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Survey Finds Teens and Young Adults Continue Putting off Career Decisions as They Progress from High School to College (COPY_1607108729094)

Survey results from 2,000 high school and college-aged teens, and young adults, across the country shows that a significant portion of students continue to delay decisions on their career choice well into their sophomore year of college. The survey, conducted by Wakefield Research for Junior Achievement USA and The Hartford, is available in a report titled Insuring Career Success: Teen Perceptions of Career Selection.

Survey participants were broken out by grade level; 500 high school juniors, 500 high school seniors, 500 college freshmen, and 500 college sophomores. The research shows how students' perceptions of career paths change over time. For instance, 44 percent of high school juniors believe a person should have a concrete career path in mind before they finish high school, yet only 16 percent of college sophomores agree. However, when asked if a person should have a concrete career goal after starting college but before graduating, 46 percent of college sophomores agreed while only 16 percent of high school juniors felt the same way.

"What this research indicates is that many young people are entering college without a clear idea of what their career goals are," said Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. "This is especially concerning given the amount of cost involved in going to college and the fact many Americans never end up working in careers related to their college degree."

Research by CareerBuilder finds that as many as a third of college graduates do not work in a job related to their college major.

Other findings from the Junior Achievement USA and The Hartford survey include:

  • When it comes to career satisfaction for their career path, two-thirds of respondents in all four groups (64%) said that "enjoying it" was their top priority, as opposed to "being good at it" (29%).
  • In terms of factors influencing their career decisions, most respondents in all four groups (80%) said they would prefer "advice from professional who work in a chosen field," compared to "advice from parents or other family members" (75%), "advice from academic counselors or advisors" (67%), "information from TV, social media or online" (41%), or "advice from friends" (38%).


The JA/The Hartford Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research ( among 500 US high school juniors, 500 US high school seniors, 500 US college freshmen and 500 US college sophomores, between August 30 and September 6, 2018, using an email invitation and an online survey.

Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 4.4 percentage points for each of the class year samples and 2.2 percentage points for the overall sample from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

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About Junior Achievement USA® (JA)

Celebrating its centennial in 2019, Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers, and provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Today, JA reaches more than 4.8 million students per year in 107 markets across the United States, with an additional 5.2 million students served by operations in 100 other countries worldwide. Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide. Visit for more information.

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