An astronaut! SpongeBob Squarepants! The President of the United States!
Ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re likely to get a chorus of colorful—and improbable—responses. A 2007 survey of several hundred children between the ages of 5 and 12 revealed Spider-Man was the number one job choice among kindergartners. And why not? Childhood may be the only time when a fulfilling career as a princess or time-traveling rock star seems easily within grasp.
But by the time adulthood rolls around, most of us find ourselves settling into far less glamorous occupations. As it turns out, only 1 in 81,440 employed persons 16 or older will grow up to be a fashion model . . . but 1 in 5.82 will work in an office or administrative support occupation, and 1 in 30.54 will be a retail salesperson.
While it might be tempting to mourn these odds—particularly on a Monday morning—don’t despair. In a world where space adventurer jobs are few and far between, childhood dreams are often tweaked to make room for grown-up reality.
Children hoping to become chefs when they grow up might find themselves fulfilling their culinary aspirations on a somewhat smaller scale. While just 1 in 1,379 employed persons 16 or older will land the position of head cook or chef in a restaurant, 1 in 241.8 will grow up to be a fast food cook. The odds of working in a food preparation or serving capacity are better, at 1 in 11.82.
What about the little boy who imagines himself hitting a home run in the majors? Although he’ll likely be discouraged by the fact that just 1 in 9,684 employed persons 16 or older grow up to be athletes, he might take some solace in the slightly better odds for becoming an athletic coach or scout (1 in 769.3). In either case, he’s got a potential career as a sporting goods salesman to fall back on; the odds an employed person 16 or older is in sales are 1 in 9.43.
As for the future doctors in the house, the prognosis for a career in the medical field is fair. Although only 1 in 2,872 employed persons 16 or older are surgeons, 1 in 53.16 are registered nurses. What’s more, the odds of growing up to be a healthcare practitioner are 1 in 19.1.
Teaching is even more likely. A common pick among school-age kids, the teaching profession is always looking to add to the ranks. The odds an employed person 16 or older is in an education, training, or library occupation are 1 in 16.