I want to be a police officer: teens still aspire to frontline public sector jobs, OECD data shows


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Fifteen-year-old students surveyed in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment still see their futures in roles that usually sit within the public sector. Like with previous generations, many aspire to careers as police, teachers and nurses. Mainstays like careers in law and medicine are still popular too. Slightly less popular, but still in the top 10, were careers in policy and planning.

The PISA 2018 assessment has been criticised for creating an illusion of educational quality, but what can’t be denied from its data are the expectations that the students have for themselves. The PISA questionnaire asks students what kind of jobs they expect to have when they’re 30 years old to enable researchers and policymakers to identify where the expectations, skills and prospects are misaligned, as well as potential for growth and likelihood of succumbing to automation. The report authors say this could help young people discover, pursue and secure careers in which they might be successful:

“Across the world, young people who leave education today are entering the labour market with often considerably more years of schooling than their parents or grandparents had when they started working,” the report notes. “And yet, young people continue to struggle in the labour market, employers continue to complain that they cannot find the new talent they need, and governments continue to worry about the mismatch between what the labour market demands and what the education system supplies. The bottom line is that, for young people, academic success alone is not sufficient to ensure easy transitions into good employment.”

The report also notes that some 25% of students, on average across OECD countries, provide only vague answers to the question about their career expectations, and disadvantaged students tend to hold lower ambitions than would be expected given their academic achievement.

What kind of job do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?

Global position Boys Girls
1st Police officers Specialist medical practitioners
2nd Athletes and sports players Generalist medical practitioners
3rd Engineering professionals Lawyers
4th Generalist medical practitioners Teaching professionals
5th Business services and administration managers Nursing professionals
6th Motor vehicle mechanics and repairers Medical doctors
7th Armed forces occupations, other ranks Psychologists
8th Policy and planning managers Police officers
9th Lawyers Veterinarians
10th Teaching professionals Policy and planning managers

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