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This new tool helps teenagers think about careers that will actually last

<i>damircudic/E+/Getty Images</i><br/>The Careers of the Future Index (along with an accompanying report and public database) is intended to help educate not only them
damircudic/E+/Getty Images
The Careers of the Future Index (along with an accompanying report and public database) is intended to help educate not only them

By Jeanne Sahadi and Parker Leipzig, CNN

(CNN) — Like many adults, a lot of teenagers don’t know what they want to do when they grow up.

Even when they think they do, they may not have a realistic grasp of whether a given occupation or job is likely to be economically viable for them over time. For instance, does it pay well? Is it a growing field or a shrinking one? Is it likely to fall victim to artificial intelligence? Just how many years do you need to spend in school to land a spot?

While many resources currently available may get at one or two of those factors, teens will now have access to an interactive tool that takes a measure of all of them.

The Careers of the Future Index (along with an accompanying report and public database) is intended to help educate not only them, but their school guidance counselors, parents and really anyone who is curious about getting into different fields.

Created by Gallup in partnership with Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon’s philanthropic computer science education program, the CFI interactive paints a picture of how a given role ranks in several categories: 1) pay, including whether it offers enough to sustain a family, defined as $69,740 in annual income; 2) job growth; 3) openings per job seeker; 4) how resistant a career is to being taken over by automation, including artificial intelligence; and 5) what level of education is typical for those employed in the field.

After assessing all those elements, the role is assigned a CFI score — the higher the number, the more economically viable a job is.

The free database also includes diversity statistics regarding how representative those employed in a given field are, relative to the general US population, in terms of gender, race and ethnicity.

The gap between popular occupations and viable ones

The Gallup-Amazon report identifies, among other things, how wide the gap is between a given career’s economic viability score and how popular its ranking is among 15-year-olds.

When asked in a survey to identify what jobs they expect to have by age 30, teens were often much less likely to choose careers that had high CFI scores.

“It becomes clear that students overlook a number of high-opportunity careers,” the researchers wrote. “Aside from medical occupations, many of the top-ranking careers are rarely chosen by students, including jobs in management, computers, math and science — suggesting a lack of familiarity with career paths.”

Still, the economic opportunity scores for some occupations were closely aligned with their average popularity among teens, such as in the fields of education and transportation.

Good jobs by education level

Looking through the lens of education, generally the more you have the more likely your job will score highly in terms of economic viability.

That said, however, researchers found there are many “fairly high-scoring” careers to be had even if you don’t have a college degree (although a year or two of college can give you a leg up over no college).

For instance, among jobs that largely employ people without a bachelor’s degree, 27 careers score at or above the average score for positions typically filled by college graduates. Among the top contenders: cardiovascular technologist, fire-fighting supervisors, construction managers, industrial production managers and power plant operators and dispatchers.

Among jobs that require a college education but not a professional degree, there are 34 high-ranking ones, including actuary, sales engineer, financial and investment analyst, and software developer.

Keep an open mind

While some of the highest scoring jobs are — unsurprisingly — STEM-related, that doesn’t necessarily mean every 16-year old has to sign up for coding boot camp (unless they like that sort of thing).

“Choosing a career is a complex decision. It involves, among other things, personal and cultural interests, a sense of alignment with one’s abilities, and many practical considerations,” Gallup and Amazon researchers note in their report.

But it also means learning about opportunities you didn’t even know existed.

The hope with the CFI, said Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell, is that “maybe it gives people ideas they might not have considered.”

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