Increasing number of Korean kids don’t know what they want to be when they grow up

Posted on : 2023-11-28 16:49 KST Modified on : 2023-11-28 17:30 KST
A new survey showed “doctor” as an increasingly popular career aspiration, while civil service appears to be waning in popularity
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

In a survey investigating the career aspirations of elementary school students in Korea, “doctor” jumped to second place, two spots higher than its ranking in 2022.

The number of students who want to work in emerging industries, such as life sciences or software development, is also increasing.

At the same time, the number of students stating that they have no career aspirations is also on the rise.

The results of a survey by the Ministry of Education and the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET) on the current status of career development in secondary schools were released on Sunday. The study surveyed a total of 38,302 students, parents, and teachers from 1,200 elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide from June 5 to July 18.

The Ministry of Education and KRIVET have conducted the survey every year since 2007 to gain insight into the overall status and perceptions of career development in elementary, middle and high schools.

The results of the 2023 survey showed that the most coveted job for elementary students was “athlete” (13.4%), the same as 2022. “Doctor” came in second place at 7.1%, up two places from its position in fourth place last year. “Teacher” came in third, and the fourth place was taken by “content creator.”

For middle school students, the top career choice was “teacher” (9.1%), with second place going to “doctor” (6.1%), consistent with the year prior. Third and fourth places were taken by “athlete” and “police officer/investigator,” respectively.

Among high school students, the most popular vocation was “teacher” (6.3%), followed by “nurse” (5.9%) and “life scientist/researcher” (3.7%). Among high school students, the popularity of becoming a doctor rose from seventh place in 2022 to fifth place this year, reflecting how many students are leaning toward the medical field when it comes to career aspirations.

A strong preference for careers related to emerging industries, such as computer engineering and life science, was also apparent. Among high school students, the popularity of the “life scientist/researcher” career path jumped from No. 9 on the rankings in 2022 to No. 3 this year, while “computer engineer/software developer” rose from fifth place to fourth place.

The ministry said the percentage of students who want to work in emerging industries by becoming life scientists, web developers/operators, information technology engineers, computer/mobile game developers, and computer engineers/software developers, has increased by 1.5 times among middle school students and tripled among high school students compared to 2013.

“It seems that students’ interests have diversified in line with societal changes,” said an official from KRIVET who was involved in the survey.

Civil service, on the other hand, has seen waning popularity as a career path, dropping out of the top 10 in all the surveys. In 2022, it ranked 10th among middle school students’ career aspirations, but this year it dropped to 17 on the list.

The percentage of students who say they have no career aspirations has also steadily increased. Of those surveyed, 20.7% of elementary school students, 41% of middle school students, and 25.5% of high school students reported not yet having a career goal. This compares to 19.3% of elementary school students, 38.2% of middle school students, and 27.2% of high school students in 2022, meaning that only high school students showed a slight decrease in lack of career aspiration.

These percentages have been steadily increasing since 2015, when 9.7% of elementary school students, 27% of middle school students, and 18.3% of high school students reported having no career goals.

When students were asked why they lacked career goals, the most common response was “I don’t know what I like yet,” with 43.9% of elementary school students, 54.6% of middle school students, and 40.2% of high school students responding as such. The second answer that gained the most responses was, “I still don’t know what I’m good or bad at.”

By Kim Min-je, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories