It’s never too early to teach your students about different careers! Some of us adults still wonder what we want to be “when we grow up,” so let’s help the next generation. Even middle school students benefit from learning about career options. You probably hear your students talk about what they want to be when they grow up, and some might not even understand the future careers available to them. Let’s look at some engaging activities that will help students think about career clusters and life skills.
Career Education Activities
1- Career Exploration BINGO- This free career interests bingo is a low-prep activity that will help your students learn about a variety of careers, including social media marketer, pharmacist, lawyers, and more. Students fill in their BINGO board with the list of careers that include the definitions. The teacher or group leader draws a card that has one of the careers from the list. If the students chose that card and wrote it on their board, they got to put an X on the board. The first person with 5 in a row wins! This game helps middle schoolers become familiar with career opportunities and vocabulary.
The beauty of this game is that it can be played more than once, and students enjoy playing! If you want to save on printing, use reusable dry-erase sleeves for students to slip their boards inside and mark the boxes with a dry-erase marker. Have students make multiple boards with different careers on them.
2- Career Bell Ringers True or False Activity– This activity can be used as a game or as bell ringers. It has fun facts about various careers and career exploration information that students have to determine if they are true or false. This is also a great activity for high school students as some of the information covers college questions. Here are some examples of questions students are asked:
- “Trade schools generally cost less and take less time than traditional college programs.” Fact– Trade schools are designed to be cheaper than a 4-year college and usually only take 1 to 2 years to complete.
- “The most dangerous job is a logging worker (lumberjack).” Fact- Logging workers have a fatality rate of 111 per 100,000 workers. Logging workers harvest forests to provide the raw material for wood, paper, cardboard, etc.
- “To become a chef, you must have a bachelor’s degree.” Fiction– there is not a one-size-fits-all path to becoming a chef. Some chefs have college degrees, while others are apprentices.
This can be a great way to start class each day or as a career game where you divide your class in half and have them compete to correct the answers. You could even set it up and have them compete in a small group. As an extension activity, have them create their own fact or fiction questions and present to the class.
They would need to research online to find questions using a website such as the U S Department of Labor or another reputable site. This is an editable activity which means that you can add some of your own facts if you want to extend the activities.
3- Career Exploration Board Game– This printable board game has students working in groups to answer questions about career cluster and career information. This is a fun activity that is competitive and a great way to review vocabulary. All you have to do is print the game boards and give each group one board and a dice, game pieces, scoresheet, and game cards with the questions and answers. Students take turns answering the questions and checking each other answers. There are 36 questions and a presentation to review the material they will need to know for the game. There are also blank cards in case you want to add additional questions.
4- The Game of Life– “Life” introduces players to a diverse array of professions, ranging from traditional roles like doctors and lawyers to more unconventional careers such as artists and athletes. This exposure can ignite interest in fields they may not have previously considered, broadening their horizons and encouraging them to explore a wider range of potential career options.
The game also cultivates critical thinking and planning skills as players strategize to achieve their career and financial objectives. This element encourages forward planning, problem-solving, and a thoughtful approach to decision-making, all of which are fundamental skills for success in any career path.
Financial literacy is another invaluable aspect of “Life.” Players must navigate earning a salary, managing expenses, and making investments, providing an introductory lesson in financial competence. This knowledge is pivotal for making informed financial decisions in both personal and professional contexts.
Furthermore, “Life” incorporates an element of chance, requiring players to spin the wheel to determine outcomes. This introduces the concept of risk assessment, teaching students how to evaluate and manage risks, a vital skill in their personal and professional lives.
In addition to these individual skills, playing “Life” fosters teamwork and communication. Interaction and collaboration among players are integral to the game, promoting essential abilities in working with others. These skills are universally valuable in any career and contribute to a well-rounded professional skill set.
Beyond its educational benefits, “Life” provides an enjoyable and engaging learning experience. Its design encourages active participation, making the learning process more enjoyable and memorable for students. This heightened engagement leads to a deeper understanding and better retention of the concepts explored in the game.
“Life” also serves as a source of inspiration and a catalyst for goal-setting. As students navigate the game, they may discover interests and aspirations they hadn’t previously considered. This newfound clarity can inspire them to set concrete goals for their future careers and take proactive steps toward achieving them.
