Danish study: Students' career choice steered by parents' background

Sept. 13, 2013 at 5:43 PM
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Young adults in Denmark tend to make career education choices based on their parents' background and social class, a study suggests.

When choosing which studies to pursue, young people from working class backgrounds are motivated by studies with a clear job profile and high income, while prestige and studies with a strong professional identity appeal to young people of parents with university degrees, the University of Copenhagen reported Friday.

"There is a connection between the studies chosen by young Danes and their social background," education sociologist Jens Peter Thomsen said. "Even for the young people who have very good grades in their A-level (university admission) exams, and who could successfully seek admission to a large variety of studies, the parents' level of education and social class play an important role in their choice."

Students who choose to study medicine, architecture, economy and sociology often come from homes where parents have completed higher education, whereas business studies and pharmacy often appeal to young people with a working class background, the researchers said.

"For young people whose parents are university educated, factors such as prestige and a strong sense of professional identity are important, Thomsen said. "They are attracted by an educational culture in which you are a student 24/7, and where leisure activities are tied to the identity that lies within your studies."

Young people from working class homes, in contrast, tend to want a clearly defined aim of their studies, he said.

"The young people who are first-generation university students often choose studies that are more '9 to 5' and less tied up to a sense of identity," he said.

"They have lower academic expectations of themselves, and they choose studies with a clearly defined goal for their professional lives," in sectors where jobs are easily found, he said.

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