Extending the Runway

A National Analysis of Middle School Career Exploration

The economy is evolving more rapidly than ever before, with new occupations taking shape at an unprecedented pace. Students need better and earlier career navigation to increase their likelihood of successfully transitioning into the high-value postsecondary options increasingly required for good jobs, and schools must be positioned to offer this support to ensure equitable access for all students.

This report, commissioned by American Student Assistance® (ASA) and produced by ESG, details practices and policies currently in place across the U.S. to guide state leaders as they support districts and schools in prioritizing career readiness for all students, beginning in the middle grades. 

Based on an in-depth national scan of state-by-state practices and policies, as well as dozens of student and expert interviews, the resulting analysis shows—among other things—that 73 percent of states have identified middle school career exploration as an important component of a student’s education, but few states measure and support the quality of these practices by collecting data (20 percent), including in accountability plans (16 percent), or having a strong ecosystem of organizations supporting the work (8 percent). 

Career exploration, when introduced early in life, can help students to not only make informed postsecondary decisions by giving them a chance to explore diverse job paths, but can give them confidence to pursue and achieve their goals, and oftentimes aim higher than they otherwise would have. There is an important role for state and district leadership to play in prioritizing middle school career exploration and in equipping their schools with resources and tools to deliver those experiences in a consistent and effective way. 

Download the report and explore the full set of resources on ASA’s website

Resource downloads

Extending the Runway: Full Report