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IEE Brief No. 30, March 2004

School-Based Career Development: A Synthesis of the Literature

Katherine L. Hughes and Melinda Mechur Karp


Giving students the tools and knowledge to realistically plan for their futures is a primary goal of education. Although young people have high ambitions, expecting to be well educated and have professional careers, many do not develop coherent plans for achieving their goals. Almost two-thirds of high school graduates enter postsecondary education immediately after high school; yet more than one-third of those leave within two years without earning any degree. Thus, career development is vitally important for today’s youth.

This Brief summarizes a longer report that examines the effectiveness of career guidance. National legislation—the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Amendments of 1998—provides support for career guidance and academic counseling, and a wide variety of such interventions are in existence. Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 targets federal support towards educational programs shown to be effective by scientifically based research, it is important to examine the research to determine the value of initiatives aimed at career development. Our focus is primarily advising, designed to provide direction and planning skills to students; and curriculum-based interventions, designed to promote student knowledge and skills relevant to the world of work.

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