The top dream jobs the average American wanted to do when they were kids

A new study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Zety explored what Americans’ top childhood dream jobs. (Photo by Hammonds on Unsplash)

What did you want to be when you grew up? A sixth of Americans wanted to be a doctor, according to new research.

A new survey of 2,000 Americans brought them back to yesteryear to examine their childhood dream jobs and their evolution to adulthood.

Other top “grown-up” jobs they wanted as children included being a teacher, a veterinarian, a musician and a movie star.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Zety, the survey found that, sadly, two-thirds failed to fulfill their childhood dreams.

Of the 67% of respondents who reported not fulfilling their childhood vision of their dream jobs, 58% wish they had.

The survey also found that 82% of those who did not fulfill their childhood dreams are not pursuing them at all in their adulthood.

What are these childhood dreams? For male respondents, becoming a professional athlete topped the list (17%), while women wanted to become teachers (22%).

Both sexes also shared high interest in becoming doctors when they grew up, coming in as their second choice of dream job — at 15% for men and 17% for women.

The age in which reality started to sink in for Americans was 15 years old — when they got their first jobs ever — with mowing lawns top of the list for men (15%) and babysitting top of the list for women (25%).

And it was only five short years later when Americans reported starting their first “adult” full-time job, with food service and retail topping the list at 15% and 13%, respectively.

When it came time to draft up their resumes, 27% of Americans said mom and dad were their go-to for advice, with 18% turning to a teacher or professor for help.

More than a quarter of Americans, although, admitted to the cardinal sin of resumes — and had their first-ever resume be two pages long.

Thirty-seven respondents also agreed, in hindsight, they’re embarrassed by their first resume.

When presented with a hypothetical situation of applying for a job nowadays with their first-ever resume — 44% disagreed that they would be able to snag a well-paying job with it.

Nearly half of respondents are on top of their resumes, however, reporting they have updated it within the past two years.

Perhaps surprisingly, however, is that over a quarter of respondents said they haven’t updated their resumes in over 10 years.

“Stepping outside your comfort zone is a cliché. However, few employers are interested in hiring candidates whose resumes simply say: met deadlines,” said Bart Turczynski, Editor-in-Chief at Zety. “One remedy is to keep updating your resume — and truly updating it.”

It comes as no surprise, then, that on a scale of one to 10 — with one being not at all confident and 10 being completely confident — the average American only gives their resume confidence as a 6.5.

Twenty-three percent of respondents aren’t even confident that they would be able to get a new job without updating their current resume.

Furthermore, nearly a quarter of respondents don’t even know where to go for advice on updating their resumes.

“A lot can be said about the value of an up-to-date resume,” said Turczynski, Editor-in-Chief at Zety. “As job seekers, we have to prove we’re open to new challenges and show that off in our resumes.”


  1. Doctor
  2. Teacher
  3. Veterinarian
  4. Musician
  5. Movie star
  6. Professional athlete
  7. Artist
  8. Business owner
  9. Writer
  10. Police officer
  11. Fashion designer
  12. Architect
  13. Spy/secret agent
  14. Chef
  15. Superhero
  16. Graphic designer
  17. Journalist/news anchor
  18. Firefighter
  19. Marine biologist
  20. Race car driver


  1. Professional athlete
  2. Doctor
  3. Musician
  4. Police officer
  5. Business owner
  6. Superhero
  7. Teacher
  8. Movie star
  9. Architect
  10. Firefighter


  1. Teacher
  2. Doctor
  3. Veterinarian
  4. Movie star
  5. Writer
  6. Artist
  7. Fashion designer
  8. Musician
  9. Business owner
  10. Chef

>> Download the video and infographic for this research story <<

NOTE: All news copy and multimedia on this SWNS account is free to use as you see fit. Where research has been conducted, we ask that you credit the company which commissioned it.

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