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U.S. Adults Say Medicine, Tech Are Top Career Options

U.S. Adults Say Medicine, Tech Are Top Career Options

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 14% recommend medical career to men; 24% to women
  • Just over one in 10 recommend tech career to both sexes
  • About one in five suggest that young adults follow their interests

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are still most likely to recommend that young adults in the U.S. pursue a profession in the medical field, as they have since 2005. Fourteen percent advise young men to seek a career in medicine, while about one in four make the same recommendation to young women. Among the 24% suggesting a medical career for women, 6% specifically advise a career in nursing. Similar percentages of U.S. adults recommend technology jobs for men (13%) and women (11%).

Top Five Careers Recommended for Young Men and Women in 2017
Supposing a young man/woman came to you for advice on choosing a line of work or career. What kind of work or career would you recommend?
Recommendations for young men Recommendations for young women
% %
Doctor/Medical field/Nursing 14 24
Technology/Electronics/Computers 13 11
Trades/Industrial/Blue collar 9 5
Business/Self-employed/Sales 7 5
Engineering 5 3
GALLUP, March 9-29, 2017

These findings are from a March 9-29 Gallup poll, based on a question Gallup first asked in 1949. Gallup historically asked about career advice only for young men, but began including women in 1950 and routinely has done so since 1985. The latest findings come as the U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 4.5%, its lowest since May 2007.

Apart from recommending specific career fields, nearly one in five Americans say young men (19%) and women (18%) should work in a field they like or that they are going to school for. These percentages are a bit higher than they have been over the past couple of decades. Gallup did not specifically code such responses until 1998, so it is unclear how many gave this response before that.

After declining in the 1980s and 1990s, the medical field re-emerged as a suggested career in the 2000s, with steady increases for both men and women. Recommendations for women to enter the field peaked at 37% in 2009. In contrast, men were once much more likely to be told a career in medicine was best than they are now, with about three in 10 Americans recommending the medical profession to men from 1949 to 1973 -- versus the current 14%. The latest figures for the medical field as a recommended career represent double-digit drops for both men and women, although they remain the top choices.

Medical Field as a Suggested Career, for Men and Women

Among medical-field suggestions, nursing makes up a sizable percentage of recommendations for women, but this is not the case for men. Nursing was the top recommended career for women in 1950, at 28%, and has ranged from 4% to 13% in polls since.

Blue-Collar Job Recommendations on the Rise for Men

From 1949 to 1973, from 9% to 19% of Americans recommended that young men seek a profession in law or government. During this same period, blue-collar jobs -- including industrial, trade and construction jobs -- received few if any mentions.

While blue-collar fields remained fairly low in recommendations throughout the 1980s and 1990s, jobs in these sectors took on new popularity at the dawn of the new millennium, with 7% suggesting them to young men in 2001. Recommendations for these jobs have not diminished since, with 12% in 2017 advising young men to take a blue-collar job -- the highest in Gallup's trend.

Meanwhile, law and government jobs have never regained their prominence in Americans' career advice, with just 3% to 5% recommending such jobs to young men since 1985.

For Men, Careers in Law and Government Become Less Recommended as Blue-Collar Jobs Become More Suggested

Once Popular Recommendations, Few Suggest Teaching, Secretarial Jobs to Women

When Gallup first asked about advice for young women in 1950, teaching (16%) and secretarial jobs (8%) were among the top careers Americans named. Recommendations for a secretarial job have steadily waned since, holding at 1% since 2009.

Teaching, as a suggested profession, dropped to 4% in 1985 but saw 6% to 9% mentions from 1998 to 2009. But the latest survey finds that just 3% of Americans now recommend it as a career to young women.

Fewer Americans Recommend Teaching and Secretarial Jobs to Women Than They Did Several Decades Ago

Bottom Line

With the U.S. unemployment rate at its lowest since 2007, Americans are more inclined than they have been in the past to advise young people to seek careers that suit them best, rather than make a specific recommendation. This could reflect a number of changes in the nation's job market -- the rise of the gig economy, in which short-term and freelance work is common, uncertainty for the future of some fields, or a growing tendency for people to change jobs multiple times in their career.

Despite a changing job market, the medical field remains prominent as a recommended career, as it has for several decades. But career advice, in general, has changed over time, often as a result of shifting gender expectations in the workplace. Americans had different advice for young women in 1950 than they do now -- their suggestions for women's jobs are much more on par with their suggestions for men. But men, too, are receiving different advice than they did back then, with Americans more likely to recommend a blue-collar job now than at any point in Gallup's trend.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 9-29, 2017, with a random sample of 737 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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