Overview and Features of Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Models

Counselors and teachers know that the elementary/ middle school development is important. Schooling is a time of transition, a threshold to the student's future, and a bridge into the student's destiny. In elementary/ middle school, career development is a time to build career awareness, not a time for premature career choices or career preparations. Career development is an ongoing lifelong process. During the career development process, students remain open to new career ideas and possibilities. Counselors and teachers build readiness for future career planning. Students build visions of what they desire to do in their lives as they contribute to the society.

Need for Elementary/ Middle school Career Development

Since most elementary and middle school students have limited understanding of how school relates to work, students use career development curriculum to build a foundation and the connection between career development, Twenty-First Century Skills, school academic subjects, potential careers, and future training options. As a result, students build self - awareness, possess intrinsic motivation, build a positive self-concept, and begin problem solving about career choices.

Benefits of Elementary/ Middle School Career Development

Elementary/ middle school career development lays the groundwork for future career exploration by helping students achieve the following goals:

Knowledge of personal characteristics, interests, aptitudes, and skills
Awareness of and respect for the diversity of the world of work
Understanding of the relationship between school performance and future choices
Development of a positive attitude toward work

Students who complete career development activities have the following positive outcomes:

Expanded understanding of the world of work leading to an openness to an increased number potential careers
Improved skills to make informed decisions and complex career information problem solving
Enhanced academic, personal, and teamwork skill development
Amplified career awareness, self-esteem, sense of direction, motivation to persist, clearly defined goals

Eventually, as students participate in career curriculum programs, the number of dropouts is minimized.

Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Models

There are 4 major career development models:

National Career Development Guidelines
21st Century Skills
New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards
Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program

National Career Development Guidelines

The National Career Development Guidelines (NCDG) determine career development knowledge, skills, and decision-making processes. The NCDG Guidelines have three domains, goals, and mastery indicators.

The three domains are:

Personal Social Development (PS)
Educational Achievement and Lifelong Learning (ED)
Career Management (CM)

The learning competency stages are:

Knowledge Acquisition (K). Students at the knowledge acquisition stage expand knowledge awareness and build comprehension. They recall, recognize, describe, identify, clarify, discuss, explain, summarize, query, investigate and compile new information about the knowledge.
Application (A). Students at the application stage apply acquire knowledge to situations and to self. They seek out ways to use the knowledge. For example, they demonstrate, employ, perform, illustrate and solve problems related to the knowledge.
Reflection (R). Students at the reflection stage analyze, synthesize, judge, assess and evaluate knowledge in accord with their own goals, values and beliefs. They decide whether or not to integrate the acquired knowledge into their ongoing response to situations and adjust their behavior accordingly.

An example of the Personal Social Development domain is:

PS1.K2 Identify your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
PS1.A2 Demonstrate use of your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
PS1.R2 Assess the impact of your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents on your career development.

21st Century Skills Model

The 21st Century Model and Skills is the collaboration of the efforts of education, business, and government organizations. These organizations create a 21st Century Learning Framework that outlines the essential learning, innovation, technology, and career skills necessary to be successful in the today's workplace. A rich, well-designed learning environment promotes creating, applying, remembering, analyzing, understanding, and evaluating processes. The 21st Century Model seeks the development of knowledge, skills, motivations, values, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, health, safety, resilience, and other qualities.

The three major 21st Century Model main skill areas are:

Learning and innovation
Digital literacy skills
Career and life skills

Within the Career and Life Skills area, the focus is on:

Flexibility and adaptability
Initiative and self - direction
Social and cross-cultural interaction
Productivity and accountability
Leadership and responsibility

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards

The New Jersey Department of Education Content Standards connect the 21st Century Model and elementary/ middle school career development.

In K-5 grades, students learn the interrelationship between 21st Century life skills and personal, academic, and social development. Curriculum areas range from career awareness information and to basic personal financial literacy skills.
The development of 21st Century life skills and personal financial literacy continues in the grades 6-8. Students explore careers, academic and personal interests and aptitudes.

The New Jersey Department of Education has four career development standards:

Standards 9.1, 9.2, and 9.3 cover life and career skills within the K-12 curriculum.
Standard 9.4 includes specialized, career and technical education program skills in grades 9-12 curriculum.

These standards cover the following areas:

Career Awareness (grades K-4)
Career Exploration (grades 5-8)
Career Preparation (grades 9-12)

An example of one of the objectives is:

Standard 9.3 - Apply knowledge about and engage in the process of career awareness, exploration, and preparation in order to navigate the globally competitive work environment of the information age.

