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Elementary School Career Development Programs
April 2018


What does the research say about effective career development programs and curricula for elementary school students?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Hanover Research. (2012). Effective career awareness and development programs for K–8 students. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
In this report, Hanover Research examines the importance of career development programs for elementary and middle school students, as well as effective practices in the delivery of career-focused educational programs. The report draws on a review of the literature, as well as case examples from across the nation and Texas, specifically.

Mariani, M., Berger, C., Koerner, K., & Sandlin, C. (2018). Operation Occupation: A college and career readiness intervention for elementary students. Professional School Counseling, 20(1). Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
This article describes efforts undertaken to design, deliver, and evaluate a college and career readiness (CCR) unit for fifth-grade students. Preliminary findings from the school counselor-developed and -delivered intervention, Operation Occupation, supported interdisciplinary efforts between counselors and classroom teachers. Pre- and post-intervention perception data revealed that students increased their knowledge and skills related to CCR. Teachers also reported positive perceptions about the experience. The article shares implications for school counselors.

Porfeli, E. J., & Lee, B. (2012). Career development during childhood and adolescence. New Directions for Youth Development, 134, 11–22. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
Identity development is central to the career development of children and adolescents. This article reviews the literature pertaining to identity development as being composed of career exploration, commitment, and reconsideration and offers some implications for career interventions.

Pulliam, N., & Bartek, S. (2018). College and career readiness in elementary schools. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 10(3), 355–360. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
This conceptual article will provide an in-depth exploration of the relevant literature focused on college and career readiness interventions in elementary schools. Beginning with a theoretical framework, a rationale is provided for early intervention by elementary school counselors. While professional guidelines and standards exist to support early college and career readiness interventions, research outlining evidence-based practices at the elementary level is scarce. Existing practices used by school counselors are outlined.

Wood, C., & Kaszubowski, Y. (2008). The career development needs of rural elementary school students. Elementary School Journal, 108(5), 431–444. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
This exploratory study investigated the career development needs of 150 fourth-grade students from 2 rural school districts in the Midwestern United States. The Childhood Career Development Scale (CCDS) was administered in 6 classrooms at 2 elementary schools to assess Donald Super’s 9 dimensions (information, curiosity, exploration, interests, locus of control, key figures, time perspective, planning, and self-concept) of career development in the growth stage (the period when students fantasize and develop likes/dislikes and abilities/potential relating to careers). Results on the CCDS indicated that students’ lowest scores were in the areas of curiosity, information, time perspective, and key figures. Males had lower curiosity scores than female students. Implications for career development efforts at the classroom and program level are discussed.

Other Resources

Junior Achievement Programs

From the Website:
Our programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.

National Career Development Association, Internet Sites for Career Planning

From the Website:
The Internet offers us, as career development professionals, a huge variety of resources to use as we work with students and clients. There are so many, in fact, that searching for the best or most useful ones can take many hours of online research. It is our hope that we have done most of the preliminary work for you. We have undertaken a time-consuming effort to collect, organize, curate, and publish online, a listing of free, current, and credible resources that are available on the Internet and are useful to career counselors, coaches, and specialists as they work with clients. The point is to list the best resources, as determined by a group of capable volunteers, not necessarily all possible ones.

In addition to the professional judgment of the volunteers, specific criteria were used for acceptance. Sites included should:

• Follow the mission of NCDA which is ‘to inspire and empower individuals to achieve their career and life goals’ and may not violate the NCDA non-discrimination policy
• Be viewable by anyone with Internet access without any major or substantial services requiring payment (in other words, the critical information is free)
• Contain accurate, factual, unbiased, and current information
• Have strong and obvious relevance to career development
• Be easy and clear to navigate
• Provide information of use to the client
• Be professionally prepared and executed


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Career OR Vocation OR Work, Elementary, Curriculum, Preparation OR Awareness OR Development

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.