Collaboration between Teachers and Career Specialists in Middle School

By Courtney Mincey

Generating interest in career development in middle school can be a great feat. Many students are exceedingly concerned about their grades for high school promotion or scoring well on standardized tests and end-of-credit exams, instead of the connection between their learning and professional future (Mupinga & Caniglia, 2019). These standards that students place on themselves can sometimes be reinforced by teachers, as they are often encouraged to solely focus the curriculum on core standards instead of additionally helping students learn how to be successful in their professional future. To ensure that students are not only able to pass tests but are also preparing for their next steps in their career development, it is necessary for students to explore careers and the professional world, even as early as middle school (Mupinga & Caniglia, 2019). Gottfredson (2002) emphasized how vital the environment of a student is to their career development and how crucial exposure to professional opportunities is to their growth and future career success. The importance of having opportunities in career exploration in middle school is also combined with the necessary encouragement from professionals within their educational institution (Mupinga & Caniglia, 2019). The shear opportunities themselves will not motivate students; it takes the encouragement from teachers and parents to push students in building their professional self-efficacy.           

The addition of Career specialists in schools could add value to the tasks of planning, instructing, and divesting knowledge for students. These trained professionals can help teachers connect the dots for students between academic progression, cognitive development, and vocational awareness. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (Gould & Howson, 2021) are focused on building organic skills students have through their social interactions. Gottfredson (2002) believed in paralleling that natural cognitive development and social learning to enhance the student’s knowledge of the vocational world so they can began to understand where they could fit in. Through the application of career specialists, Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise (2002) can guide students’ visualization of their future professional self and the various pathways they can take or help them discover alternate pathways based on their vocational development.

Istock 525409405 Credit Caiaimage Chris Ryan

Benefits of Career Specialist Collaboration

By collaborating with career specialists, teachers benefit in many ways, such as:

  • Front-loading: Teachers will be able to accentuate the professional goals of students while teaching core curriculum by viewing results of many different career development assessments and aligning them for student motivation. Using this information, career specialists can bring in real-world elements, such as speakers, trainers, etc., to enhance the units in their respective courses. Gottfredson (2002) recognized that students developing cognitively also started to become aware vocationally. As students meet people from different professions, they start to visualize characteristics of themselves and peers within those professions.
  • Co-Planning & Co-Teaching: Bandura (1989) documented how people use their observation of their environments and actions of others to pick up on social norms. Mupinga and Caniglia (2019) recommended integrating career awareness into core and academic arts courses so students can familiarize themselves with professional behavior early in their career development. Career specialists focus on supporting individuals at different developmental levels in understanding the world of work and how they best fit into that world. This expertise can be beneficial in the classroom, as career specialists can assist teachers with planning, as well as teaching lessons, pertaining to career development at the middle school level. Their capabilities allow them to take specialized content and enhance it with activities and materials to strengthen students’ professional knowledge and skills. Through incorporation of career development and teacher guidance of students effectively using creativity, the student’s self-efficacy, personal responsibility, and performance readiness can be built (Conradty & Bogner, 2022). Together, teachers and career specialists will enhance student learning, give exposure to vocational skills, and make school more engaging (Lapan et. al, 2016).
  • Parent Engagement: It is the relationship with students and their parents that builds the strongest bridge between their motivation and confidence to professional development (Lim & You, 2019).  The parental influence on career development in children helps to develop the first understanding of vocational qualities, such as attitude, skills, and interests (Gottfredson, 2005). It is important that parents educate their students on their professional experiences and expose them to other professional opportunities that allow them to have more opportunities to explore the professional world.

