How To Get Started With Career Exploration Lesson Plans & Activities

Are you struggling to provide career exploration lesson plans and activities that are relevant to your middle school students? At Applied Educational Systems, we hear from hundreds of teachers across the United States that don’t have time to find relevant and engaging lessons related to career exploration.

If you are like many other middle school electives teachers, you may not be too keen to get started. Taking a moment to understand why career exploration is important can help you take your teaching to the next level in providing great support for your students.

Helping your students become aware of the seemingly endless options available can help focus their education to meet their future career goals… which is every teacher’s dream.

Why Career Exploration Lesson Plans are Important

Students are often bombarded with decisions that need to be made, which hinge on a specific career path. How can they know what courses to take in high school for a future educational goal, if they haven’t explored career options available to them?

“How do we expect young people to dream if they don’t know what they can dream about?”

That’s what America’s Promise Alliance asks on their website when talking about why career exploration matters. They also explore more in-depth reasons, such as:

  • Gives young people broader exposure to the working world they will one day enter
  • Improves academic performance
  • Improves the attitudes of young people about their career possibilities
  • Increases students’ knowledge of career options
  • Allows students to more easily envision how they fit successfully into the working world
  • Encourages students to plan their high school courses of study carefully to gain the skills they will need

Why Career Exploration Lesson Plans are Critical

Where to Find Career Exploration Activities and Lessons

Even if you know how important it is to teach career exploration and awareness to your students, you still have a big hurdle of actually teaching it. Many elective teachers we work with have been told: “You are teaching career readiness this year” with no previous experience and no existing lessons or activities. Luckily, there are many places to find career exploration lesson ideas. Here are a few you should check out:

Teachers Pay Teachers

Teachers Pay Teachers is a community of educators who share their work and insights with one another. It’s an open marketplace where teachers share, sell, and buy educational resources from each other.

Among the millions of resources, there are quite a number specifically for teaching career exploration. The options range from Free to over $15, depending on the resource.

Get started with Teachers Pay Teachers here: Teachers Pay Teachers – Career Exploration Resources

CareerCenter21 Digital Curriculum

The CareerCenter21 digital curriculum has a full module for Career Development. Within the module, there are two units to walk students through the career planning process.

In Unit 1: “Career Exploration and Research,” your students learn basic definitions and why career planning is important. Then the students perform a self-assessment and based on that they explore and research several occupations. After researching the occupations, students select one that most interests them.

After choosing the occupation, students start Unit 2: “Career Goals and Barriers.” In this unit, students define career goals to achieve the selected occupation. While doing this, they explore career clusters and pathways associated with the occupation. Then students investigate barriers they may face along the way, and define further goals to overcome these barriers.

Learn more about CareerCenter21 here: Career Readiness Curriculum for Middle Schools

Other Online Resources for Career Exploration

There are many other online resources for teaching career exploration to middle school students. Here are a few more you should consider including in your curriculum:

  • has as few relevant activities that use the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook as a starting point. Here’s one to have students research different careers: Choosing a Career
  • CareerOneStop has an “Explore Careers” section that includes a few self-assessments and provides information for learning about and planning careers.

How to Incorporate Career Readiness Lessons into Your Classroom

 How to incorporate career readiness lessons into your middle school classroom

Once you have accumulated curriculum and resources to teach the topic of career readiness and exploration… how do you actually teach the content?

Kelsey Kemp from Osceola County Schools in Florida has found a way to perfectly balance career readiness with her other classroom topics.

Kelsey teaches “Computing for College and Career” and “Business Leadership Skills” to eighth graders at Parkway Middle School. She makes sure to mix the career exploration and other career readiness focused content into her standard lessons.

“At our school, we are really pushing the college and career readiness, which I love. And most of my courses intertwine with that whole mindset.”

So what do Kelsey’s career lesson plans look like? She heavily focuses on a blended learning approach, and covers both hard and soft skills. The majority of student work is done on the computer, but she also includes other activities and projects to keep it interesting.

Bellwork is done electronically, followed by a short class discussion to review recently covered topics. The heart of the class is when students log on to CareerCenter21 to learn content, practice skills, and take quizzes. Kelsey then further reinforces the content with the presentations provided in the system:

“There are such wonderful PowerPoints with the system for almost all of the lessons. I use those for review and discussion of the curriculum again with the class.”

Classroom Activity Idea to Further Connect with Career Exploration

One great activity Kelsey incorporates in her Business Leadership Skills class is an elevator speech based on the career research completed in earlier classes. Students pick one potential career they are interested in to complete the activity:

“The premise is that they’ve already done all of the schooling. They have all of the requirements, they have the training… and they have just run into the CEO or manager of this dream job. They have 30-60 seconds to pitch themselves to this person, because it’s a once in a lifetime chance. So I’m tying that in with career development because they’re already researching and investigating what has to happen to get into the career or into that field.”

She sees this as a fun break from the normal lessons. They break into small groups and practice their speeches to each other.

Kelsey’s approach shows that any teacher can use whatever resources they choose to provide great career exploration lessons that keep students engaged. If you would like to learn more about the Career Development Curriculum that Kelsey uses in her classroom, click here: Career Readiness Curriculum How-To’s from a Middle School Teacher

Career Readiness Skills for Middle School