young student chemist

The top 10 career choices for teenagers in the UK

March 2023

By Jo Foster, Director of the Institute for Research in Schools


It’s always interesting to see what children aspire to be when they grow up. BBC’s Bitesize Survey showing the the top 10 careers teenagers want to do is no exception. It’s exciting that both boys and girls have Engineering in their top 10 choices. Computer scientist is also in the top ten for boys, however, it’s disappointing that this career does not make the cut for girls’ top ten aspirations.


The top 10 careers selected by more than 4,000 13-16 year-olds in the UK:

  1.    Engineer
  2.    Teacher
  3.    Doctor
  4.    Veterinarian
  5.    Lawyer
  6.    Footballer
  7.    Police Officer
  8.    Computer Scientist
  9.    Nurse
  10.    Architect

The field of AI is one of the fastest-growing sectors, with limitless potential for innovation and growth. Yet, computer science is not attracting the number of students we need to meet the demand for professionals in this industry. Women especially are currently underrepresented in this field.


Investment in computing education is crucial if we want to address this issue. Real careers need to be introduced into classrooms. We need to inspire and engage young people, especially girls, to pursue a career in computer science.

Let’s continue to break down barriers and support girls in science, so that the future is bright and diverse.

One example of this is the Big Data project run by the Institute for Research in Schools. The project is run in conjunction with the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories at Oxford University. Taking students deep into a world of programming at the cutting edge of particle physics, this project sets computer and data science in the real world for students, making it an exciting and engaging prospect.


Students who participate in real research while they are still in school are more confident in their desire to pursue a science career and are more aware of the opportunities available. Instead of falling into predictable careers like ‘doctor’ or ‘vet’, let’s see our young students reach out for careers as chemical engineers, space technicians and nanotechnologists.

Dr Kat Hickey, volcanologist & space sector consultant, gives advice to girls wanting a career in science
Image showing scientist, Dr Kat Hickey
Dr Kat Hickey, volcanologist & space sector consultant, gives advice to girls wanting a career in scienceWatch recording

The Times Education Commission recommended that every young person should have the chance to experience an extended piece of research while they are in school. Transferable skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and resilience are essential for our future workforce.


We must inspire more girls to pursue careers in computer science to meet the growing demand for professionals in this industry. Providing real-life problems and introducing young people to authentic research is a great way to achieve this. The Big Data project is a perfect example of how this can be done. We need to make every effort to allow students to experience real science careers in the classroom if we want to see brighter and more ambitious future for the UK.

Big Data: ATLAS

Our project introduces students to data analysis  techniques, allowing them to explore their own questions in particle physics.


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