A new study released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) last week asked ninth graders about their anticipated profession at age 30, and how often they thought about pursuing their future career. Almost half (49%) of ninth graders both identified a future profession and reported they spent a lot of time thinking about it. Only 29% did not identify a profession. A higher percentage of black students reported thinking a lot about a future job than white students (61% compared to 48%). The High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09): A First Look at Fall 2009 Ninth-Graders presents baseline data on a nationally representative sample of ninth graders, who are the subject of a longitudinal study through college and early career. NCES collected data on math and science enrollment, achievement in math, and student expectations for their college and career paths. These data are broken down by cohort characteristics, including sex, race/ethnicity, parents’ highest education, and socioeconomic status. The new NCES numbers suggest that many students are motivated by career aspirations, which suggests that in-school career preparation could be a leverage point for keeping students engaged in school and raising the graduation rate. Advocates for career and technical education (CTE) have long argued that integrating career and technical training with academic content can engage students in school while preparing them for their future career. In their 2009 report, Joining Forces for Student Success: The Emergence of State and Local Policies to Support the Recognition of Academic Credit for CTE Coursework, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) argued that while policy-makers focus on increasing graduation requirements and course rigor, they should consider the need to engage students despite the increasing difficulty of coursework. ACTE suggests that linking academic content to real-world applications will engage students and motivate them to stay in school. With the new NCES data in mind, we will be following the CTE Policy Watch Blog to stay current on career and technical education issues for high school students. Are you reading it, too? Tweet us at @NHSCatAIR and let us know! Author: Jessica Agus is a Research Assistant at the American Institutes for Research and a member of the High School Matters blog editorial team. Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.