Focused Career Choices: How Teacher Educators Can Assist Students with Purposeful Career Decision-Making throughout a Teacher Education Program

May 2011

Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Spring 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this paper, the authors illuminate aspects of career choice and conflict for teacher education students seeking initial Licensure. They also address foundational knowledge on career decision-making.

The authors review studies to understand why people decide to pursue a career in teaching, despite the high turnover in this profession. They found that the majority of teachers pursued a career in teaching because they wanted to work with young people. Other reasons people choose this field include the following: valuing education, subject matter interest, influence of prior teachers, summers off, influence of family members, job security, and finally self-growth. 

Another study emphasized that it is not just the teacher education program that affects career decisions, but also the local schools in which students complete their practice teaching.

Furthermore, students have misconceptions about the teaching profession. They expected to have independence and autonomy to teach as they saw fit when they got their own classrooms and became “real” teachers. This is, of course, anything but the reality they will face in the era of accountability ushered in with No Child Left Behind.


The Teacher Life Cycle
The authors advice teacher educators to help students grasp the concept of a lifetime in teaching by distinguishing the teaching life cycle. In this way, they may begin to understand how their attitudes and approaches to teaching may change as they age. 

Career Education for Teachers: What the Research Recommends
The authors review the work of Hirschi and Läge (2007), who identified six stages which include: awareness about career decision making, exploration regarding career options per one’s interests and attributes, reduction of possibilities to focus on in-depth investigation of a select few, making a decision, confirmation of the choice and making a commitment, and finally being firmly committed after the choice is made.

However, Hartung, and Blustein (2002) created an integrated decision-making model, which is oriented around four goals. First, ways of making decisions are emphasized that enable participants to pay attention to the contextual factors in their lives. In the second goal, students are taught the skills and knowledge that will help them make appropriate career decisions for a global and changing world. In the third goal, the program seeks to help students make decisions about their futures; it also attempts to enhance students’ reading and writing skills. The fourth goal is social justice.


Suggestions for Teacher Education Curriculum
Teacher educators can require students to engage in direct reflection and engagement with career choice. A number of options are available to infuse career decision-making into the teacher education curriculum. The authors suggest two approaches, including individual assignments dispersed throughout the program, and a course or seminar devoted to in-depth career exploration. 

Potential Program
The authors suggest a template, based on the undergraduate major at their, for a career advisory strand as part of a teacher education program. As the prior research has indicated, effective career education should include self-directed investigation, direct instruction, job shadowing, and career-assessment inventories as well as instruction in handling the stress of teaching.


The authors conclude that the literature reviewed indicates that direct career decision-making is either not being frequently conducted within teacher education programs or it is not seen as an important aspect of research. 

This paper argues that a teacher education program should be such an inviting and trustworthy place, where students can engage in quiet or in conversation to ensure that they are pursuing the career that is right for them.

Hartung, P. J., & Blustein, D. L. (2002) Reason, intuition, and social justice: Elaborating on Parson’s career decision-making model. Journal of Counseling & Development, 80(1) 41-47.
Hirschi, A., & Läge, D. (2007). The relation of secondary students’ career-choice readiness to a six-phase model of career decision making. Journal of Career Development, 34, 164-191. 

Updated: Feb. 18, 2018