Purpose – This paper aims to examine the extent to which economic factors influence the career decision-making process of working class students. Design/methodology/approach – The study involved an initial survey of 165 final-year students from a range of degree programmes. It was followed by in-depth interviews with 30 working class students. Findings – It is shown that many working class students are not actively involved in career enhancing activities that develop their employability. The majority of students are also failing to engage seriously in the career decision-making process. Furthermore, most students indicate that they wish to remain within commuting distance of their home when looking for jobs. Existing research identifies limited economic capital as an important factor influencing such behaviour. However, this study suggests that the students' values and their non-financial circumstances appear to have more effect on their career decision making. Practical implications – If economic factors were the most important influence on the career decision-making behaviour of working class students there would be a limited role for careers education. However, because the students' values appear to be a more important influence there is scope for intervention. This paper suggests that activity based approaches using multiple case studies, analogical encoding and group work seem to provide the best way of encouraging students to critically evaluate the way they currently engage in career decision making. Originality/value – This paper provides evidence to support interventions to improve the career decision-making behaviour of working class students (and the wider student population). It also advocates a novel approach to such interventions.