Do you remember what career you dreamed of having when you were a kid? If you wanted to be a superhero or a wizard, you might have quickly realized that those jobs don’t actually exist.
But there are some more achievable roles that come up again and again if you ask kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Very often, the jobs kids mention offer thrills, action, fame, or the chance to help people.
Whether or not children realize it, many of these jobs vary drastically in terms of experience needed, education required, and earnings potential. Some dream jobs are easy to attain, and others are more challenging.
Here's a look at some of the characteristics of roles that kids are often inclined to mention as dream jobs. Next time a kid in your life mentions one of these jobs as a possible career, you can share some details on what's involved.
Blame it on ballet class! Many young children dream of becoming ballerinas. But of course, that's not the only type of professional dancer—there are also modern, tap, and jazz dancers. Many dancers work for a particular dance company. Some may also perform on TV or in music videos; they might also sing or act as well as dance.
Other dancers perform at casinos, on cruises, or in theme parks. Dancers might also become dance instructors or choreographers, developing and then teaching dance movements to other dancers.
Some dancers receive an annual salary, but others are paid by the hour or performance.
When kids watch television or a movie, they often dream of becoming as famous as the actors on screen. In reality, there are many actors who are not stars.
These actors may work in television, film, theater, or even on audiobooks or other electronic media. Some may perform on cruise ships or at theme parks.
Actors do not always work year-round and are paid by the hour or by the performance. Therefore, many actors hold other jobs to earn money in between roles.
Some kids dream of being a professional singer or a member of a rock band. While they might be dreaming of becoming as famous as their favorite singers or bands, most musicians do not achieve that kind of fame.
While musicians might perform in concert halls for screaming fans, they may also play primarily in recording studios, or perform at bars or private events (such as weddings or private parties).
Musicians may perform in a variety of styles, ranging from rock to classical to jazz. Many musicians do not work year-round and are often paid by the hour or by the performance.
Opportunities are available to teach elementary school, middle school, high school, college, vocational school, and continuing education classes.
Teacher salaries vary depending on the type of school and the grade level. Most teacher positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, and public school teachers require state-issued certification or licensure.
Any kid who has enjoyed making putty or “goo” out of glue and starch has likely considered becoming a scientist. Of course, there are many different types of scientists.
Many scientists work primarily in laboratories and offices, although many also engage in fieldwork.
The scientists who make the least amount of money on average are agricultural and food science technicians. The scientists who make the most money on average are physicists and astronomers.
Many kids hope to become professional athletes so they can play their favorite sports and get paid for it. Becoming a paid professional athlete takes a lot of work: athletes practice for hours a day with teammates and trainers, and often work regularly with strength trainers and nutritionists.
Athletes may perform in leagues at a variety of levels, and the league in which an athlete plays often determines how much they earn. Those who do become full-time athletes often have short careers due to the physical demands of the job. Some athletes become coaches or scouts later in their careers.
Some children want to become firefighters—they often see it as an exciting, courageous job that also helps people. Firefighters’ duties range from putting out fires to driving fire trucks to rescue, and sometimes include treating victims.
Some firefighters specialize in handling hazardous materials or managing forest fires. Firefighters typically need to pass a series of written and physical tests and often hold an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.
Kids often read books and watch shows about detectives or spies who solve mysteries and want to do the same when they grow up. Detectives and criminal investigators collect evidence and solve crimes.
Many detectives and investigators work for the government (either at the local, state, or federal level), but there are also private detectives who work for individuals, attorneys, and businesses. They may perform background checks on employees, conduct surveillance, or investigate crimes.
On average, private investigators make less than other investigators.
Kids who enjoy reading and writing stories often want to be writers when they grow up. Not all writers publish novels, however. Some authors write content for magazines, movie scripts, songs, advertisements, or online publications. Many writers work full time, but some are self-employed, so they might work part time or have very flexible schedules.
Others become technical writers, which involves writing articles, instruction manuals, and other texts that clearly lay out complex technical information. Technical writers earn more on average than other writers.
Children often dream of becoming police officers—like their favorite superheroes, police officers often fight crime and help citizens. There are different types of police officers, including uniformed police officers responsible for looking for signs of criminal activity in a geographic district, mounted police officers, and highway patrol officers who enforce traffic laws.
There are also transit police who patrol railroad and transit stations, and sheriffs who enforce laws at the county level. Most police officers must graduate from their agency’s training program.
Many kids dream of going into space when they grow up. Astronauts have a variety of backgrounds and experience: some have degrees in engineering, physics, or medicine. Some come directly from the military.
According to NASA’s website, salaries for astronauts are based on the federal government’s general schedule (GS) pay scale for grades GS-12 to GS-13.
What child hasn’t dreamed of being able to fly? Pilots fly airplanes or helicopters. Commercial pilots fly aircraft for hire: they might transport people or cargo. Some commercial pilots are involved in rescue operations, crop dusting, and aerial photography.
Pilots' salaries vary depending on what sector they're in. Commercial pilots, on average, earn less than airline pilots, who are often part of collective bargaining units (also known as unions).
Children who love pets might want to be veterinarians as adults. Vets diagnose and treat illness and disease in animals. They might work with pets, livestock, or zoo animals. Most vets work in clinics, but some travel to work on farms, laboratories, or zoos.
Veterinarians must complete four years of graduate school to receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD). They also need to be licensed in the state where they practice.
If you were good at talking your way out of punishments when you were little, your parents might have said you’d make a good lawyer. Of course, the actual workload of a lawyer is probably a bit more difficult than children imagine. Lawyers must go through three years of law school and pass a written bar examination.
Most lawyers work in private or corporate legal offices, but some work for local, state, and federal governments. There are numerous types of lawyers, ranging from criminal and defense lawyers to environmental attorneys.
Most lawyers work very long hours, but they can also make very good salaries.
Some children want to become doctors in order to help people. There are a variety of types of doctors, ranging from general practitioners to pediatricians to anesthesiologists.
While physicians can make a very good salary, the path to becoming a doctor is a long one: doctors require not only four years of undergraduate school, but also four years of medical school, and three-to-eight years of residency, depending on the doctor’s specialty.
Some children also dream of becoming nurses. This requires a degree in nursing, which takes less time to complete than a medical school degree.