Careers education: International literature review

8 August 2016

By Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE (Principal Research Fellow, University of Warwick), Dr Anthony Mann, (Head of Policy and Research, Education and Employers), Dr Sally-Anne Barnes, (Senior Research Fellow, Warwick Institute for Employment Research), Beate Baldauf, (Senior Research Fellow Warwick Institute for Employment Research) and Rachael McKeown, (Research Assistant at the Education and Employers)

Education Endowment Foundation. 2016.

Download the report here: Careers review.


This report provides an overview of the evidence-base underpinning careers education and its impact upon pupils’ skills and outcomes.

The literature review considered 96 different studies – 73 focused on careers education and 23 on part-time working studies. Only literature published from 1996 and concerning OECD countries were included in the analysis. All studies included had quasi-experimental or experimental methodologies.

Careers education is defined as:

‘Careers-focused school- or college-mediated provision designed to improve students’ education, employment and/or social outcomes.’

The types of interventions included in the examined studies included careers provision, career guidance, enterprise, ICT and careers, job shadowing, mentoring, transformational leadership, volunteering, work experience, and work-related learning. The interventions were considered in terms of their impact upon educational, economic and social outcomes.

Findings highlight the fragmented nature of literature within the careers education field, though the robust studies that exist are largely positive. 60% of the literature relating to educational outcomes were related to positive outcomes for young people – only one study associated a negative impact with a career intervention and education, with the remainder finding mixed results. 67% of the literature relating to economic outcomes were related to positive outcomes, as interventions were linked to higher wages in later life and reduced likelihood of young people becoming NEET. No studies looking at economic outcomes were linked to negative outcomes, the others found mixed results. Likewise, 62% of the literature looking at social outcomes had positive outcomes.

Results show that young people from poorer backgrounds are more likely to have career aspirations that are misaligned with their educational ambitions. Misaligned ambitions increase the possibility of young people becoming NEET.

Literature considering part-time work found that there are positive economic outcomes for young people who engage in employment whilst at school. There are also educational benefits, if working hours are kept relatively low. Given that the incidence of young people in the UK partaking in part-time work is declining, it adds more importance for schools to provide young people with high quality, impartial careers education to assist in guiding them through their school-to-work transitions.

The review of international evidence was commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and funded by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and published on the 22nd July 2016. The researchers launched the report at the International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education and Training.

Download the report here: Careers review.

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