Creative Brand Communications

When I Grow Up I Want To Be...

• Banking, teaching and the sciences fall out of favour within the space of a single generation
• Modern pre-teens dream of celebrity lifestyles
• Media now rivaling parents in terms of influence

Careers in teaching, banking and science have suffered the biggest fall in popularity over the last 25 years according to a new generational study which reveals a seismic shift in career aspirations within the space of a single generation.

The study reveals that for many of today’s pre-teens, traditional careers have been superseded by the desire for fame, stardom and celebrity and suggests that the media is now just as influential, if not more so, than parental advice when it comes to potential careers.


The survey of 3,000 British parents was specially commissioned to mark the launch of the new TV series Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose on Watch. The study compared and contrasted the aspirations of today’s pre-teens with those of their parents’ own career hopes when they were young. The results make for compelling reading; charting the rise and fall in popularity of specific professions as well as identifying the key influences over the last quarter century.

Key amongst the findings was the overwhelming desire exhibited by many of the younger generation to attempt to find fame and fortune. The research found that modern pre-teens certainly have big dreams – their top three career aspirations being sportsman (12%), pop star (11%) and actor (11%). An adventurous 9% fancied joining the space race by working as an astronaut, while working in law is the first traditional profession to make an appearance in fifth place (9%). The catering profession which has also become more aligned with celebrities is noted as the eighth most popular profession to aspire to in 2009 – no doubt influenced by the glut of food TV programmes in recent years.

These findings contrasted starkly with the sepia-tinged aspirations of the children’s parents where teaching was found to be the career that most respondents aspired to enter (15%). This was followed by working in banking/ finance (9%) – a sector which completely fails to register in today’s children’s career aspiration list, perhaps reflecting the negative press the profession has received since the onset of the recession. Science was also firmly on the agenda 25 years ago with medicine (7%), scientist (6%) and vet (6%) completing the top five aspirations from the previous generation. Interestingly, 69% of the parents surveyed admitted that they failed to follow their dreams when it came to their career, with 37% putting this down to a lack of ambition and not having the necessary qualifications.

Top ten career aspirations of today’s pre teens;

1 Sportsman 12%
2 Popstar 11%
3 Actor 11%
4 Astronaut 9%
5 Lawyer 9%
6 Emergency services 7%
7 Medicine 6%
8 Chef 5% 8
9 Teacher 4%
10 Vet 3%

Top ten ambitions of pre teens 25+ years ago

1 Teacher 15%
2 Banking/ finance 9%
3 Medicine 7%
4 Scientist 6%
5 Vet 6%
6 Lawyer 6%
7 Sportsman 5%
8 Astronaut 4%
9 Beautician/hairdresser 4%
10 Archeologist 3%

The study found that there is a strong division between the genders of today’s youngsters. Playing professional football, being an astronaut and joining the firefighting service topped the boys’ career choices, while girls are more likely to be dreaming of taking to the stage as a pop star or actress or joining the medical profession.

When asked what they would like their children to do for a living, today’s parents still favour the academic professions. Law (22%) and medicine (21%) score highly, while being self employed as an entrepreneur comes third (19%). Parents also prioritised job satisfaction and happiness (53%) above wealth (21%) when it comes to their hopes for their children.

The parents surveyed admitted that the media has the biggest influence on their children’s ambitions (73%), with TV having the biggest influence (52%). Again this contrasted with their own experiences of growing up when they were more likely to look towards the family rather than the red carpet for guidance (62%).

Paul Moreton, Channel Head, Watch says, “Children have such big imaginations and ambitions – although they can’t all be celebrities when they grow up can they?! I find it fascinating that being an astronaut is still such a popular dream 25 years on – we are clearly still reaching for the stars.”

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with children having big dreams but these have to be based on reality. Parents can help children to realise their talents but also need to give them guidance and manage their expectations by letting them know the hard work involved with certain careers, be that a sportsperson or a pop star.”

Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose is a new the eight-part series which gives three to six-year-olds the chance to fulfil their greatest ambitions in the adult world – whether its running a café, a radio station or hairdressers, they’re the ones in control. Combining hidden camera location shoots with live studio, Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose shows parents just how capable their children really are – and their reactions are priceless.

Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose premieres on Watch on Sunday 4th October 2009 at 6pm.


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