Many boys pursue education in technical studies. Why is that?

What do boys want to be when they grow up?

ASK A RESEARCHER: Do boys really want to become firefighters and football players?

You might know a little boy who wants to become a professional footballer or a policeman when he grows up? But what about when they get a bit older?

We have asked a researcher about what boys and girls want to be when they grow up and why they want to become different things.

Girls have changed the most

Liza Reisel is a researcher at the Institute for Social Research and has researched the educational and career preferences of both genders as they progress into adulthood.

She notes that as boys grow older, they observe the distinct career paths chosen by men and women around them.

“Consequently, they think that not all types of jobs are suitable for them as boys,” she says.

Liza Reisel has researched the types of education boys and girls pursue.

Reisel also points out a shift in children's perspectives on their future careers compared to previous generations.

“Interestingly, this shift has been more pronounced among girls than boys. Nowadays, girls are more inclined to believe they can pursue any career, whereas boys tend to stick to more traditional paths,” she says.

Technology and physical labour

Many boys pursue education in technical studies. Data from highlights a strong interest among boys in pursuing careers as civil engineers and economists.

Civil engineers focus on constructing machines, bridges, and buildings, while economists specialise in providing financial advice to companies.

IT is another field that attracts boys, offering opportunities to engage in programming and website development.

However, the professions with the highest male dominance are carpentry and electrical work. Carpenters specialise in constructing wooden structures, whereas electricians deal with the installation and maintenance of electrical systems.

Conversely, nursing and preschool teaching are careers predominantly chosen by women.

But why is that?

Reisel suggests that these trends may stem from young people's perceptions of which professions are more suitable for boys or for girls.

“I have heard about children who being surprised to learn that men can be doctors or teachers, as they have predominantly encountered women in these roles. Despite the presence of male professionals in these fields, the stereotype persists,” she says.

Leisure activities and social circles

Research conducted at OsloMet indicates that a boy's personality and upbringing play a significant role in shaping their future career choices.

“Engaging in activities like coding or gaming from a young age can influence boys to consider careers in these fields,” Reisel says.

Having a group of friends with similar interests or a family member who practices a profession can also inspire and influence children. Those who have parents or someone they know who, for example, is a doctor, have a higher chance of becoming a doctor themselves.

Follow your dreams

Nonetheless, not all boys are interested in becoming carpenters, electricians, or engineers.

Reisel says you should look for role models and focus on school so that you can become whatever you want.

She encourages those with unconventional aspirations for boys to pursue their interests regardless of societal expectations, emphasising the importance of following one's dreams and not being swayed by others' opinions.


Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik

Read the Norwegian version of this article on


Seehuus, S. & Reisel, L.: The impact of social background on gender segregation in higher education. Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning, vol. 58, 2017. DOI: 10.18261/issn.1504-291X-2017-03-02 (Abstract)

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