Updated: Nov 1, 2017
Career Development Education encompasses three stages that help students grow from the cognitive to the experiential:
Career Awareness: Career development begins with career awareness. Through career awareness experiences, children, teens and adults learn about the types of businesses and organizations that exist in the local, regional and national economy, about the occupations of the people who work in those businesses and organizations, about the educational steps needed to prepare for desired careers, and about the ways that people shape their career paths. They learn about trends in the labor market and jobs that are in demand in a range of occupations and industries.
Career awareness experiences begin in elementary school and continue through high school. They happen in the classroom, on field trips, after school, or in summer enrichment programs. They may be hands-on experiences or they may consist of reading or writing activities. Students begin to formulate career aspirations during the awareness phase.
As students progress in their learning and/or maturity, a deeper approach to career awareness should begin. Students should start to have more deliberate, structured college and career awareness experiences in middle school which continue through high school. Many high schools in Massachusetts offer students a range of career awareness opportunities, such as:
Taking career interest inventories/assessments
Exploring job market information through websites and publications
Listening to career speakers
Participating in a career day or career fair
Career Exploration: As students begin to identify their interests, they can learn more about specific career options through career exploration activities. Many schools and programs offer:
Career exploration workshops or classes
Opportunities for students to do “job shadows” in areas of interest
Opportunities for informational interviews with local professionals
Career-related research projects
A variety of other classroom and community projects that support career exploration
In quality CDE, career exploration is complemented by a process of reflection, supported by influential adults such as guidance counselors, advisors, classroom teachers, workplace supervisors, parents, etc. Many schools use a formal college and career planning process (also referred to as a college and career plan, an education and career plan or an individual learning plan), using print-based or electronic systems for students to track their experiences, define next steps and continually reflect on and refine their short-term and long-term goals.
Career Immersion: Through career immersion experiences, students participate directly in career-related activities. Career immersion experiences include:
In-depth work in a career-related class
Career-related clubs and after-school activities
Internships or cooperative education placements
Capstone projects focused on areas of interest
School-based volunteer work
Community-based volunteer work
After-school and summer jobs
Any other experience in which students are learning through active participation in a career-related role
These hands-on immersion experiences are complemented by formal instruction, including classes, workshops, or one-on-one coaching. Again, reflection is a key component, with students having opportunities to reflect on what they are learning to evaluate the skills they are gaining and to continually re-visit, refine and reflect on short-term and long-term goals. Quality immersion experiences in Massachusetts incorporate assessment of skill gain, most commonly with the MA Work-based Learning Plan.