What Is Career Readiness?
(And How Do I Teach It?)

Career readiness is the process of preparing students of any age with the essential skills they need to find, acquire, maintain, and grow within a job.

Career readiness is a rarity in education because it’s one of the few subjects you can teach at any age level.

As a result, you have thousands of options at your fingertips when it comes to teaching career readiness.

Additionally, every state has different standards for what career readiness should include.

This all adds up to make career readiness a complex educational topic to grasp.

Aside from helpful resources like career readiness skills checklists, how can you approach such a new and challenging subject in education?

On this page, we’ll talk extensively about what career readiness is, why it’s important, what’s going on with state standards, and how you can teach it to different ages. 

Let’s start by keeping it simple — how do you define career readiness?

The Definition of Career Readiness


Career readiness is the education subject area that preps students with the information they need to succeed when they’re entering the job market.

Career readiness skills can apply to any job at any company and at any level. Even a student’s first job as a grocery store cashier incorporates career readiness principles, just like their career choices in adulthood. 

In that respect, career readiness covers just about everything that has to do with someone entering the job market.

It includes career exploration because students have to know what jobs are good matches for them in the future.

It includes professionalism because students need to know the behavioral expectations of a workplace versus their social group.

Career development, personal financial literacy, digital citizenship — they all play into career readiness to create a well-informed, well-rounded student who’s ready for the workforce!

An easy way to remember this is with a simple graphic.


This is just a sampling of the different topics that career readiness covers, but the point still stands.

Career readiness encompasses everything that a student needs to know to launch a successful occupational life, along with all of the accomplishment, pride, stability, and progression that entails.

Sometimes that refers to soft skills. Other times, it means learning a hard-and-fast way to perform a certain process.

But at the end of the day, career readiness promises exactly what’s in its name!

Why Does Career Readiness Matter?


Career readiness is important because it focuses on teaching the skills students need to succeed in real-world jobs.

This may sound like a no-brainer to anyone with a strong intuition for professionalism or entrepreneurship. But as traditional education has changed over time, its focus has shifted away from skills and more toward theory.

This has led to a strange problem in modern high school and college graduates — the “skills gap.”

The skills gap is the disparity between the knowledge that companies want from job applicants and what those job applicants actually know.

In other words, companies aren’t interested in teaching new employees all of the skills they need to succeed via on-the-job experience.

However, many schools aren’t currently teaching those skills to their students before they graduate.

The result is this strange difference in what business owners want and what recent graduates offer.

Career readiness closes this gap.

It takes those skills that yesteryear’s companies taught to their new hires and it teaches the skills to students in the classroom.

Career readiness goes beyond the classroom, too. It includes apprenticeships, internships, externships, co-ops, and more.

This also works side-by-side with students who may have part-time jobs in high school and / or post-secondary education.

So while a student gets their first experience in the workforce, they learn the skills that will let them take their careers further than a part-time gig.

In that context, career readiness prepares students with the skills they need to live the lives they want to pursue.

It closes the skills gap, it makes students ready for the workforce, and it gives them actionable information to use in their careers.

That makes career readiness one of the most important topics students can learn!  

It’s also why so many states — and even the federal Department of Education — are establishing their own standards for career readiness education.

What’s Happening with Career Readiness State Standards?


Career readiness has become such a major subject that the federal government has set common core standards for it.  

In addition, states have standards to teach as well.

Many state standards overlap, but no two states have the exact same career readiness standards.

On top of that, different states may require that career readiness be taught in different grades, sometimes starting as early as elementary school!

So how can you figure out what your standards are?

More importantly, how can you comply with them?

Your administrator is your best resource when it comes to figuring out your standards. Admins often have quick access to state requirements for every class they oversee.

They’re also most likely part of the decision-making process when your school determines any additional standards to adopt.

With that in mind, it should only take a couple emails to figure out which requirements you need to fulfill to create a successful career readiness class.

But what if your administrator is unavailable? Or what do you do in the unlikely event that your administrator doesn’t know what standards you have to meet?

That’s when you can reach out to colleagues who currently teach career readiness or have taught it in the past.

These colleagues can point you in the right direction, and if they can’t help, they may know someone who can!

After all, if they did it once, you can do it now!

But what if you don’t have any colleagues in your school? This is a common issue in smaller schools where career readiness may only require one teacher for a few dozen (or hundred) students.

In that case, you can start reaching out to Internet resources — especially online communities

These communities typically have teachers from all different subjects sharing ideas, practices, and strategies to get the most out of their time with students.

With administrators, colleagues, and online communities at your disposal, you should have no problem getting the career readiness standards for your state!

So now you have your standards. The hard part is over.

Now the fun part begins!

How Do You Teach Career Readiness?


Depending on your state and school, you can do a lot of different things with career readiness curriculum that’s compliant with state and federal standards.

You can always do the obvious teaching strategies that have worked so well for so long — lecturing, group work, cooperative learning, etc.

The Internet is packed with free and low-cost resources that you can pick up at any time.

The best place to find these resources is Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). TpT functions as part community and part shop for lessons, documents, and other resources that you can use for students.

These resources are almost always digital, and they come from other teachers who have invented the use of the materials and their corresponding strategies.

With all of that in mind, TpT is the ideal place for you to find affordable, tried-and-tested classroom resources for career readiness!

In addition, you can always reach out to members of your community for career readiness opportunities.

Can a local CEO find some time during the day to talk to your students about her experience in business?

Is there a career and technical center (CTC) instructor who could show students around their school for an afternoon?

Best of all, are there any companies that would be willing to offer internship opportunities to your students?

(The only catch to this idea is that your students must be of working age according to US and state law, which is typically 14.)

Where Do You Start with Career Readiness?


At Applied Educational Systems, we recommend starting your career readiness class with digital curriculum!

We’re biased — we have our own career readiness solution, which is one of the best digital curriculum options available to teachers throughout the United States.

The content is perfect for 12-to-15-year-old students who want to start their careers at the earliest possible time.

With this curriculum, you’ll be able to show students everything they need to know about professionalism, customer service, and other crucial topics.

You’ll also take a load off of planning, teaching, and assessing your students since it’s all online!

You get customization options, 24/7 accessibility, and a whole bunch of other advantages that a traditional textbook just can’t offer.

Besides, it’s the age of the Internet. Students would rather work through an interactive lesson in AES's digital curriculum than read two pages out of a textbook for homework.

Wouldn’t you?

Take a look at AES's curriculum for yourself to learn if you’re a good fit!

Learn More about AES's Digital Curriculum >