Partnership for Success

Ultimately, it takes a collaborative approach to career development within middle school so that students succeed. The professional attributes of students must be encouraged, cultivated, and developed by the entire collection of people who surround them the most frequently for them to be their best professional selves for years to come. As Gottfredson’s theory (2005) acknowledged, students’ initial acquaintance to the professional world will induce their organic skills and abilities. By taking advantage of collaborating with career specialists in middle school, the school environment can be tailored to the needs of all students, staff will be educated on how to optimize their teaching and learning using career development and parents will understand how vital their role is in the successful professional development of their child. Each role tied together can be a partnership to make the educational and vocational experience for students an engaging and superior one.



Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of Child Development, Vol. 6 (pp. 1-60). JAI Press.

Conradty, C., & Bogner, F. X. (2022). Measuring students’ school motivation. Education Sciences, 12(6), 378.

Eliason, G. T., Lepore, M., Samide, J. (Eds.). (2019). Career development across the lifespan: counseling for community, schools, higher education, and beyond (2nd Edition). Information Age Publishing.

Gottfredson, L. S. (2002). Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription, compromise, and self-creation. In D. Brown & Associates (Eds.), Career choice and development (4th ed., pp. 85-148). Jossey-Bass.

Gould, M., & Howson, A. (2021). Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

Lapan, R. T., Marcotte, A. M., Storey, R., Carbone, P., Loehr, L. S., Guerin, D., Thomas, T., Cuffee, G. D., Coburn, A., Pfeiffer, T., Wilson, L., & Mahoney, S. (2016). Infusing career development to strengthen middle school English language arts curricula. Career Development Quarterly, 64(2), 126–139. https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12046

Lim, S. A., & You, S. (2019). Long-term effect of parents’ support on adolescents’ career maturity. Journal of Career Development, 46(1), 48–61.

Mupinga, D., & Caniglia, J. (2019). What middle school students know about careers and the influences surrounding their choices. Journal of Technology Studies, 45(1), 36–45.


Courtney Mincey 2023Courtney Mincey, Ed.D.,  is a Career Development Facilitator at Beaufort County School District and is a Master of Career Services. Contact: DrCourtneyMincey@gmail.com

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Marcela Mesa G   on Tuesday 08/08/2023 at 03:01 PM

Dr. Courtney, I can totally relate to the statements in your article: Vocational Guidance, according to my 24+ years of experience also in K-12 demonstrate to me, that it should be a topic handled within regular school curriculums, not in form of additional activities hold by career counselors, but co-created with teachers and in coherence with what goes on inside the classroom. I had quite a few very valuable experiences this respect and would love to share them with anyone interested in this important topic. Otherwise, due to some recent experiences I wonder: up to which extent is all this valuable knowledge reaching students and parents? I think indicators there are missing and I would love to get to know more about that.

Miranda Lilly   on Thursday 09/07/2023 at 09:08 AM

Courtney, I agree that the benefits of collaborating with career specialists will have a positive approach to career development for middle school students. Especially involving parent engagement. The school will be able to engage more parents into their child's career development. Not many parents know where to start when thinking about career development.

Courtney McEntee   on Thursday 09/07/2023 at 10:20 AM

Dr.Courtney, I agree with your thoughts on career development and the importance of collaboration. It is also never too early to begin this exploration.

Jaymie Johnson    on Friday 09/08/2023 at 09:01 PM

I see great value in introducing middle school students to vocational guidance. Everyone has different exposure to careers in the home, so I think schools are a great opportunity to spread knowledge about future life directions. It is interesting to think about the various ways teachers and career specialists can come together to formulate exciting and motivating lessons. Thank you for sharing your insight!

Raquel Londono   on Saturday 09/09/2023 at 10:05 AM

Great article! Helping students identify their skills and career interests in middle school will lead to more knowledgeable and confident decision making in their future career choices. As you explained, Dr. Mincey, certainly the best way to do this would be to involve their teachers and parents in collaboration with their career specialists for the best possible outcome.

Ashley Fleury    on Saturday 09/09/2023 at 12:15 PM

I love the idea of collaboration and partnerships to lead middle school students into the realm of career. When you said the importance of getting students to understand the connection between their learning and their professional future, I thought about how I could implement that into my own classroom.

