STEM Career Decision Age

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STEM Career Decision Factors

The first study we found was published in the journal titled Frontiers in Psychology, which analyzed STEM interest by gender among high school students. The second study we found was conducted by Randstad, which looked at how students' level of understanding about STEM skills and careers impacts interest. The third study we found analyzed the impact of afterschool STEM programs on students' interest in STEM.

Studies Discussing Factors That Impact K-12 Students' Interest in STEM Careers and/or Fields of Study

Study 1

  • The first study we found about factors that impact students' interest in pursing a STEM-related career or field of study was published in a journal titled Frontiers in Psychology.
  • The participants in the study were high school students in the U.S.
  • The study looked at factors impacting STEM interest by gender.
  • An overall finding from the study was that "subjective self-perceptions and perceptions about pSTEM fields can influence students’ interest in pSTEM."
  • Another study finding was that female high school students who were enrolled in pSTEM classes tended to feel lower levels of acceptance among their peers in those classes as compared to male students. Furthermore, social belonging in pSTEm was "positively associated with intentions to pursue pSTEM" among the female students.
  • Words used to describe the students enrolled in college majors impacted how interested females were in pursuing those majors, as they were more interested in ones involving words about passion, motivation, and work ethic compared to intelligence and talent.

Study 2

  • The second study we found was conducted by Randstad, which is "a global human resources firm."
  • One thousand students between the ages of 11 and 17 participated in the study.
  • A lack of understanding about "how STEM skills relate to the real world" is a major factor inhibiting students interest in STEM classes. The study found that 56% of the students said they would be more interested in STEM classes if they knew "how STEM skills relate to the real world."
  • According to Randstad North America's Chief Digital Officer, Alan Stukalsky, "Young people are self-selecting out of higher STEM education classes because they can’t see how these skills apply to different professions and employers they’re excited about."
  • A relevant factor as to students' interest in STEM jobs is that they don't know many people who work in STEM fields, as 52% of the students surveyed reported such.
  • A lack of communication about STEM jobs is another factor impacting childrens' interest in pursuing a STEM-related career or field of study, as over one-fourth (27%) of the student responded that they haven't discussed STEM jobs with anyone.
  • Many students don't know about the types of STEM jobs that exist, as 49% of the students "don’t know what kind of math jobs exist and 76 percent report not knowing a lot about what engineers do. "

Study 3

  • The third study we found is titled "Afterschool & STEM System-Building Evaluation 2016."
  • The study is incredibly detailed and packed with a tremendous amount of data.
  • The participants in the study included approximately "1,600 students (Grades 4–12) enrolled in 160 afterschool STEM programs across 11 states."
  • Results of the study found that "[p]articipation in STEM-focused afterschool programs led to major, positive changes in students’ attitudes toward science. More than 70% of students reported positive gains in areas such as STEM interest, STEM identity, STEM career interest and career knowledge, and 21st-century skills, including perseverance and critical thinking."
  • The study identified that "[l]arger positive effects were also noted in students who participated in their programs for a minimum of four weeks."
  • The study further determined that "students participating in higher quality STEM programs reported more positive gains than students participating in lower quality STEM programs."

Research Strategy

We found three studies that discuss factors impacting K-12 students' interest in pursuing a STEM-related career or field of study by looking for articles discussing results from surveys published. That research approach led us to articles and journal publications on that very topic. Many of the studies that included significant quantitative and qualitative data were not publicly available, but we were able to find three such studies nonetheless. We chose studies that analyzed different types of factors impacting STEM interest, in order to provide the most-robust information possible about this topic.