Perhaps most importantly, “Life” offers a safe environment for exploration. Students can make decisions, learn from the outcomes, and adjust their strategies without facing real-world consequences. This fosters a sense of confidence and agency in their career exploration journey.
In the aftermath of playing, students can engage in reflective discussions about their experiences, facilitating deeper insights into their own interests and values. This can lead to more focused career exploration and planning discussions, ultimately helping them make more informed decisions about their future paths. Overall, incorporating “Life” into career exploration activities is a dynamic and effective method for introducing middle school students to various professions while nurturing essential skills for their future careers.
Example questions include:
- What is a legal document that allows a minor to hold a job?
- Work without pay that can benefit you in your job search is known as _____.
- If you work 40 hours per week, you are working _______.
- A one-page letter a job seeker sends along with a resume telling who he or she is and why he or she is sending a resume is called a ________.
A fellow teacher Jessica said about this game: “The engaging content and well-structured format have captivated my students’ attention and fostered active participation in our lessons. Its adaptability allows me to use it across different topics, making it an invaluable addition to my teaching toolkit. Highly recommended!”
5- Career Headbands Game- This popular game can be adapted to become one of those fun career activities that your students will beg to play again!
In this version, instead of guessing objects or animals, students will guess different professions. Here’s how you can play the “Career Headbands” game:
- Headbands: Provide each student with a headband (or a strip of paper that can be taped into a loop).Career Cards: Create or print cards with different professions written on them. Timer: Use a timer on your computer or a stopwatch to limit the time for each round.
- Distribute a headband to each student. They can wear it on their forehead with the card facing out so others can see it. Shuffle the career cards and place them face down in a pile.
The students take turns being the guesser. The guesser picks a card from the pile but does not look at it. They attach it to their headband, ensuring that everyone else can see the profession. The guesser then has a limited amount of time (e.g., 1-2 minutes) to ask yes or no questions to gather the career descriptions to figure out the profession on their headband. The other students can only respond with “yes” or “no.”If the guesser correctly identifies the profession within the time limit, they earn a point. Rotate turns so that each student has a chance to be the guesser.
After each round, take a moment to discuss the professions that were guessed. Ask the students about what they learned or found interesting about those particular careers.
Instead of asking questions, have the guesser try to act out or imitate the specific career without speaking.
Divide the students into teams and have them work together to guess the professions. Teams can take turns being the guesser.
After guessing the profession, discuss what type of education or training is typically required for that career. Guess the Work Environment: Discuss where someone with that career might work.
Add Hints: Allow the guesser to ask for one hint if they struggle to guess the profession. The “Career Headbands” game is a lively and effective way to introduce students to various professions while encouraging critical thinking and communication skills. It’s a great addition to any career exploration activity. This can be a fun way for your middle school students to learn about career choices and career possibilities without even realizing it!
More Fun Career Awareness Activities
If your students are interested in free career assessments, check out the
- College Boards’ Career Quiz because it is a legitimate website that young people will more than likely use when they begin to explore higher education. Students move through the questions to find out their likes and dislikes and get a better idea of the potential careers they may be interested in. The more they think about their strengths, the better! This can help them narrow career decisions and decide what fields to explore in technical education or college.
Classroom speakers are a great way to bring a strong connection to students with others in fields that they may be interested in. They can prepare questions beforehand to give them and the rest of the class a better understanding of the speaker’s profession. The speaker can explain the necessary skills they needed for the job, what college degree they needed, if any, etc. I hope these middle school career exploration games can give you some ideas for hands-on activities for your career classroom lessons!
These are a great addition to any Family Consumer Science, vocational education, Career Readiness, or CTE class. Students will have fun while learning soft skills needed for their future as well as to begin to develop career goals. Read more on this website about more career games for middle school students.
Without a base knowledge of what is available to students, it is difficult for them to begin career planning and career conversations. Young people need exposure to a variety of career awareness activities and people in the field to develop an understanding of the workforce that is in their future as young adults.
Ultimately, making career exploration an enjoyable and interactive experience sets the stage for informed decisions and inspired aspirations. With these games, we hope to ignite a passion for learning about careers and empower the next generation to pursue their dreams confidently and purposefully. Happy teaching!