Occupational Exposure for Students in Rural and Isolated Communities

By Meghan Brown

Occupational Exposure for Students in Rural and Isolated Communities

Rural and isolated communities are experiencing declining populations, changing demographics, declining property values, and increasing property tax rates and healthcare costs. Specifically, students in rural schools face many challenges unfamiliar to the students in urban and suburban areas. Some rural communities have little exposure to the breadth of jobs available in their region. On the other hand, some communities worry that students will see college as the only way to “get out”, therefore not returning to the community after graduation and furthering population decline. Many of them lack the drive to complete high school and move on to secondary school due to their limited environment (Khattri, Riley, & Kane, 1997).


Unique Characteristics of Rural Communities

Students living these communities seem to have a more restricted worldview compared to their urban/suburban counterparts based on the few occupations and businesses available in these communities. In rural communities, finding exposure to a variety of occupations and industries can be even more difficult, as local economies are mostly agriculture based. A commonality between most students in these communities is that the occupations to which they aspire are what they see in their day-to-day lives and on television, which typically does not portray professions as they are in reality. In addition, programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, community rec centers, etc… are not options that are typically found in rural and isolated communities, leading to a limited pool of role models outside of school, church and home. Career counselors could play a critical role by developing programming and education plans tailored specifically around factors that uniquely shape rural communities, so that students’ knowledge of options after high school are expanded.


Suggested Resources and Strategies

The mission of career counselors serving these communities should be to creatively find solutions to address the need for more resources that ensure students are well informed of the breadth of occupational choices that might be appealing to them, and to help students research their interests individually. The following list contains a few of these creatively chosen resources:


Unique Communities – Unique Approaches

Students who live in rural and isolated communities are hindered by limited resources, dwindling population, limited exposure to occupational opportunities and role-models in their immediate surroundings compared to their urban and suburban peers. Students living in these unique communities will require career counselors to utilize a more informed and creative approach to adequately serve them. By taking a more creative approach, career counselors can ensure students are aware of, and choose, the educational/occupational opportunities consistent with their unique talents; not those shaped by limited daily exposure of the community in which they live.



Khattri, N., Riley, K. W., & Kane, M. B. (1997). Students at risk in poor, rural areas: A review of the research. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 13(2), 79-100. Retrieved from http://jrre.vmhost.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/13-2_5.pdf




Meghan BrownMeghan Brown is a high school transition advisor at a college preparatory public charter school in Blytheville, Arkansas. She previously taught 7th grade math and 5th, 6th and 7th grade science. She is a product of rural education and her passion for rural education began in college while tutoring rural high school students and then working as a Teach For America Corps member in two different rural communities along the Mississippi River. She can be reached at Meghan.Brown@kippdelta.org

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Kathryn Rice   on Monday 02/02/2015 at 01:24 PM

I can really appreciate this article, being from a rural area myself. There were so many career options that I wasn't exposed to, which really made it difficult for me later in life.
Thank you for sharing these suggestions!

Rosie Alexander   on Tuesday 02/03/2015 at 02:36 PM

Great article Meghan. I'm a careers adviser working in the far north of Scotland and a great deal of what you say makes sense in terms of my experience. I certainly use technology to overcome issues of geographical distance in terms of the provision of careers guidance (which I do mostly via phone and videoconference) and in terms of delivering careers education and running employer sessions via videoconference too.

I'm also interested in, and researching the impact of rural location on career pathways of students, and have actually just blogged about some issues similar to the ones covered in your article: https://rosiealexander.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/social-mobility-in-rural-areas/

Thank you for the article and for raising awareness of the importance of considering rural areas!

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