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How Parents Can Predict Their Kids’ Future Careers

Kids don't know what they want to be so, if you're genuinely curious, it's best to ask them different kinds of questions.

Most adults still have no idea what they want to be when they grow up, but kids seem to have a handle on the whole occupation game. They’re heading toward bright, lucrative futures as astronauts, firefighters, princesses, and magicians. Because of course they are.

There’s no need to take the wind out of their sails. Some little girls who dream of becoming princesses pull it off, and at least a handful of hopefuls are launched into orbit each year. But, still, wouldn’t it be nice to know what occupation your kid is most likely to actually embrace? Wouldn’t it be great to glimpse at the future — if only to make financial plans accordingly? Yes, it would and it turns out that is possible, albeit to a limited degree.

The Holland Code, or RIASEC test, has been a staple of career advisement since psychologist John L. Holland conceived of it in 1959. The theory is simple: ask people what they love, and assign them jobs accordingly. And there’s no good reason why you can’t use it to figure out what your kids will be when they grow up.

Meet The RIASEC Test

Ask your child to answer the following questions with True (1) or False (0) and tally up the scores for each category. The three highest scores constitute your child’s three-letter “Holland code” (like a Myers-Briggs score). The highest indicates his or her most likely area of expertise.   

  • Realistic (R)
    • I like to work on cars
    • I like to build things
    • I like to take care of animals
    • I like putting things together or assembling things
    • I like to cook
    • I am a practical person
    • I like working outdoors
  • Investigative (I)
    • I like to do puzzles
    • I like to do experiments
    • I enjoy science
    • I enjoy trying to figure out how things work
    • I like to analyze things (problems/situations)
    • I like working with numbers or charts
    • I’m good at math
  • Artistic (A)
    • I am good at working independently
    • I like to read about art and music
    • I enjoy creative writing
    • I am a creative person
    • I like to play instruments or sing
    • I like acting in plays
    • I like to draw
  • Social (S)
    • I like to work in teams
    • I like to teach or train people
    • I like trying to help people solve their problems
    • I am interested in healing people
    • I enjoy learning about other cultures
    • I like to get into discussions about issues
    • I like helping people
  • Enterprising (E)
    • I am an ambitious person (I set goals for myself)
    • I like to try to influence or persuade people
    • I like selling things
    • I am quick to take on new responsibilities
    • I would like to start my own business
    • I like to lead
    • I like to give speeches
  • Conventional (C)
    • I like to organize things (files, desks/offices)
    • I like to have clear instructions to follow
    • I wouldn’t mind working 8 hours per day in an office
    • I pay attention to details
    • I like to do filing or typing
    • I am good at keeping records of my work
    • I would like to work in an office

OK, But What Does That Actually Mean?

Each of the six RIASEC job categories contains a handful of occupations that may interest your child down the road. Suffice to say your A and S types are unlikely to become astronauts—but if you have an I on your hands, the kid might just make it to the moon. Complete lists of job opportunities for each category are available online. Here are some of the highlights:

Jobs For Realistic Kids

  • Agriculture
  • Computers
  • Construction

Jobs For Investigative Kids

  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Psychology

Jobs For Artistic Kids

  • Communications
  • Fine and Performing Arts
  • Interior Design

Jobs For Social Kids

  • Nursing
  • Public Relations
  • Education

Jobs For Enterprising Kids

  • Real Estate
  • Marketing/Sales
  • Law

Jobs For Conventional Kids

  • Accounting/Banking
  • Insurance
  • Administration