Better career guidance

A new online tool helps students envision their future.

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Published on ShowMe Mizzou August 19, 2021
Story by Jack Wax, BS Ed ’73, MS ’76, MA ’87

A crystal ball won’t do it. Neither will a traditional interest test. But a career guidance tool, researched by Patrick Rottinghaus, associate professor of education and human development, is revealing new career possibilities to middle and high school students. YouScience Discovery, an internet-based career guidance system, helps students navigate past gender stereotypes and limited life experiences to find career paths they may never have imagined for themselves.

These paths are leading more females to consider careers in engineering, more males to see themselves in patient care roles and more underprivileged youths to get on academic tracks for high-demand fields.

Rottinghaus gave YouScience Discovery’s online aptitude and interest tests to more than 7,000 students in 14 states. He found that, when students understand their aptitudes are a solid match for career success in one or more fields, their eyes open to new possibilities. “Instead of just asking about their interests, which is what they already know and are focused on, we show them they have various aptitudes and the ability to grow skills in unexplored areas,” Rottinghaus says.

Although girls and boys have similar levels of aptitudes, their interests and socialization may lead them to overlook careers in high-demand fields, such as STEM and health care. Rottinghaus’ study confirmed that it’s the difference in interest, not ability, that limits students’ academic and career paths. In his role as a career counselor, Rottinghaus has seen what can happen as students learn more about their abilities. “It gives them more confidence, helping them envision their future and be more intentional in establishing plans and connecting education to work experience.”

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