Are you following in your parents’ footsteps? Does their career choice influence your own likely future career?

Data scientists on the Facebook Research team wanted to find out if our parents’ choice in career affects our choice in career. As children, we look up to our parents for guidance, support and security. Does a desire to be like our parents transition into adulthood?

The Research:

Ismail Onur Filiz and Lada Adamic, Facebook Core Data scientists analyzed 2 sets of Facebook data: the first, a sample of siblings’ choices of profession and the second, parent-child choices. The participants were selected based on individuals who had a sibling or parent designated relationship on Facebook and who had also listed their occupation publicly.

The occupations were then mapped into broader occupation groups like architecture, business, nursing, sales and more.

Here are the maps of Father/Son career choices and Mother/Daughter choices:

parents' jobs will affect your career choices
parents jobs, career choices, research, parents' jobs will affect your career choices

*to view the interactive map, click here

The Numbers:

The researchers used a sample of 5.6 million parent-child pairs from English-speaking locales and who also identified an occupation on their profiles. The team first calculated the probability of the child in the parent-child pair having an occupation given their father’s occupation. For example, if the father is a lawyer, it is 5% likely that the son will be a doctor. The team then calculated how relative this probability is to the overall proportion of doctors among sons. In this specific example, “a son of someone in the legal profession is 4.6 times as likely to practice medicine than sons in general.”

What’s this mean for you?

If your father was or is in the military, you are 5 times more likely to join the military too. This trend continues with males in the farming, fishing and forestry sectors. If you’re a female with a mother in the nursing sector, you are almost 4 times more likely to become a nurse.

The Patterns:

parents jobs, career choices, research, parents' jobs will affect your career choices

Researchers took the data one step further to address the connections between parent-child relationships who chose another profession. For example, many children of military professions choose a protective service position. You’ll notice that farming and restaurant professions are connected for both males and families too.

The biggest takeaway here is that the professions tend to cluster together with the professions on the left (education, medicine, legal, management) requiring higher education or a degree and the professions on the right (construction, cleaning and maintenance, repair) are more service-industry based and may not necessarily require a degree.

The important point to note here is that while it may seem that you are destined to follow in one of your parent’s footsteps, the percentages can be a little misleading. For example, compared to the overall data set, you are more likely to enter the military if your parent is or was enlisted, but in reality only 1 in 4 military sons actually join. 20% of daughters of mothers who work in office or administrative roles will follow suit, but this is only 2x the usual rate. Interestingly, the researchers also noticed substantial cross-gender patterns. Sons with mothers in the legal profession are 6.6 times the usual rate to work in law.


The team also looked to see if there are any patterns in the professions that siblings choose. After all, siblings have the same parents and share similar genetic code (especially in the case of identical twins). They reviewed a sample size of 2.37 million same-gender siblings who filled out their occupation in their profiles.

parents jobs, career choices, research, parents' jobs will affect your career choices

*to view the interactive map, click here

For each bar triplet, the darkest bar is the baseline expected overlap, the lighter bar is the observed overlap between non-twin same-gender siblings and the lightest bar is the observed overlap among same-gender twins.

Looking at same-gender twins, the overlap is highest for the military for both males and females. In the general population, sibling overlap is highest for males in the military, sales and food service industries. For females, the biggest overlap is in office and administrative support, food service and and sales.

The Conclusion:

From the Facebook team: “We see that people within a family are proportionally more likely to eventually also choose the same occupation, and this is especially true of twins. However, in absolute terms the vast majority of kids strike their own path and choose a profession different than that of their parents or their siblings.”

How about you? Is your career or similar or different to your parents’? What about your siblings?

About Science of People

Our mission is to help you achieve your social and professional goals faster using science backed, practical advice. Our team curates the best communication, relationship and social skills research; turning into actionable and relatable life skills. Science of People was founded by Vanessa Van Edwards, bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma.

2 replies on “How Your Parents’ Career Choices Affect Your Own Choices”

  1. Rose

    Me a Registered nurse in the UK to be . My father is a farmer& my mom is a homemaker! My one and only brother is an accountant. From India with much love ❤️

  2. Rudy

    Choice? I would expect that opportunity would have a lot more to do with it. Definitely when it came to my parent’s occupation. A friend of mine grew up in a mining town. And guess what most of the son’s career choice became?

    After high school my brother got a job in a brewery. And he would still be there today if they had not closed down. No he never had dreams of working in a brewery. It was just opportunity.

    My father was a welder at the railway. And I ended up in the electronics field. Something that he discouraged as I should have become a doctor or a lawyer. Mine career did happen to be a choice. It was what I wanted to do and I have been happy doing it for the past 33 years. Eventually my father came to see it as a decent choice.

    Now my brother (twin) had to decide what to do after the brewery shut down. (he had been there for about 15 years) He ended up going to college and graduated in the Instrumentation Technology. And I was proud of him. It is a tough course and it had been a long time since he was in school.

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