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Middle School Career Day Ideas

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson provides several ideas for organizing a Career Day at the middle school level, along with pros and cons of each, and tips for making the experience a valuable learning experience for students.

Why Have a Career Day in Middle School?

It is good for students to begin exploring career possibilities as early as possible. By middle school, many students are aware of their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. They may already have some ideas about what kind of career they might like in the future.

It's worthwhile to use instructional time at school to allow students the opportunity to learn more about a career or explore their many options if they haven't thought about a career yet. There are several ways a middle school could have a career day depending on its student body and administrative guidelines.

Job Shadowing

One way to have a Career Day at a middle school is to have a designated day for the school, grade level, or specific class, where students are encouraged to find someone who has the job that they are interested and to shadow, or follow them for a day. Participating students should be given an assignment, such as interview questions or an essay assignment, to complete and turn in after this experience. It is important to hold participating students accountable so this day is not treated like a day off.

It is necessary to have administrative approval for this kind of event, because participating students would need to be excused for their absence. The more structured the assignment is, the more likely it will be viewed as a worthwhile reason to spend the day off-site. It is also very important the the plans and expectations for this day are communicated clearly to parents.

This option works best if the majority of the target group is able to participate because it is difficult for teachers to continue teaching when half the class is missing. Ideally, most students would participate and be off campus for the day and the nonparticipating students remaining at school might do a completely different activity rather than have a regular lesson that day.

One possible drawback to this kind of activity is that not every student will know someone with the career they are most interested in, so the most likely outcome is that they will shadow a parent or close adult regardless of their career, which could have various levels of student interest.

Guest Speakers and Demonstrations

Another way to have a Career Day at the middle school level is to have the careers come to you. The school or specific grade-level or class could have a designated day where guests come to speak or perform demonstrations relating to their careers. Ideally, a school would have multiple speakers come that day so students can be divided and rotate among them. The smaller the groups, the more engaging the experience is likely to be.

A park ranger speaks to a class about his job
Park ranger

This option may be preferable for a lot of schools because the students remain on campus and supervised by teachers. There are more structured assignments and activities and it is easier to take accurate attendance, all while students are still learning about a variety of careers.

A drawback to this model is that the students are limited to only learning about the careers of the guest speakers, who may not have careers that interest them. It may be difficult for teachers to secure enough speakers to keep the experiences manageable and engaging. If the speakers need to be paid, this could become a costly enterprise for the school. It is a good idea to recruit parents of the students to volunteer to give presentations about their jobs.

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