine the Visual Ranking Web site and familiarize yourself with the tool.


Give the class a scenario that involves making a choice or decision to get students thinking about the Essential Question, How do people make important choices in their lives? Allow enough time so students can reflect on how they would go about making that choice or decision in the scenario (pros/cons, consult a friend or parents, or research). Make a class chart of the different methods involved. Instruct students to share with a group a time in their life they had to make an important decision and how they arrived at the final decision. Encourage students to reflect on the effectiveness of their decision-making process. 


To begin researching the Unit Question, How do I choose the right career for me?, assign students the task of interviewing their parents (or other adults about the same age) and grandparents (or other elderly adults) about the type of careers they were interested in when they were young and what criteria they used for determining whether or not to pursue those careers. Brainstorm with students questions they could ask such as, Are there opportunities available today that you would have liked to pursued that were not available when you were young? Through the interview process, students should discover how technology has impacted the job market and be able to answer the Unit Question, How have technology advancements changed my job outlook? Allow enough time for students to share their reflections and interview data.


Have students use the information they collected through interviews to generate a list of 8-12 factors that influence career decisions. Encourage discussion by asking students to consider:

  • What factors were important to your parents and grandparents?
  • What factors will be important to you?
  • How have technology advancements changed your job outlook? 


Using Visual Ranking, assign students to work in small teams to rank the factors they consider important in choosing a career. Tell student teams to use the comment feature for each item to explain the rationale behind their ranking. As a way to bring in other points of view, parent volunteers, the principal, and community business professionals can be asked to go online and use Visual Ranking to rank and comment on the same criteria.


Examine the Visual Ranking Activity

The Visual Ranking workspace below represents one team's ranking on this project. The view you see is functional. You can roll over the red triangle to see the team's comments and click the compare button to see how different teams ranked the items. 


Project Name: Career Choices (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)
Question: How do I choose the right career for me? Rank the following factors from most important to least important when choosing a career.


Explore an interactive demo.

Career Choices

Next, have students conduct research to look for data that supports their ranking of factors. For example, if students have listed "money" as their most important factor, they might look for surveys showing what percentage of the population identifies salary as the most important factor in choosing a job. Also have students identify career clusters or specific jobs that match that criteria/factor. Instruct students to revisit and adjust their rankings as they gain new knowledge.

Encourage teams to negotiate with other student groups about how they decided on their ranking and the relative strength or weakness of their data. Lead a class discussion about how the lists are similar or different, as well as the process students used to choose and rank their criteria.

Assign students an individual project in which they use their lists to determine two or three careers they want to investigate in more detail. Propose the Content Question, What resources are available to help me make an informed decision about my future career options? Brainstorm with students ideas and facilitate their research by providing information about job shadowing, access to career counselors, strength and passion inventories. Career research identifies factors that are important in preparing for those particular jobs (math/science classes, leadership experiences, international training/experiences, writing skills, and creative thinking). Have students evaluate how their interest level towards the chosen careers changed based on their research.

As a reflective assessment, use the question, How could the factors that affect my career choice change over time? Encourage students to project into the future how things might change and what skills are necessary to transition into the future. Have students consider how they plan on choosing their career (job shadowing, experience, interviews, college).

Career Choices

At a Glance

Grade Level: 7-12
Subjects: Social Studies, Career Exploration
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Decision Making, Compare and Contrast
Key Learnings: Research, Data Management, Technology and Society
Time Needed: 10 class sessions (each approximately 1 hour long)