Examples of Standard 9.3 are:

9.3.4.A.4 Identify qualifications needed to pursue traditional and nontraditional careers and occupations.
9.3.4.A.5 Locate career information using a variety of resources
9.3.4.A.6 Explain why knowledge and skills acquired in the elementary grades lay the foundation for the future academic and career success

Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program

The Missouri Center for Career Education (MCCE) is a career and technical education curriculum, research, professional development, and innovative instructional resource center.

The Missouri Center for Career Education (MCCE) Guidance Lessons (Strands) are:

Academic Development
Career Development
Personal and Social Development

Within each Strand CD: Career Development area, the Big Ideas are:

Big Idea: CD.7. Applying Career Exploration and Planning Skills in the Achievement of Life Career Goals
Big Idea: CD 8. Knowing Where and How to Obtain Information about the World of Work and Post-secondary Training/Education
Big Idea: CD.9. Applying Employment Readiness Skills and the Skills for On-The-Job Success

The Big Ideas serve as the foundation for building curriculum concepts and behavioral objectives.

Examples of CD.7 Big Idea are:

Compare interests and strengths with those of workers in the global community.
Describe occupational changes that have occurred over time within the six (6) career paths.
Describe the self-satisfaction that comes from completing a work responsibility.

Tips for Finding the Right Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Program

Based upon the National Career Development Guidelines, 21st Century Skills, New Jersey Department of Education Content Standards, and Missouri Center for Career Education (MCCE), the key elements of career curriculum provide information on the relationship between job interests, key characteristics, college majors, hobbies, abilities, and related careers.

Teachers and counselors know that students:

Are curious
Love colorful, multimedia presentations
Use colors to improve attention span, concentration, memory skills, and understanding
Use their senses and imaginations in career exploration

Counselors and teachers utilize career development programs to help students:

Discover career interests
Build awareness of career interests, abilities, skills, and values
Search for meaning, purpose, and direction
Discover potential careers that are linked to children's identified interests
Understand the relationship between education, training, and specific occupations
Search for tools that will help students plan for the future and unlock their potentials
Clarify thoughts, integrate new knowledge, and promote critical thinking
Receive new information so that the concepts are more thoroughly and easily understood
Hold attention and absorb information

Elementary/ middle development curriculum includes career tests, assessments, games, web sites, and books. Programs should be fun, educational, and not boring. Career development program are:

Eye appealing
Easy to use
Full of resources
Suitable for your students' needs

An effective career development tool motivates your students to explore careers. Creative career tools build a foundation for more detailed career exploration. Career development lessons should answer the question "Who am I?" and "What should I do as an adult?"

With the right resource, students are ready and willing to:

Ask questions
Enjoy discovering who they are
Gain knowledge, wisdom, and understanding

Steps to Select the Right Elementary/ Middle School Career Development Program

How do you choose the right career development program? Look at 3 major areas:


When you look at a career development curriculum, ask yourself the following questions:

What do your students prefer?
What is your budget for the curriculum?
What resources do you have? Do you have a computer lab?

Then, follow these steps:

Select an elementary/ middle school career development program that your students are interested in and that provides valuable information about careers and your student's interests.
Look for career development lessons that use well-known career models.

As students grow older, the students will continue to use career models to eventually expand their knowledge of self, careers and college majors.

In summary, when they use career development curriculum, students:

Learn and apply the academic material
Know and value self
Build self-esteem and confidence
Identify interests and build relationships between the school environment and the work force
Incorporate academic career pathways into classroom activities
Build academic, communication, problem solving, and social skills
Increase awareness of the need for future jobs skills
See the connections between learning in school, academic skills, job related skills, and careers
See career possibilities
See themselves as a future contributor to the job force
Receive empowerment
Build self-determination

As a result of completing the career development lessons, students have:

Higher grades
Higher academic achievement
Improved school involvement
Increase in career awareness exploration, personal, and interpersonal skills


Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program. (2011). Strands, Big Ideas & Concepts. Warrensburg, MO: Author. Available online: http://www.missouricareereducation.org/index.php?view=project&project=guidelsn. Access date: October 3, 2011.

National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (NOICC) (1987). National Career Development Guidelines. National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, 2100 M Street NW, Suite 156, Washington, Dc 20037.

New Jersey Department of Education. (2009). NJ World Class Standards Content Area: 21st-Century Life and Careers. Trenton, NJ: Author. Available online: http://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/progressions/9/. Access date: November 10, 2011.

Trilling, B., and Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills. Learning for Life in Our Times. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.