The Crucial Influences on Students’ Career Choices: Parents and Experiential Learning

The journey from student life to a successful career is a pivotal transition for every young adult. It’s a phase filled with uncertainty, choices, and pivotal influences that shape one’s path. In exploring the latest findings from the Student Voice survey, we delve into the factors influencing students’ career choices, with parents emerging as a significant influence alongside the invaluable role of experiential learning. As we navigate the intricate web of career decision-making, it becomes evident that while many students are still choosing their career paths, the guidance of parents and the power of hands-on experience play pivotal roles.

Progress in Choosing a Career

Understanding where students stand in choosing their careers is crucial to deciphering the dynamics at play. The Student Voice survey reveals that while most respondents have a general career area in mind, only one in 20 students have no potential career track in mind.

The stage of career decision-making varies across different groups. For the soon-to-graduate Class of 2024, approximately one in three students are definite about their career choices, signifying a sense of readiness for the next phase of their lives. Notably, students pursuing interdisciplinary majors are less likely to have a definite career choice, emphasizing the complexity of their career exploration journey.

Career Influences

Parents, the stalwart pillars of support and guidance in a student’s life, emerge as the most prominent career influence. Across various student subgroups and institution types, parents are consistently cited as the top career influence, albeit with some nuances.

Continuing-generation students tend to rely more on their parents as career influencers than their first-generation counterparts. Similarly, traditional-age students are more inclined to consider their parents’ guidance, underscoring the enduring role of family in career decisions.

However, it’s not just parents who impact students’ career choices. The students, their professors, their peers, and their academic abilities also play pivotal roles in shaping career aspirations. The survey highlights that students with learning disabilities are more likely to consider their strengths and weaknesses when making career decisions.

Surprisingly, factors like expected salaries and the perceived job market have less influence on career decisions, ranking lower on the list. Even internships, despite being recognized as valuable experiences elsewhere in the survey, are not the primary career influencers, with only one in ten students acknowledging their impact.

Impact of Internships

While internships may not be the top career influencers, they undoubtedly hold significant value in shaping students’ career aspirations. Of the students who have participated in an internship or experiential learning, nearly six in ten state that it helped them realize their interest in a particular field. Over two in ten students credit their internship experience for helping them rule out specific career paths.

Dale McLennan, Dean of the Internship and Career Center at Endicott College emphasizes the importance of students discovering what they don’t want to do as a beneficial aspect of internships. This self-awareness allows students to pivot, change majors, or explore alternative career paths early in their academic journey.

Furthermore, internships inform students about the tasks they enjoy and those they don’t. They help students identify whether they are suited to a particular field and if they genuinely desire a specific job. These outcomes hold for students who have participated in internships, specifically underlining the positive impact of experiential learning on career preferences.

Michael Felix, Director of Career Services and Leadership Programming at Franklin Cummings Tech, highlights the success of internships embedded in the information technology and electronics program curriculum. Career exploration programs, including job shadowing, mentoring, and site visits, aim to provide students with valuable career exposure and readiness for future opportunities.

The class format appears to influence students’ takeaways from experiential learning. Students who took online and in-person classes were more likely to realize their career preferences through these experiences than those who took all their classes online.


The journey from student life to a fulfilling career is shaped by numerous influences, with parents and experiential learning emerging as prominent factors. As students navigate the intricate process of choosing their careers, it is essential to recognize the enduring role of parents in providing guidance and support. Moreover, hands-on experiences like internships are invaluable in helping students discover their passions, strengths, and areas they wish to avoid in their future careers.

While career decision-making remains complex, these influences serve as beacons of guidance and self-discovery for students. As institutions and educators emphasize the importance of experiential learning and career exploration, they empower the next generation to make informed and confident career choices, ultimately leading to a brighter future for themselves and society.

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