Just one in three Brits is working in the field they dreamt of when they were children.
A poll of 2,000 employed adults found that after spending their early years wanting to be a teacher, doctor or train driver, just under a third saw their dream become a reality.
In fact, more than half of those polled have a job that in no way links to the career they wanted to have when they were younger.
And, despite the average worker in the UK deciding what they wanted to do at the age of 11, many admitted they had turned their back on those dreams soon after turning 18.
Samantha Rutter, CEO of distance learning provider Open Study College, which commissioned the research, said: “As a child, many adults dreamt of having a certain career when they grew up, whether that was something they enjoyed at school, something they had seen on TV or in a film, or perhaps they aspired to take on the same job as their parents.
“Unfortunately, these dreams don’t always become a reality; whether that’s because people changed their mind as they grew up, the opportunity didn’t present itself, or life simply got in the way and bills needed to be paid.
“But, having passion for your job can be life changing, and it is never too late to try and achieve your childhood hopes and dreams.
“And if you are yet to reach your career goals or have found yourself going down a different path to the one you really want, retraining in your spare time can help you get back on track and into that job you always dreamed of.”
The study also revealed some of the top careers today’s adults wanted when they were children, including teaching, nursing or becoming a vet.
Others had dreams of working for the police, being a musician or actor, or even being a ballerina.
And 13 per cent were convinced their future lay in being a professional footballer.
Despite dreams of being a professional athlete, zookeeper or train driver, six in 10 adults considered their childhood job goals to be perfectly realistic.
And for those who made it a reality, a third admitted they had to work in more than one field before they were successful.
Some of the main reasons for having to make different choices to the ones they really wanted when they were younger include failing to get good enough grades (15 per cent), and simply not knowing where to start (22 per cent).
However, just under a tenth believe their parents dissuaded them from following their dream career path.
It also emerged 45 per cent of respondents regret not chasing their dream job, and a fifth have attempted to re-train or completed further education to get them on the right track.
One in three also say they’d be happy to take a pay cut, if it enabled them to work in their dream career, according to the OnePoll research.
TOP 25 JOBS ADULTS TODAY WANTED WHEN THEY WERE KIDS
6. Police officer
11. Bank worker
14. Train driver
16. Airline steward
17. Fire fighter
20. Shop worker
24. Lorry driver