Lauren Berolini   on Sunday 09/10/2023 at 09:57 AM

I agree with the need to begin focusing on career development in middle school. During my time teaching middle school, I also found that many students did not realize the importance of grades or did not fully apply themselves. I think integrating career discussions would increase students' motivation and help students realize that they have the potential to be successful in diverse realms.

Olivia Gasbarro   on Sunday 09/10/2023 at 05:26 PM

This article was very helpful! At first, I did think middle schoolers should be focusing on their high school academics, and that vocational elements may stress them out. However, after reading about the benefits it would provide middle school students, I believe it would really help for them to at least be open to the idea. Their skills can be improved at an early stage, and they will have many opportunities to practice and apply themselves to their own career paths!

Diana Doorley   on Monday 09/11/2023 at 09:15 AM

I definitely agree with you that middle schoolers can start discussing career options. They do not have to make any life decisions, but should participate in lessons that encourage them to consider their interests, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. I also loved the idea of having a career specialist come in and co-teach with the gen ed teacher. As you stated, sometimes teachers, regardless of whether or not they want to, have to stick to a rigid curriculum. By bringing in another person, you would have more flexibiliity and opportunty to do some career exploration with middle schoolers.

Brandyn Chace   on Tuesday 09/12/2023 at 07:23 AM

Great information in the article. I could not agree more having working in a middle school for 13 years, that we need to provide more opportunities for students to connect with career specialists. Especially in middle school, students do not see the value in the learning that they are doing. If as teachers, we were better able to teach students about the importance of what they are learning and possible career opportunies.

Jazlyn Contreras   on Wednesday 09/13/2023 at 08:49 PM

I think it is so important to have these conversations about professions with students. Collaborations of career service professionals, teachers, and parents for the benefit of the students as early as middle school will help them develop a strong understanding of what they may or may not want to get into! Talking about future jobs in middle school sounds intimidating and an unknown, but I agree with your article that having these conversations early on will help students get a better understanding of what steps they would need to take for their future as they get older. I wish I had more in depth conversations when I was younger about the importance of not just worrying about standardized tests!

Alexis Arruda   on Wednesday 09/13/2023 at 09:01 PM

Thank you for sharing this article. Introducing vocational guidance in a middle school setting is something that I have never even thought of, because I do not remember even seriously thinking about the topic or discussing it with anyone in middle school! I think this is such a great preparation for students to get them excited about entering high school and going further down their path in life to doing what they truly enjoy.

Cassandra Giarrusso   on Wednesday 09/13/2023 at 09:12 PM

This was a great article to read! I think that it is very important for middle schoolers to start to think about what their possible careers may be. This allows them plenty of time to think about what career might suit them the best instead of trying to force a decision within 4 years during high school. Collaboration between teachers, parents, and career specialists for students at such a young age will definitely help them succeed in their lives and career choices.

Rachel Harraka   on Thursday 09/14/2023 at 09:00 PM

Loved this article Courtney. I feel it is so important for students to have an idea, plan, or goal that will help them post school. So many students get thrown into the "real world" and are unsure of what that plan is or looks like, and starting this collaboration younger will only benefit our students and their futures.

Marilyn Santomaro   on Saturday 09/16/2023 at 06:35 PM

This article brings to light a very important subject, incorporation and collaboration with teachers, career professionals and parents for the early exploration of careers with middle school students. This collaboration helps to create a unified front amongst some of the most important people in a middle schooler's life. It helps them, as well, begin to see it is never too early to explore careers that are available to them.

Tomas McLaughlin   on Monday 10/02/2023 at 10:47 AM

I appreciate your article's focus on integrating career development into middle school education, addressing the tendency of students to prioritize grades over their future careers. Your insights on the benefits of career specialist collaboration and the crucial role of parents in shaping students' understanding of professional opportunities are valuable for creating a more engaging and effective educational experience for students.

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