Does Getting Your Childhood ‘Dream Job’ Lead To Career Satisfaction As An Adult?


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s the million-dollar question—not only while we’re growing up, but even into adulthood. It seems everyone from parents to friends to teachers wants to know the answer.

Trade Schools, Colleges and Universities surveyed 2,136 respondents to see what career aspirations they had as children, and what they do now. They also surveyed parents to find out what their children today want to become in the future.

One of the most interesting takeaways is that turning a childhood “dream job” into a reality does, in fact, tend to lead to happiness in adulthood. About 88 percent of people who ended up in the field they aspired to as children reported job happiness as adults. But, that does vary significantly by field, with people who work in education, information technology and healthcare at the top of the list. Meanwhile, fewer than 2 percent of people who wanted as kids to work in film, television, media production, graphic design, science or writing/publishing reported that they are happy in their actual careers in those fields.

Here are some other interesting findings from the survey.

1. Few People Ended Up In Careers They Aspired To During Childhood

Interests change, bills have to be paid, and alas, the job openings for rockstar and professional athlete are few and far between. So, it’s not too surprising that most of us don’t end up in the careers that we dreamed of as children. If you’re not working at your childhood dream job, don’t worry, you’re in good company. About 78 percent of people in the Trade Schools, Colleges and Universities survey did not end up in the career they aspired to as kids.

did you end up in dream job
Trade Schools, Colleges and Universities

2. Many People Would Like To Make A Change And Go Back To School

According to the survey, over 71 percent of folks have considered going back to school to pursue another major. There’s no time like the present. Maybe you will achieve that childhood dream after all!

college photo
Getty Images | Sean Gallup

3. As Children Grow Up, Their Career Goals Change

Top career choices for toddlers adorably include ballerina and singer. But, by the time kids reach middle school, they gravitate toward jobs like scientist, veterinarian and artist. The top three professional goals for teens 18 and over are teacher, writer/author and doctor.

kids dress up photo
Getty Images | Carlo Allegri

4. These Days, More Kids Want To Become Doctors

As times change, children receive different cultural messages about attractive careers. So, it’s not surprising that what kids report they want to be when they grow up today is different than a generation ago. In the past, teacher, professional athlete and veterinarian topped the list of kids’ career aspirations. For today’s kids, doctor and scientist are the top two choices, while teacher has stood the test of time as a dream job, and remains the third top choice.

scientist photo
Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

5. Boys Want To Be Athletes And Astronauts, While Girls Want To Be Teachers And Veterinarians

Most parents tell their kids—both male and female—that they can become anything they want, if they work hard enough. But, some differences between the genders persist. Professional athlete and astronaut are the top two dream jobs for boys. Meanwhile, girls dream about becoming teachers and veterinarians. Interestingly, doctor is the third choice for both boys and girls.

astronaught photo
Getty Images | NASA

You can check out more of the survey findings here.


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About the Author
Natalia Lusinski
In addition to Simplemost, Natalia is an ongoing writer for Bustle (sex, dating, relationships, and money), HelloGiggles (pop culture and news), The Delite (feel-good stories), and Don’t Waste Your Money (yep, money issues!). You can also find her writing in the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune's RedEye, xoJane, Elite Daily, Scary Mommy, Elephant Journal, and Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, among other publications. She has a Ph.D. in couch-surfing, having spent four years sleeping on over 200 L.A.-area love seats and sectionals, all in an effort to whittle down her student loan debt. She still loves couch-surfing in other cities, too (hint, hint).

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