WASHINGTON — About 40 percent of students want to be their own bosses some day, but few have held a paying job, according to a Gallup study released Tuesday.

Shane Lopez, a senior scientist at Gallup, said there is a skills gap between the opportunities made “available to students and what students are able to take advantage of.”

Called the 2012 Gallup-HOPE Index, the study found that entrepreneurial aspirations among fifth through 12th-grade students is high.

However, the study revealed a large disparity between students’ enthusiasm and their involvement in the U.S. economy, with only 22 percent of the sample group reporting that they worked for at least an hour a week at a paying job; among ninth- through 12th-grade students, that figure was 26 percent.

In his remarks Tuesday at the Gallup-Hope Index forum, Lopez highlighted the study’s bright spot: a jump in the number of students who reported their schools offer classes in how to start and run a business. In 2012, 59 percent of students reported they receive business training at school, up from 50 percent in 2011.

For students to be more prepared for entrepreneurship and the workforce, the benchmark for literacy and math skills must be raised, said Anthony Wilder, deputy secretary for the Department of Education. Wilder cited the rankings of U.S. students in math and science fields worldwide — 25th in math and 17th in science — as evidence that Americans must place a higher premium upon education.

“We need to expect more, demand more and put the support in place,” he said.

Wilder also called attention to the issue of high school dropouts – more students would stay if they had jobs, he said. The dropout rate nationwide fell from 12 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The federal government should collaborate with business and local leaders to find ways to make college more affordable for all families, said Don Graves, executive director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Graves pointed to the economic recession of 2008 as a hardship that may prevent some students from tapping into educational opportunities.

“The kids are not necessarily going to be in a great position to take advantage of college and go on and get a graduate degree,” he said. “They’re not in a healthy financial situation.”

Of those surveyed, 90 percent agreed that there is a link between their future earning potential and education level. The study found that two-thirds of students learn about money and banking in school.

The Gallup-Hope Index drew its results from 1,217 students in fifth through 12th grade from September to early October and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Launched in 2011, the annual study aims to measure young people’s attitudes toward entrepreneurship and financial literacy.