New poll reveals what teenagers see as 'the most important job' - and it gives surprising insight into their career plans

British teenagers want to 'feel good about what they do' when it comes to their future careers - and they're prioritising 'happiness' over 'money'

Teenager doing work
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A new survey of British teenagers has revealed what the generation sees as 'the most important job' and it shows that their career plans are a lot different to what parents may first think. 

Thinking about the future can feel daunting for anyone. But when you're a teenager planning out the rest of your life, that stress is heightened with thoughts of school, getting into university, and the added pressures of social media, which many teens admit they're addicted to, do little to help. 

But we know that teens are thinking about their futures a lot, even as their parents think they're preoccupied with dating and are busy stressing over their 'annoying' habits that one expert says are actually a sign of good parenting. But what are teens planning when it comes to their futures? Well, when it comes to their careers, their thoughts and plans may not actually align with what we tend to think. 

That's because a new BBC poll has revealed that teenagers in Britain think that medicine is the ‘most important’ job sector, with 'doctor' being the most popular choice of career preference and 'nurse' as the fifth for teens in the UK. 

A surprising finding, more teens said they want to work for the NHS than for tech giants like Apple, Google, and Tesla, despite teenagers' ever-growing love for social media. But not only did the NHS beat these companies, teenagers also said they would rather work in education, engineering, science and law than in the social media and tech space, smashing the expectations of many who expected the latter areas would draw in teens. 

Famed TV doctor and Strictly Come Dancing star Dr Ranj Singh, who shared the research with the BBC, said, "Hearing today's teens choose careers in medicine as their top choice, alongside their recognition of the NHS as their preferred employer, is truly heartening.

"I was about eight years old when I made the decision to be a doctor. I always had a fascination for science and wanted to do something to help people. It’s an incredibly rewarding career and it’s important that all teens feel like they can achieve their career goals, regardless of their backgrounds."

The poll ranked the top ten career choices for teenagers in the UK as; doctor, engineer, teacher, lawyer, nurse, vet, footballer, artist, police officer, and building trade. 

Justifying their choices, teenagers listed their priorities when looking for a career, with many saying happiness was the most important factor, quickly followed by a need to feel good about what they do. 

Money was also an important contributing factor but, surprisingly, only 4% said they would pick a job for the leisure time it offered. In addition to this, nearly half the teens said they want a job where they can work outside while nearly 20% want to work from home. 

The teens also said they would look for good training and development opportunities, good pay, flexible hours and strong commitments to climate change and sustainability in any company they wanted to work for.

Unfortunately, not all teens are so sure in their futures. Many of those surveyed said they didn't feel confident that they would achieve their career goals, citing ‘educational challenges,’ their dream careers being ‘difficult to get into,' and for others, a simple ‘lack of confidence’ was holding them back. It's not too surprising they're worried. Recent research has shown that teenagers in the UK feel 'hopeless' about their futures and believe their lives will be worse than their parents' while others are worried about other aspects of their futures with nearly half of teenagers saying they're concerned about having children. 

However, by having good conversations with a teen using expert-led teen conversation starters, parents can check in on their teen's mental health as they make their way into adulthood and figure out what careers they want to explore. It may be daunting as a parent to watch your child grow up, but kids are also dreading growing up, becoming a teenager, and figuring out what they want. 

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse
Royal News and Entertainment writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is royal news and entertainment writer for She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.