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CIA Operative to Coffee Barista: Millennial Dream Careers

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In case you still thought millennials are opposed to working, it turns out the young generation tarnished as slackers has serious career aspirations.

They want to innovate at Starbucks, Abercrombie & Fitch and Apple, according to a new survey. They want to catch bad guys through FBI and CIA careers. And, hey, if that's not in the cards, drawing for DreamWorks Animation SKG would be cool too.

Oh, those colorful hipsters with wide-ranging aspirations.

In a sixth annual review of high school and college students' attitudes about the workplace and employers, millennials' career goals, it turns out, reflect the economy and digital age they live in. They're intrigued by the so-called STEM fields that includes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, according to a survey by the National Society of High School Scholars. Millennials—those between the ages of 18 and 34—also wouldn't mind job security by working for the U.S. State Department.

"These millennials are graduating from college and are expecting to be engaged, involved and inspired by their work," said Jim Lewis, president and CEO of the National Society of High School Scholars. The group recognizes academic excellence among high school and college students.

"Banking, finance, the stock market, investing—we're seeing a major shift away from that kind of career choice," he said.

(Read More: Millennials Donate to Charities, Really)

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I Want to Help People

A survey highlight is ranking companies that young people prefer to work at.

Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferred employers from a list, which was compiled using pre-existing lists including the 2012 and 2013 Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For. Respondents also were able to choose from popular write-in choices from prior surveys

Among the top 25 preferred employers cited by millennials, eight were health-care companies, including their local hospital and the Mayo Clinic.

Number One Employer

The number one preferred employer among the age group? St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which replaced Google as the 2012 overall top choice. The Memphis-based facility was founded in 1962 by television legend Danny Thomas.

Susan Thurman directs scholarships for the National Society. She reads lots of scholarship essays and a surprising number of them detail young people witnessing the devastating impact of debilitating diseases. In this context, St. Jude topping the employer list makes sense, she said.

"So here's a hospital known for outstanding research. They work with children to help find answers to some of the problems that are facing young people," Thurman said. "It's a challenge that's important to young people."

As Lewis explained, millennials want to work and live by their young, evolving values.

And what about Starbucks and Abercrombie making the top 25? Brand awareness and a visible public image are key factors for job-seeking millennials, Lewis said.

Government Man

Beyond corporate visibility, the young generation isn't immune to a U.S. economy that's still recovering from a recession and steep job losses. The survey showed millennials—unlike their parents—have a strong interest in government agencies and a steady pay check, Thurman said.

"That speaks to current economic times. These younger students saw their parents laid off and the unemployment lines," she said.

Top Preferred Employers

In addition to health care, technology companies ranked high in the survey. Facebook, however, dropped to #38 in the rankings from #17 in 2012, perhaps a reflection of all the negative press around its botched IPO.

Perhaps signaling a generational shift, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase ranked #36 and #37 respectively on the list among millennials.

The top 10 preferred employers for 2013 are:

1. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

2. Walt Disney

3. A local hospital

4. Google

5. Apple

6. FBI

7. CIA

8. Health Care Service Corp.

9. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

10. Microsoft

A full list of preferred employers will be available here beginning Monday, May 13.

(Read More: Texting? Pets? Millennials Are Flunking Job Interviews)

By CNBC's Heesun Wee; Follow her on Twitter @heesunwee

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