Young adults don't settle on a career until much later than you may think

At 25, nearly 40% have changed their plan

Many adults do not settle on a career decision until they are at least 25, according to a new survey.

Every two years from 2000 to 2010, researchers from Statistics Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada collected responses from the same 11,011 individuals who were 15 when the "Youth in Transition Survey" began.

From the start, the participants were asked about their career expectations. The report found few 25-year-old adults maintained the same goals they held as teenagers.

A chancellor's case for pursuing your passion

At the conclusion of the survey:

  • 10% of respondents remained steady in their aspirations since they were 15;
  • 6.9% made their choice when they were 17;
  • 15.9% maintained their expectations from 21; and
  • 16% made a decision when they were 23.

At 25, about 13% were still unsure of what career they wanted, while 38.3% were pursuing a new one.

Other factors at play

Consistent career plans were correlated with family income, likelihood to achieve a bachelor's degree, and parental views on college.

Individuals from higher-income families were more likely to have consistent career plans. Of those with a high socioeconomic status, 13.6% followed their career plan from 15, while that rate dropped to just 7.9% for those from low-income families. Similarly, those with greater household incomes were less likely than those with low incomes to still be undecided at 25. 

Similarly, those who were consistent in their career plans from ages 15 and 17 were more likely to enroll in college within 15 months of high school graduation. Furthermore, all of the individuals who showed consistency at any point in the survey were more likely to earn their bachelor's degree by 25, compared with those who were still undecided at the end of the survey.

The views of parents on college education also affected respondents' career choices. Of those whose parents supported earning a postsecondary degree:

  • Just 36.9% were changing careers; and
  • 12.4% were undecided.

Meanwhile, of those whose parents did not place an emphasis on a college:

  • 46.8% were changing careers; and
  • 19.4% were undecided ("The Daily," Statistics Canada, 1/27).

The takeaway: Many young adults do not know what career they want to pursue—even by age 25.

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