Survey Finds Youth Unlikely To Pursue STEM Careers

January 31, 2012

Students doing mathCareer experts and politicians, including the likes of President Barack Obama, have long warned of an impending shortage of science, math, engineering and technology -- or STEM -- professionals in the United States. Will America's youth rise to the challenge? Not likely, at least if the results of a recent survey prove true.

According to Business News Daily, a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the professional association the American Society for Quality, reveals that the majority of participants between grades 6 and 12 believe STEM-related careers will offer the most job opportunities down the line. Of the 713 respondents, 34 percent believe a career as a medical doctor is the most promising, while 25 percent believe engineers will fare best.

However, while STEM careers score high on the promise meter, 67 percent of respondents say they are unlikely to pursue careers in these fields. The culprits? Time and money. According to a press release, 26 percent of respondents feel the cost required to earn a degree in STEM is too high compared to other majors, and 25 percent believe these disciplines require too much work and studying.

Aptitude is another concern: 25 percent of respondents fear their math and science grades do not measure up, and for once, parents and teenagers see eye-to-eye. According to a sister survey of parents of 10 to 17-year-old students, 26 percent of respondents believe their children are not performing well in STEM subjects, and that teachers are to blame.

"It's encouraging to see that more students see the value of STEM careers like engineering, but clearly STEM professionals and educators can be doing more to support students along this career path," said Jim Rooney, ASQ chair, in the press release.

The survey also found that a current gender gap among STEM professionals is unlikely to shrink any time soon: 30 percent of participating girls consider math their most challenging subject, compared to 19 percent of boys. On the same note, 33 percent of girls believe their teachers do not prepare them for future STEM careers; just 9 percent of boys agree.

This information comes on the heels of another study published by the Lemelson-MIT program that found that while 42 percent of women age 16 to 25 rate math and science as their favorite subjects, fewer than 10 percent of female college graduates actually pursue technical careers.

"This country needs innovative new programs to stimulate the interest of young men and women in STEM and to challenge them to use their intellect and creativity to invent solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems," said Chad Murkin, 2009 recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Prize, in a press release. "Women have an enormous amount to offer in this regard, but aren't currently pursuing science or technology fields at a high enough rate."

Compiled by Aimee Hosler


"Fear of Hard Work Steers Students Away From Science & Tech," businessnewsdaily.com, January 30, 2012, David Mielach

"Survey Reveals Potential Innovation Gap in the U.S." Young Women Possess Characteristics of Inventors, but Do Not See Themselves as Inventive," mit.edu, January 19, 2012

"U.S. Youth Reluctant to Pursue STEM Careers, ASQ Survey Says," marketwatch.com, January 27, 2012

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