Career Exploration is Really Hard in Public Education

A few days ago, the Washington Post published an article titled ‘An Educator’s List Of What’s Really Hard In Public Education Today’.  The article summarizes a list that a former teacher, Nancy Bailey, wrote in response to hearing Bill and Melinda Gates say that ‘attempting to reform the U.S. public education system has been the hardest philanthropic work they’ve ever done’.

The list details what Bailey thinks is really hard in education from the point of view of students, parents and teachers. Bailey’s complete list includes 39 items, one of which really jumped out at me…

Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.

My experiences this past year have proven this point. As I speak with teachers and counselors, I repeatedly hear that career exploration is hard to fit in given testing and academic priorities.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that counselors are spread too thin. Some of our partner public schools have reported student-to-counselor ratios as high as 500:1 or 700:1! This is in line with ratios across the country whereby the American Counseling Association reports the average student-to-counselor ratio is 457:1 in the U.S.!

With such heavy loads, counselors can’t possibly spend enough time guiding each student on how to explore and select careers. Technology-driven career exploration solutions, such as Couragion, are one way to help bridge this gap as they give students a self-directed, independent way to research career options. While technology can’t replace the personalized touch of a counselor, the pre-work done by students and the data gathered in the process can make the limited in-person sessions between a student and counselor much more effective and much less hard.

I would welcome the chance to hear about your school’s counselor-to-student ratios and how much time is dedicated to career exploration. Email me to continue the discussion – laura at

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Laura FarrellyComment