A Career Exploration Guidance Plan for Elementary Students

by Nicola Dayes and Natasha Khan

Launching Students' Career Imaginations!

Some specific career needs targeted at elementary school-aged students include:
A systematic process that will enable children to develop sound educational and career plans (Starr, 1996), exploration of how self fits with specific careers (McIntosh, 2000), and a focus on values, interests, and abilities-- not on gender role stereotypes (Lupaschuk & Yewchuk, 1998).
The goals of our guidance plan include:

  • Increasing familiarity with different careers
  • Exploring careers of interest
  • Enhancing self-awareness
  • Identifying specific values students have that fit with specific careers
  • Learning about specific career requirements (such as training or education needed)
  • Promoting the importance of staying in school.

The tools needed to complete this classroom guidance lesson include:
6 sets of occupational card sorts (representing a wide variety of well-known and less familiar careers - created by the counselor or purchased), access to the Internet, Careership website, pencils, and paper.

The recommended procedure for this program is:

  • Breaking students into groups of 5 (approx. 6 groups)
  • Give each group own card sort
  • Each student in a group will pick one career from the card sorts they would like to learn more about (More than one student may choose the same career)
  • Each student will then explore the Careership website. (Students with the same career may partner together on the same computer at the same time).
  • Each student will research their career choice from the Careership website and write down 4 things they found on the website relating to their career. For example, education needed, brief description of career, entry salary.
  • At their desk, each student will then write down 5 values they posses from a list given on a transparency worksheet that would fit well with their career choice.
  • Three to five volunteers (more or less depending on time allotted) may present their findings to the class and the counselor will discuss values and abilities involved in each career presented.

Some suggestions for follow up include: Having students create a collage that represents their career choice, inviting guest speakers from different occupations, or advertising a "Career of the Week" where teacher creates a bulletin board with important information about each career. This is an interactive board where students can share, comment, and research about each career. The school counselor will want to meet with class again at end of the year to see student progress, and compare similarities/differences of career choices from the first visit.


Lupaschuk, D., & Yewchuk, C. (1998). Student perceptions of gender roles: Implications for counselors. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 20, 89-101.

McIntosh, I. (2000). Life career development: Implications for school counselors. Education, 120, 621-626.

Starr, M. F. (1996). Comprehensive guidance and systematic educational and career planning: Why a K-12 approach? Journal of Career Development, 23, 9-22.

Nicola Dayes was born in Clearwater, Florida. She graduated from Florida State University in 2002 with a BS in Psychology. She is currently attending graduate school at the University of South Florida in the Counselor Education program (school counseling track).

Natasha Khan was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from Western Maryland College in 2001 with a BA in Elementary Education and Psychology. She is currently attending graduate school at the University of South Florida in the Counselor Education program (school counseling track).

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