Career Readiness Starts in Middle School

November 29, 2018

With the ever-growing pressure to succeed in high school and become what society deems as “college and career ready”, students are feeling a dramatic increase in the need to strive for greatness.  From standardized testing to placement and entrance exams, to the overall pressure to excel inside and outside the classroom, most people would agree that the process of preparing for post-secondary education has become too complicated. Simply put, preparing for the future is more stressful than it has ever been for today’s youth.  Opportunities are not readily available, and resources for students are often limited or unknown altogether. This is where we, as educators, parents, and mentors, come into the picture. We must seize the opportunity to grab hold of our young people and instill in them, the knowledge we wish we had at their age.  All young people really need to become “college and career ready” is guidance on the fundamental steps to take toward success. And we owe them the tools needed to take those first steps. The sooner we plant those seeds of knowledge in today’s students, the more likely they will be able to forge their own pathway toward a rewarding and successful career.

Some would argue that middle school students are far too young for a meaningful discussion about careers and post-secondary education. However, the earlier a student begins preparing for their career, the more opportunities they will have to steer their education in a direction that aligns with that path.

Think about it…if you had more career exposure, to a variety of realistic choices early on, would that not better prepare you for success? The earlier you can get kids thinking about their next step, the better. Being goal oriented is fantastic, but it’s most pragmatic when those goals pertain to a future discipline.  Middle school students have an advantage over high school students because they can strategically select their high school, their courses, their electives, and even their after-school activities. Instituting career readiness programs in middle school gets students thinking about their secondary education and post-secondary opportunities. Having had an early opportunity to formulate their own idea of what a rewarding career might be, students form a level of ownership over their career goals that other students feel is controlled by their parents.

At CORA, our staff feels strongly that students should be given a multitude of experiences, including the opportunity to become familiar with their career interests as early as possible.  Students need to familiarize themselves with what avenues are out there, as well as get the chance to recognize their own personal interests and strengths. This will reinforce their decision-making ability when transitioning to post-secondary education. The unique opportunity to explore career choices in middle school can be found at CORA’s Career Development Resource Center (CDRC), which falls under the umbrella of CORA’s Community Services Division. CDRC, a unique hands-on career exploration workshop facility for youth, is located on the first floor of the CORA administration building on Verree Road in Northeast Philadelphia.  7th and 8th-grade students from parochial schools in the Philadelphia area, visit CORA for one or two-day career development workshops.  CDRC is a facility specifically adapted to engage middle school students towards becoming proactively involved in their ongoing career preparation. Through facilitated discussions and a career interest survey, CRDC staff help students to critically evaluate how individual interests, values, and skills connect to a career. They equip students with profiles on selected careers and a roadmap to develop their own career plan that links interests, aspirations, skills, and education. Each participant then enjoys hands-on work experience through a self-guided workstation.

Philadelphia non-public schools may request CORA as their service provider through the School District of Philadelphia Intermediate Unit’s annual contract process. Contact CORA to discuss benefits to your school.

CORA Career Resource Development Center Team


For more information on career readiness in middle school and how middle school students can benefit from early exposure to career and post-secondary opportunities, please visit:


Choice Schools Associates. (2016, September 28). How Career Days Can Develop a Passion. Retrieved from

Cook, N. (2014, May 14). Is 8th Grade Too Early to Pick a Career? Retrieved from

Garcia, E. (2017, March). Career Development in Middle School to Prepare for High School, College and a Career. Retrieved from

Garza, R., & Swisher, A. (2017, October 18). A Step in the Right Direction: Career Exploration in Middle School. Retrieved from

Lanham, L. (2017, May 1). A Process for Guiding Middle School Students Through Career Exploration. Retrieved from

Lauterbach, C. (2017, March 24). 6 Tactics to Get Students Excited About Career Exploration. Retrieved from

Sanders, C., Welfare, L. E., & Culver, S. (2017). Career Counseling in Middle Schools: A Study of School Counselor Self-Efficacy. Retrieved from

The Forgotten Middle – (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ting, S., Leung, Y., Stewart, K., Smith, A., Roberts, G., & Dees, S. (2012). A Preliminary Study of Career Education in Middle School. Journal of Career and Technical Education, 27(2). doi:1531-4952


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